Why Develop Discipline?

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You’re on a mission trip hundreds of miles away from home. You’re involved in work you probably don’t do on a daily basis. To top it all off, you’re asked to have a devotional time every day before you go out. Why in the world are you doing all of this stuff? Why should you develop discipline, especially in the area of your Christian life?

You’ve probably had to develop discipline in some area of your life before this day. Perhaps you’ve learned to play a musical instrument—the piano, or perhaps the guitar. You remember well the tedium of practice; if you’re honest, some days you were bored out of your mind. If you stayed with it, however, you found that you eventually could play pretty well, and you may even now be using that talent.

Perhaps you don’t play an instrument, but you play a sport. If you play football, you remember the grueling summer drills when you ran laps and sprints, and when you did agility drills. Many days you wanted to quit—practice just wasn’t what you had in mind when you signed up—but you kept at it, and now you enjoy the sport. No matter what sport you learned, it required discipline to excel.

Maybe you’re not into either one of these hobbies, but you take your schoolwork seriously. You don’t want merely to pass—you want to excel and win a scholarship. You stay up nights, you write papers that express your thought clearly, you develop your ideas, or you learn every notation on the periodic table, just to be ready to pass the test with ease.

Every person who develops discipline knows of a time between the beginning of their journey and theattainment of their goal that requires discipline. Discipline means the willingness to stick to what’s important when it doesn’t feel like it so that when it does matter, you’re ready. Tom Landry, the legendary coach of the Dallas Cowboys, put it this way, “Discipline is getting men to do what they don’t want to do to become what they want to become.” The writer of Hebrews put it this way, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11).

What is the “harvest of righteousness”? What is it that you “want to be”? Every musician hates practice, but no musician wants to blow it at the recital (or worse yet, in front of your peers when you are asked to perform). No football player likes “two-a-days,” but every player loves to win the big game in front of the crowds. Nobody likes studying, but the student who receives the scholarship for his or her grades sees the fruit of all the hard work pay off.

We who are Christians are promised a Day when we will stand before Jesus. We won’t be judged for our sin, for that took place at the cross. The Lord Jesus will judge us, however; Paul writes, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad” (2 Cor. 5:10). On that Day, we don’t want to be ashamed. On that Day, we want to hear Him say, “Well done.” So, do what you must this day—develop the painful discipline that seems slow and unrewarded—but keep in mind the Day, because on that Day the disciplines of this day that you do—or do not—will matter.