What! Who celebrates discipline?

I’ve had a love/hate relationship with discipline my entire life.

When I was younger, it was a hate relationship. I experienced discipline often… from parents, teachers at school, Sunday School teachers, coaches, relatives, and those I had just met.

It didn’t take long for anyone to note that I needed discipline.

I read a book by Richard Foster in 1978 entitled Celebration of Discipline. This book changed my perspective on discipline. I moved from dreading discipline to anticipation. I discovered that God uses discipline to guide us onto, or back onto, His path for our lives.

No discipline, no joy!

Since we claim to be followers of Jesus, discipline must be a good thing – a path to ultimate joy. Learning to hear the initial whispers of God’s discipline in my life and changing quickly before those whispers became shouts, I’ve avoided lots of trials.

Like a child wandering off the sidewalk, a parent will call gently and then increase volume when the child does not listen and heads toward the street!

Many Christians since 1978 have found the joy of discipline too. Richard Foster’s book has been a phenomenal bestseller since it was published. Imagine all that discipline over the past 42 years!

You probably need some Richard Foster discipline in your life as well.

Superficiality is the curse of our age. The doctrine of instant satisfaction is a primary spiritual problem. The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people.

Foster also writes:

Joy is the keynote of all the Disciplines. The purpose of the Disciplines is liberation from the stifling slavery to self-interest and fear. When the inner spirit is liberated from all that weighs it down, it can hardly be described as dull drudgery. Singing, dancing, even shouting characterize the Disciplines of the spiritual life.

The author of Hebrews writes similar thoughts:

All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.  Hebrews 12:11

Celebration of Discipline describes and gives practical guidance for developing the disciplines of meditation, prayer, fasting, study, simplicity, solitude, submission, service, confession, worship, guidance, and celebration.

Admittedly, disciplines for all us.

When I read this book over 40 years ago, I focused on the Discipline of Study. I didn’t know then that it was considered a Christian discipline, though I had been chastised many times in high school for not practicing this discipline!

Chapter 5 on the Discipline of Study:

The purpose of the Spiritual Disciplines is the total transformation of the person. They aim at replacing old destructive habits of thought with new life-giving habits. Nowhere is this purpose more clearly seen than in the Discipline of study.

Good feelings will not free us. Ecstatic experiences will not free us. Getting “high on Jesus” will not free us. Without a knowledge of the truth, we will not be free.

After 40 years, I love to study. Some can run a mile in under 4 minutes; I have disciplined my mind to read a book in under an hour. It is a lifetime discipline too!

What I learned from Celebration of Discipline about study is that your mind, and then your actions, conform to what you study – not YouTubing or Twittering or fighting on Facebook – what you study! It changes you as actions follow ingrained thinking!

Truth does set us free. Jesus teaches in His Sermon on the Mount that false teachers, despite their exclamations of virtue, can be discerned by their fruit, as their inner thoughts/motives will be revealed in their actions.

Other disciplines taught in Foster’s book might be where the Spirit leads you. You may need fasting, simplicity, prayer, meditation, or confession – or just spend a year and learn them all!!!!

I must practice confession now. I enjoy Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline so much that when I re-read the book it takes more than an hour!!!