The term discipline means different things to different people. To a child it means being made to do something he doesn’t want to do. To the soldier it means conformity to regulations and following orders. To a Christian, discipline means discipleship – following Jesus through self-denial and carrying your cross.
All of these meanings are true, but there is something more. The aim of self-discipline is disciplined character which goes beyond the minimum demands and permeates your whole life. Imposed discipline must lead to self-discipline:
In our appetites
In our emotions
In our moods
In our speech
In our priorities
In our adjustment to authority
The American way of life accents relaxation and recreation without restraints. It seems like we are striving, not for self-improvement, but for a good time. We love to play. Up to a point, play is good. But when play becomes the main focus – consuming the largest part of our time, money, conversation, and pursuits – it becomes decadent. An undisciplined life combined with the carnal nature seeks only pleasure and there is no bottom to which it will sink in this pursuit. For instance: God gave man sex for procreation and pleasure, but we turn it into immorality; God gave man the fruit of the vine (wine) to give us a merry heart, but we turn it into drunkenness and vulgarity; God gave man food for nutrition and enjoyment, but we turn it into gluttony; and God gave man rest, but we turn it into laziness.
Disciplined character belongs to the person who achieves balance by bringing all his faculties and cravings under control and exercises moderation in all things. His or her life has order, consistency, and purpose. He is not swept away by crosscurrents. He rises to meet life and conquers it. He resists temptation and overcomes. He is governed by a sense of responsibility. He has an inward strength that is the wonder of weaker souls. He brings adversity under his dominion and compels it to serve him. When adversity is so great that he cannot fight it off, he bows under the weight but is not broken by it.
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