Discipline is Everything

Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. 1 Timothy 4:7-8 (NIV).

In his book, “Disciplines of a Godly Man,” R. Kent Hughes says that “discipline is everything!” I believe he’s right. Countless examples prove the point:

Leonardo da Vinci on one occasion drew a thousand hands in his attempts to reach anatomical perfection in his paintings. The great violinist, Jascha Heifitz, started playing at three years of age and practiced for four hours a day until he died at seventy-five. Ernest Hemingway, although an alcoholic, was the quintessence of discipline. He would spend hours polishing a sentence or searching for the right word and rewrote the conclusion to his novel, “A Farewell to Arms,” seventeen times before he was satisfied.

We have the incandescent light today because Thomas Edison kept working at it despite a thousand failures. And then there’s Winston Churchill. Because he had a problem with a lisp, he would write everything out and practice it. In the margins of his manuscripts he even choreoraphed the pauses and pretended fumbles for the right phrase. In addition, he anticipated the cheers and standing ovations, and even practiced his facial expressions and retorts in front of the mirror. As F. E. Smith said, “Winston has spent the best years of his life writing impromptu speeches.”

Be it in the arts, commerce, sports, academics or your spiritual walk, discipline is everything. In 1 Timothy 4:7-8 Paul emphasizes the importance of discipline when he tells his prodigy, Timothy, to “train yourself to be godly” 1 Timothy 4:7.

The word “train” is an athletic term. It comes from the Greek word “gumnos,” which means “naked.” Traditionally, the Greek athletes competed without clothing. They competed naked in order to not be encumbered by clothing. Similarly, the only way to train the inner you is to shed yourself of every association, tendency, or habit that impedes godliness. To be godly we must strip away anything that impedes progress.

Training oneself to be godly begins with learning “to distinguish good from evil” Hebrews 5:14. It’s being big enough to humble oneself – to repent from sin and seek the Lord. “Therefore, since we are surrounded but such a great crowd of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” Hebrews 12:1.

Will you do that? Will you take control of your body and mind and the passions that drive you? To be godly your primary commitments must be to the disciplines of prayer, purity, engagement with God’s Word, self-examination, fellowship, worship, accountability, integrity, work, and ministry.

That’s a tough call, isn’t it? But no one ever said that spiritual training would be easy. It doesn’t just happen. It takes spiritual sweat. There’s no maturity without exertion. For as Paul says, “Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize” 1 Corinthians 9:25-27.

So run the race in such a way as to “complete the task the Lord Jesus has given” you “the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace” Acts 20:24.

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