Character: Discipline

66022_1_ftc_dpA couple of weeks ago, my ladies Bible study continued with Session 2: Discipline in the book:

Character: Reclaiming Six Endangered Qualities, InterActions Series
By Bill Hybels / Zondervan

You can read my post on the previous session here: Session 1: Courage

The key passage for Session 2: Discipline is:

Proverbs 1:1-7 “The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel: for gaining wisdom and instruction; for understanding words of insight; for receiving instruction in prudent behavior, doing what is right and just and fair; for giving prudence to those who are simple, knowledge and discretion to the young— let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance— for understanding proverbs and parables, the sayings and riddles of the wise. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”

Because it was used a couple of times in the key verses, I looked up the definition of prudence. It is the ability to govern and discipline oneself by the use of reason, shrewdness in the management of affairs, skill and good judgement in the use of resources, and caution or circumspection as to danger or risk. I think that knowing this definition helps with understanding of the verses.

This session focuses on four areas of personal discipline: Spiritual, Physical, Financial, and Relational. In each section, it has us reflect on how disciplined we think we are in these areas.

The Essence of Discipline… Delayed Gratification

The author describes delayed gratification as “the commitment to schedule the pain of life first so we can really experience the pleasures of life that follow.” So in our areas of personal discipline, delayed gratification might look like the following:

Spiritual: Waking up a little earlier or going to bed a little later in order to commit some time to spend reading the Bible, praying, and having quiet time with God.

Physical: Committing to exercise on a regular basis and making healthy food choices.

Financial: Creating a savings plan in order to slowly set aside money for a big purchase, vacation, and/or retirement.

Relational: Make an effort to have heart-to-heart talks with a friend or family member you desire to have an authentic relationship with.

The Practice of Discipline… Advanced Decision-Making

Once deciding that delayed gratification is essential to discipline, we must take the next step. This involves making decisions ahead of time about how we will practice discipline in our lives. If we have a plan set firmly in our mind, then when temptation comes to ignore the plan, we will be more likely to stick to the plan. Some plans might look like the following:

Spiritual: Committing to be involved with a local Bible study group and making time to do the homework before each meeting.

Physical: Scheduling time several times a week to go to the gym and/or workout at home.

Financial: Creating a monthly budget and sticking to it.

Relational: Make time to regularly call, write, and/or meet a friend or family member.

The Rewards of Discipline

When we are able to commit to delayed gratification and advanced decision-making in order to be disciplined in our daily lives, we start to see the benefits of being disciplined. Rewards could be as follows:

Spiritual: A growing and mature Christian life and a close relationship with God.

Physical: A healthy body, increased energy, and increased self-worth.

Financial: Being free from debt and not having to live paycheck to paycheck.

Relational: Having a flourishing marriage, family life, and close, significant friendships.

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I have had enough experience in my life to know the downfalls of not being disciplined in each of these areas. I think that I am pretty disciplined in my planning and organization. However, putting my plans into action is a different story. In all of the areas we discussed, I have some work to do. Being disciplined in each of these areas requires constant attention, perseverance, and prayer!

How can you put discipline into practice this week?

Character: Courage

66022_1_ftc_dpI attend Community Bible Study during the school year but I was missing the fellowship and in-depth study this summer. So, in an effort to meet some new neighbors and spend quality time with some friends, I started a summer Bible study in my home for a few ladies and myself. We are reading and discussing:

Character: Reclaiming Six Endangered Qualities, InterActions Series
By Bill Hybels / Zondervan

Yesterday, we met for the first time and discussed Session 1: Character. I thought that I would share each week what I have learned here on my blog. This study was written for men and women. However, I am facilitating this study for ladies so I will be using female terms.

The courage session focuses on courage in every day life versus the big once in a lifetime acts of heroism that we hear about in the media. The type of courage that it takes to be a wife, mother, and friend. The Bible passage for this session is:

1 Timothy 1:7-12 For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God. He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.”

