For God gives wisdom and knowledge and joy to a man who is good in His sight; but to the sinner He gives the work of gathering and collecting, that he may give to him who is good before God.

Ecclesiastes 2:26

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How many of you wake up wanting to be ordinary? Average? Same old, same old? No! We all wake up wanting a happy, healthy and successful life. It is the way God destined us to be and we can attain that if we embrace His Biblical principles. As Christians we are not exempt from hardship and tests, but we can live above our circumstances like the apostle Paul did (Phil 4:12) by embracing the Biblical principle of self discipline. (1 Tim 3) Delayed gratification is almost a foreign concept in today’s world. We want everything now and we aren’t prepared to wait. In 1960, Walter Mischel conducted a famous test amongst 4 year olds called the ‘marshmallow experiment’. Several children were given a marshmallow and were told they could eat it now or wait for 15 minutes, and if they did that, they would receive 3 more. The researchers then tracked the children into adulthood seeing how the ones who waited fared compared to the kids who sacrificed 3 extra sweets in favour of immediate gratification. Not surprisingly, the children with the self discipline to wait were far more successful than those who could not wait.  

Pay now, play later
Success in life doesn’t come easily. The key ingredient for success in our nation, the Body of Christ, our families and our careers, is self-discipline. Rules and order are part of self-discipline. John Maxwell once said: “You can pay now and play later, or play now and pay later.” If you mess around in your life now, you will pay the price later when you are retired and have to live on dogfood! But if you discipline yourself and your finances and if you plan and prepare for your future, you will reap the due rewards.  

Mastering yourself
Listen to a few quotes on discipline. In his book, ‘When the buck stops with you’, Former US President Harry S. Truman said: “When reading the lives of great men, I found that the first victory they won was over themselves; self-discipline with all of them came first.” George Washington, a great founding father of America, noted: “Nothing is more harmful to the service (army) than the neglect of discipline. For that discipline (more than numbers) gives superiority over another.” Self discipline is the making of character, and a lack of it, the unmaking of character. It is defined as orderliness, self-restraint (being able to say no) and self control. To discipline is to check, regulate and train…it is the root word from which we get disciple. Have you ever noticed in life that we look up to those people who have discipline? Talented athletes, commited academics, successful businessmen and great leaders all possess the discipline to be the best they can be. As humans, we tend to look down on people who are slovenly, lazy and always in trouble. Christians are meant to be looked up to. We are the ‘salt and light’ in society and we can only have that influence in other’s lives, when we ourselves have been influenced by God’s principles. You need self discipline over your mind, thinking, attitude, emotions and behaviour if you are ever truly going to achieve what God has for you. The younger you start, the better. Parents, it is your duty to instill discipline into your children – it will save them much heartache and destruction later on in life. “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” Prov 22:6  

Check, regulate, train
When built into your life at a young age, self discipline brings benefits later on. My mother was determined to teach me manners and excellence. I didn’t have a father, but she invested self-discipline in my life. Don’t let your kids do what they want…teach them what they should do.  

External vs Internal Discipline
When dealing with children (and adults!) there are two types of discipline we must be aware of. Self-discipline is internal whereas external discipline is necessary for instructing your children. If you train your children correctly it will give them internal discipline. They will empty the bin and polish their shoes themselves. When you get saved, the same thing applies – you are a child of God and the church’s responsibility is to discipline you. Guard your heart against rebellion because if you embrace discipline, it will become part of your value system and you will live at another level and see the blessing of God in your life. Jesus was a role model and we are to imitate Him. Don’t ignore training just because you are in the church. If you don’t discipline yourself, the world will discipline you. If you don’t curb your desires, you will end up fired, in prison, in trouble and in a mess. External discipline is for immature people; internal discipline is for mature people. Immature people require threat, punishment and rules for results. Mature people have it come from within. It gives you internal motivation. Responsibility actually gives you freedom. Isn’t it funny how people are so anxious to improve their circumstances, but not themselves. 

5 Pillars of Self-discipline
These are not difficult, are easily accessible to all and will work if you just do it! They are a whip, but a whip for your own good.  Acceptance – knowing who you are. Knowing what God has done for you. Do you accept who you are, your weaknesses and your strengths? Don’t lie to yourself - know your tendencies and then you will know how to deal with them.  Willpower – a decision with a plan. Every day I determine what I will eat for the day, otherwise I might sit in my study with my stomach ruling over me! If I follow what it says I will go down a road of bad health. You need to have a measure and by making a decision to be disciplined, you are already half way there. But don’t get legalistic either. God has come to set us free!  Hard work – life is not easy.  Industry – a term for using your time wisely. It is not difficult to have self-discipline if you are wise with your time and talents. When you have free time, read a book, develop yourself, build relationships, improve yourself, read the Word of God…and don’t just slump in front of the TV with a bag of chips. Sin creeps in where lack of self-discipline exists. Jesus said in Matt 26:41 “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.”  Perseverance – Press on! (1 Cor 9:24 – 27). We are all in the same race together. Practise self discipline to win the eternal prize which is to fulfill the plans God has for you. 

The benefits of discipline
1. When you are self-disciplined, it enables you to take the right action regardless of how you feel. Feelings are the greatest challenge to self-discipline. Self-disciplined people don’t let their emotions decide how hard they work, how committed they are to their marriages, or if they go to church. This is not only by will power – we have the Holy Spirit and the Grace of God.
2. As self-discipline increases, so the challenges decrease. The more disciplined we become, the easier life gets. You can lose a loved one, be retrenched from your job, be tired, get betrayed by someone at church – but you can cope with all of it because you have self-discipline and the Holy Spirit. Self-discipline builds your capacity for more…
3. It is the key ingredient to success. No matter if you have talent, passion or academic qualifications, you can not move ahead without self-discipline. Mastering yourself is the key. Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishments.
4. It is the only way to harness your potential. Notice the word harness. Roy Smith says: “Discipline is the refining fire by which talent becomes ability.” People just want the classy lunches, fancy gifts, wining and dining. No horse gets anywhere unless he is harnessed. Heb 12: 7 – 12 “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true  sons. Moreover, we have all had humanfathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live!Our fathers disciplined us for a little while
as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in His holiness. 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. Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees.” 

Evaluate yourself!
Emotions: Can you control them? Do you get depressed and sulk when things don’t go your way? Do you freak out and punch people?
Finances – Do you just spend, spend, spend? Do you live in bondage to debt and your credit card?
Passion & Appetites – drinking, drugs, sex…Are you feeding your spirit or your flesh?
Relationships – “I speak my mind”; “People must take me or leave me.” These attitudes are not examples of selfdiscipline. We need to be approachable and display the fruits of the Spirit . Gal 5:22 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”
Attitudes – Are you in control of your attitude? It is a choice…I will rejoice in the Lord. I will sing on a Sunday morning. A good attitude is a selfdiscipline.
Time – time is like money. Do you use it wisely? Each one of us will give an account for our time, our talents and our words.
Your thoughts – Romans 12:2
Your tongue – James 3

André Olivier, Senior Pastor of Rivers Church, Sandton and one of the team of national leaders of the Assemblies of God Group South Africa. Andre is married to Wilma and they have three children, www.riverschurch.org.za

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