Discipline – a regimen that develops or improves a skill, maintained by training and control.
Discipline. The mere mention of the word often conjures up thoughts of punishment and correction. However, the application of discipline for the most part has a very positive impact associated with it. For instance, an athlete will never reach their full potential without discipline. The performance witnessed and admired on the field is a direct result of hours, days, weeks, months and often years of practiced discipline. Every aspect of the athlete’s life from their diet, exercise, daily routine, rest and the perfection of their craft enables them to excel to levels that talent and desire alone could never obtain. In many instances, the most successful person or team may not be the most gifted or talented but have been the most disciplined over the longest period of time!
The same concept translates to many other areas of our daily lives as well. For the Christian disciple, (the root word for discipline) personal growth will be determined primarily through discipline. The practice of daily prayer, Bible reading and adherence to Godly principles allow us to grow and systematically be “conformed into the image of Christ”.
Areas where we may struggle can usually be overcome through the practice of discipline. Tithing and giving is one such area that requires discipline. Just as unlikely as a runner is to go out the first time they ever put on a pair of running shoes and run a full marathon, neither is the first-time giver likely to achieve a consistent tithing and giving practice if it has not been a part of their disciplined behavior previously. The hopeful runner first has to ponder the idea of becoming a marathon runner. A conscious, intentional plan to achieve the goal has to be developed. A daily regimen of proper diet, exercise, rest and planning has to take place. A lack of discipline in any or all of these areas will quickly derail the would-be runner’s lofty goals. Starting out with obtainable goals and steadily increasing them over time usually helps the individual succeed. The runner’s first goal may be to consistently run a mile, then two, and so on while building up one’s muscles, endurance and motivation. Small incremental successes are building blocks to even greater ones. Over time the runner may eventually reach marathon status. However their work is not over. Once they reach their initial goal they continually look for ways to improve upon their completion time. The many hours, days, and miles of preparation may have helped them reach their initial goal, but it will certainly not keep them there. Discipline after success may actually be even harder! Our desire for a one and done approach to successful living is simply not a practical one. Just as daily discipline is essential to initially reach a particular goal, it is just as important to maintain that achieved level of success. Whether it is a spiritual issue such as being a Christ follower, or a practical one such as being an effective spouse, parent, generous giver, living a healthy lifestyle or being physically and emotionally whole, they all have one thing in common….discipline. Learn to look at discipline as a tool to increase the quality of your life in every area rather than it being a negative word. Pick specific goals you want to achieve and write down those goals and a discipline plan on how to achieve them. Share your plan with someone who will help keep you accountable. Practice discipline and watch what seemed to be an unreachable goal become a reality. You can become a “marathon runner” in your relationship with Christ, in your marriage, in serving with your gifts, talents, abilities and resources. You can do it, one step at a time and one decision at a time. Should you get off track in a particular area, don’t quit! Recognize it, acknowledge it and begin again. After all, that is the practice of discipline!