The author uses Paul as a Biblical example. Through his trials, suffering, imprisonment, etc., Paul is someone who exhibited every day courage because of his faith in Jesus Christ. I want to point out here (even though it is not mentioned in the book we are reading), that it is a pet peeve of mine when Christians say “God will not give us more than we can handle.” This is not Biblically based at all. It is misconstrued with God not allowing us to be tempted beyond what we can handle and that there is always a way out of temptation. However, Paul is the example time and time again that a Christian can and will go through trials, suffering, pain, hardship… even to the point of death. Paul says in

2 Corinthians 1:8-11 “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.”

Through our hardships; God wants us to fully rely on him so that he can deliver us and heal us. God wants to draw us into a closer relationship with him. He will always rescue us but sometimes it is in the midst of our hardships. He doesn’t always remove us from circumstances but allows us to go through them in order to draw us nearer to Him. And he can always use our testimonies to impact other people and draw them into His kingdom. It takes great every day courage to keep our faith as we go through hardship.

This session is divided into three sections: Spiritual Courage, Moral Courage, and Relational Courage.

Spiritual Courage:

The author points out that we often hear from non-believers that Christianity is for weak people, cowards, and is a crutch. He uses the example of non-believers who are confronted with their sin but who do not have the courage to admit their sins before a Holy God. They justify themselves by saying that they are a good person and the sins they have committed are just little mistakes. They falsely assume that God will allow all “good” people into heaven. He says that it takes much courage for someone to become a Christian, admit that they are a sinner, and follow Christ in a secular world.

Romans 3:23 “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” [emphasis mine]

When speaking of a non-believer deciding to follow Christ or a Christian continuing to follow Christ in a secular world, YES, it does take great courage. However, I went a different direction with my thoughts on this. I AM weak but because of Christ, I am made strong in spite of my weakness. Without Christ, I am nothing and can do nothing of value. With Christ, I have the ability to do great things and stand strong in a fallen world.

2 Corinthians 12:9-11 “…My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Moral Courage:

The author gives several examples of areas where it might be easy to fall into temptation… even as a Christian. Income taxes, sexual purity, bending truth to avoid conflict, etc. How do we handle the temptation when it comes knocking at our door? How do we react after giving into temptation and being caught?

Christ calls us to have integrity and courage even when no one else cares or notices. We should have the courage to be truthful in all things, to have integrity behind closed doors, and to exhibit Christ to all people we encounter (in person or on the internet).

Relational Courage:

The author focuses on marriage and parenting but this also applies to friendships. It takes courage to be vulnerable in marriage and admit when things are not going well. Sometimes counseling, meeting with accountability partners, and/or sitting down to have a serious discussion are important to help repair a marriage. It takes courage to discipline children when they need correction and to train them in the way of Christ even if it is not popular to do so in our entitled, government knows what is best society.

Have you seen a marriage fall apart because of adultery, pornography, alcohol, abuse, or just plain selfishness? Many marriages end in divorce because one or both parties just give up and go their own way with out consideration of the effects their decisions have on their children and future.

On the flip side, have you seen marriages recover from any of the above circumstances? My marriage has recovered from extreme circumstances and I have witnessed other marriages recover as well. Almost always, the common denominator is Christ. When both spouses are willing to admit that they are wrong, when both spouses are willing to forgive each other the way Christ forgave us, when both spouses are willing to get the outside help needed, then there is a good chance that a marriage can recover from extreme brokenness. This takes courage because most often it is a long road to recovery. It takes courage to stand strong when society says to just take the “easy road” out.

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Overall, I have learned to be more aware of areas I can exhibit courage on a daily basis… even if it is not recognized by others. One of my group members said that sometimes it takes courage just to get out of bed in the morning! I want to be like Paul and show courage in the midst of trials and suffering but I also want to be able to show courage in all things even when everything is going well.

How can you show courage in your every day life this week?