Discipline is the spiritual art of putting the human soul and body under control so that they obey the dictates of the spirit. As we have already seen, the Holy Spirit in- dwells the human spirit and moves from there to perform all His work in man. If when He moves in the spirit of man, His power and purposes are blocked by a soul and body that have not been disciplined and brought under subjection to obey the spirit, then the Holy Spirit will be blocked or limited in the manifestation of His power. Discipline enables the believer to share God’s holiness and God’s power, for it brings them into Christlikeness. The apostle Paul was concerned that there should be discipline, and he himself was committed to discipline. He said, “Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do so to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Well, I do not run aimlessly, I do not box as one beating the air; but I pommel my body and subdue it: lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:25-27). In athletics we have a goal – a prize to be won. In order that the prize is won, the athlete exercises self-control in his speech, food, practice, drinking habits, etc. In fact, he exercises self-control in everything that will directly or indirectly affect his performance in the race. He does everything possible in order to win.
The athlete does all these to win a perishable crown, yet he puts everything into it. The believer also has a crown to win – the crown of life. With that crown in mind the believer must do only those things that will help him to win the crown. He must consider all good things as useless so long as they do not help him to win the crown of life. In the subject at hand, the need is to have the power of God and maintain it as well as maintain a position in His heart. Discipline requires that we judge, assess, evaluate everything, every idea, every person, as that one relates to the goal in view. We do not pursue what will make us happy, for happiness is not important. We do what will help us to manifest the power of God and win the crown of life. The apostle Paul wanted to win the crown of life, so he did not run aimlessly. He did not waste his blows. He did not allow his body to have just anything it wanted or to do just anything it wanted. He pommelled it and got it to do the things that
the Holy Spirit wanted and not those that the flesh wanted. In this way he manifested unusual power. Just see what was accomplished through one life both in quantity and quality. We shall briefly look at this matter of not wasting blow and subduing the body. For a fuller treatment of the chapter see our book, “The Way of Christlikeness – Christian Character.”
Many people have no overriding purpose for their lives. Such people have failed al- ready. How can a person win a crown that he does not know exists? How can an athlete win in a race in which he neither knows the starting point nor the winning point? So the first thing is to know clearly what you want. It is here that Samson and Balaam failed. Samson seems to have failed to see that his one aim in life was not pleasure with honey and women but the destruction of the Philistines. He tried to do both, but failed utterly, for no one can serve two masters. The same thing applies to Balaam. He forgot that his calling was to be a prophet of God and for God, and thought that his calling was both to be a prophet and to make money. And be- cause his heart was divided he too failed to satisfy the heart of God. The apostle Paul said, “This one thing I do”. He did not say, “These many things I do !!” He sought out what God wanted Him to do and he stuck to it. The disciplined person sticks to the one thing that God has called him to do. He leaves aside many good things which could be done for the Lord and the church, but to which the Lord has not called him as an individual. This requires a lot of discipline. If he has many abilities, he will be able to do many things very well. If he is gifted, he may be able to minister in many areas. However, the question is not, “Where can I minister with a fair measure of success ?” He must ask, “What has the Lord called me to do for Him?” The discipline person will refuse to be side- tracked with any of the following good things:
- The needs of the church(es)
- The shortage of workers
- The good that could result from his effort
- The insistence of the brethren
- Just to name a few.
Many good, spiritual things will present themselves to him, but he will say “No!” to them all in order to stick to that which the Lord has called him, and leaves the rest of the work to God. If labourer are few, he will not jump from here to there in order to do the work of others because of any of the following reasons :
- Others are not available
- Others are immature
- Others are lazy
- Others are discouraged
- Others are misunderstood…
Sometimes it will pierce his heart to say “No”, but he must do it because it will pierce God’s heart if he said “Yes” when God has not sent him. All who abide in that to which the Lord calls them, will exercise spiritual power and maintain it.
The Bible says, “The thoughts of the righteous are just” (Proverbs 12:5). However, the righteous must continue to be righteous for his thoughts to continue to be just. Thoughts can be rendered impure and sinful, or they can be rendered pure and holy. The crucial thing then will be what the person allows to come into his mind after it has been renewed.
A disciplined person will ensure that he controls what enters into his thoughts and that he controls what his mind concentrates on. To have a mind that runs all over this country, then all over this continent and finally all over God’s world is a tragic mark of indiscipline. To have a mind that concentrates in prayer, Bible study, etc is the mark of discipline. Thoughts that are allowed to wander all over will land on sin, whereas thoughts that are disciplined will stay where there is holiness.
Someone may ask, “How can I control my thoughts ?” We suggest the following :
- Confess all the know sins in your life and forsake them.
- Acknowledge the fact that your thoughts have until now been indisciplined.
- Confess this sin of indiscipline in thought to the Lord and ask Him to forgive you.
- Ask the Holy Spirit to fill you completely
- Set your mind on thinking one thing at a time.
- Do not allow your mind to go blank. Fill it with positive and good things, and there will be no room for sinful thoughts.
- Do not run away from hard clear thinking. If you run away from hard clear thinking, you will continue to be indisciplined.
- Use practical aids like a notebook to jot down the topics you want to pray about.
- Be totally taken up with what the Lord has called you to do for Him so that thoughts of it will saturate you and consequently there will be no room for other thoughts that are evil.
- If you have a problem with impure (sexual) thoughts, make sure that there are no objects like suggestive pictures or books around to arouse twisted thoughts. If you meet a beautiful girl, pray for her in this way, “Lord, I thank you for this beautiful girl. Help her so that her beauty may not lead her to sin, and grant me grace not to lust after her beauty in my heart.”
- If you have a sudden thought that your enemy ought to die or something evil should happen to him for no reason, these may just be the fiery darts of the devil. Command such wicked thoughts to go away from you at once.
- Fill your mind with the word of the Lord. The Psalmist said, “I have laid up thy word in my heart, that I might not sin against thee” (Psalm 119:11).