There is a word out there that, when you use it, people cringe. I’ve literally had people make a ‘pain face’ at me when I say it. And I don’t get it. I don’t understand why this concept is so difficult for people. It seems especially difficult for those who claim to follow Christ.
There, I said it.
The funny part is that some of you reading this actually mentally flinched when you read that word. Let’s be honest, we suck at instilling and keeping discipline in our lives. Among the many irons I have in the fire, I am a CrossFit trainer. It never ceases to amaze me when I speak to people about their physical well-being. They will freely admit that they need to be in better shape, need to lose weight, need to control their diet. Yet, when I begin to try and coach them on it, they say things like, “Oh yeah, that sounds hard. Sounds like a lot of work.” Or my personal favorite, “I don’t have time for all that.” That one makes me want to slap people.
But let’s not stop there. If we are to follow Christ, we must have discipline as well. Why do we run from the idea of spiritual discipline? Why do we find it so hard to deny ourselves what we know is wrong, detrimental to our relationship with Him? We don’t really want to deny ourselves something, right? It’s not that bad after all, we say. But then, when we get sloppy and lazy in our relationship with Jesus, things in our lives get sloppy and lazy. And then, we have the audacity to question Him about why our lives are so jacked up.
I love Jeremiah chapter two. Read that and you’ll see God’s frustration with His people. He’s like, “Dude, how many times do I have to tell you? You abandoned me, you don’t want to listen to me, not the other way around. I never left. You did.”
When did we lose the fear of God? When did we lose that sense of awe in the presence of the Creator? But I digress…
I’m reading in I Timothy right now and the idea of discipline keeps popping up. Paul is counseling and mentoring this young pastor Timothy. Paul uses a lot of chapter 4 to counsel Timothy on how to live out his faith. Starting in verse 7, “Do not waste time arguing over godless ideas and old wives’ tales. Instead, train yourself to be godly. Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promises benefits in this life and the life to come.”
Training for godliness. What a concept.
I love how the Message phrases that passage, “Exercise daily in God – no spiritual flabbiness please! Workouts in the gymnasium are useful, but a disciplined life in God is far more so, making you fit both today and forever.” I love it…spiritual flabbiness. Are you spiritually flabby?
Paul goes on to tell Timothy in the latter part of verse 12, “…Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith and your purity.” And he closes out chapter 4 with this final encouragement, “Keep a close watch on how you live and on your teaching. Stay true to what is right for the sake of your own salvation and the salvation of those who hear you.”
“Keep a close watch on how you live…”
Discipline. Now, lest we trivialize this, I’m not talking about not cussing or smoking cigarettes. This is much deeper than that. Our lives should look so different from non-believers, our attitude so other-worldly, our love so bright that people stop and wonder at the presence of Something different in our lives. Jesus did say we are to be salt and light to the world, after all.
I know this is hard. But is it harder than living in slavery to our sin? It’s hard for me as well, at least in my own power it is. So, let’s not try to do it on our own. Let’s hitch our wagon to His star and just see where He takes us. We might just find that this is a lot easier if we allow Him to do the heavy lifting of changing our hearts.