1 Timothy 4:7b-8 “Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.”
There is not a whole lot in this life that can be accomplished without discipline. It takes discipline to get up in the morning on time for school or work. It takes discipline to eat healthy meals. It takes discipline to train for a sports team. It even takes discipline to schedule regular rest into a life full of activity and responsibility. Why, then, when we will make the effort to train ourselves for all sorts of activities, do we often neglect the most important training of all?
The other day I had a brilliant idea. After having spent much of the fall season watching Abigail and her friends play volleyball, I thought it would be fun to learn how to bump, set, and maybe even serve. I never played this game in high school, but, hey, how hard could it be? “Come on, Abby, show me how to do this,” I said.
We both ran outside into the cool autumn air where she showed me the correct position for my hands and then passed me the ball. My first try ricocheted off my left wrist and nearly broke the kitchen window. Nevertheless, we tried again. And then again. And then again. Soon I decided that maybe I would do better at serving, but that didn’t go much better. My visions of quick success started to look bleak as I tried to follow Abigail’s detailed instructions, but completely missed the ball. After we both dissolved into a pool of laughter, I finally admitted that maybe this “simple” game wasn’t as easy as it looked. It would take a lot of discipline and practice to perfect the skills needed to play.
While each of us spend hours training for activities that will only provide a short-lived profit, how often do we practice the discipline needed for spiritual growth and godliness? We often treat this important part of our life like I treated the game of volleyball. We think that showing up for church once in a while or saying a quick prayer before a meal is all that is needed to be the best we can be. Yet godliness is profitable for all areas of life – here on earth as well as in the life to come.
There are a number of spiritual disciplines that God can use in a believer’s life to bring about growth. Though these practices are not difficult, they require consistency and a willingness to submit to God’s work in our life. Richard J. Foster, in his book, The Celebration of Discipline, states, “God has given us the Disciplines of the spiritual life as a means of receiving His grace. The Disciplines allow us to place ourselves before God so that He can transform us.”
Reading God’s word studiously, praying diligently, and fasting or giving up something to focus more on God are only a few practices that will put a person in a position where God can do His transforming work. None of these can be accomplished without personal discipline, but those who make these things a priority will begin to be trained in godliness.
If you think that you can attain God’s best for you by showing up to church once in a while, then you have been misled. Just as the game of volleyball takes training and practice, so a growing Christian requires discipline for godliness – and the result of this eternal goal will be blessing in this life and the life to come. — Love, Mama
Sandra Sheridan is a Greene County resident and guest columnist.