Discipline! The word triggers a visceral reaction for many of us.
Three days a week at the gym sounds easy. But my track record proves that my inconsistency is often higher than my consistency! Enrolling in the latest diet program does not guarantee instant weight loss.
Staying fit physically, or losing (or maintaining) weight, for most of us requires discipline; a commitment to faithfully follow a regimen that will help us accomplish the desired goal.
But life is more than the physical.
Our spiritual well-being also requires self-control. Becoming responsible individuals, who develop patience, embrace truth, and maintain stability in our relationship with God, does not happen without discipline.
A popular misconception is that discipline is negative.
My parents were known to “discipline” me when my behavior was inappropriate. They saw my unbecoming conduct more than I did! I never enjoyed the corrective measures Mom or Dad used. Not once! Discipline is rarely popular.
The teachings of the Bible reinforce the value of the corrective use of the word “discipline.” Paul reminds Timothy:
“All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work” [Emphasis mine].
No one enjoys the negative side of discipline: reproof, warning, restraint, chastisement, and correction. However, Paul also reminds Timothy (and us) of the positive side of discipline: “for training in righteousness.”
Pastors and church leaders have an unpopular responsibility. We are to “…preach the word, be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching” (2 Tim. 4:2).
Proclaiming God’s Word in a society that values personal preference rather than discipline is not popular. People do not enjoy being confronted with their need of discipline. To remain faithful to our responsibility also requires us to welcome correction.
We must never lose sight that the desired goal of correction is that we are being trained in righteousness; that the fruit of correction is that our character will be transformed to reflect Jesus.
Competency in preaching/teaching is a good thing. However, how we live as leaders outweigh the eloquence of our words, interpretive skills, or homiletic expertise.
As Carey Nieuwhof reminds us: “Competence may get us in the door, but character will keep us in the room.”
Our resistance to discipline — intentional or unintentional — impedes our intimate relationship with God. And, it’s impossible to lead others where we have not — or are not — going ourselves.
It’s time for me to get serious about hitting the gym three days a week. I need to stop talking about losing a few pounds and commit myself to healthier eating. And, it’s essential for me to prioritize my spiritual practices.
It’s time for me to remember the positive side of discipline.
How about you?
The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989), 2 Ti 3:16–17.