Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9.24-27)"...I discipline my body and keep it under control"
Effort. We Protestants are cautious with the word. Being justified freely by His grace, we are sensitive to merits earned for anything in any way. The New Testament authors did not possess this same sensitivity. Commands abound in the New Testament. New Testament Christianity is not lazy. Among dozens of other commands, the New Testament authors urge us to "make every effort" (2 Peter 1:5) to improve our character, to "devote ourselves to good works" (Titus 3:14), to resist the devil (James 4:7), and to "flee youthful lusts" (2 Tim 2:22).
While these efforts cannot achieve righteousness for any man, they are absolutely necessary for any man who desires to make the best use his life (Eph 5:15-16). We must be willing to work. We must have discipline; our highest and most noble calling must govern our decisions over our wasteful urges. Discipline protects us from being the kind of men who know great things about God but are ineffective and unfruitful (2 Peter 1:8). Consider Paul's description of the fate of both productive and wasteful men:
For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. (1 Corinthians 3.11-15)"Each one's work will become manifest" and "If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward." Our life's efforts will be tested some day and something of our eternal reward, indeed the substance of our eternal joy, will hinge on our efforts (our discipline) in this vaporous life. In his sermon, "The Weight of Glory", Lewis explains the joy that awaits us in God's accolades.
"When I began to look into this matter I was stocked to find such different Christians as Milton, Johnson and Thomas Aquinas taking heavenly glory quite frankly in the sense of fame or good report. But not fame conferred by our fellow creatures—fame with God, approval or (I might say) “appreciation’ by God. And then, when I had thought it over, I saw that this view was scriptural; nothing can eliminate from the parable the divine accolade, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” With that, a good deal of what I had been thinking all my life fell down like a house of cards."Our decisions matter. How we spend our time now will matter in heaven and it matters now. That nagging sense that we should be more efficient, more productive, more life-giving with our time is a gracious, God-given conviction. Jesus called his disciples to remain in him, reveal him by bearing fruit, and find their complete joy in it all (John 15:8-9, 10-11). A sloppy life misses all of this.
"I read in a periodical the other day that the fundamental thing is how we think of God. By God Himself, it is not! How God thinks of us is not only more important, but infinitely more important. Indeed, how we think of Him is of no importance except in so far as it is related to how He thinks of us. It is written that we shall “stand before” Him, shall appear, shall be inspected. The promise of glory is the promise, almost incredible and only possible by the work of Christ, that some of us, that any of us who really chooses, shall actually survive that examination, shall find approval, shall please God. To please God...to be a real ingredient in the divine happiness...to be loved by God, not merely pitied, but delighted in as an artist delights in his work or a father in a son—it seems impossible, a weight or burden of glory which our thoughts can hardly sustain. But so it is."
The Road FowardIf you are wrestling with regret for lost time, repent of your waste and remember your great salvation. With your joy and faith in God's abundant grace for the future renewed, earnestly seek a new way of discipline and the best use of your remaining days.
The Thief would love to see you fritter your life's opportunities away and, if you follow him, you give up real joy and fruitfulness in this life and rewards in the one to come. Cheat him. Work to make your body your slave. Be disciplined.
A Plan for Discipline - this is designed to reveal any lack of discipline in young dads (I spend the most time with them) and to plan a way forward to increased discipline.
Porn-Again Christian - a frank discussion on pornography by Mark Driscoll, download it free here.
C.J. Mahaney's Biblical Productivity blog series - if you haven't read this yet, now is the perfect time to dive into these challenging and helpful thoughts.
Rescue Time Software - this free software monitors your application use and produces weekly accounting reports of your computer time.
Mint.com - Mint allows you to combine all of our financial accounts in one location for monitoring budget performance and account balances - all for free!