Discipline. I don’t know many people who like this word, well, aside from maybe the parents of toddlers. It’s a ten letter word that we tend to treat like it has only four. Discipline feels restricting, legalistic, and boring – depriving us from the adventure of life and the ability to do whatever we want to do. Deprivation. Perhaps one of the only words we like even less than discipline.
But what if discipline doesn’t actually lead to deprivation at all? What if this is one of the great lies of the enemy? What if the lack of discipline is really what deprives us of the life we dream of having?
The truth is that I’ve never felt more free than during the times in my life that I’ve been the most disciplined. And the truth is that lack of discipline has never led to greater excitement or fullness of life. Rather it has always led to sloth, laziness, and incredible waste of my time, talents, and resources. The “freedom” of lack of discipline seems to lead to NCIS marathons, eating entire packages of Oreos, and leaving a permanent indentation of my behind in the couch. I end up watching others live life instead of living it for myself. Still, over and over again I find myself buying into one of the greatest lies – that discipline is a drag and a stealer of joy. I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of buying into this lie. I’m ready to live according to the truth, so I’m flipping the script.
I’m choosing to believe that discipline really does lead to freedom, and joy, and adventure, and blessing beyond measure. I’m choosing to follow my calling instead of my emotions. When I’m tired, I’m choosing to go on a walk instead of taking a nap. When I feel like being alone, I’m going to choose into community. When I feel like eating a dozen Oreos, I’m going to choose something healthy (or at least eat only 2 or 3). When I feel like all that matters is meeting my own selfish desires and felt needs, I’m going to choose to deny myself in order to live for Christ. I’m actually choosing deprivation – deprivation from the things that keep me from the best things. I’m depriving myself from reality television so I can go live my own God-given reality. I’m depriving myself from junk food so I can receive true nourishment. I’m depriving myself of lazy Saturdays alone in my own little world so I can receive the blessings of serving and reaching out to others. Yep, I’m flipping the script because discipline doesn’t actually lead to deprivation, at least not the kind that we think it does. And isn’t this really what Lent and the Easter season are all about?
The truth is that discipline leads to deprivation of the things that actually harm us and leads to freedom to pursue that which is best for us. Discipline is a gift from God actually. It’s a gift that leads to holiness. Holiness is greater than any indulgence we think we need or deserve. And what about those days when discipline feels like an impossible task to achieve? Like making the choice to follow God seems nearly impossible? When we think of the word “discipline” we tend to think of being punished as a small child. First of all, discipline from God is important to receive with an open and humble spirit. However, more often discipline is really about self-control and obedience. 1 Peter 1:13-16 says, “So think clearly and exercise self-control. Look forward to the gracious salvation that will come to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world. So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then. But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. For the Scriptures say, ‘You must be holy because I am holy.’” And if God commands us to be holy, then we are capable of living out that command. The trick? We can only do it in His strength, never in our own. As God’s chosen children, we must obey His commands, demonstrate the self-control to choose discipline, and ask our Father for help when we are weak. The great UCLA basketball coach John Wooden said, “Discipline yourself so others don’t have to.” Choosing into discipline that looks like obedience and self-control prevents the discipline of God humbling and teaching. But even when we need that kind of discipline, it is out of a love relationship. With God it is always about relationship. And that’s DEFINITELY the message of Easter – the great lengths God went to in order to restore relationship with us!