Friday, July 29, 2011

The Gift of Self-discipline

Last Sunday I didn't want to go to church.

I was, quite frankly, a little angry with God. I want to do and be things that God is not allowing at the moment. So I was pitching a fit. I am such a spiritual toddler at times!

When in I find myself teetering on the edge of self-absorption I depend on this saving grace: self-discipline. My wise mama always told me, "There are some decisions that you only make once...and then you just stick with them." In this way, she taught and modeled discipline.

In our family one such decision/discipline is that we go to church on Sunday. It is a non-negotiable. Slumber parties, sporting events, and recreational activities are not permitted to interfere with our decision to go to church on Sunday. We always go. So despite my feelings and personal desires, out of sheer discipline, I went to church last Sunday. And I am glad I did. Because sometimes I forget that life is not about what I want to do and be. Through worship, fellowship, and teaching,  I was reminded that life is about God, and He is always worthy of praise. That little discipline of going to church protected me from a whole day of wallowing in self-pity.

I wonder if discipline could be compared to a fence around your backyard. Perhaps it provides a boundary that keeps good stuff in and bad stuff out. Sometimes it takes work to build and maintain a fence, but in the end, its all for your own good.

For me, running three days a weeks is a form of self-discipline. I decide in advance which days I will run, I decide ONCE, and then I stick with it, rain or shine. I do not rethink it in the morning--because if I did I would never go! I always dread going for a run, but I never regret having gone. I never say, after my three little miles, "Gosh, I really wish I hadn't gone running this morning." On the contrary, all day long I reap the benefits. I feel better, I sleep better, and I even eat better.

The problem is that I am easily deceived. I can be convinced that the comfort of my home on a rainy morning is preferable to a good work-out. I can be convinced that I will feel better after spending a Sunday morning in my bed than I would feel after having gone to church. But my own thoughts and feelings betray me. Self-discipline is simply heeding God's wisdom instead of my own.

How often have I refused to lead a disciplined life because it seemed too hard? I'll be honest, self-discipline is hard. For years I have admitted that the most difficult part of my run is from the bed to the front door. It is in those few meters that I am exercising my "discipline" muscle, and that is the muscle which, after over 13 years of running, still continues to be the weakest!

But no matter how hard is is to lead a disciplined life,  the undisciplined life is harder! Consider the consequences of undisciplined spending, undisciplined eating, undisciplined TV watching, undisciplined drinking, or undisciplined children!

II Timothy 1:7 says, "For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline."

Two things stand out to me from this verse:

  1. It is very interesting to me that power, love, AND SELF-DISCIPLINE are GIVEN to us. We have them. How eager I am to unwrap the gifts of power and love, but I keep the gift of self-discipline in its box. Spiritual disciplines, like reading the Bible, praying, fasting, tithing, and caring for the poor can seem like burdens. Yet, the more I yield to the wisdom of using the God-given gift of discipline, the more I see His goodness and grace for ME. In tithing I am set free from the love of money. In caring for the poor I am set free from the clutches of envy. In praying I am set free from the need to control. In reading my Bible, my eyes are opened to truth. Self-discipline is a gift, an often unopened gift, but a gift that is available to every believer.
  2. It strikes me that the spirit of power, love, and self-discipline is contrasted with the spirit of timidity. I had not realized that self-discipline could act as an antidote to fear. Yet, it makes sense doesn't it? When I think of self-discipline as that fence around the backyard, I see how it can provide security and confidence. 
And what is self-discipline but a decision to yield to that which God has called me to do. Lord, help me welcome the gift of self-discipline!


  1. Hi Jenn,
    I popped over for a visit because of your sister Keri's recommendation. I love your Mom's advice "there are some decisions that you only make once and then just stick with them". I think I might have to borrow that for my children.... and myself. It is definitely great advice and does remove that wavering quality from things you'd like to do, but maybe they are just not solid in your priority list (the exercise example hit home with me in a big way... I am now thinking about making that decision and commitment.)

    I am looking forward to reading and exploring your blog. I think it must be very interesting to live in France. I was there when I was a teenager. It was an exciting adventure. We were only there for a little less than a week, but we saw all we could in that time.

    May the Lord richly bless your family and all of your work on behalf of His Kingdom.

  2. Hi There! I came over from Keri's blog. Your spiritual toddler post was just what I needed to hear! I often have to remind myself that "It isn't about me!"

    Looking forward to reading about your adventures in France. I use to live in Europe and although it has been awhile I did enjoy traveling France. I was amazed at some of the ideas of what I thought France would be like -- "fashion capitol of the world" -- and then it not really being like that when I spent time with the locals. It made an impression on me as a teenager that I have been able to carry with me as I went into my adult life.