Lately, I have been going to Charlie’s Place in Corpus Christi on Saturday nights. I go there with a great group from my Church (FBC Rockport). Charlie’s Place is a halfway house for folks struggling with addictions. Last Saturday night I think a saw a glimpse of genius and a flicker of light. I believe that one result is that I am coming to understand something really important and critical about us . . . and about life. Let me explain . . .
Each week at Charlie’s Place, we identify the new group of hurting, struggling, and broken people who have arrived since our last visit. We have a cool gift package we give them . . . it includes things that will help them. In fact, our only purpose for going is to try and help them. One member of our group is a precious, 75-year-old retired beautician who is fighting cancer, but nonetheless, she goes and gives free haircuts. Those folks are so hungry for any personal attention, they just flock to Mrs. Ruby and she cleans them up and loves on them.
One of the new guys this week was a young fellow . . . perhaps 29 – 30. Hard-living had etched itself into this young face. As I visited with him, he suddenly burst into tears and grabbed my hand asking me to pray for his 5-year-old son, Nolan. I asked him where Nolan was and if he was okay. He said that Nolan was in San Antonio with his wife and yes, he was okay, but he just really missed his son. I did pray for Nolan, and I also prayed for Nolan’s dad . . . I prayed that he would get/find what he needed and return to San Antonio and become the dad Nolan needed him to be and the husband Nolan’s mom needed him to become.
As I thought about this hurting dad and how much he so obviously loved his little boy, it occurred to me that regardless of how powerful love is . . . it simply did not keep this young dad from messing up his life and hurting his young family. After I have reflected on it some this week, it occurred to me that love is, indeed, the most powerful force in the universe . . . but that is only true when it involves God’s love. His love is perfect and pure and all-powerful . . . but human love is not the same . . . and, sadly it does not have the same power. The truth is that sometimes our love just hurts. So I have been wrestling with the question this week of what is it that this desperate, young dad needs to go with his obvious love . . . to empower and enable him to overcome his struggle and get busy living and being Nolan’s dad?
It struck me that every person who walks through the doors of Charlie’s Place suffers from at least one thing they all have in common . . . that being that they simply have no discipline in their lives . . . and they never developed any discipline . . . or self-control . . . they are people who have just lived in the minute . . . and for the minute. They failed to consider what their behavior did to anyone else . . . it was all about them and their undisciplined selves.
As I thought about discipline, it also occurred to me that we are living in a peculiar time when discipline is not a very popular subject . . . regardless if it is being applied to adults or kids. Just ask any public school teacher . . . or policeman for that matter, about their experience relative to discipline. Parents can be very defensive about their children in school. Even when they are being told about the children’s behavior at school . . . and it is exactly the same behavior they are seeing at home . . . and find troubling. But, rather than work with the teachers to help the child . . . the parent becomes negative . . . and removes any doubt about the source of child’s gene pool.
Tom Landry, the former great coach of the Super Bowl champion Dallas Cowboys, once said, “It is the job of a football coach to make players do what they are not inclined to do . . . so that they can achieve . . . what they have always wanted to achieve.” Tom Landry was a man of great personal integrity, self-control and he was also a great achiever . . . all products of his great discipline. As a former athlete himself, Landry knew that no team or individual could experience the joy of the winner’s circle, without first applying discipline . . . the discipline that is required to ever reach the championship level. His talent and discipline took him from the small rural town of Mercedes, Texas, to New York City as a pro football player . . . and then made him a legendary NFL coach.
The Scripture speaks often about discipline and addresses both the need and benefit of it being real in a Believer’s life. The Apostle Paul wrote about it often . . . a couple of such instances that come to mind are 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 and II Timothy 2:5. In each passage, Paul, that self-disciplined, globe-trotting, itinerant, financially self-supporting, tent making evangelist from Tarsus, uses an athlete as an example to explain a principal of life, and explain that every athlete must exercise discipline and self-control in order to ever win a perishable reward . . . and to then illustrate the same truth that the Children of God must also exercise discipline and self-control to achieve an eternal reward.
Paul spoke of his own life . . . and faith . . . in terms of running a race. He was not in the race simply to compete . . . according to Paul he was in the race . . . and he was ‘In it” to “win it.” He fully understood that discipline was the key to that achievement.
