CHRISTIANS NEED SELF-DISCIPLINE August 2, 2015
I was thinking about the life of the CHRISTIAN CHURCH and how their teachings were practiced by its members in our daily lives-- I wonder (just what) would be the different in our way of living?
Christianity is not a series of IDEAS to be held in the mind;
Christianity above all else, is A LIFE TO BE LIVED.
I wondered if in the towns and cities we gathered church congregations alongside all those who never darkened the door of a church and be able to tell the difference in any tangible way. I don’t mean doctrines or beliefs but of a distinctive life of following the teachings of Jesus.
Many JEWISH MEMBERS, at one point in their life, have to decide to live as religiously observant Jews, or engage in secular lives. The religious lifestyle profoundly influences what they eat—where they work and how they make moral and ethical decisions.
Other faiths coming into our community witness their faith very openly, I think of the MUSLIN COMMUNITY. They are committed to pray 5X a day and not just bow their heads but must face a certain direction and touch the earth with their forehead—their hands and bare feet. They celebrate Ramadan each year –a month of fasting during the day.
There have been times in HISTORY when Protestant forms of Christian life were more evident in Canada.
Times were when companies seemed to promote a better society—times when they were concerned about to welfare of their employees-A time when Sunday was a day of rest-parents went to church—children to Sunday school. Most families had little money for luxuries and accumulating material things
And it’s more difficult for us today than in Paul’s time. We live our lives in the midst of powerful influences such as secularism— consumerism—individualism which often demand a style of life quite alien to the tradition of the Christian church.
Now there is the TV—the i pods—cell phones—the internet—Lot-to and casinos all have changed our thinking about family life—the community—and the work force.
We witness many IMMIGRANT CHURCHES as they struggle to become part of Canadian society they find deep conflicts between the ways they practiced their faith in “old country” and how our Canadian culture that challenges their commitment.
In many ways, some of these immigrant churches act as a window where we can see the many conflicts between our “faithfulness to the gospel” and priority we give to our secular culture.
Paul compares the SELF-DISCIPLINE required to live a Christian life to that of the training required by an ATHLETE; without sacrifice and dedication one cannot live the Christian life.
To illustration his point, Paul takes examples from the world of athletics: every successful athlete competes to win and no athlete wins without proper training and self-discipline.
How many were glued to the TV, watching the PAM-AM GAMES seeing athletes compete for the gold
I did my share of watching swimming, gymnastics—shot-put—volleyball—tennis—you name the sport and you will find someone competing for Gold. Just imagine the amount of “SELF-DISCIPLINE” it takes to reach the top.
In interviews, athletes told of training for 5 hours a day while going to school, finding time before and after school to head for the pool or the gym.
One Canadian rower told how he gets up at 5:30 AM each day to train. He talked of the pain in his legs and back—but had to keep on going –if he had hopes of winning a medal.
At the Calgary Stampede we witnessed bull riding, the gate opened and out came a twisting mass of muscle doing its best to throw the cowboy off its back. The cowboy was jerked, twisted as the race to hang on for 8 seconds had begun--for 8 seconds the rider used up enormous amounts of energy to stay on the bull’s back
8 seconds—doesn’t seem like much time and it takes a lot of SELF-DISCIPLINE practicing daily to keep in shape—just to stay in the GAME.
While all this is happening, A GAME of greater importance is being played in life-- and you and I are the players. In this game, we have the opportunity to play for a prize that will last a life time.
PAUL’S analogy is clear: just as winning athletes require proper training and total commitment to compete—so to we Christians must discipline ourselves to live in a manner to measure up to Jesus’ teachings.
Paul says that the self discipline the Christians need to win the Spiritual race is the same as the athlete in the 100 meter race, and tells us the necessity of exercising self discipline because the Spiritual race is far more important than any physical competition.
Paul says, without sacrifice and dedication one cannot live the Christian life. It is one thing to talk about Christian ideas, it is quite another to carry out the demands of being and living as a Christian.
Paul tells us to get into training. We can reach our desire for wholeness of mind—body and soul, but it involves action like --daily surrender our will to God —thinking about spiritual principles in our daily dealing with others—give some thought what it means to live as a Christian in today’s society.
Often we must fight for what is right-- take a public stand—share what we have with others. And we must not lose sight of our goal-- keep our eyes on the prize.
** If we judge ourselves honestly, then we must admit that we are undisciplined. We often talk big and make wonderful promises, but we lack the discipline to put our nose to the grindstone.
In earthly matters, we may be very industrious and hard working. But spiritually speaking, we are all couch potatoes; our spirit is willing, but our flesh is weak.
We are able to put out brief spurts of energy in our spiritual lives, but when it comes to the long haul, we lack the commitment to go the distance.
At the end of many a day, we must ask myself now why did we not go and visit our shut-in friend like we planned, instead we went fishing. Or maybe you were going to write a letter to your relative or friend who is having cancer treatment—but we don’t—or maybe that phone call you postponed. Why??
Paul admits it is not easy and in another letter he wrote, “THE GOOD I WANT TO DO, I DO NOT DO AND THE WRONGS I DO NOT WANT TO DO I DO!” And this hold true for us today
Sometimes we think we can do everything by our own power—we don’t need God’s help. We are smart enough to tackle the job on our own and if we just have self-discipline, we’ll reach our goals.
Then there are times when we swing the other way into helplessness. Convinced we have no choice, we make no effort to change.
Finding a balance between our strength and powerlessness can be tricky and we could use some help.
It seems, the more we try to live under our own power, the more likely we will discover each part of us has growing to do and all parts will benefit as we strive as Paul tells us, for MORE SELF-DISCIPLINE in our daily training and don’t be afraid to call on God’s help.
There’s nothing more precious to God than to be asked to give us a helping hand in maintaining THE ABUNDANT LIFE WE’VE BEEN GIVEN.
Hi God, it seems quite awhile since we spoke together. You know we have many wants and needs that need sorting out so we can concentrate on the ones that matter the most.
We have loved ones we care about and worry about, some are having trouble with their health, for some relationships have gone sour, others need jobs, some are grieving the loss of a loved one and need your help. Keep them in our hearts and hear our plead on their behalf.
Lord, we worry about our own meaning in this world. Help us to sustain self-discipline in serving you daily by helping others. Help us find the right words when talking with you and give us discipline to hear your voice in the silence. May your spirit within us build us up face the many problems we face daily.
Dear God, famine, flooding, drought and wars plaque our world, so we pray for those who suffer. We pray for their safety and give them assistance as they struggle to recover and start over. Don’t let us forget them.
We pray for the economy, help those with limited resources to indure the recession. Give the world leader the will and the insight to bring about an economy that will benefit everyone in the world not just the wealthy.
Generous God, we pray for the church. We are thankful we have the resources to renew our damaged building and remind us it is our community of people who are your church. Help us to be refreshed and renewed each time we worship in this beautiful building.
Bless us all—protect us and guide us through the balance of the summer as we enjoy vacationing with our family and friends. AMEN.