Summary: Learn the three disciplines to ensure joy for your journey in life.
I don’t know how many of you like or dislike the word discipline, but the word usually brings a strong response. You, either, love discipline and live a disciplined life, or you love discipline but are frustrated because you don’t live a disciplined life, or you hate discipline but live with discipline, or you hate discipline and don’t live with discipline at all.
Discipline, for the purpose of this message, is simply, doing what needs to be done when it needs to be done in order to bring about the desired result.
In the first year of my undergraduate study at UC Davis, I read a poem in my English class about a priest on his deathbed. He regretted living his life with great discipline because he felt he missed out on the fun and joy of spontaneity. I don’t recall whether the poet made up the character in the poem or whether the character was one he had observed.
I was at the time a new Christian of one year, and I felt that much of Christianity was about the repression and discipline of our passions in order to please God. Obviously, I now know that’s not true. Over the last eight years, I’ve discovered that Christianity is about freedom, security, joy and expression of our greatest passion for God and for one another with the most positive outcome imaginable.
Because I was right out of high school and able to experience living away from home, discipline was the last thing on my mind. When discipline did come to mind, the word carried a very negative connotation. As a result, I played hard and studied little.
While others slept, I had a group of undisciplined and spontaneous friends to hang out with. While others got up for class, I slept in. While others studied for their exams, I played, only leaving ten minutes to read the conclusion of each chapter of the textbook before my exams. I never saw the inside of the campus library until my sophomore year in college.
What changed my life was a little book, titled, "You and Your Network," that really turned me on to a life of discipline and the joy of the Christian life. I went from being a distraction to others to being on the dean’s list almost every quarter, and I loved life and served in ministry throughout my last two years at UC Davis.
Whatever your response is to the word discipline, know that discipline is absolutely necessary in certain areas of life in order to experience maximum enjoyment of life. This morning, we will be looking at Philippians 1:18:b-26.
Paul, whose joy could not be repressed even by a prison cell, reveals three areas of discipline that brought him joy and can bring us joy, if we have the courage to exercise discipline in these areas. Again, discipline is simply doing what needs to be done when it needs to be done in order to bring about the desired result, even joy.
The first discipline Paul exercised is the discipline of redemption. We read this in verse 19-20. The discipline of redemption involves returning worth to the time, to the situation, or to the people God entrusts into our lives.
Paul is saying that being in prison and its outcome is part of the plan God had for saving him. You might remember from the book of Acts, Chapter 9, the record of Paul’s conversion, when God told Ananias why He chose Paul. Acts 9:15 reads, "But the Lord said to Ananias, ’Go! This man (Paul) is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name."
Paul, imprisoned and on his way to be tried by the Roman Emperor, understood that God is a redeemer God. God takes the Christ-hating and violent persecutor, Saul, and converts him into the Christ-loving and good-news bearer, Paul.
The title of Redeemer is used over ten times in the Old Testament to describe God. We worship a God who takes sinners and turns them into saints. That’s what it means to redeem, taking the worthless and giving worth or taking the evil and bringing good out of it.
Paul in his letter to the Romans in Chapter 8, verse 28 states, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." Our God took a victim, Joseph, and turned him into a victor. Our God took a whore, Rahab, and turned her into a hero. And our God took the greatest sinner against Christ, Saul, and turned him into the greatest saint for Christ, Paul.