The idea of discipline brings up negative emotions. We instantly think of punishment for wrong doing. However, discipline is better understood as a training process. Discipline is defined as “the practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behavior, using punishment to correct disobedience” (Google Dictionary). When it comes to our spiritual training, the teacher is to “Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching” (2 Timothy 4:2 NKJV). Note that this requires patience. Punishment should be a rare occurrence and practiced with restraint and discretion.
Correction is indeed unpleasant, but our Creator knows best how we are to be trained. “Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (He 12:11 NKJV). Ideally one will practice self-discipline which will minimize the need for correction. Study, application, self-examination, meditation, confession and repentance are all elements of the process. A properly trained conscience will accuse us when our behavior is not in line with God’s law and we will self-correct (Ro 2:12-15). Conscience alone is insufficient recognizing that God’s law is the standard and that the conscience may be defiled (Tit 1:5). Christians are tasked with watching out for one another (Gal 6:1, 2). “Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins” (James 5:19-20 NKJV).
It is often more difficult to address our pride than it is to address our lack of belief or our sinful behaviors. It is easy to grow discouraged and to drift away from God and then allow the relationships to lapse that would have helped us to remain strong. Emotional discipline, whether we call it faith, or resolve or zeal, is key to spiritual success. We must look within and understand the impact of God’s grace in our life for motivation. “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works” (Titus 2:11-14 NKJV).
“Press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you. Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind. Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern” (Philippians 3:14-17 NKJV). Be encouraged by the faith of your brethren, but live each day motivated by love for God.
Ken Fleeman (2019-01-13)