WHAT? I NEED MORE SELF DISCIPLINE?
by Audrey Baker (member mt airy church of Christ)
The apostle Paul made an interesting statement in 1 Cor 9:27. He said: “I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should.” What Paul is discussing here is self-discipline. Self-discipline is, of course, equally necessary for those of us today who profess faith in God and a desire to do His will and save our souls.
A friend once told me that in her country of birth, drivers frequently ignore traffic signals, road markings, or detour signs. You can imagine how stressful and treacherous it would be to navigate those roads, not knowing what actions to expect from other drivers. In contrast, the traffic laws in the US provide us with expectations of compliance and some measure of safety. In these scenarios, the outcomes depend on adherence to traffic laws. When drivers ignore the laws and do their own thing, we recognize this as a lack of discipline. Of course, any breakdown in discipline, whether in the way we live, work, behave, or interact with others reflects is troubling.
But, sometimes, we hate discipline. In Prov 5:1-15, the author pleads with ‘the simple’ to act wisely. In verse 12, the listener states: “How I hated discipline, and my heart despised reproof! I did not listen to the voice of my teachers or incline my ear to my instructors.” Verses 21-23 states: “For the ways of man are before the eyes of the Lord, and he ponders all his doings…he shall be holden with the cords of his sins… ‘He dies for lack of discipline, and because of his great folly he is led astray.’ So, it behooves us to acquire discipline to please God.
What derails discipline? As Christian women, we are not immune to various influences. Influence is the capacity to affect the behavior, character, or development of someone. If a Christian is being influenced by the world, this is contrary to God’s laws which admonish us to offer ourselves as ‘a living sacrifice’ to God only. Rom 12:1. In Jer 7:28 it states: ‘This is the nation that did not obey the voice of the Lord their God, and did not accept discipline; truth has perished; it is cut off from their lips.’ To avoid being influenced by the world, we need to discipline ourselves so our actions and lives reflect God’s desires.
So, how do we become more disciplined? Prov 29:19 says, ‘by mere words, a servant is not disciplined, for though he understands, he will not respond.’ Self-discipline requires controlling both the body and the mind. To condition the mind, we note that Rom 12:2 says: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is..” To condition the body, we note that 1Cor 9:27 says: “I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should…”. So mere words do not work, we need to transform the mind and condition the body, to achieve discipline.
What does self-discipline look like? It reflects controlling oneself, training oneself, depriving oneself, holding oneself to a conviction, and honoring established limits. These behaviors are incorporated in biblical texts that shape the way we live, work, behave and interact with others and with God. Below are descriptions of these behaviors.
In 2Tim 2:15, we are commanded to study to show ourselves approved unto God, so we can divide God’s word in the right way. The word of God is described as ‘the sword of the spirit’ in Eph 6:17, because we need it to chop away false doctrine and sinful ideologies. Often, we fight against studying or attending bible classes; however, diligently fulfilling these actions reflects our self-discipline and makes more equipped to serve God.
Next, self-deprivation is denying oneself of conveniences, necessities, or pleasures for a cause. In Mt. 16:25, Jesus told His disciples, “If anyone wants to come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” We all like to be winners, to be first, to satisfy our desires; however, when a person denies herself for Christ, she is exercising self-discipline.
Next, In Rom 8:38, 39, Paul states: “And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” A conviction is a firmly held opinion, belief or action. We honor our convictions regarding ambition, hard work, social attachments, family ties, by acting on those beliefs. When a woman’s actions are shaped by her convictions, this shows discipline.
Finally, Limitations are boundaries that are designed to mark the borders between acceptable versus unacceptable, good versus wise. Rev 22:18 says: “For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: “And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” This text admonishes us to operate within the limits of the scriptures and not tamper with the message in any way. In other words, God never asked for our editorial input. Respecting biblical authority and residing within the inspired biblical texts demonstrates discipline.
Sisters, we know it is impossible to please God without being disciplined. Although we live in a world where negative influences bang against our desires to be disciplined, we cannot give in. So, what do we do? No matter how lofty or well-intentioned they are, mere words do not improve discipline; but transforming our minds and conditioning our bodies will do the job. Studying, depriving oneself, holding to our convictions and honoring limits set by God are gems in the self-discipline jewelry box. Doing these will make us more disciplined and pleasing to our God.