“The most valuable result of all education is the ability to make yourself do the thing you have to do, when it ought to be done, whether you like it or not,” wrote Thomas L. Huxley.
“It is the first lesson, “Huxley opined, “that ought to be learned and however early a person’s training begins, it is probably the last lesson a person learns thoroughly.”
This week we’re writing about our 2021 theme: “Reaching Forward.” It’s based on this text, written from a Roman prison toward the end of Paul’s life.
“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained” (Phil. 3:12-16).
There are at least 4 essential elements involved if we want to reach forward to win the race, fulfill God’s purpose in our lives, and receive the heavenly reward. In previous posts, we’ve considered the importance of devotion, direction, and determination. Today, let’s think about discipline.
Unfortunately, our culture does not have equal regard for the value of discipline. Gladys Books observed, “Discipline is demanded of the athlete to win a game. Discipline is required for the captain running his ship. Discipline is needed for the pianist to practice for the concert. Only in the matter of personal conduct is the need for discipline questioned.”
John Maxwell reminds us that “If you desire to rise above the average in any endeavor, you have to be willing to be disciplined.” The first man to climb Mt. Everest, Sir Edmund Hillary, once said,” It is not the mountains we conquer, but ourselves.”
Discipline is also required to be victorious in the Christian race. Consider these 5 important components relating to discipline.
1. Recognize that our time is limited. “Redeem the time” urges Paul (Eph. 5:16). Remember the “game clock” will one day will read 0:00. Make the days count. Don’t waste them on carnal pleasures. Or squander them away with useless worry.
2. Know the “Rule Book”. Every sporting event has rules, including running. “No contestant in the games is crowned, unless he competes according to the rules” (2 Tim. 2:5, wms). The Bible is God’s rule Book. Through His Word we obtain instruction. Receive strength. Develop conviction. This allows us to run according to the Divine rules.
3. Talk to the “Coach” regularly. He wants you to communicate with Him. David said, “Evening and morning and at noon I will pray, and cry aloud, And He shall hear my voice” (Ps. 55:17). Paul was a man of prayer, who urges us to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17).
4. Keep your eyes on the goal. What are your spiritual goals for 2021? A bible reading program? Developing your talent? Overcoming a bad habit? Adding a new virtue? Memorizing Scripture? Daily prayer? Unselfish service to others? Closer intimacy with God?
All such goals are not an end within themselves. They comprise a greater goal. Our ultimate purpose. Our eternal focus. The hope of heaven. Reaching forward requires us to remain focused on the goal.
5. Exercise, train, and eliminate obstacles. Resist the temptation to “fulfill the lusts of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16-17). Like the athlete, Christians cannot “do the things they would.” Discipline is required to live righteously. Subdue sin. And remain morally pure.
Samuel Johnson, the 18th-century British writer was right. “He that would be superior to external influences must first become superior to his own passions.” And so we end this series, challenging each one to reach inside for deeper devotion, clearer direction, greater determination, and stronger discipline in order to reach forward.
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified” (1 Cor. 9:25-27).
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman