For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.
2 Timothy 1:7
David Smith, a friend of mine, asked me today, ”What’s the value of discipline as it relates to success in life?”
Thank you for the question David, I hope you don’t mind receiving your answer in a blog post.
I would start by saying that the Bible in Proverbs 6:23 says that “…the corrections of discipline are the way to life…” I don’t think it’s a stretch to extrapolate from there, that self discipline is one of the keys to a successful life.
An old New York City Deputy Fire Chief once told me that he noticed a pattern in the successful leaders at FDNY. They either rose earlier than most and spent time working in the early morning, or they spent time working into the evening. We see this pattern in our Lord, in the book of Mark it says Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. (Mark 1:35) And we see in Proverbs 31:18 that the virtuous woman’s lamp does not go out at night. Thomas Edison said that “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.” Hard work and persistence born of self discipline are certainly keys to success in life.
For the Christian, self discipline is a gift from God. Self discipline is born of the Holy Spirit as we see from 2 Timothy 1:7 where God’s word says, For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. Of course the Holy Spirit is holy, so for the Christian man or woman, self discipline also means holiness. With that in mind we should maintain self discipline in the following areas.
Self discipline with your mind:
In Matthew chapter 5, speaking on murder, Jesus admonishes us not to be angry with our brother. (Matthew 5:21-26) In the same chapter, speaking on adultery, Jesus instructs us not to look at a woman lustfully. Mark Twain once wrote, “What a wee little part of a person’s life are his acts and his words! His real life is led in his head, and is known to none but himself. All day long, the mill of his brain is grinding, and his thoughts, not those other things, are his history.” (Reader’s Digest [1/93], p. 155 as cited in The Christian’s Thought Life by Cole). I wouldn’t go as far as Mark Twain and say that our actions and words play such a small role, but the point is, based on Jesus’ teachings from Matthew 5:21-30, the Lord cares very much what our thoughts are.
All of our actions and words begin with our thoughts. Self discipline with your mind is essential.
Self discipline with your money:
Proverbs 22:7 says, The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender. CH Spurgeon said it another way, “Money is the servant of the wise, and the master of fools.” Have integrity with your money. It’s a very novel way to look at finances in our culture today, but God would have us live within our means and avoid credit. By the way Tom Rath and Jim Harter cite a study in their book Well Being that found, when it comes to finances, a sense of well being is not associated with how rich you are, rather a sense of well being is found in those who carry little or no debt. Not surprising at all in the light of scripture.
Self discipline with your eyes:
Job said, I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a girl. (Job 31:1) and David said in Psalm 101:3, I will set before my eyes no vile thing.
Make a covenant with your eyes. Avoid that TV program that you know is wrong for your you. Avoid that website that you know is damaging to your mind. Ladies, avoid spending time on Amazon, eBay, or craigslist. Improve your self discipline with your eyes and your thought life will improve, your self discipline with money will improve, your walk will improve.
It’s amazing how much easier self discipline is with your mind, your money, and your Christian walk, when you have self discipline with your eyes.
Self discipline with your word:
Jesus said, “…let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.” (Matthew 5:37) Say what you mean, and do what you say. Maintain the integrity of your word.
In closing, I’d just like to comment on how all of this relates to your work life. As someone who’s involved in the hiring process in my own organization, I can tell you with certainty that, every employer is looking for the person with the qualities described above. Think about it: what employer wouldn’t want someone who works hard, is not distracted by financial problems, won’t cause trouble by entering into inappropriate relationships at work, and keeps his or her word. I think it’s obvious that discipline in all of these areas will result in success at work and in success in your life in general.
As usual, God’s way is the best way.
(You may have noticed that one of the most important areas of self discipline was not discussed in today’s post. I’ll address self discipline with your time in the next post Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven—Matthew 6:20)
Steven J. Cole
Photo by tpuyol - Creative Commons