Summary: It takes discipline to be a disciple because spiritual growth is intentional, not automatic.
Getting Fit: Discipline
Rev. Brian Bill
This past week our family had the opportunity to spend time with our nephew Ashton, who has been in Army Basic Training for the past nine weeks. To say the least, he is a changed man. Before I go much further, if you have served in any branch of the service, would you please stand? We want to tell you how much we appreciate you. Among other things, you understand the importance of discipline, don’t you?
While we were all in my in-law’s family room, Beth’s dad asked Ashton some questions to draw out the parallels between military training and spiritual training. Incidentally, it was so cool to see this 73-year-old grandfather taking advantage of this teachable moment to make sure that his 12 grandchildren get what is most important. I’m sure I missed some of what was shared because I was trying to take notes on my phone (people thought I was texting but I really wasn’t. No really I wasn’t).
• Surrender. Just as in the Christian life, Ashton said there is no “halfway” in the army. You are either all-in or you might as well get out. Guys who were used to playing video games all night and sleeping until noon and are now up at 5:00 a.m. with their beds made.
• Alignment. Soldiers can’t pick and choose what rules to obey. This was pretty amazing coming from Ashton because before he went in to the service, I think he enjoyed breaking rules…but not any longer. An example of this is when someone asked him to put his beret on. He quietly refused. When he was pushed, he smiled and said, “The rules state that I can only wear it outside.”
• Brokenness. He shared about how the goal of basic training is to get recruits ready for combat. He told us that he only has seven minutes to eat and that he is not allowed to talk or look at anything else. Right after they eat they have to do some physical activity. Ashton told us that egos don’t fly in the Army. He also said that his happiness is not the goal. The goal is to be trained.
The Army follows seven core values, spelling out the word LDRSHIP – Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity and Personal Courage. Pastor Dick mentioned 11 Core Values last week. For our purposes in this new series called, “Getting Fit: Healthy Habits for the New Year,” we’re going to emphasize eight. While it’s difficult to distill that which is most important, I believe these summarize that which is most critical for PBC right now: Discipline, Worship, Bible, Values, Family, Witnessing, Generosity, and Serving.
Spiritual Training Metaphors
Have you ever looked at a mature believer and wished you could be like him or her? Wouldn’t it be great to know the Bible to become a prayer warrior and be able to lead people to Christ and to have faith flourishing in our homes? Most of us want instant growth, forgetting that what is behind a godly life is a person who has gone through struggles and trials. Spiritual development only comes through practicing spiritual disciplines. Another way to say this is that we need to cultivate some healthy habits if we ever expect to grow in holiness.
There are two truths that we need to keep in balance.
• God is committed to our growth. 1 Corinthians 3:6: “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow.” God makes people grow.
• We must take responsibility for our growth. Check out 2 Peter 3:18: “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ…” We’re commanded to grow.
It’s not all up to God and it’s not all up to us. God has designed it so that we work in partnership with Him. Philippians 2:12-13 captures our part and God’s part very clearly: “…Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling [that’s our part] for it is God who works in you [that’s God’s part] to will and to act according to his good purpose.”
The Bible is filled with metaphors or images that help us understand the importance of spiritual growth. The soldier, the athlete and the farmer are used as examples in 2 Timothy 2:3-6: “Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs – he wants to please his commanding officer. Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor’s crown unless he competes according to the rules. The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops.” We’re to develop the dedication of a soldier, the discipline of an athlete, and the diligence of a farmer.