Lastly, we are given a spirit of self-discipline. This one is fairly obvious. SELF-discipline so this last component is entirely our responsibility.
God can die for us, he can give us every reason to be compelled by his love, but in the end, he cannot force us to be godly. Godliness is our choice.
1 Tim 4:7
7Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. 8For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.
Train yourself to be godly. Athletes discipline themselves to train their minds and their bodies. And Paul says even physical training has some value. But spiritual training has long-standing value for both the present life and the life to come.
We need to keep the first 2 principles in mind – 1) there is power only in God’s presence so power is 100% God’s responsibility and 2) love is a shared responsibility — God and us are in a partnership. Then we can talk about self-discipline.
Without keeping those 2 concepts at the forefront of our minds and hearts, any discussion about self-discipline will degrade into self-righteousness or some sort of ego elevation. I am good at this, you are not. I am a spiritually elite, you are not. Utterly self-righteous, utterly powerless, utterly loveless because it is not about God and his presence, it is about my performance in relation to others.
What does this training or self-discipline look like? 1 and 2 Timothy outlines this training in 2 parts.
1 Tim 6
11But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.
Flee then pursue.
2 Tim 2
22Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.
God can discipline us but he cannot make us disciplined. God can punish us or give us a wake up call, but it’s our choice whether or not we will be self-disciplined.
Flee then pursue.
Flee. Part of self-discipline is saying no to the wrong things. Flee from them.
Saying no comes first. Flee comes before pursue. Why do we flee certain things? It says flee evil desires. We flee from evil things because they will corrupt us. But you and I may look at our lives and we’re not pursuing blatantly evil things. An hour of TV here, another hour surfing the internet there. We have our hobbies on the side – I got to update my facebook page and keep my twitter following happy and friends in the loop. That’s another few hours. And if you’ve got kids, forget about it. There goes all your free time.
This is life, what’s the big deal to pursue these things, everyone is running this same race? The problem is after all of that time and energy spent pursuing these things, there is nothing left in the tank to pursue God.
In 1998-2000, I was serving with Abraham jdsn on college staff at UC Berkeley and we took a bunch of college students out for boba. And someone, probably Abraham jdsn shot the first boba and after the first shot was fired, it was all-out war. The great thing about boba is you shoot it and it sticks on your clothes so there is proof of being hit. So we all ran out in the parking lot and started shooting each other. I was having a hard time firing my bobas out of my straw and I was ambushed and getting shot at from every side so I remember going on a suicide mission and dumping my cup of ice and lumps of bobas on whoever was closest to me.
There was no cease fire when we got into our cars. There were drive by shootings of boba. And shots were fired into open windows of each other’s cars while we were driving. We probably broke some laws that night, but I share this because it taught me a deep spiritual lesson. God’s love is like a boba ball and we are the straws. God’s boba ball of love needs to be fired at the world. Imagine if we tried to fire a boba ball out of a normal straw. It would get stuck.
Fleeing things is like upgrading to a wider straw. That’s where self-discipline comes in. We say no to things to create space so that God’s power and love can flow out of us freely and without hindrance.
Once you flee and say no to a bunch of things, then we have the room to pursue the right things like righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.