“For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Heb. 12:11).
I remember sitting in a classroom at Lipscomb University in the Fall of 2006 and in walked this tall professor whom I had never met and the emotion I felt at the time I remember now with crystal clear distinction: terror. Not because of the professor (turned out to be one of my favorites) but the class I was taking seemed almost impossible for me to tackle. It was Biblical Hebrew. That’s right. Not only did I agree to take this class but I also decided to pay for it (paying…present tense first person singular) with what little money I had. So there I was; married to a pregnant wife, a full-time youth minister and a father of a one year old.
One thought ran through my mind: “How the H-E-double hockey sticks (cute for a youth minister) am I going to get through this?” What got me though was the discipline to study flash cards, memorize and parse verb stems, understand what letters came before stems and after and why. In other words…hard freaking work. I made straight A’s in Hebrew 1, 2 and two semesters of readings because I studied my tail off (and because my professor was graceFULL) and showed up through the tough and the good times.
I can’t speak for everyone but when I look at my own failings in life it usually falls in one of two categories: 1) Something happened beyond the scope of my control and I lacked the skills to deal with what was in front of me or, more than likely, 2) I was undisciplined. Think about the many times you tried to lose weight, quit drinking, stop smoking or not go after that same type of guy. Why did you fail? If you are honest with yourself it happened because you lacked discipline.
I know the responses well because I have said them so many times.
“I get so busy…”
“I get so stressed…”
“The pain is too much…”
“I am not seeing any results…”
When I quit doing good things to improve my life (and I have quit many things) it was because I lacked the brass to push through the pain and discomfort of what it would take to get to the goal.
Jocko Willink, a former Navy Seal and current leadership guru wrote this about in his book Extreme Ownership which he co-authored with Leif Babin:
“The test is not a complex one: when the alarm goes off, do you get up out of bed, or do you lie there in comfort and fall back to sleep? If you have the discipline to get out of bed, you win—you pass the test. If you are mentally weak for that moment and you let that weakness keep you in bed, you fail. Though it seems small, that weakness translates to more significant decisions. But if you exercise discipline, that too translates to more substantial elements of your life.”
Think about what this means to every facet of your existence. Take a relationship with God. When I was a minister people used to tell me how they couldn’t grow closer to God and they felt like he wasn’t there or didn’t care or whatever. When I asked, “How much time have you spent trying to meet with him?” The answer to that question just about every time was, “not much.”
Eric Greitens in his book Resilience said this: “We all need something to struggle against and to struggle for. The aim in life is not to avoid struggles, but to have the right ones; not to avoid worry, but to care about the right things; not to live without fear, but to confront worthy fears with force and passion” (p. 17).
I wish I would have learned this concept quicker in my life. My dad is quick to tell me I am a slow learner and I like to do things the hard way. Call it stubbornness but in the end, it’s sheer stupidity. The ancient writer of wisdom said this: “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid” (Prov. 12:1).
Your preacher might be nice and say “you’re not making wise decisions” but what he really means to tell you is that you are acting stupid.
What would our lives look like if we practiced discipline? What steps do you need to take right now to become more disciplined? Jocko said in his podcast somewhere that there is no secret to getting discipline as one simply needs to just do it. Over and over again.
Our finances…more stable
our marriages…less volatile
our parenting…more purposed
our work environment…less anxious
our faith…more stable.
Lord help us.