Discipline … A Most Hated (or misunderstood) Word

Ours is an undisciplined age. The old disciplines are breaking down.… Above all, the discipline of divine grace is derided as legalism or is entirely unknown to a generation that is largely illiterate in the Scriptures. We need the rugged strength of Christian character that can come only from discipline.
V. Raymond Edman
The Disciplines of Life

Not many can say that they like the word discipline. It conjures up ideas of strict teachers or drill sergeants. Cruel, uncaring, unfeeling people who want to crack a whip and make us do something we don’t want to do.
With that in mind take a moment and consider 1 Timothy 4:7-8 “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.” (NIV)
Notice in the first part that there are some things we need to intentionally avoid (have nothing to do with). Namely we are to have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales. Choosing not to explain all of Paul’s nuances behind “godless myths” and “old wives’ tales” I will allow John Stott’s comment to suffice. They are “spiritual junk food.” Anyone who has ever been in training for anything physical knows that they need to avoid junk food. That is why Paul follows the statement on avoidance with the word “rather.” The word indicates a logical contrast. Don’t just avoid but replace it with something else. Don’t simply avoid “spiritual junk food” but replace it with healthy spiritual food. Don’t just be someone who is known by what they don’t do … RATHER train yourself to be godly. The word Paul uses here is the word DISCIPLINE. The word used in the original text is the word we get our English word “gymnasium” from.
Very few of us absolutely love going to the gym. For most it is a struggle. It is something we have to WORK at. It’s a battle … not only of the Bulge but of the blankets. It’s HARD to get up in the morning. It’s hard to eat healthy, when unhealthy eating is so prominent. It’s NOT EASY to read those nutrition facts on the back of food packages … it takes EFFORT.
I love the second half of those verses that tell us while training for godliness is HARD WORK it is valuable (there is a pay off). “But godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” This life and the life to come … that about cover’s it!!! The pay off is for now and eternity. That’s quite a pay off. Don Whitney in his book “Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian” is right when he states “Discipline without Direction is Drudgery.”
Over the next several e-bulletins we are going to be exploring what have been traditionally called “spiritual DISCIPLINES.”

So until then … See you Sunday

Pastor Byron
Some books you may be interested in reading on this topic:

1. Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life – By Donald Whitney
2. Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth – by Richard Foster
3. The Life You’ve Always Wanted: Spiritual Disciplines for Ordinary People – By John Ortberg
4. Disciplines of a Godly Man – Kent Hughes
5. Disciplines of a Godly Woman – Barbara Hughes