The Art of Discipline

I’m a huge Minnesota Vikings football fan. This usually causes me to become sad year after year with the disappointment of another year without a Super Bowl win. Those who know Super Bowl history know that the Vikings have lost four Super Bowls and have not been to a Super Bowl since the 1970′s. We have lost 3 NFC Championship games over the last 20 years as well, with the 1998 and 2010 games being the most painful (At least for me). I provide this introduction because the Vikings released a Pro-Bowl offensive lineman last week for being overweight. He reported to training camp at about 400 pounds. This has made me wonder about discipline. Wasn’t making millions of dollars a year enough to keep him in shape? The answer is no. The next question becomes then, “What drives one to be disciplined?”

I began running about a year ago. I now run about 4 days a week. I never thought I would like running. To be honest there are days when I don’t. What causes me to get up and run? Discipline. I don’t say this to brag because all of my attempts at discipline are not successful. Some of the enemies of discipline are procrastination, distraction, discomfort, and challenge. You can pursue something that takes discipline and the moment it gets hard, give up. I have many examples of this in my life. The question now becomes, “What fuels discipline?”

Discipline is ultimately fueled by something beyond ourselves. For me that is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit provides an empowerment and equipping beyond what I can manufacture on my own. The Holy Spirit is a counselor (John 14). As a counselor, the Holy Spirit reminds me of the true character and values for living life more abundantly. The Holy Spirit reminds me that you can’t separate discipline from discipleship.

The Holy Spirit is also the place where we find communion with God. This is where we experience God’s great love for us. This makes discipline not something we pursue because of law, but because of love. Discipline is not a checklist, but an art. Discipline is a dance whose rhythm comes out of intimacy. It’s connected to a Covenant with a loving God. When I dance with my wife, I experience the art of our Covenant together. I’m reminded of our love and commitment. We must be willing to dance with our God daily. Discipline is part of this glorious dance.

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Efrem Smith is an internationally recognized leader who uses motivational speaking and preaching to equip people for a life of transformation. He also consults on issues of multi-ethnicity, leadership, and community development for churches, educational institutions, and other organizations. Efrem served as Founding Pastor of The Sanctuary Covenant Church and President of The Sanctuary Community Development Corporation in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Currently, Efrem is the Superintendent of the Pacific Southwest Conference of the Evangelical Covenant Church. He is the author of the books, “Raising-up Young Heroes,” “The Hip Hop Church," and his newest, "Jump Into a Life of Further and Higher."