Session 5 - Man as Disciplined
Daniel 1:8 - 16; Proverbs 5
"But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the
royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile
himself." Daniel 1:8
"He will die for lack of discipline, led astray by
his own great folly." Proverbs 5:23
- Discipline yesterday and today.
- Men have undoubtedly struggled with self-discipline since
time immemorial. For example, the apostle Paul readily admits his struggle.
" I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do,
but what I hate I do." (Romans 7:15)
- In times past, however, self-discipline was a valued virtue, something
toward which men should strive.
- "No pain, no palm; no thorns, no throne; no gall, no glory;
no cross, no crown." William Penn
- "That discipline which corrects the eagerness of worldly passions,
which fortifies the heart with virtuous principles, which enlightens
the mind with useful knowledge, and furnishes to it matter of enjoyment
from within itself, is of more consequence to real felicity than all
the provisions which we can make of the goods of fortune." Hugh
- Today, however, our society virtually shouts to men that self-discipline
limits the pleasures and potential of life.
- Drive your automobile as fast as you can or into the most dangerous
place that you can (A Jeep Cherokee will take you anywhere, even to
the top of the highest mountain).
- Buy whatever your credit limits will permit ("Some things
money can't buy. For everything else there is Mastercard.").
- Indulge every sexual pleasure (James Bond sleeps with every woman
- Eat whatever you like (go for the "Biggie" meal at a
fast food establishment).
- Watch TV as much as you like (or surf the web). No need to read.
- Multi-task (drive and use your cell phone at the same time).
- Work 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can be a workaholic
and a couch potato at the same time (and get in three rounds of golf
- Another way of looking at the message of society to men (and women
for that matter) is that there are no limits. With God, there are no limits,
but we are human and God is continually reminding us of our limits. Only
"through Him" can I do all things and He sets the agenda. (Philippians
4:13). The message from society is otherwise.
- Men are getting the message from society.
- We drive faster than ever (only seat belts and interstate highways
- The Baby Boom generation is in more debt and saves less than previous
- One statistics suggests that 5% of married men are engaged in a
illicit affair in any given year. (And our indignation at political
figures is not so much with their infidelity but their cover ups.)
- We are more overweight and out of shape than previous generations
(despite the billions we spend on dieting and exercise). Our diets
are among the worst in the world in terms of balance and it is only
the advent vitamins, the "statins", early detection of hypertension
and better control of diabetes which has saved us from our weight
gain and sedentary life style.
- Some suggest that we watch up to five hours of TV on average a
day (and this is not just the kids).
- We play music in the background, have the TV on, talk with a friend
on the phone and surf the internet simultaneously (it is a source
of pride as to how much we can do at the same time, not whether we
can do any of it well).
- We are working more, not less (as was promised during the 1950s).
The mythical reduction of the 40 hour work week to a 30 hour work
week has been replaced by the 50 hour work week.
- Discipline and men in the church.
- Recently in the Christian Chronicle it was reported that Jim
Bill McInteer (a well known, tireless and faithful minister in the church),
had not missed taking the Lord's Supper for nearly 70 years (and it was
brought to him on a Sunday when he was hospitalized for gallbladder surgery).
This "accomplishment" in the big picture may not mean much (it
won't be for this behavior that Brother McInteer meets his Master in Heaven).
Of relevance to the current discussion, this "accomplishment"
sounds virtually absurd to us. Why bother if you miss communion a Sunday
- There is very little that we ask of our men in terms of discipline
(work yes, but discipline no). For example we strongly encourage our men
"get involved", to "work" (but as noted before, we
don't define that work particularly well). We tend to assume that "if
you want something done, ask a busy person to do it." There is truth
in this statement. Yet we don't often consider the complementarity between
work in the church and discipline in the lives of our men. A flurry of
activity which is undisciplined may bear few fruits. For example, we might
find more productive Christian men among those who spend an hour in prayer
and study every morning, that is, men who discipline their spiritual lives
and their personal lives.
- If we consider the spiritual disciplines suggested by Richard Foster,
in his book Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth, we
rarely teach about, inquire into and perhaps don't value these disciplines
in men nearly so much as activity and enthusiasm. Spiritual discipline
is more likely to be emphasized and practiced by women in the church than
men. These inward and outward disciplines include:
- Meditation - "but I will meditate on our precepts
meditate on it all day long." Psalms 199:78, 97
- Private prayer - "Very early in the morning, while it was
still dark, Jesus got up left the house and went off to a solitary
place, where he prayed." Mark 1:35
- Fasting - "when you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites
put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not
be obvious to men that you are fasting." Matthew 6:16-18
- Private study - "I have hidden your word in my heart that
I might not sin against you."" Psalm 119:11
- Discipline of the body - "I beat my body and make it my slave
so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified
for the prize." I Corinthians 9:27
- Submission to one another - "Submit to one another out of
reverence for Christ." Ephesians 5:21
- Steadfastness - "Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm.
Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of
" I Corinthians 15:58
We will return to some of these activities later in our study. For now, we
concentrate upon the discipline required for such activities.
