I was so nervous. My stomach was in knots. I looked to my right and left and saw cross-country teams from all across the state of Tennessee congregated in circles preparing for the race. I had already finished my pre-race rituals with my team. I had run many races that season, and everything the entire year had led to that starting-line moment. The early morning runs in the blistering heat, the mile repeats, the hill workouts to gain speed, and the myriad water bottles I drained to replenish my hydration were all aiming for one goal: making it to the state championship race. As I glanced nervously at the never-ending row of the most athletic high school runners in the state, I was more thankful than ever for the gruesome training I had undergone to be prepared to run this race at the best of my ability. I saw the official raise the gun. I dug my spiked toes into the ground. I looked ahead at the rolling hills ahead and focused on breathing in a deep gulp of air. The gun sounded, and faster than I could take my next breath, I was in the race.
Life reminds me of a cross-country season. There are performance moments when we are in the race exercising everything we have prepared ahead of time. Most of the time, though, we are preparing. We are in the workout room or on the pavement training for life ahead. We are only able to succeed in those eventful, climax moments in our lives when we train diligently in the more common mundane, ordinary moments. How we perform and the resulting victory or defeat on the battlefield of life is directly correlated with how we discipline ourselves in advance. Near the end of his life, the Apostle Paul wrote his prodigy Timothy a letter and explained the importance of spiritual training for success in life and ministry. He emphasizes in 1 Timothy 4:7-10 that discipline in our lives yields several blessings from God.
Discipline Yields Godliness
Godliness, or living out the character of God, only comes in our lives when we discipline ourselves. 1 Timothy 4:7 says, “Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather, train yourself for godliness.” Paul commands Timothy specifically to train himself for godliness because it only comes through training. “Train,” according to dictionary.com, means to develop or form the habits, thoughts, or behaviors by discipline and instruction. We become godly only when we discipline ourselves to do so. 2 Peter 1:5-7 gives specific instructions for developing the character of God in us. It tells us to add to our faith with virtue (doing the right thing). To add to our virtue, we seek the knowledge of God through His Word. To add to our knowledge, we use self-control to resist sin and evil in our lives. Have you ever realized that doing good things through the help of the Holy Spirit actually comes before resisting bad things or sin in our lives? We try to skip forward by neglecting sin in our lives, but we must do good things through the Holy Spirit (like reading God’s Word) in order for Him to reveal the bad things in our lives that we should turn from. We must next add to our self-control, steadfastness, or unwavering faith to withstand the ups and downs of life. Finally, to add to our steadfastness, we develop godliness. Did you notice how many steps it took to get to godliness? That is a lot of discipline! Many of us do not see the fruit of godliness because we are stuck on step two and have not added to our faith/goodness or step four and have not added to our knowledge/self-control. Where are you on that stepladder of maturity in Christ? Are you disciplining yourself to gain the godliness God desires in you? Look around you at the most godly women you know and pay attention to their actions. More than likely, you will quickly start noticing the patterns of discipline they follow in their daily lives that have led to these qualities working out in them. Imitate them!
Discipline Yields Earthly and Eternal Rewards
Discipline not only yields godliness in us, but 1 Timothy 4:8 says that it yields earthly and eternal rewards as well. It says, “For while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” Hebrews 12:10-11 reveals that discipline from God, or of ourselves, is not pleasant at the time, but it yields the peaceful fruits of holiness and righteousness when we are trained by it. Running for hours a day in the scorching Memphis humidity was not enjoyable for me, but the ability to win third place in my regional race was worth the discipline I put my body through to achieve that goal. We are able to discipline ourselves for the goal we have in mind: eternal rewards with Christ forever. 1 Corinthians 4:12-15 spells out the reality that every Christian will stand before Christ and give an account of his earthly life that will issue either eternal reward or loss. We will be judged as stewards of the resources we were given by God to seek, obey, and glorify Him on earth.
The blessings of discipline extend past the heavenly realm and into our earthly lives (I hear the HALLELUJAH chorus). 2 Peter 1:7 tells us that godliness is not our end result for the life of faith. We add to our godliness brotherly affection, and we add to brotherly affection, love. 1 John 4:19 says that God is love, and we are able to experience the true love of God and others in this world when we discipline ourselves to attain it. That’s a finish line worth running for!
Even though discipline is difficult, we can endure because we have the promises from 1 Timothy 4:7-8 that discipline yields godliness and earthly and eternal rewards. How are you doing in this eternal “race season” of life? Are you training yourself to race well, or are you lagging behind in spiritual performance because you are not disciplining yourself daily? 2 Peter 1:8-10 say that the qualities in verses 5-7 will keep us from being unfruitful or ineffective. We will be blind if we do not possess them, but we will never fall if we practice them diligently. What fruit is your life yielding? The fruit of our lives reveals the root in our hearts. Is God the center of your life and Christ your focus? Are you disciplining yourself to become godly and reap everlasting rewards? Let us be ladies who live out Galatians 2:9, “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”
Abba, thank You that You are not only our Father who loves, but You are our Father who disciplines and teaches us to discipline ourselves. Show me what areas in my life I am neglecting to discipline myself and help me to heed Your discipline. Teach me how to live a life of discipline that yields the fruit of godliness and earthly and eternal rewards.
Spiritual Disciplines by Don Whitney
Disciplines of a Godly Woman by Barbara Hughes