Girls of Grace
What’s So Good about Discipline?
“Have you finished your homework?” “Did you clean your room?” “Don’t forget to practice the piano.” “Yes, you have to eat all of your peas.” Does any of this sound familiar? Well, it sure does to me, and I remember all too clearly my responses as I huffed and puffed and rolled my eyes on my way to do whatever I was told. However, what I thought was a total pain at the time, I now see was for my own good. It was all a lesson in discipline.
By discipline I don’t mean punishment; I mean training or instruction. That’s what my parents were trying to do with all their questions and rules: They were training me, teaching me how to live life responsibly. You see, what we don’t understand as teenagers—and what our parents already know—is that much of what we learn as young people will establish who we become as adults. I recently read this story in a book called Spiritual Disciplines of the Christian Life by Donald Whitney. He writes:
Imagine six-year-old Kevin, whose parents have enrolled him in music lessons. After school every afternoon, he sits in the living room and reluctantly strums “Home on the Range” while watching his buddies play baseball in the park across the street. That’s discipline without direction. It’s drudgery.
Now suppose Kevin is visited by an angel one afternoon during guitar practice. In a vision he’s taken to Carnegie Hall. He’s shown a guitar virtuoso giving a concert. Usually bored by classical music, Kevin is astonished by what he sees and hears. The musician’s fingers dance excitedly on the strings with fluidity and grace. Kevin thinks of how stupid and klunky his hands feel when they halt and stumble over the chords. The virtuoso blends clean, soaring notes into a musical aroma that wafts from his guitar. Kevin remembers the toneless, irritating discord that comes stumbling out of his.
But Kevin is enchanted. His head tilts slightly to one side as he listens. He drinks in everything. He never imagined that anyone could play the guitar like this. “What do you think, Kevin?” asks the angel. The answer is a soft, six-year-old’s “Wow!” The vision vanishes, and the angel is again standing in front of Kevin in his living room. “Kevin,” says the angel, “the wonderful musician you saw is you in a few years.” Then pointing at the guitar, the angel declares, “But you must practice!”
I love that story. Now put yourself in Kevin’s place. What is the first thing you would do when the angel left? Well, you would practice, of course. Why? Because you would now have a vision of your very own. You would know what you were going to become; you would have a reason to be disciplined.
God has a goal in mind for us that is very important to Him. His goal is that we be “conformed to the image of His Son” (Romans 8:29 nasb). But there’s a catch. In order for us to make God’s goal our own and become like His Son, we must know Jesus intimately. And that takes time and discipline. The primary way we get to know Him is through His Word.
Proverbs 2:6 says, “For the Lord gives wisdom, and from His mouth come knowledge and understanding” (niv). The Bible is God’s inspired Word, and it is the tool He has given us to get to know Him and learn from Him. Second Timothy 3:16–17 says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (niv). The more time we spend in His Word, the more we will know Him and His holy character. This is how we begin to fulfill God’s goal for us to become like Jesus. If our hearts are in line with God’s, we will want to have the same goals for ourselves that He does.
First Timothy 4:7 says, “Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness” (nasb). The Greek word for “discipline” is gumnasia, and you can probably guess what it means. It translates into our English words gymnasium or gymnastics, and it means “to exercise or discipline.” Spending time with God every day is considered spiritual exercise. In order to have a healthy spiritual life, we must discipline—or exercise—ourselves daily in Bible reading and prayer.
As a young teenager, I was challenged to begin having a personal devotional or quiet time with God every day. During the first few weeks, it was really hard to make the time. But I was determined, and so every day I would read the Bible, pray, and write in my journal. Before I knew it, my time with God was a regular part of my day. As I finished high school, then college, and now in my adult life, I see my time with God as a necessity. Only by spending time with Him am I able to walk in the Spirit and respond to things in a godly way. I thank God that someone made the effort to challenge me in this way. Regular time with God is the most enriching and rewarding experience in my life.
And now I would like to extend the same challenge to you. If you accept this challenge and regularly make time for Him in your life, you will be blessed beyond your dreams. And once you make time with Him a habit, you’ll find that if you neglect your quiet time, you will miss Him immensely. The fact of the matter is that you desperately need God. God is the life-giver and the One who nurtures your soul and lavishes His amazing love on you each day. Going about your day without making Him part of it is saying to Him that you don’t need Him.
Once, when Jesus was asked which of the commandments was the greatest, he quickly replied: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment” (Matthew 22:37–38 nasb). Do you love Him like that? If not, wouldn’t you like to? You can if you get in the Word. When you love someone, you desire to spend time with him or her. Do you long to spend time with God? When was the last time you read His Word and prayed to Him?
Maybe you want to focus on spiritual things but feel stifled because you don’t know how to begin. People often tell you that you need to do something yet neglect to teach you how. In the next devotional, I’ll share some ideas about how to read the Bible and pray every day.
My friend, God delights in you, and His plan is for you to delight in Him. The best time to start is now, and you are on your way!