“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle
“Discipline is freedom.” Wrap your brain around that! I read through Foster’s book with an equal amount of conviction and excitement about a disciplined life. I’ve always considered myself a relatively disciplined person (at least in a few areas) but I know I could use an adjustment here and there. I learned a long time ago that praying for God to help me be disciplined was crazy talk like praying for longer hair or bigger muscles. Discipline is a choice and a daily decision. It’s not just going to come over you by supernatural influence.
The thing I’ve found though, is that it really DOES bring freedom! I meet with people all the time that are struggling. They struggle with their commitment to Christ, they struggle with their weight, they struggle with their marriage, they struggle with… everything! It astounds me how many times the answer just comes back to discipline. To the struggling believer, I ask, “How’s your prayer life?” The answer is usually a long list of activities that are taking priority over prayer. I see friends struggling with their weight that just can’t seem to establish a discipline of exercise and restraint, pastors with declining churches that won’t discipline themselves to read, grow, and learn a better way, and families falling apart that fail to discipline themselves to say no to all the things that compete for their time together.
I know that’s a pretty general approach to many of the problems that we face. My intention is not to come off as insensitive and all “Drill Sargent-y”. But isn’t it much easier to wish than it is to take practical steps to do? I turned my life over to Christ 25 years ago. I’ve seen many wonderful people turn away from the faith during that time, and I have the pleasure of worshiping alongside others who were with me when I made the most important decision ever. When I look at the lives of those who fell away, gave up the fight, and abandoned their relationship with God, I find only one common thread, only one difference between them and those who are still serving Him today, and it’s a lack of discipline to seek God. That’s it! We all had similar problems, obstacles, and issues. It’s just that the disciplined ones stayed. Hence the old saying, “He who prays stays, and he who fasts lasts“.
There’s an old man in his 90s that I know from the YMCA. His name is Ernie. He swims six days a week! Because of his discipline, he has energy, he’s strong, mobile, and sharp as can be. He didn’t start swimming when he turned 90. He’s been doing it for decades, and now he experiences a great deal of freedom for a man his age. Many men, younger than him, come into the gym feeble, sickly, and tired because they they spent so many years without discipline and now they’re there under doctor’s orders. I don’t know about you, but I want to be like Ernie!
Being disciplined helps you to last. It brings freedom from bondage. It conditions you to serve better. It creates a condition in you that allows God to transform you!
If you don’t believe me, give it a try. Pick a discipline, like prayer or reading, and stick to it every day for six weeks. You WILL notice a difference! Your desires change. You start to long for the good stuff. Your capacity for achievement increases because you’re growing and expanding. Your mind even starts to sharpen because you’re forcing yourself to develop new habits (a side effect to counter-intuitiveness).
I believe so strongly in the power of discipline that, if it doesn’t help you, I’ll refund the money I charged you for reading this blog 😉
One last thing. If you do decide to give it a try, think about posting your benefits on this blog. You never know who you’ll encourage!