Let’s start today’s message with a survey.
Highly Disciplined -Slightly disciplined-Not disciplined at all
You are, by the way, invited to just think about where you would place yourself along the
line in each of the categories that will be mentioned. This is not true confession time if
you score yourself low, or a time for bragging if you rate high in any or all of the
categories. This is to be done quietly and personally.
But how would you rate yourself in physical discipline? Including eating habits and
exercise? You know, that seems to be kind a mantra for doctors. Diet and exercise. Diet
and exercise. You would think doctors could come up with something original every
now and then. But how do you rate in physical discipline? Including sleep habits and in
other ways taking care of your body.
How would you rate yourself in relational discipline? Do you take the time and make
the effort to communicate positively? Are you honest in your relationship
communications? Do you keep appointments and promises? Are you highly disciplined
or not disciplined at all or somewhere in between in your relationships?
How about the category of financial discipline? Do you use money wisely? Do you pay
bills on time? Do you save at least some of what you earn through working or
investments? Do you at least try to keep your spending within the limits of your
How would you rate yourself in spiritual discipline? Are you highly disciplined in
spending time with God? Not just on Sundays, but every day. Do you attend worship
services and take part in worship services at least by giving your attention to what is
sung and said? Do you do that regularly? Do you also serve the Lord? Are you
spiritually disciplined to the extent you seek out ways to serve the Lord?
How do you rate yourself on discipline? Which is what we are going to talk about today.
Not so much disciplining others, which is also important, but specifically disciplining
ourselves to be all God wants us to be physically, relationally, financially, and especially
For that, there are a number of Bible passages we will review. But first, let me share two
words - “delayed gratification.”
Physically, we need to endure the pain of exercise and maybe a hunger pang or two.
Those things are necessary if we are to have the satisfaction of healthy bodies.
Relationally, we might need to be brave enough to be honest with close friends before
we can have the joy and stability of true friendship.
Financially, it might be necessary to follow a strict budget, giving up some of the things
we might want, for there to be enough money for a vacation.
Spiritually, we might need to get up 15 minutes earlier or stay up 15 minutes later or give
up a TV program in order to have time to spend in prayer with God.
Delayed gratification is not always easy. In fact, I recently heard a college coach
comment about athletes today. I think it might have been a college basketball coach.
He commented how difficult it is to get a lot of athletes today to look beyond the next
hour and realize hard work is needed now to assure a successful season later. The coach
added that when not looking ahead happens, it is not just the individual player who is
affected. So, too, are his teammates.
Delayed gratification. It is a tough thing to follow for any of us. However, it is
something we need to do. It is a discipline we need to have so we can thrive in every
aspect of our lives - physically, relationally, financially - and yes, spiritually.
The difficulty of discipline. To think some more about that, let’s consider the first of
today’s Bible passages, which is Hebrews 12:11. “For the moment, all discipline seems
painful rather than pleasant,but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to
those who have been trained by it.”
To put that verse into context, the writer of Hebrews is specifically referring to the
discipline of God - how He disciplines His children to develop in us proper Christian
living. As the writer adds, God’s discipline is proof of His love for us.
However, the thought is the same with our self-discipline. Discipline is painful. Do we
not know that to be true whenever we are on a diet or find it necessary to confront a
friend or not buy something we really want? Or when we get up early or stay up late to
have time with the Lord?
Discipline is painful? But the reward - the eventual reward - the delayed reward - is
wonderful. It is the peaceful fruit of righteousness.
Righteousness means being right with God, which is what we all should want. Being
right with God is a reward for having discipline. And peace. Our discipline will make
and keep our bodies, our relationships, our finances, and our spirits right with
ourselves, with others, and with God.
Discipline. As difficult as it is, it will pay rewards. And yes, it is possible to have
discipline, which takes us to today’s second passage, which are selected verses in James
First, it must be possible to have discipline, or James, the author of this passage, would
not have written what he wrote in verses 7 and 8 of James 4. “Submit yourselves to
God.” Submission requires the discipline to do so.
As you submit, “resist the devil,” which you will be able to do as you “cleanse your
hands” and “purify your hearts.”
That is so important, even within a congregation. Back to verse 1. “What causes wars,
and what causes fightings among you?” In other words, what causes trouble in a church.
