Summary: One significant choice we must make in life is to choose discipline. Otherwise, we'll live with the regret of that decision.
We continue our message series entitled “Choices” this morning. We said as we began this series that we are the sum total of all the choices we’ve made in our lives until today. Going forward, the choices we make will shape the person we become. We’ve looked at choosing purpose over popularity and surrender over control. This week we continue by looking at discipline over regret. This one is particularly challenging for me. I’ll admit that right up front.
One of the things they teach in preaching class in seminary is to never begin a message on a negative note, but I’m going to violate that guidance today by saying that in life we will encounter pain. We don’t like pain. We try to avoid it as much as possible, but not matter how much we try to avoid it, we will experience pain. There’s no way around it. Sometimes, that pain is not your fault. A freak accident or a friend or spouse or a child betrays your trust. Other times, it’s completely within your control. Either way, pain is inevitable. How’s that for beginning on a positive note?
We’re not going to focus on the pain that is out of our control. There’s little we can do about that. We’re going to focus on the pain we can control with the choices we make. Look at it this way: When we were growing up, we could choose the pain of obeying our parents now, or we would face the pain of the consequences later. We can choose the pain of not buying that boat now, or face the pain of not being able to pay for it later. We can choose the pain of studying for the exam now, or choose the pain of having to retake the class later. Those choices are ours. I want us to talk today about choosing the pain of discipline over the pain of regret. That choice, too, is ours.
It may be helpful to start with a definition of discipline. One of the best ones I’ve ever heard is that discipline is choosing between what you want now and what you want most. Discipline is being able to choose what you want most over what you want now. That’s a simple, but a working definition for our purpose today.
In our text today, we heard the words of a guy who struggled with this same choice in his life. The words were from the Apostle Paul, and he readily confessed to the Roman disciples that he struggled making the right choice in life. His summary statement is in verse 15: “I really don’t understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. I do the thing I hate.”
Seriously, this is the guy who wrote two-thirds of the New Testament. He encountered the risen Christ on the road to Damascus. He was healed of blindness. He traveled all over the ancient near east planting churches. He’s the giant among spiritual giants, and even he could confess that he didn’t always get it right. I’m glad Paul had that struggle! That only means there is hope for me, and it helps me know I’m not crazy!
I know what Paul was talking about. It’s like this. I was on the men’s retreat last weekend. I was the spiritual director. That makes me a spiritual guy, right. I’m supposed to be getting this spiritual thing all right. Now, here’s the thing. My wife and I started a low-carb diet. My clothes kept shrinking, and I really can’t afford a whole new wardrobe, so I’m all in on this diet. But, one of the things about this retreat is you eat…a lot! Which really isn’t too bad if you’re low-carbing it. Just eat the fruit and the protein. It’s all good.
The problem is for lunch on Saturday the cook team cooked fried catfish. Well, that’s like my favorite food in the world, but it is NOT low-carb. So, I think...“I’m just going to have a little. I’ll have a piece or two, and it won’t be too bad.” So, I go out to the cook team, and they offer me a little sample and it’s soooo good. I get another sample. I don’t really want to, but I do it because it’s there and it’s good. And then, Dustin James starts dropping homemade onion rings! Really? Homemade onion rings. No way! So, I have to sample those. Just one or two, right? I totally don’t understand what I’m doing. I don’t want to eat these onion rings and this fried catfish. I truly don’t. I mean, I’ve lost six pounds on this diet…in a week. But, I can’t help myself. I just gotta’ have that fish and onion rings. Totally blow the diet…not just on one day, but in one meal. I’m just grazing around the cook team “sampling” the cuisine. And, I’m full. Then, it comes time for the meal itself. What do I do? I go get me a plate and get more fish and onion rings. I don’t understand how I did that! I didn’t want to, but I did. I totally get what Paul is saying here.