Whenever given a choice, choose discipline.
I heard it said that discipline is doing what you don’t want to do when you need to do it. If I were to ask you, “When is discipline necessary?” “Is there a time it is most beneficial? You would probably say that it is always necessary and that it is always beneficial. But most likely, your answer would not reflect your life and practice. It is the same as lying to oneself. Knowing something is true but not doing it is a form of self-deception. We do this all the time. We say we believe something but our lives don’t bare that out. We make ourselves hearers of the word and not doers, as James 1:22 says. He says not to be a hearer only but a doer.
Most people, when disciplined even a little, and if honest, would see that they only show discipline where they want it. They only show discipline for things they enjoy, such as sports and hobbies. To put it plainly, fun things. We live in the age of “self-care.” Boy, do we love our self-care or what? Not that it is bad in and of itself. But it isn’t hard to want to comfort our flesh. We rather cater to ourselves, and our selfishness is encouraged.
You don’t mind getting up early or staying late when you like something. You make the extra effort and omit other things to do what you enjoy. People do what they want to do.
But one only has to look at the success of the diet market and see how many people do not choose discipline because it means not doing something they want to do or consistently controlling what they should do. That is why Nike coined their slogan, “Just do it.”
Why is discipline necessary?
Paul spoke of his struggle to do what he should and quit what he shouldn’t in Romans 7:15. He then told us how he deals with it. In Corinthians 9:27, one translation says that Paul beats his body into submission, while another says that he has to discipline his body to keep it under control. Paul has chosen discipline. He said in 1 Corinthians 9:26, “Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air.” Paul’s choice was so that he would win and succeed at what actually mattered. He knew it was absolutely essential to finish well and receive the prize.
Don’t you want the prize? Have you ever tried something but only gave it a mediocre effort? And in the end, you were disappointed in yourself because you knew you could have done far better. You could have won! Instead, you lost. You should have accomplished it, but rather, it remains undone. What is left but regret?
You regret it because you actually wasted all that time and energy for nothing. You feel empty, angry, frustrated, and lacking because the call to finish well and accomplish still gnaws at you. It’s haunting. The need to win is still there.
Here is wisdom
At twelve years old, concert violinist Nesya Fertel said, “You can choose the pain of discipline or the pain of regret.” I wish I had had this wisdom when I was twelve. We must choose discipline, both in our actions and by the Lord. He knows the pain and regrets you will feel and the time that will be lost when we refuse discipline. That is why Hebrews 12:6 says, “The Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes every son whom he accepts.” You may think that’s harsh, but He is doing so out of love for you, not just today, but for tomorrow.
He knows the plans He has for you. Jeremiah 29:111 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
But to achieve that promise will take discipline! You must embrace it not just in what you enjoy but even and especially when you don’t want to and don’t enjoy it. When it’s painful, and its purpose is to die to the flesh so that your spirit can grow and live, that is when you must. When your relationships depend on it, you must. When your future can change because of it, or your calling requires it, you must.
We all must make this choice. Let’s do it today and not waste another year, another month, another day, another hour. Our future does absolutely depend on it. Let the Lord’s discipline bring order to your chaos. Make the decision today to do what you don’t want to do when you need to do it. It might hurt in the beginning, but its end pays enormous dividends. Choose discipline.