And hey, the same is true for families and for nations, but what causes wars and
fightings? “Is it not your passions that are at war in your members?”
Passions being in control, rather than self-discipline. That is a problem if it happens in
And verse 2. Desires [for all the food you can get or for having the advantage in every
relationship you have or for buying something you cannot or should not afford or to do
any of a number of things other than worshiping the Lord and praying to God and
studying the Bible] rather than discipline. That is a problem in any group.
A problem that causes some specific issues. Personally, there is coveting, which is a sin.
For a group, there is fighting and war. For all - not only verse 2, but also verse 3 - “you
desire and do not have and you ask and do not receive because you ask wrongly.” You
ask for the satisfaction of passions rather than the reward that discipline will bring.
So, what things should we strive to have when thinking of discipline? What should we
be disciplined enough to have in our lives? And what are things we are to avoid?
We will continue in James 4 before we move to Galatians 5, and we will consider things
in the reverse order of what was just mentioned, so first, let’s consider things to avoid.
Again, things we should be disciplined enough to not engage in.
James 4:11. “Do not speak evil against brethren” - against fellow believers. And yes,
that can be very difficult to obey. I mean, what if a Christian brother says something
against me? What if a Christian brother hurts me in some other way? Am I to stay
silent? Well, maybe the brother needs to be confronted. Remember the comment about
sometimes needing to be honest with a friend. Sometimes confrontation is needed to at
least clear the air. But can I be disciplined enough to not retaliate by speaking evil, even
against the one who hurt me? I need to be. That is part of what the Bible teaches about
discipline, which, again, can be accomplished by being submissive to God.
James 4:16. I - we - are also to “avoid boasting.” See it? “All boasting is evil.” Now, I
think it is certainly OK to feel good about successes. But arrogance? Boasting? Those
things are to be avoided. If nothing else, we are to be disciplined enough to remember it
is the Lord who gives us opportunities to use whatever talents and gifts He has given to
us. At the very least, we should be thankful to the Lord for whatever successes we have.
We are going to return to James 4 in a bit, but let’s add to the list of things to avoid with
some presented in Galatians 5, beginning with verse 15.
“Do not bite and devour one another.” That refers to tearing into one another, as in
arguing, to the point of animosity. And hey, it is OK to disagree. But within a body of
Christians, that must not be allowed to devolve into arguing and grudges and hatred.
We are to have the discipline to make sure our goals of Christian living are maintained,
even in times of disagreement.
And we are to avoid what are described as “the works of the flesh.” Verses 19 through
Fornication, which is sexual immorality.
Impurity. Anything that is not worthy of God.
Licentiousness. Living with loose morals and not caring that such is the case.
Idolatry, which is allowing anything or anyone to take the place of God being #1
in our lives.
Sorcery, or witchcraft. I read this also refers to the use of drugs, which, at least at
the time of Paul, who wrote Galatians, were used in witchcraft.
Enmity. Hostility toward others.
Strife, party spirit, dissension. Strife refers to arguing and allowing grudges to
hurt relationships. The result can be party spirit where, instead of working
together for the common Christian cause of displaying God’s love, helping people
toward making the decision to accept Jesus as Savior, and helping those who are
Christians to grow in their faith, there is a favoring one leader over another, to
the point of refusing to cooperate with any other leader. All of which leads to
dissension, which describes a standing apart from one another.
Jealousy and envy. Jealousy is wanting something someone else has. Envy is not
necessarily wanting it, but begrudging the fact that someone else does, especially
if that someone gets an advantage from what he or she has.
Anger. That refers to bursts of temper, which can lead to saying things that are
And drunkenness and carousing. Drunkenness is bad because it can turn nice
people into very ugly people. Carousing refers to unrestrained revelry that goes
beyond what we, in soberness, know are polite, wholesome ways to live.
Wow. Quite a list, huh, of things we are to have the discipline to avoid. All of them
things that will hurt us physically, relationally, financially - and spiritually. And notice
Paul added the words, “and the like.” He added those words just in case he might have
missed something else that is against the purity of Christian living.
Which now takes us to a list of good things we are to be disciplined enough to do and be.
First, back to James 4, this time again verse 8 and verse 10.
