Jesus gave his believers the "Great Commission" of making disciples of all nations. We cannot make disciples of anybody unless we are disciples ourselves. That requires discipline. Discipline and discipleship are closely related concepts in Christianity. The word "disciple" comes from the Latin word "discipulus," which means "learner" or "pupil," and the word "discipline" comes from the same Latin root.
Discipleship involves following Jesus and learning from him, while discipline involves the training and correction necessary to become more like Jesus. Both require a commitment to learning and growing in one's faith and a willingness to be corrected and transformed by the Holy Spirit.
In the context of Christian discipleship, discipline can refer to two things: self-discipline or disciplining ourselves, and disciplining by others, typically God. Self-discipline is the ability to control one's thoughts and actions. Paul puts it beautifully when he says: "Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize" (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).
We only need to see a sports movie like Chariots of Fire or a boxing movie like Rocky to see the disciplined lives serious athletes lead. This to get a prize that does not last. How much more discipline do we, who seek a greater prize, need to exercise?
The second aspect of discipleship — disciplining by God — is harder because it involves correction, and nobody likes to be corrected, not even by God. It is not very pleasant. Scripture says, "No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it" (Hebrews 12:11).
Elsewhere, Solomon emphasizes that discipline is a form of correction and should not be rejected but rather received as a sign of love and care from God: "My son, do not despise the Lord's discipline, and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in" (Proverbs 3:11-12).
Let us choose both forms of discipline today — self-discipline and discipline by God — and be blessed by it, keeping the words of Paul to Timothy: "For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline" (2 Timothy 1:7).
God be with you.