“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So, I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”
– 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (ESV)
For many people, the word “discipline” raises negative thoughts. Discipline can easily be associated with unpopular rules or unwanted punishment. In the arena of sport however, discipline is a key component for success. The benefits of being a disciplined athlete are many. We learn the value of hard work. Talent alone isn’t enough to be successful. Discipline means making sacrifices. The disciplined athlete will have to give up some TV or video game time to accomplish individual and team goals. Discipline means understanding the value of practice time and preparation. Missing practice for a poorly planned dentist appointment or poor eating and sleeping habits will do nothing to help an athlete improve. Coaches don’t get a pass on discipline either. Good time management is essential. Written schedules and ending practice on time are important for staff as well as parents. Disciplined coaches can clearly communicate their goals, rules, and expectations. Disciplined athletes and coaches do the little things well. The general appearance of the coach’s office or the athlete’s locker can reveal a great deal about a team’s discipline.
The ability to grow spiritually also requires great discipline. To see the results of discipline let’s observe the life of Jesus. He knew all about the importance of getting off to himself, listening rather than talking, studying, praying, fasting, and learning to live without all the things of the world. His goal in living a disciplined life was not to prove anything to others, but simply to get closer to God, His Father. If we want to get closer to our Heavenly Father, we must learn to exercise and train in a way that allows us to achieve our goal. There are no shortcuts to growing spiritually. The more we practice the Jesus model, the easier it is to get the hang of it. There will be tough times and we may want to quit, but we must learn to press on and keep striving because the prize is worth the effort. Our spiritual discipline will shape our habits and our habits will develop our character. It is our God-developed character that will guide us through the hardships of life.
Heavenly Father, help me to understand that discipline is good for me. Help me today to model my life after Your Son Jesus. Amen.