“Draw near to God.” And listen. All the things we just talked about that we are to
avoid? They each have temptations involved with them. Our human natures can so
easily cause us to think they are satisfying. But they are not, and they are to be avoided.
Which we can do by drawing near to God. By making sure we are praying to and
worshiping and serving Him.
All of which can be described as “humbling ourselves before the Lord.” Being humble
enough to know that His ways, not our ways, are best.
Draw near to God and be humble before the Lord. We are to do and be those things.
And when we are, we will find it easier to have the discipline to act according to the list
that is found in verses 22 and 23 of Galatians 5. Aa list that is identified as “the fruit of
And isn’t that interesting? As we draw near to God and as we humble ourselves before
the Lord Jesus, we can have the fruit of the Spirit.
What is the fruit of the Spirit? It is “love, joy, and peace, patience, kindness, and
goodness, and faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”
Love. The kind of love where all we want for others is what is best for them. And
speaking of discipline, that is certainly needed for us to have love, especially if we
are thinking of those with whom we do not get along or those for whom the best
will give them some kind of advantage over us, but love is what we are to have.
Along with joy, which is not so much happiness, but rather having the discipline
to maintain a trust in God even in times of difficulty.
Peace. That is kind of an off-shoot of joy. It refers to having peace with God,
knowing that even in times of difficulty, God has our best interests at heart. Of
course, if we have peace with God, it should be easier to have peace with other
people, but we are have the discipline to have peace.
Patience. That refers to being slow to anger. It also refers to not demanding
revenge when we are hurt.
By the way, did you hear about the incident recently in Omaha? A car was driving
slowly along I-80 about 3:00 on a Sunday morning. Another car, coming from behind
at a higher speed, almost hit the slow-moving car. I assume there was some honking
and maybe some inappropriate gesturing being thrown around, which caused both
drivers to pull off the driving lanes. They got out of their cars and starting arguing. One
of the drivers pulled a gun and shot the other driver.
Talk about anger, which, as we discussed earlier, should be avoided. Talk about lack of
patience. I wonder how many years of the shooter’s life is going to be lost in prison
because he did not have the discipline to have the fruit of patience.
Kindness and goodness. Treating others well, whether they deserve it or not, the
goal being that they will become worthy of those gifts.
Faithfulness. Another translation can be fidelity. It is the characteristic of a
person who is reliable.
Gentleness. Tat word has three meanings. First, being submissive to the will of
God. Being gentle enough to not demand our own ways. Second, being
teachable. Being gentle enough to have a desire to keep learning rather than
thinking we know it all. And third, being considerate, as in being angry when it
is appropriate, but loving, peaceful, patient, kind, and good when that is more
appropriate for the good of the person with whom you could be angry.
And self-control, which refers to the discipline needed to avoid all the bad things
listed earlier and the discipline needed to have all the rest of the fruit of the
Two more verses, one with a comparison, the other with a warning. Then what I think -
I hope - is a very touching story to challenge us to be disciplined.
I Corinthians 9:25. This again is Paul writing. “Every athlete exercises self-control [at
least the athletes who want to win are disciplined] in all things. They do it to receive a
perishable wreath, but we an imperishable prize.” The meaning is that when we live
well - when we accept Christ as Savior and then are disciplined enough to live how He
wants us to live - our rewards will be God’s blessings now and Heaven later, which are
gifts that will not wither and die.
As Paul went on, he did not “run aimlessly” or “box as one beating the air.” Instead, he
“pummeled his body and subdued it.” He disciplined himself to serve well.
Paul did that “lest, after preaching to others, he himself should be disqualified.” May
we, too, seek the discipline needed to assure blessings here, knowing our future reward
will be Heaven.
And the warning. Listen to verse 17, back in James 4. “To know what is right to do [and
hey, we know what is right to do, what to avoid and what to do both being given to us in
the Bible, including in the passages we have discussed today] and fail to do it, for him
[for her] it is sin.”
Wow. What a warning that verse is. Which leads to a story I heard recently in my
vehicle on Sirius XM radio.
One of the channels I listen to occasionally is LaughUSA, which has family-oriented
comedy on it. Some of the comedy is Christian-based, including what I heard recently
by Christian comedian Bob Smiley.
It seems Bob Smiley was in an emergency room in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. I think
bronchitis was his problem.
