What is discipline, you ask? Great question. Maybe it's like what Louis Armstrong said about jazz - "If you have to ask what jazz is, you'll never know." But I think we can take a look at a couple of definitions. Off the top of my head, I can't remember who said these, but they've stuck:
Being able to do what needs to get done, when it needs to get done.The Bible, of course, also has a lot to say about discipline. If I were (and I'm going to) take a stab at defining discipline according to the Bible, I would say that discipline is...
Applying pain or restraint for redemptive purposes.
I'm crafting this definition mostly from the two places that the topic of discipline explicitly occurs the most: in the book of Proverbs and in Hebrews 12. Proverbs is a book about choosing a life of wisdom. Hebrews is a book about heroes who lived an adventurous faith. So if you take the occurrences of discipline from both these books, you can draw two very powerful conclusions about embracing a disciplined life:
To be corrected, shaped, trained, punished, or restrained from errant behavior, usually in the context of obeying God, living righteously, or accomplishing a calling/purpose.
1. It is wise to be disciplined (Proverbs)
2. Discipline is the key to becoming great (Hebrews)
So if you'd like to live a wise life that actually accomplishes the great purposes for which God has called you (albeit in your marriage, your career, your ministry, etc.), then this is for you. But it takes a little shaping up for us to move in that direction. So I'd like to share some practical keys that we discussed on how to do that. But first, I need to share a couple of rules of thumb to make sense out of those keys.
You reap what you sow
You will only be as capable as the effort you put in, and what you are is what comes out. So the more you work and maintain an aspect of your life (health, a skill, hobby, career, relationship, walking in the Spirit, etc.), the more effective you will be at it. Transformation and success don't just come to you. You have to work at it intentionally.
No discipline = death
Sorry to be so harsh, but Proverbs 5:21-23 is pretty clear about what happens if you fail to work at the things that are important - they die. A lack of discipline will result in death to your dreams, opportunities, career, relationships, etc. But the ones who are the most disciplined in life will experience fuller lives. Unfortunately, while many people don't "finish" well, especially leaders, it's just as true that many more people don't start well. Or start at all!
Ok, so here are 5 keys of discipline to shape up your life:
1. Have a vision for your life, and write it out.
What is it that you want to do? What do you need to do? What does God want you to do? What is your calling? Where is your life going? What are your opportunities? What are your obstacles? What are your dreams and goals? The point is, be aware about what your life is about and should be about. And put that into writing.
2. Have a "Game Day" for your life
Most people don't like discipline because they feel like they're working hard for nothing. We all know that athletes or musicians practice because they have to perform. What is it that you're working for? When do you need to "perform". If you aren't already an athlete or performing artist, then maybe your performance is your job, your relationships, your family, your ministry, etc.
3. Have a plan for your vision, and write it out
How will you accomplish your goals? What will it take for you to do that? What are your steps to get there? When you will work on it? The idea here is to be intentional about prioritizing what needs to get done, when it needs to get done. If you don't have a specific action plan and schedule, then you'll constantly find yourself on dates with Mr. TV or Miss Couch Potato.
4. Have some accountability
Who knows about your goals? Who is going to help you and challenge you? If you communicate these things to other people, then it greatly increases your chances of being successful at those those important things in your life.
5. No more excuses, just do it.
Actually, most people are good at steps 1-4. It's 5 that is the killer. But if you want to be a person of integrity, who does what you say want to do, then you'll just do it.
On that note, I'll leave you with this classic Nike commercial of Matt Scott.