Dr. Doug Posey
As you look forward to another new year of resolutions, don’t confuse discipline with a simple list of “do’s” and “don’t’s.” That might be nothing more than legalism. Legalism doesn’t work. But, don’t mistake grace for always taking the convenient route either…
Do you exercise? Do you have a job? How about a hobby? Do you have any kind of regular commitment—either completely voluntary, or mandatory—that you carry out with regularity? Or, do you follow through only on commitments that are convenient? Is there anything you do for yourself that is highly inconvenient, yet you do it because it benefits you in some way? Where would you be if you did only those things that are convenient for you to do?
Most people involve themselves in a host of inconvenient activities because they are either necessary for success, or survival—theirs or their loved ones. There are some inconvenient things we do because we have no choice. Others we choose to do for the perceived benefit. Why have you chosen the “optional inconveniences” you have chosen? What are you not doing in order to do those things?
As a pastor, I sometimes hear people say things like, “Oh, I’ve been so busy I haven’t been able to make it to church,” or, “As soon as we get (such-and-such) paid off, we can start to give financially.” Yet, these same folks spend money on discretionary items and find time to spend on doing unnecessary things, like going to movies, or watching TV. Sadly, they find attending church and giving financially to be too inconvenient at this juncture in their lives. They honestly seem to believe that those disciplines are something they will one day find convenient and somehow begin to do.
The irony of that thinking is that discipline requires intentional inconvenience. It really boils down to that with which one is willing to inconvenience oneself. One chooses to inconvenience oneself as a discipline that one assumedly finds necessary for survival or success. Many Christians don’t see Christian disciplines that way. For some, the torture associated with activities like perfecting a golf-swing is worth the inconvenience while consistent attending and giving to the church is not. Is it just me, or is there something wrong with that picture?
Discipline denotes importance. A student studies because education is important. An athlete trains because fitness and skill are important. A musician practices because hitting the right notes is important, and so on. Based upon the level of spiritual discipline in the life of the average Christian, one would have to conclude that to him or her, faith is not that important.
Nonetheless, if you asked the same such believers how important their faith is, they would no doubt proclaim it to be very important. But, this assessment of the importance of their faith can be compared to the occasional, weekend bicyclist claiming to be in training for the Tour de France! Or, picture someone who never writes a full paragraph pretending to be a novelist. Novelists write, a lot! Professional cyclists ride, a lot! Those who truly consider their faith important practice disciplines, a lot!
Things like consistent church attendance and giving (and I believe the starting point in giving should be the first 10% of what the Lord has entrusted to you) are the “training wheels” of discipleship. If believers are not doing those basic things, they may wish their faith was important—like I wish I liked golf—but their (and my) actions say otherwise.
So, how about those Christian disciplines like prayer, study, fasting, solitude, worship, etc. There is nothing on the list that is convenient. But, Christ has not called us to a life of convenience. He has called us to lives of fruitfulness and that takes discipline; it takes work! Discipline is not incidental; it is intentional. Yes, even regular church attendance requires discipline because it can be inconvenient. However, the cross was highly inconvenient for Christ. Thankfully, He didn’t take the convenient way out.
Because we live in a culture where convenience is king—and if you can invent something that makes life more convenient for people, you can make a mint—we assume convenient is better. Not always. In fact, “convenient Christianity” is an oxymoron. The Bible teaches that sometimes sacrifice is better. And that’s never convenient.
“Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness” –1 Timothy 4:7 NASB