That morning, the emergency room - the waiting room part of it - was packed with
people. When Bob got there, he was given a number. He was #47.
After being seated, it was not long before he noticed that another patient in the area was
a 10-year-old boy who, as Bob puts it, must have been named Sit Down. At least that is
what his mother called him over and over again.
Bob explains the boy had two talents that were on display that day. He did an excellent
impersonation of a screech monkey ,and he could eat styrofoam cups.
For Bob’s first 30 minutes in the waiting room, the boy ran around and bothered
everybody. And I know, he should have been disciplined and made to sit quietly, but
work with me here, OK? Work with the story. For 30 minutes the boy ran around.
Then the nurse called out, “#7.” Again, Bob’s number was 47, so he knew he was going
to have a very long wait.
Bob had his Bible with him. Though he was shaking and sweating from being sick, he
thought he could at least do some Bible reading,which he did for two-and-a-half more
hours, at which time the nurse finally announced, “#34.”
The 10-year-old boy jumped and said, “That’s me!” But instead of going to the nurse, he
thought he needed to do a little dance and a song so everyone would know it was his
number that had been called. “I am #34. I am going through the door. Who is #38?
You are gonna to have to wait.”
The boy danced around the waiting room. Eventually he got to Bob.
Bob did not look up from his Bible, but the boy said, “Hey, that’s the Bible.” “Yeah.”
“Are you a Christian?” the boy asked. “Yeah.” Me, too!” shouted the 10-year-old.
“OK,” was Bob’s response. He reports he immediately hoped God has ear plugs and a lot
of styrofoam cups ready for whenever that kid gets to Heaven.
But then, for a moment, the boy stood and stared at Bob. Then, after taking a step away
but then looking back, he said, “You know, you look really bad.”
After another step away, the boy turned around. He got a big smile on his face. Bob
thought, “Great. Now what.” The boy then reached into his pocket. He pulled out the
slip of paper that had on it #34. He said to Bob, “Why don’t we switch numbers?”
“What?” said Bob. “Why?” “Well,” the boy explained, “you’re pretty sick, and you’re a
Christian, and we’re supposed to be nice to each other, aren’t we?”
Bob says that all of a sudden, he looked at the little 10-year-old boy and, to Bob, he was a
giant. And he realized that while he had been reading about Christ, he was now seeing
Christ in the boy’s eyes and words.
As the comedy routine - which is not comedy, but a serious Christian challenge - as the
routine ends, Bob has these comments, which are a fitting way to bring this message on
discipline to a close. “What the boy did is what we need to do in life. We need to take
this world by storm by simply being nice to each other. By spreading the Lord’s joy and
By having the discipline - this is my wording now - to put God first. To do that by
accepting Jesus as Savior and following His teachings on what to avoid and what to do
so we can rate high on the discipline scale when it comes to things that will help us
physically, relationally, financially. All of those things showing we are disciplined
spiritually to put others ahead of ourselves. Knowing that doing those things will give us
blessings now and assure Heaven later.
Today’s closing song is two verses of the hymn I Then Shall Live. The song is selected
because it provides a few reminders, especially of the things we are to do and be. As we
sing, let’s do it prayerfully, the prayer being that we will be disciplined to obey what is
taught in the passages discussed today.
I then shall live as one who’s been forgiven;
I’ll walk with joy to know my debts are paid.
I know my name is clear before My Father;
I am His child, and I am not afraid.
So greatly pardoned,
I’ll forgive my brother;
The law of love I gladly will obey.
Your Kingdom come around and through and in me,
Your power and glory, let them shine through me;
Your Hallowed Name, O may I bear with honor,
And may Your living Kingdom come in me.
The Bread of Life,
O may I share with honor,
And may You feed a hungry world through me.
Our God, our Savior, our Spiritual Guide, help us to have the discipline to obey what You
teach us in the Bible, including what is taught in today’s passages, that being a number
of things we are to avoid and a number of things we are to do and be.
Help us to be so disciplined that we will be like the ten-year-old boy who, though he was
a bit hyperactive in other ways, that day certainly understood how to put others first.
And not only knew it, but did it.
Help us to do the same. And may our discipline - the discipline to accept You and the
discipline to obey You - make us confident of Your blessings now and of Heaven later.
Thank You. Amen.