When you think of self-discipline, what type of person comes to mind?
I think of a career marine officer. The type that gets up before dawn, even if there is no particular need to, and goes for a run. His bed is made, his pantry is organized, his diet is fixed. His whole life is regimented.
Perhaps you think of someone else. Perhaps an Olympic athlete or a self-help guru.
Don’t we know that self-discipline is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). The very first thing that ought come to our minds should be, “Christian.” Christians ought be models of self-control and discipline. What is more powerful and effective at building self-control, the world or heaven? Yet athletes and soldiers, by exceeding above us, demonstrate the opposite of what is the truth. What is more powerful for building self-control, the law or the gospel(Rom. 6:14, 2Cor. 3:3)? Yet, who in our religious movements are more self controlled, the sects that focus primarily on the gospel or the sects that focus primarily on the law? Look at the Mennonites and the Quakers and be amazed at the power of the law for life transformation. Then look at yourself and feel ashamed that the gospel, infinitely more efficacious than the law, doesn’t have the same affect on your life (Rom. 1:16).
We, who claim to have God over world and gospel over law, all too often have neither God nor gospel. The kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power (1Cor. 4:20). If American Christianity has God and His gospel, where is the power? We might as well take the world’s power or law’s power, for apparently they are more effective. And that is what many people are doing. Because of us, God is mocked (Rom. 2:24). Why? Because we are in bondage. Like the Israelites of old (Isa. 52:4-5), the whole world, though us, can see that God is not powerful enough to free His people from their self-inflicted bondage.
Yet there is another way!
Read history. Do you know who it records as some of the most disciplined people who ever lived? Men like Jonathon Edwards, David Brainerd, and David Livingstone. These men could match any Olympic athlete in self-control. Beyond that, they could do it while being mocked, loosing children, being tortured, and even while being put to death. And yet, they were filled with joy for God and love for those that persecuted them. What athlete or soldier has trained themselves so well as this?
Is this not what we should expect? After all the Scriptures say that the world trains and competes for what is perishing but we for what is imperishable (1Cor. 9:25). Therefore, we should run the better. Let us then remember the men who ran well, and set them before us as an example (Php. 3:17, 2Th. 3:9, Heb. 6:11-12, Heb. 12:1), remembering that Him who empowered them to do so abides in us as well.
Rise up Christian. Look to the glory and do not quit the race until it is finished (1Cor. 9:27, Heb. 4:11, Luke 13:24). “For while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way … For to this end we toil and strive” (1Tim. 4:8-10). Do not be content with reading your Bible every day, staying the course in marriage, or getting to work on time. Yes, do those things, but know that the gospel is more powerful than that. Therefore, excel! Excel far beyond what you ever imagined you could. Live a life that says, “In me, ‘all will see how great, how great is our God.'”
God has ordained that the world would see His greatness and glory through His Church (Psa. 50:2) and through His saints (1Cor. 11:7, 2Cor. 8:23, 2Cor. 3:18). We are to be a city on a hill, a beacon of light to the world (Matt 5:14). And we are to do this, not by our own strength, but by His (Col. 1:29, John 15:5, John 5:19, Phil. 4:13, Prov 3:5).