Tonight’s post may open your eyes a bit, to an untruth that currently floats easily through the body of Christ. It is the untruth that discipline is a bad thing.
I am only writing tonight because writing is a discipline for me. I make every attempt, every day, to write something. It may be a story, a poem, some thoughts, or a post for this blog. Nevertheless, I write something, and it is a discipline.
I have found that although I sometimes have to force myself to write (thus, the word “discipline”), I have also found that if I do not write, I am miserable. What should I do?
Writing doesn’t always come easy to me. Most of the time, it does, but there are times that forcing the words onto the pages are like pulling my own wisdom teeth. You can imagine the agony of thoughts floating in my head that don’t seem to come out right, or maybe just don’t want to come to the page at all. Now, imagine the agony of me never making the effort to force those words to the page.
I can tell you from vast experience that if I don’t force those words out, they bounce around in my head, and literally drive me nuts. I am often irritable, and rude when I don’t write. Why would this ever be so? I’ll tell you why. It is because I discovered a long time ago that my thoughts need to be worked out, they need to be thought about, chewed, and finally written out, hopefully in some coherent form. Whatever the result, my thoughts have to come to the page. If they do not, I will be miserable, and what’s worse, I know the only thing that helps me avoid this misery is to write.
It is discipline to force myself to do something I don’t always look forward to. But the results of that discipline are a clear mind, and a jolly soul. You cannot (maybe you can?) imagine the joy I find in writing, most of the time. Even when I have to force myself to write, like tonight, halfway through, I am immersed in joy, as my hands fly over the keyboard in an attempt to make the electrical impulses inside of my brain into words that communicate my “thoughts”.
I feel no guilt if I don’t write, mind you, I just feel miserable, crabby, irritable, whatever you want to call it. In this case, discipline is a good thing. Oh, I know, my writing doesn’t earn me favor with God, or earn me brownie points in heaven. But it does something almost as good, it exercises my mind, and helps me work through many things I don’t understand, and other things I have finally understood. This discipline is something I have chosen to do, and the results of it are obvious.
There is another “discipline” I have returned to. It’s called solitude, absolute silence, and a visit with God in my mind. For a while, I put this “discipline” off, I put it on the shelf. Guess what? That’s right…I was miserable without it.
Some people make their disciplines their idol, they worship their discipline. But for me, a good healthy dose of forcing myself to do something I wouldn’t “just let happen” is a good thing.
Look, if I am miserable because I decide to not face God, to stay away from silence and aloneness, then what good is “freedom” from discipline? To me, it is a man-made prison, and it is man made exactly because we stay away from that which has the capacity to bring us joy.
Writing brings me joy, but if I don’t drag my butt off the couch some evenings, that writing is left on the shelf, inside of my head, and I am left feeling bottled up and miserable, not having expressed my heart and mind in the best way I know how. Who’s fault is it if I find myself to be miserable because I didn’t do what I knew would in the end bring me joy? The same is true for solitude.
Each and every person is made differently, I understand. But that also means that each and every person has certain things, maybe even gifts, which require work and effort to use. You might even call that work and effort “discipline”. But keep quiet about that part, because otherwise the freedom police will come knocking and call you a legalist. They do not realize that they are the ones in prison, keeping themselves from the joy of spreading their wings and flying, all in the name of freedom from “discipline”.
If you have to “try”, it isn’t freedom, they say. I wonder what Paul would have said about that. If you need to know what he would have said, check out the impressive list below.
Found in Romans:
“I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish.
So, for my part, I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in
“Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts,”
“Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience' sake.” (Paul talking about being in subjection to governing authorities, nevertheless, his choice of words is “it is necessary”)
Found in 1st Corinthians
“Therefore I exhort you, be imitators of me.” (huh? Surely Paul would never say such a thing)
“All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.”
“The husband must fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband.” (Must?)
“To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law;” (If you don’t think this took immense discipline, please recall that Judaism of Paul’s time was ALL about discipline)
“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.” (Paul’s explanation of his apostleship, as compared to the others)
“Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” (Yes, Paul REALLY did use the words “let us cleanse ourselves”)
Now I know the temptation to say I used these “verses” out of their context is strong, but if you actually do the digging, and find where these words are recorded, you will quickly see that what Paul was saying with all of these things comes to bear with the idea of discipline. So , we know some of what Paul would say. I encourage you to find the rest, and see if it agrees with current Christian thought, and its complete disdain towards asceticism.
There is most certainly a difference between us and Paul, but that difference isn't greater faith, a greater Lord, or a greater hope, for we have all of those same things Paul had. What we do not have is Paul's discipline, his self control. Some will tell you that this is the work of the Spirit. I am telling you, self control is the fruit of the Spirit, and as with all fruit, if we do not eat of it, how can we ever expect to gain sustenance from it? Why are today's believers STARVING themselves of the fruit of the Spirit for fear of legalism? Don't we know that those who starve die?