Self Discipline

1 Timothy 4:7 “…discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness”

While I don’t have clear direction on whether or not I should be militant, it’s indisputable that I must be self-disciplined. I must be militant with myself.

A good friend gave me a book in college which I’ve only recently read. The book is J. Oswald Sander’s updated Spiritual Leadership. While his book is directed at those called to leadership, clearly much of it is equally applicable to people who are just seeking to be good Christians.

The first essential quality of leadership he lists is “Discipline”. Sanders writes

Without this essential quality, all other gifts remain as dwarfs; they cannot grow… Before we can conquer the world, we must first conquer the self. A leader is a person who has learned to obey a discipline imposed from without, and has then taken on a more rigorous discipline from within…

The young man of leadership caliber will work while others waste time, study while others snooze, pray while others daydream. Slothful habits are overcome, whether in thought, deed, or dress. The emerging leader eats right, stands tall, and prepares himself to wage a good warfare.

Sanders later points out, on his chapter on one’s use of time, that there are exactly 60 minutes in an hour, 24 hours in a day. Everything I do for God, all of my Christian walk, will occur in those 1,440 minutes per day. I have no other opportunity to serve Christ aside from what I do with those minutes.

The life I have is not something to be passed; it is a resource, like the talents in the parable, to be used for my Master. My time is not mine to do with as I please. It belongs to Another.

My pastor made a spiritual application out of Proverbs 13:4 “The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, but the soul of the diligent is made fat.” I believe it’s primarily speaking to finances and work, but if it’s true in that context, it’s certainly true in our spiritual lives. Craving is not enough. The sluggard craves, but does not receive. Profit (including spiritual maturity) requires craving and diligence.

There is a philosophy in the church today that if you just love Jesus enough, you’ll spontaneously serve Him as you ought to, and never sin again. I do not believe such a philosophy is supported by the Bible or by anyone’s experience. Certainly not mine.

For the past couple of months I’ve consistently had a morning “quiet time” for prayer, Bible study, meditation, solitude, etc. It has been a tremendous blessing to me. Every evening I look forward to the next morning. My wife says it makes me nicer, too! It puts me in a better mood, and I can tell the difference in my walk with Christ.

But, for the past couple of weeks, I’ve neglected it. I have plenty of excuses, but that’s all they are. I stopped setting my alarm so early, and you know what? I stopped getting up.

I valued that time immensely, but I lost my discipline. “A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest. Your poverty will come in like a vagabond and your need like an armed man.” Spiritually speaking, this was true. A little bit of slacking and before I knew it, I’d lost the time I treasured so much.

The Bible uses metaphors to describe the Christian walk. Those metaphors are things like a soldier, an athlete in training, and running a race. All of these involve lots of self discipline. The Christian walk is not a leisurely stroll, nor is desire sufficient. To be profitable, we must be diligent and self disciplined in how we spend the life God has given us.

What we do with our time is how we spend our lives. If I stay up late playing Civ and consequently don’t get up the next morning in time to meet with God, well, that’s how I spent that small portion of my life. When I spend the money I’ve earned, it is essentially trading part of my life (i.e., my time) for the thing I purchase. It’s how I’ve spent my life. I can choose to spend 30-60 minutes watching an unprofitable show on TV, or I can spend it for Christ in some way.

I can be careful or careless with my time. I can choose to plan my day, or neglect that and have my day “nickle and dimed” away. I can be careful in what I do, where I go, who I spend my time with, what I purchase, etc., or I can be careless. In either case, I have the exact same amount of time. One way of investment will be profitable, the other will be worthless.

My life consists of a number of minutes that only God knows. My time is all that I have. It’s a resource to be expended for the glory of God.

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3 Responses to Self Discipline

  1. Sarge says:

    that’s a great book!

  2. Joe B says:

    Excellent. I was searching the web this morning for exactly what you wrote. Thanks.

  3. Chris says:

    Totally agree man. I’ve decided that discipline and courage are essentially the same thing. Hedonism and cowardliness…same thing.

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