The Disciplined Life
* * * * * * * * * * *
I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified. (1 Cor. 9:27)
Giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control . . . (2 Pet. 1:5-6)
* * * * * * * * * * *
In modern English we use the word "discipline" to denote punishment for misdeeds. But the word historically has had a much broader meaning. It comes from the Latin disciplina, meaning "instruction" or "training." Discipline is therefore the process of being instructed or trained on how to become the kind of person we ought to be. Punishment is only a small facet of a much wider range of activities in this process.
A disciple is someone who "brings his body into subjection" to this discipline of improvement. It is a conscious choice we make in a thousand little daily decisions. Victor Frankl described someone who does not discipline himself as "the plaything of circumstance," a slave to passions and demands that have no regard for his welfare and will destroy him without pity. Self-discipline is the inner drive to rise above our circumstances and forge our own destiny--within the parameters set for us by our Creator, of course.
How do we achieve discipline in our lives? Ideally we learn it as children, under the influence of wise parents who themselves mastered the art of a life of self-control. Of course, if our childhood was one of chaos and disarray, we probably never learned this important life skill. How can we overcome that deficiency?
If the foundation of discipline is instruction, then we should start by educating ourselves ("add to your knowledge, self-control"). The Bible is an excellent resource for learning the attributes of a life well-lived. As we learn about the attitudes and behaviors that make us a better person--and the examples of Bible characters whose life choices made a difference--we will gain the wisdom and strength to control the direction our life takes.
A journey consists of a long series of little steps, and a disciplined life is molded by a lot of little habits. We can get up early every morning. Make our bed. Simplify our environment. Reduce the clutter. Pick up after ourselves. Keep our house neat and orderly. Be punctual. Resist the daily distractions that disrupt our goals. These are ideals, of course; sometimes life (or God) may have other plans. But even then, the habits of self-discipline will allow us to better adapt to these unforeseen contingencies.
The disciplined life is not easy, especially at first. But with practice and God's help, it can become the gateway to a better, more enriching life.