For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained in it.~ Hebrews 12:11 (ESV)
Before the start of each year, hundreds of thousands of people resolve to make all kinds of changes in the upcoming year. Some flood gyms the first week of January with the desire to lose a few extra pounds that accumulated over the previous year or years. The first few days in the gym yield sore legs which make it painfully difficult to walk, sit down and stand up. Arms that feel like lead. Abs that make lying down seem like torture. What most of these folks don’t realize is that the pain will subside by week #2 and their exercise plan becomes a little easier, they become a wee bit stronger and are slowly becoming more disciplined to healthy living. The one thing that separates those who continue on that quest for the perfect beach body and better health, and those who give up after the first few weeks is discipline and a desire for a better way of life. The ones serious about making a positive change, for the long haul, are willing to change their mindset, which in turn changes how they view themselves and the healthy lifestyle they’ve adopted.
[pullquote width=”300″ float=”left”]But God, in His loving-kindness, grants me peace of mind and a deep knowing that His way is always the best way despite the necessary journey to get to the other side. [/pullquote]Having been in the gym pretty much my entire life and happily accepting the title “gym rat,” discipline is essential to reaching, maintaining and surpassing my fitness goals. Discipline in eating clean 6 days of the week and holding out for that cheat day can be a challenge when life happens and my emotions send me to sweets for comfort. Discipline in prepping breakfast, lunch and snacks for Monday through Friday. Discipline in getting up at 4:30 am every morning to ensure I get my devotions done and my workout in. Then there’s the discipline of drinking 64 ounces of water every day to stay hydrated and flush my body of toxins. It’s not easy and takes a commitment to be disciplined and avoid the temptation to eat a snack sized candy bar, Thin Mint Girl Scout cookies, piece of cake or some other unhealthy snack during those 6 days of eating clean. However, wanting to lead a healthy lifestyle has yielded great results; the initial pain was worth it.
As a Christian, it’s not always easy to be disciplined in praying, studying the Bible or holding my tongue to develop my spiritual muscles. Living a “right” life sets me apart, though, because God’s Word was sown in good soil and has yielded many blessings in my life. When God’s word is sown on a path, the birds of life come and pick away at the seeds sown and its back to life as usual. When sown in rocky places, you may be good for a little while and life is gravy, however, because the Word didn’t take root, at the first sight of trouble the new way of life is cast aside. Similarly, when God’s Word is sown among thorns, it is choked by the weeds of life, suffocates and fades away (Matthew 13:1-23). Howsomeever, as my father would say, a disciplined life requires a deep level of commitment to hunker down in God’s Word, trust that He will do exactly what the Word says He’ll do and allow Him to permeate every fiber of your being. Yes, sometimes this walk is painful as you cut out those toxic people, places and things that caused you to run away from God in the first place; yet, the tradeoff is worth it! As a believer, it’s impossible to escape the pain life brings; it’s inevitable and part of the cycle of life. The one variable that means the most is developing strong spiritual muscles and maturing in Christ to make the walk a little easier. The Lord never said life would be smooth sailing once turning your life over to Him. However, He did say that He would bless those who believe in Him and take Him at His word (Isaiah 40:29-31, Matthew 11:28-29).
Because of the discipline developed in my walk with Christ, I trusted Him when He said it was time to leave the comfortable life I’d grown accustomed to and relocate some 1500 miles away to a place where I knew very few people (Genesis 12:1). To ensure I didn’t chicken out, He began closing doors and pushed me forward. Selling all of my furniture was hard because my home was finally how I wanted it to be. Additionally, I had $300 to make a cross country trek and He provided another $1200 to ensure the journey would be manageable. Not only did I leave behind all that was familiar to me, I lived a year without my sons; slept on a stranger’s couch for 6 weeks, was fed by His hands. Many a night I cried because my comfortable life had been interrupted and a piece of my heart seemed like it was missing. However, it was in those moments that God reminded me that He was in control and things would be alright (Jeremiah 29:11).
A disciplined heart trusts even though it can’t see what will happen down the road or around the corner. Yet, training my heart to trust and be faithful hasn’t always been easy or pain free (Acts 20:23-24). Some days are better than others, BUT God grants His peace to make it through; especially those days when I’m in constant battle with my mind to do things my way because God is taking too long. In those moments, the Holy Spirit gently reminds me that I must cast down any and everything that rises up, within me, and goes against God (2 Corinthians 10:5). It has been a struggle at times and resulted in some serious heart to heart talks to God about how things are going. But God, in His loving-kindness, grants me peace of mind and a deep knowing that His way is always the best way despite the necessary journey to get to the other side. No, this walk isn’t always pleasant, but I wouldn’t trade the process, the wisdom or knowledge gained by choosing the world’s way of living life over a disciplined spiritual way of life. The fruit yielded in my life still shocks me because I’d never imagined publishing a book, writing for two publications, having the job of my dreams and excelling as I hit the ground running. Discipline = walking in my purpose everyday while giving God all the glory for His faithfulness and the blessings given.