By Rhett Noland
For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.
— 2 Timothy 1:7
The concept of ‘discipline’ can form towering images within our minds, both when communally discussed, as well as when we ponder upon them personally. We conjure up images of heavy-handed punishment, the gruelling training of a trade, or chaste boredom, either from past or cultural experience. However, when we examine the concept at a closer level, all of these may very well be misconceptions.
Is discipline a cliche of self-help jargon? Is it the hand and work of God? Is discipline something we muster and employ from our very own guts?
The concept and practice of discipline these days has become a cultural buzz word while remaining neglected as an ancient tradition. However, I believe it is a life-changing force that waits for us to engage with it.
Our human nature exhibits an inherent need for correction. Think about our the happenings of our world for a moment; it takes only a second or two to realize that we are in dire need of a change of course. We are left wondering how these alterations can possibly be accomplished.
I believe discipline, through the combination of our own will with that of God’s, is the movement in which our feet take the steps towards purpose. Discipline is the means and muscle to endure the distance of this journey ahead with steadfastness against the unyielding force of distraction. This process is emitted by heaven-enabled external discipline merged with the internal discipline that is self-administered.
Often, the presence of hardship and trying times can be the mechanism that draws us to the place of proper discipline. Moments of refinement can manifest in the shape of hardship, requiring us to endure for what is on the other side of ourselves. Such God-ordained suffering can tempt us to shake our fist at the wild blue yonder. In the midst of these seasons, we cannot seem to grasp why our creator would allow tragedies and inconveniences to interrupt our bustle. But if God is beyond our meager comprehension, then His means of refining and keeping us might also be. His disci-pline is also His embrace. It may feel like the char of an incomprehensible heat, but it solidifies us as iron-clad through our vulnerability to the process.
We have misunderstood discipline as a despised chair in the corner when, instead, it is our hon-oured seat at the table. When we realize this seat represents our acceptance at the table, it renders us responsible for who we know ourselves to be: accepted. Not condemned, but included.
We can be tempted to turn our back and leave our place at the table because we feel we do not de-serve such grace; we lend merit to any distraction that reinforces our self-doubt.
Discipline is then employed to keep us on the path and remind us of who we are becoming. The discomfort of this discipline is our acknowledgement of the lie we believed in our backtracking. We sold ourselves short and we know it. True discipline abolishes fear of punishment and reinforces our identity by calling us by name. Heavenly discipline closes the case and keeps us close.
Discipline is a conduit which leads our sight to know who we yearn to be through the fruit of its labour. Self-control is one of the defining fruits of discipline; it is self-administered and cannot be implemented by self-hatred, but is rather a product of all-consuming love. Love begets understanding and understanding begets change. Change is kept by the rigour of discipline.
In my life, the discipline to not drink alcohol is a daily and sometimes momentary practice. This ongoing decision comes from a developed understanding that I do not know what is best. When I thought I knew best, I became an alcoholic.
Because of our fated human inheritance, knowledge of things that oppose the flourishing of our spirit has been passed down to us throughout the generations. We acquire tastes for things that planet earth has to offer which hold no eternal value. We tend to follow a course that detours and detracts from true identity. Self-discipline helps us to discern when to identify and resist seemingly pleasing things in the moment, allowing us a sense of things eternal. This is an internal process and practice.
Discipline gives us eyes for the long term in a near-sighted culture. I am slowly gaining this sight and have now celebrated one year of sobriety.
Self-discipline is the labour of truth and the application thereof. If too much passes between the point of realization and the application of remedy, there is a risk of stress and unwanted digression. When we receive correction and arrive at an understanding, we are immediately presented with the opportunity to act and change. The moment that I realized that I had a drinking problem was the very same moment that required me to act and submit to the disciplined life.
Discipline is nature’s flue that administers oxygen to the refining flame that engulfs the spirit. By willfully submitting ourselves to change, discipline begins to chisel the very path within us leads to glory. If we do not apply and submit ourselves to this new discipline, we are prolonging our becoming — our sanctification. If change is an ever throttling locomotive, then discipline is its track.
When we grow to receive and seek discipline as a measure of love we will no longer tarry upon hearing its beckon. Discipline may resemble a great fire to us on earth but within and through this fiery swelter is the voice of a caring father, not the reprimand of an enemy. Our submission to discipline is our investment in the belief of who we were made to be and who we know we will become as God’s known and loved. We will be changed.
From heaven he made you hear his voice to discipline you. On earth he showed you his great fire, and you heard his words from out of the fire.
— Deuteronomy 4:36