The Christian And Self-Discipline
The Christian life is often compared to a race in the New Testament, and we all know that training to compete in a race or any athletic competition requires a degree of discipline and self-control by the one who competes. We compete daily to remain faithful to Jesus and to “walk in the light” (1 John 1:7). It takes discipline and self-control to follow the commands of God and live a holy life. The apostle Paul compared his own spiritual life to a race when he said, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it” (1 Cor. 9:24). He then spoke of his own personal need for discipline by stating, “Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified” (1 Cor. 9:26,27). We should see our own need for self discipline when we read of a godly man like Paul who stated his own need for such. The Christian life is a blessing, but no one ever said it would be easy. We would not grow into the people God needs us to be if it were. God needs strong followers with perseverance, character, and hope; and having faith in Jesus while enduring the challenges of life will help us (Rom. 5:1-4). Let’s examine some areas of our lives where we can all strive to better discipline ourselves.
1. Let’s learn to discipline our daily devotion to God. We know that we should all study our Bibles each day (2 Tim. 2:15). The apostle Paul wrote that we should “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17), and “continue earnestly in prayer” (Col. 4:2). We should follow the Old Testament example of speaking to our family daily about God and his word (Deut. 6:6-9). Like any other routine, it takes discipline and self control to stick to it. When we discipline ourselves to do these things on a daily basis, we will grow closer to God.
2. Let’s learn to discipline our doubtful thoughts and attitudes. Satan has made sure to fill our environment with doubt and negativity about God. We are bombarded with anti-God and anti-Christian propaganda everywhere we turn. We must be careful what we allow to enter into our minds. The Bible says, “For as he (man) thinks in his heart, so is he” (Prov. 23:7). Christians can be overtaken by negative thoughts. We must discipline our minds by thinking on positive things. The apostle Paul said, “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – meditate on these things” (Phil 4:8).
3. Let’s learn to discipline our worldly desires. The apostle John wrote, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – is not of the Father but is of the world” (1 John 2:15,16). If we do not practice self-control and discipline, we can easily be pulled back into the world. We fight these desires by focusing our attention and desire in the right direction. Paul said, “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth” (Col. 3:1,2).
4. Let’s learn to discipline ourselves to do our duties. We have all heard it said, “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.” If we learn to be about the Lord’s business on a daily basis, we will be less likely to be involved in things we shouldn’t be. Paul told the Corinthians, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Cor. 15:58). Remember, our Lord said, “So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.'” -Ed