“Take fast hold of training; let her not go:
keep her; for she is your life.”
What is training and how do we define it? — It is what produces a confidence with humility, an orderliness with purpose, and an obedience with cooperation. Notice, “Take fast hold”—so hold onto it! What is an army like without training and discipline? There is no way they could win a war or even be effective in a minor conflict with the enemy. In fact, such an army would offer false protection for the people. But training requires discipline.
And that is true of an untrained team of Christians—total ineffectiveness is the result, and we sometimes see that in our churches. But in contrast, the effective Christian is not only trained but is focused and disciplined. That is, a mind prepared, a heart clean, a will determined, and a spirit willing. So let’s consider only three areas of dynamic discipline; the first is:
I. A DISCIPLINE RELATED TO PRAYER
E. M. Bounds was a wonderful teacher about prayer for he practiced doing it actively. He said that a discipline to pray “honors God, acknowledges His being, exalts His power, adores His providence, and secures His aid.” Yes, wonderful, but we must check ourselves and do it faithfully!
In England long ago, J. H. Oldham had a book, now out of print, called Devotional Diary, and its purpose was to check oneself to honestly see how much time was spent in prayer, in devotional reading, and in meditation daily. People confessed when they started and practiced daily, that they were at first “disgusted with themselves.” Others said, “I realized I have been deceiving myself!” Jesus said, “… but above anything else, don’t follow their example. For they don’t do what they tell you to do … they themselves don’t even try to keep.” (Matthew 23:3-4, Living Bible)
II. A DISCIPLINE RELATED TO PARTICIPATION
A check is needed: Am I a team player, or is there a spirit of pride that says, “I do it my way irregardless”? That attitude springs from pride and leads to a loss of a team spirit. In fact, it ultimately will split our ranks and then discredit our witness. The secret is “… in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.” (Philippians 2:3) The undisciplined and the selfish people never do that—it is a world they do not understand; “lowliness of mind,” that’s the attitude.
We are not independent, we are interdependent!
A person who is always pridefully out of step will cause criticism which becomes a growing disease on a team. A spirit of being judgmental results. “Judge not,” said Jesus, “and you will not be judged …” (Luke 6:37) Talk less and say more should be a life discipline, and then participate with pleasure. People love anybody to say, “Let’s do it together.”
Make a commitment in this way—embrace the positive participation, “… whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” (Philippians 4:8)
The important thing is to first find out what works for us. Yet we can be true to ourselves and at the same time be loyal to a team. Participate and do it with heart kindness. Mark Twain said, “The deaf can hear it and the blind can see it.” He is right. Discipline yourself to wholeheartedly participate with others as a team. Together we are in it to win it!
The Spirit of God in power fell on the early church when they were “one in spirit.” We must cultivate that.
A spirit of discipline in prayer, in participation, and, last, in progress.
III. A DISCIPLINE RELATED TO PROGRESS
Too often we plateau in our life, we reach a place and everything is at a standstill. For example, name three goals you still have for your life. People with goals do not have trouble getting up in the morning!
Purpose is what gives life meaning and it has long ago been said, “A useless life is an early death.” We must have the discipline of progress. To the end Paul had a goal to finish well. He would say what counts is not that you lived but that you lived with purpose which carries you to the end.
If we have the focus of a worthy goal in mind, it’s amazing, we will find the right road to get us there. Strong lives are sure to be motivated by a dynamic purpose. I would say there are no exceptions! So then the secret is “bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (II Corinthians 10:5). It’s progression and it’s progress.
This idea of progress is a discipline that is anchored in a God controlled “Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:16) We take full advantage of all the time God gives us so that we die climbing.
The Chinese have a funny proverb, “No man ever caught two frogs with one hand.” So, included there is the discipline of focus. Paul said, “this one thing I do” (Philippians 3:13).
The discipline of progress involves focus. If we chase after two rabbits, we will not catch one while we lose the other! The great preacher De Witt Talmage commented in a sermon, “that man who concentrates all his energies of body, mind, and soul in one direction is a tremendous man.” It’s the discipline of focused progress. Few people succeed without a constancy of purpose that is always progressive.
So, tell me, what do you want, with God’s help, to accomplish next? Tell me simply. That’s the discipline of progress—we all can have it to the end of our days. Yes, that’s it: prayer, participation, and progress.