What’s in a Word? – Discipline

4 a.m. comes awfully early on weekdays.

I wish I could say I greet it with grace, but more often than not when I wake up—either to a nudge from my well-trained internal clock or my alarm chirping cheerily—I sit stooped over for a time, some soft, rumpled gargoyle ripped from her settings on the cathedral of sleep, and question all my life choices. All of them.

But after thirty or so minutes of waking up in the dark, I roll out of bed, give the oldest cat her morning treats, start the coffee and boot up my laptop. And for the next however-many-minutes I haven’t wasted sitting on the bed wondering why I do this to myself, I write, and write, and write. 

People often ask me how I’m able to do this, how I can get up at 4 in the morning day after day, and I always tell them the same thing: discipline. I love my mornings, I love my craft, and I love having free time to myself in the quiet house to tell stories to the shadows around me; so I discipline myself not to go back to sleep, not to give into that bleary-eyed haze in those long thirty minutes; and I discipline myself to go to bed at 8 p.m. even when most people I know are just starting movies and grabbing dinner at that time, so that I can get up at 4 without feeling like death warmed over. 

I truly believe that in life, discipline is key; we can accomplish almost anything with the proper amount of discipline—health, strength, goals achieved, races won. And for Christians especially, it’s important we learn the art of discipline and exercise it liberally in our lives—because living with discipline in a world of excess is a vital part of pleasing God. 

What is Discipline?

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines discipline as “control gained by enforcing obedience or order; orderly or prescribed conduct or pattern of behavior; self-control.” By its earliest definition, discipline also refers to “chastisement, training, or correction”. The Bible uses both meanings. 

You probably recognize one of the root words of disciplined – disciple! A well-known word among most Christians, because the disciples were people who followed the tenets of certain teachers, like Jesus. Discipline comes from discipulus, the Latin word for pupil, which also provides the source of the word disciple.

So for Christians, having “discipline” looks like “living as disciples of Jesus.” And that does require self-discipline! Jesus called us to a higher standard of living, a better way of conduct that sets an example for the world around us. In order to live as his disciples—following his teachings and living in a way that honors him—we can’t play loosely with our lives. We must stick to a code that is at times super difficult to follow…especially when our flesh nature would much rather do whatever’s comfortable, fun, and/or exciting at any given moment.

What Does the Bible Say About Discipline?

Hebrews 12:11 – 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.

1 Corinthians 9:27 – But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

Titus 1:8 – But [be] hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined.

How Can I Become More Disciplined? 

One of the best ways to become more disciplined in any area is to recognize that your life is not your own. Not only was every Christian’s sin paid for and their life ransomed by the blood of Jesus, but when we made him our Lord, we entered into holy servitude to him. He is our Lord and Master, our Savior and King. 

Historically speaking, when you were under the rule of a king, you did as the king bade you—no questions asked. So now that we serve Jesus, we are serving the King of Kings whose name is above every name. Therefore, we have no reason and no excuse not to discipline ourselves to live according to the commission, calling, and standards set forth for us.

Discipline within one’s self is ultimately a choice, not a feeling—just like loving one’s enemies is a choice and not a feeling. We don’t do the disciplined thing because we necessarily feel like it, but because we know it’s right and that’s what we choose to do.

  1. Accept no excuses. If you need to give up something in your life that’s holding you back from serving God to the utmost, then take the necessary steps to do it. Don’t allow excuses for certain behaviors and choices to become your Master. 
  2. Hide God’s words in your heart. When the Word of the Lord is always close in our minds, convicting and correcting us, it becomes more and more difficult to make up excuses that would allow us to act in undisciplined ways. 
  3. Set reminders for yourself. Whether it’s calendar notes, phone alarms, sticky notes, or whatever works for you, be willing to go the extra mile and remind yourself to do—or not to do—certain things, until doing the RIGHT THING becomes a habit.
  4. Be accountable and willing to accept reproof. We all have blind spots in our lives, and addressing and correcting them becomes more difficult when we refuse to heed the insight of others. Seek out trusted advice from others on the areas where you need more discipline—and accept discipline from others where necessary! This will help you become more disciplined as a whole.

Ultimately, it takes discipline (the reproof) in the areas of our lives where we struggle in order to become more disciplined (the trait) overall. The two definitions go hand in hand toward shaping us into better, more godly people and more ready disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Take Action!

What is an area of your life where you lack discipline? What can you do to become more disciplined?

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2 comments

  1. Something to strive for!

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