I have always thought that the most important single ingredient to success in athletics or in life is discipline. I have many times felt that this word is the most ill-defined in all of our language. My favorite definition of the word is as follows:
1. Do what has to be done.
2. Do it when it has to be done.
3. Do it as well as it can be done.
4. Do it that way all the time.1
It probably won’t surprise you to learn that I have written these words in the flyleaf of my Bible. What will surprise you, if you are not an avid follower of basketball, is the identity of the author. His name is Bob Knight, the former U.S. Olympic basketball coach, a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame, former coach of the Indiana University Hoosiers, and current coach of the Texas Tech University Red Raiders. While there is much about Bobby Knight’s lifestyle that troubles me, I think his definition of discipline is one of the best I have ever read.
Forest Gregg, former NFL player and coach, said the same thing in a different way: “I believe in discipline. You can forgive incompetence. You can forgive lack of ability. But one thing you cannot ever forgive is lack of discipline.”2 The legendary Tom Landry adds, “Setting a goal is not the main thing. It is deciding how you will go about achieving it and staying with that plan. The key is discipline. Without it there is no morale.”3
R. Kent Hughes, in his book Disciplines of a Godly Man, tells about the regimen of Chicago Bears defensive linebacker Mike Singletary:
Those who have watched Mike Singletary “play” … are usually surprised when they meet him. He is not an imposing hulk. He is barely six feet tall and weighs, maybe, 220. Whence the greatness? Mike Singletary is as disciplined a student of the game as any who have ever played it.… In watching game films he will run a play fifty to sixty times. It takes him three hours to watch half a football game, which is only twenty to thirty plays. Because he watches every player, because he mentally knows the opposition’s tendency … because he reads the opposition’s mind through their stances, he is often moving toward the ball’s preplanned destination before the play develops. Mike Singletary’s legendary success is testimony to his remarkably disciplined life.4
Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary lists as one definition of discipline, “training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character.”5 This is the burden on Paul’s heart as he continues his Letter to the Philippians. He is going to hold them responsible to discipline their own moral character until it falls in line with the “mind of Christ” which he has so fervently described in the first eleven verses of this chapter.
When he begins this section with the word “therefore,” he is obviously connecting it to that which has gone before. Christ disciplined himself to obey His Father, even when it meant going to the cross. That same discipline of obedience is now to be practiced in the lives of those who call themselves Christians. Christ was obedient in death; they must be obedient in life. Bishop Handley Moule makes the connection:
We have still in our ears the celestial music … of the great paragraph of the incarnation … the journey of the Lord of love from glory to glory by way of the awful cross. May we not now give ourselves awhile wholly to reverie, and feast upon the divine poetry at our leisure? Not so; the immediate sequel is that we are to be holy. We are to act in the light and wonder of so vast an act of love, in the wealth and resource of so great salvation. We are to set spiritually to work.6
As Paul moves now from doctrine to practice, he explains three disciplines that need to be developed. Maybe the best way for us to personalize them is to express them as resolutions.
DISCIPLINE ONE: I WILL DO MY PART
David Jeremiah, Turning toward Joy (Colorado Springs, CO: David C Cook, 2013).
We have just released a new Bible Study based on the book of Philippians.
These lessons are available on Amazon, as well as a part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking Subscription Service. Like Netflix for Bible Lessons, one low subscription gives you access to all our lessons–thousands of them. For a medium-sized church, lessons are as little as $10 per teacher per year.
To Live Is Christ, Lesson #1
Philippians 1.1 – 5
To Live Is Christ, Lesson #2
The Worthy Life
Philippians 1.6 – 30
To Live Is Christ, Lesson #3
The One God Exalts
Philippians 2.1 – 18
To Live Is Christ, Lesson #4
What the Humble Seek
Philippians 2.19 – 30
To Live Is Christ, Lesson #5
The Passionate Pursuit
Philippians 3.1 – 11
To Live Is Christ, Lesson #6
To Live Is Christ, Lesson #7
Philippians 3.13 – 16
To Live Is Christ, Lesson #8
Centering the Gospel
Philippians 3.17 – 21
To Live Is Christ, Lesson #9
Philippians 3.1; 4.4
To Live Is Christ, Lesson #10
Philippians 4.6 – 7
To Live Is Christ, Lesson #11
Christ Is All / I Can Do All Things
To Live Is Christ, Lesson #12
Each lesson consists of 20 or so ready-to-use questions that get groups talking. Answers are provided in the form of quotes from respected authors such as John Piper, Max Lucado and Beth Moore.
These lessons will save you time as well as provide deep insights from some of the great writers and thinkers from today and generations past. I also include quotes from the same commentaries that your pastor uses in sermon preparation.
Ultimately, the goal is to create conversations that change lives.
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