By Amy Hornbuckle
When I hear the word “discipline” I think of an athlete. The grueling training schedule, meal plans, time, and pressure that sits on their shoulders. Some starting at an early age of 7 or 8 years old face this lifestyle for 15+ years. Many will push through injuries determined to adapt their bodies to their situation. They tear down muscles, regulate their minds, and cultivate a focus that could cut through glass. It’s a level of discipline that surpasses understanding. I’ll be honest, some mornings I have to fight to show up for God, my husband, and my community. And when I compare my efforts to the dedication of an athlete, I wonder how their discipline comes so naturally?
As I thought about an athlete’s life I realized something: it is not the joy of the discipline itself that keeps the athlete going. They do not ultimately find their fulfillment through the workout or the schedule or the meal, they find it in the end game – the result of those things. So how does this apply to us as believers?
Colossians 3:1-2 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.
“It is not the joy of the discipline itself that keeps the athlete going.”
These verses remind us to “seek the things that are above.” Doing that requires the same kind of (and more) tenacity we see in an athlete. They are working for the strength and technique that will help them succeed in their sport, while we are working for the wisdom and understanding that will guide us in following Jesus – an imperishable end game. If the athlete can successfully chase a perishable and temporary goal – how much more can we, as believers filled with the Holy Spirit, seek an eternal prize?
“If the athlete can successfully chase a perishable and temporary goal – how much more can we, as believers filled with the Holy Spirit, seek an eternal prize?”
So, we need to be disciplined in pursuing Christ, but we need to do it with the end goal in mind and not make discipline the goal. This sounds obvious and simple but if it was we’d be the perfect Christian. We are not perfect and we often fail at putting Jesus first. Our bible study and prayers can become a mere task to check off because it’s the right thing to do. Instead we must read our Bibles and pray because we need to know Jesus and be empowered by the living and active word of God. When discipline replaces relationship with Jesus as our goal, then we are no longer “seeking the things that are above.”
“When discipline replaces relationship with Jesus as our goal, then we are no longer seeking the things that are above.”
The athlete is set on a mere win, a mere prize, mere applause, and mere recognition. We are desperately running after Jesus through study, prayer, repentance, serving, and worship with the promise of eternity. With that in mind we can have the same drive as an athlete as we do the things that nourish our souls and train us for the everyday battle against sin. We often think of discipline as an unpleasant part of being an adult; of functioning and being responsible. But discipline in faith is a reaction to the cross – a response to the Savior who bore our sins and forgave our transgressions.
So fighting to show up is OK – good and normal even – but we must show up. When we don’t feel like reading His word, be like the sleep-deprived athlete getting up and going to practice in spite of his aching body, and just do it. The athlete is winning a momentary battle for rewards that won’t last, while we are fighting a life-long battle for eternal reward.
Matthew 16:25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
“We are fighting a life-long battle for eternal reward.”
Discipline is just living out the reality that Jesus is worth our time, our energy, even our life itself. To the world it looks like we’re losing out but in reality, we are gaining everything by gaining Christ. That is what we are setting our minds on, that is what we are seeking; the promised life in the presence of God forever.
Amy grew up in St. Louis, Missouri but now lives in Florida with her husband of 9 months. She is a proud dog mamma, and loves taking long walk in the midst of God’s creation. She works as a Children’s ministry director, operations manager, and Women’s ministry and discipleship. Her true passion is to equip women of faith through both writing and speaking.