Every great achiever . . . has an ever growing sense of discipline, but he or she was not simply born with it. That sense of discipline is nurtured and developed. Here is a cold, sad reality about ourselves . . . generally, our parents really wanted us to be amazing human beings, but sadly, many of us settled for something less . . . and did not develop the discipline that we needed to develop that greatness they desired for us. Another reality that came into play was we had our parent’s blood and faced some of the same problems and struggles they had.
In this pluralistic and secular culture of today, the practical principles of prayer . . . persistence . . . perseverance . . . patience . . . and productivity have fallen into deep repute. Yet, unfortunately, personal and private lives are being plagued by foolish pursuits of personal pleasure . . . where consequences are not contemplated . . . possible outcomes are not considered in advance . . . and folks, far too often, are driven by how things appear . . . by how things “feel.” Many have the attitude that says, “if it is fun, I want to find it,” but too often fail to consider what the consequence(s) may be . . . and that, perhaps once they have found it and tried it and discovered that it was not fun . . . they may not simply be able to walk away and forget it. Many things done without discipline . . . might just grow legs and follow one home! History is full of such heart-breaking, family-destroying, life-shattering stories and examples. I am reminded of the story about the traveling salesman who encountered a desirable lady one evening while he was on the road. After a few drinks, he led her back to his hotel room. The next morning, he discovered the note she had left . . . announcing that she had HIV. How can one just walk away from that?
One reason that discipline is not being emphasized today as it once was, is because there a new mindset that has developed in this culture, and it seems that anything that appears too strenuous . . . too laborious . . . or unpleasant . . . is to be avoided at any and all cost. As we look around, we see the desires in our culture running along the lines of . . .
Wealth . . . without work; success . . . without sacrifice; power . . . without prayer; health . . . without exercise and proper diet; friendship . . . without fellowship; blessings . . . without burdens; roses . . . without thorns; and crowns . . . without a cross.
But the Scripture teaches us, in so many ways, that discipline is the key to achievement.
Even Plato weighed in on the subject and said, “The first and best victory in life is to conquer yourself.”
So, the question begs to be asked and answered . . . “What is Discipline?” Well, first off, it is not punishment. It is, rather a process by which one learns . . . a way of life. In fact, the words “discipline” and “disciple” come from the same grammatical root. A disciple is a student, a learner, or an apprentice who learns a trade or craft from a Master or a craftsman. The caliber of learning requires that a relationship develop between the Master, who already knows the discipline, and the student who seeks, yearns, and needs to learn it.
In this relationship, the Master leads the student through a process . . . or discipline . . . until the student can imitate the Master . . . to live in the manner in which the Master lives . . . to emulate life as the Master lives it.
Thus, discipline . . . at its very core, is to train, or to instruct, and set the boundaries by which one is to live. We all need discipline . . . because it forms the boundaries in which constructive habits and behaviors are formed and developed. Ephesians 6:4 explains this reality to parents about the development of their children.
When a Master trains a student, it is for the purpose of enabling and empowering the student to one day become a master. When a craftsman teaches an apprentice it is for the purpose of enabling and empowering the student to one day become a craftsman. The purpose is never to punish, to harm, to control, to prevent . . . the purpose is always to develop.
Some simple examples of discipline and benefits:
If you want to have good, healthy teeth . . . you must practice and develop good dental hygiene.
If I pray for financial blessings . . . then, I have to get up off of my knees, and go out and find a job, go to work, build a budget, pay my tithes, and discipline my desires.
The truth is that anything I want, I must practice discipline. One writer put it like this:
“I asked God for strength . . . and He gave me struggles, which ultimately made me strong.
“I asked God for wisdom . . . and He gave me problems to solve, which ultimately made me wise.
“I asked God for prosperity . . . and He gave me brawn and a brain, so I could go to work.
“I asked God for courage . . . and He gave me dangers I had to face, and ultimately overcome.
“I asked God for love . . . and He surrounded me with hurting people . . . who needed my help.
“I asked God for favors . . . and He gave me nothing but opportunities.
“My conclusion is that I received from God . . . nothing that I asked for . . . but everything that I needed and hoped for.”
Are you disciplined? Are there areas of life where you need to work on discipline? Of course, there is for all of us . . . let the work begin.
I know what I am going to talk to the folks at Charlie’s Place for the next few weeks. Those struggling people need to develop some discipline in their lives. Without discipline, they will never be able to overcome their struggles. They will always be easy prey for the enemy. Proverbs 25:28 says it quite well: “A person without self-control is in greater danger than a city with broken down walls.”