Well, we’ve made it to the fourth Sunday of Lent and Easter begins to come into view. This week, since his return from vacation, the host has been suggesting donations to Food for the Poor (see the ad at the top of the page – PLEASE give) as a Lenten “discipline.” Each time he has done so I have wondered how much of the audience knew what he was talking about. So many people, even church-going people, do not know what Lent is anymore. But that fact notwithstanding, discipline generally has become a very foreign concept in our society.
People have been talking since before my birth about this era of instant gratification, and each time we think we have reached the pinnacle thereof, we find a way to go past it. What is a smartphone if not something to make sure we are gratified at all times and in all situations? One day this past week, in one mile of one street, I had near-miss traffic incidents three times, all three of which were the result of people lacking the discipline to wait for an opening in traffic. The opioid crisis is rooted in the need for the gratification of existential pain relief. Life is full of pain and has been since the fall, but in this age we lack the self-discipline to withstand it. We seem to lack even the discipline for common and well-established civil order. What is the obesity crisis in the nation if not a lack of self-discipline?
My devotional yesterday talked about being “tested” (disciplined) by God as a means of leadership formation. Discipline, both self-discipline and the discipline visited on us but others attempting to help form us, is deeply a part of the Christian life.
We live in a world that despises discipline, yet the Christian is called to embrace it:
Job 5:17-18 – “Behold, how happy is the man whom God reproves, So do not despise the discipline of the Almighty. For He inflicts pain, and gives relief; He wounds, and His hands also heal.
Prov 3:11-12 – My son, do not reject the discipline of the Lord or loathe His reproof, for whom the Lord loves He reproves, even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights.
Stop and consider that for just a moment – discipline (reproof, correction) is an act of love. So wrapped up in our will are we that we typically think of such things as wrong. But consider these words, even if you disagree with someone correcting or disciplining you, you have to know that the correction and discipline are offered in love! How different would this world be if we just kept that in mind the next time we are “offended” by someone telling us something we need to fix or change.
Moreover, self-discipline, self-control, is a form of self-love. There it is, the single most sought after thing in our culture today – self-love. This expression of self-love does not come from “discovering who we are and being true to it,” but in controlling our impulses and taming our desires. Is that not the exact opposite of what the common culture tries to teach these days?
Heb 12:10-11 – For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.
Man-oh-man is that powerful – discipline, it seems, is for good and it produces righteousness. Yes, it is painful for the moment; agreed, it is a difficult thing to endure – but it is good. How appropriate is that thought as Easter approaches? The most painful discipline ever endured, that which Christ endured on the cross, produced the most good ever produced in human history. Do we need any more proof that discipline is for good?
I could go on like this examining scriptures about discipline for a long time, but I think I have made the essential point. In an age when few people recognize the idea of Lent, and fewer still the idea of a Lenten discipline, might not the practice of a Lenten discipline be a great place to start tapping into the good that the season is intended to yield?