- Self discipline in the spiritual disciplines - the example of Daniel.
- Daniel was a privileged young man. He, along with three others
among the Israelites, was selected by the King for special service because
there was no physical defect found in him and he possessed many talents.
He was sort of like the "best and the brightest" of our generation,
one of the "beautiful people." He should have had it made. Yet
Daniel chose the road less traveled. He self disciplined himself in the
spiritual disciplines as well as exhibited his multiple talents and courage.
- Daniel exhibits discipline of his body by refusing the rich foods from
the king's table, "Give us but vegetables to eat and water to drink."
- Daniel exhibits the discipline of steadfastness by his persistent and
incorruptible work as a satrap to Darius, "they could find no corruption
in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent."
- Daniel exhibits the discipline of regular prayer. "Three times
a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to God, just
as he had done before." Daniel 6:10
- Daniel exhibits the discipline of submission by his identification
with the community of Israel. A virtually spotless man, he nevertheless
accepted his communal responsibility. "O Lord
we have sinned
and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned
away from your commands and laws. We have not listened to your prophets
day we are covered with shame." Daniel 9:4-7
- God blessed Daniel by providing him a vision of the future not seen
by others. Perhaps it is through the practice of self-discipline in the
spiritual disciplines that God opens our eyes to His glorious future.
- Steps toward increasing self-discipline in the spiritual disciplines.
- Recognize that we discipline ourselves because of the grace
God has shown us, not because we desire to merit our salvation. "Therefore
I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as
living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God
do not conform any longer
to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your
mind." Romans 12:1, 2 We therefore discipline ourselves based on
joy and hope, not upon fear.
- Discern between self discipline in the spiritual disciplines and other
disciplines. Working daily to improve your golf swing does not qualify
as a spiritual discipline.
- Realize that discipline in the spiritual disciplines is much like discipline
in other habits. There are many pitfalls.
- Admit to yourself that you have a problem and that problem is a
sin. (Just as the alcoholic admits the he is an alcoholic for life
in Alcoholics Anonymous, the man who neglects prayer must admit that
he carries the sin of neglect of his Father in heaven.)
- Don't try to change too many things at once.
- Consider change over the long run, not just for a short period
(much like dieting - a crash diet may solve a short term problem but
does not address the long term issue of weight control).
- Commit yourself, perhaps by making your commitment known to others
and permitting yourself to be accountable to others (much like Weight
Watchers and Alcoholics Anonymous).
- Recognize that you will fail at times and develop ahead of time
a plan to address your failures.
- If your discipline involves abstinence in some manner, replace
that vacuum with something useful.
- Pray fervently that God assist you in your self-discipline. You
can't do it alone.
- Choose our discipline. These may include:
- Establishing a regular time for prayer each day (say 10 minutes
in the morning).
- Block out 30 minutes twice a week during which time we sit quietly,
relax, and listen for God's voice. (There are many "manuals"
for learning to meditate. The key is clearing our minds of distractions
so God can speak to us.)
- Read carefully two chapters of scripture each day.
- If you physically are able, fast one day a week (or significantly
limit the amount of food intake for a period of time).
- Put yourself on a "buying fast." Select one month during
which time you buy nothing except the necessities.
- Dedicate one week to not complaining about government or church
- Self discipline in the spiritual disciplines - the role of the church.
- The church has long been reticent to take on too active a
role in self discipline.
- We live in a very individualistic society (one does not tell someone
else what to do).
- We are fearful of cults and over controlling leaders, such as we
perceive in the "discipling movements."
- Encouraging discipline in others many times takes on the character
of seeing the speck of sawdust in another person's eye while missing
the plank in our own. (Matthew 7:3-5) For example, we may be very
critical of the person who is overweight (what many people falsely
view as inevitable evidence of poor self discipline) while we cannot
seem to find time to watch TV.
- The church should not be viewed as a military like organization,
in which members have bought into a certain life style (such as a
short hair cut) when the reason for elements of that life style are
- Nevertheless, the church does have a key role in encouraging discipline
among its members.
- Though each Christian is an individual, we should be encouraging
disciplines for all of us which are essential to growth in our walk
with the Lord. "Make every effort to add to your faith goodness;
and to your goodness knowledge; and to your knowledge self-control."
II Peter 1:6
- A common characteristic of Christians should be their constant
struggle to better control their appetites and sinful behaviors. "We
all stumble in many ways." James 3:2
- Discipline should be taught as evidence that one is saved, not
as a requirement for salvation. For example, Jerry Rice is perhaps
the greatest receiver in the history of pro football. He is also one
of the players who works the hardest in training. That he works so
hard in training is evidence of his greatness, not a requirement (he
probably could have been a pretty good ball player and a fairly lazy
ball player given his innate talent). As Paul taught to Timothy, "Watch
your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you
do, you will save both yourself and your hearers." I Timothy
- Discipline should be held up as an example. Again, Paul writes
to Timothy, "set an example for the believers in speech, in life,
in love, in faith and in purity." I Timothy 4:12, 13
Foster R: Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth. New York,
Harper and Row, 1978