Discipline (Part 1): Too Much You, Not Enough Him!

The other day a dear friend said to me, “Tracy, I really like your budget plan but it just takes so much discipline.” I honestly sat there a little speechless. I had really never thought of it that way, but as I thought about it and chewed on it a little I could really see where people might think that. There is a lot of structure to budgeting, and when you have lived without structure in your finances it can feel like it is going to take a tremendous amount of discipline to succeed. So for the next few days, I want to look at the subject of discipline: what is it and how do you get it? There are so many parts of our lives that seem to require discipline, like remembering to eat, or eating too much, or cleaning your home, or working out, or going to work on time, or prioritizing your family, or even going for your dreams. However, looking at any of those areas as a battle of your own discipline is a sure way to fail at all of them. It becomes easy to use the excuse, “I just don’t have enough discipline to exercise,” or “I just don’t have the discipline to get to work on time.” If you have found yourself making this excuse about budgeting, I would like to suggest that a) Your eyes are on the wrong place b) Your heart is in the wrong place, and c) Usually the third day is the hardest.

a) The first aspect that I would like to look at is your eyes. There is always a battle for your eyes in every area of your life. This has so many ramifications to your financial and spiritual walk. The television fights for your attention, billboards fight for your attention, magazines fight for your attention. It is just a constant barrage against your eyes. The marketing campaigns are continually trying to convince you that you need this, or can’t live without this item. Yet, though it is many of these attractions that woo our hearts away from our purpose, sometimes the biggest downfall comes when we get our eyes on ourselves and on our own strength. The truth is when many people say, “I don’t have the discipline,” what they are actually saying is, “I am not strong enough in myself.” I just want to tell you today, “No, You’re not.” And you were never meant to be. Discipline isn’t some magical force only for the strong, it is actually a fruit of the Holy Spirit being an integral part of your life. I have heard so many sermons on the “fruits of the spirit” that turn love, joy, and self-control into performance oriented “standards” to see if you are Godly. They were never meant to be measuring sticks of your own ability to change and live up to a certain standard. In fact, the passage in Galatians 5 which talks about the “fruits of the Spirit” starts out with these verses (16-17)
“I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.”

Does that sound like an accurate description of a lack of “discipline” in your life? Your heart wants to do one thing and your flesh is pulling against your heart so that you end up not doing what you really want to do. Yet, the Bible doesn’t say that the answer to this is to be stronger, or to try harder, but rather it says to “walk in the Spirit and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh”! How can something so simplistic sounding be the answer to such a complex question? The answer lies in the next verse, “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” You see, it is law that twists our hearts from what is actually life for us. The law tells us we have to measure up, and we have to do things perfectly, and all it does is set us up for failure and condemnation. But when the Holy Spirit leads you, there is grace in the journey and instead of turning your eyes onto your own strength and ability to succeed or have “discipline”, your eyes are fixed on Him. The law says “Do this, and you had better do it right.” But the Holy Spirit says, “Here, let me show you the way of life, and let me give you grace for every step of the path.” So your prayer then becomes, “Holy Spirit, you are leading me on this path of budgeting, so please give me the grace for today. Let me hear your voice in what I spend or don’t spend. Thank you for a vision that is greater than just myself. My eyes are on You and what You have for me, and let every need and every desire line up behind that, behind Your calling and behind Your leading in my life.”

Living in the Spirit is what you were born into when you asked Jesus to come into your heart. The Bible says that your flesh with it’s passions was actually crucified with Jesus when He died for you (see vs. 24-25). It also says that as a result of what Jesus did, it is no longer you who live, but Jesus who lives in you. You see, Jesus took all of our sin, and our yuck, and everything that separated us from the Father. He took all of that upon himself when he died in innocence in our place. And in that amazing act of sacrifice, he made a way for us to be reconciled to God. Our sin and all of our yuck had separated us from God, but now when God looks at us He doesn’t see anything of our old flesh, but He only sees the amazing sacrifice of His son. “Old things have passed away, behold all things have become new.” It is in this transaction that our flesh looses its battle. It is no longer Lord over us, but Jesus is Lord over our flesh through what He did on the cross. And then He sent His Holy Spirit as a seal of His work in our lives. However, even though you now live in the Spirit as a position through what Jesus did, you walk in the Spirit as a choice. In other words, we have already been given the Holy Spirit through Jesus, but we don’t have to listen to Him. We don’t have to include Him. We don’t have to rely on His strength. And really that is the only question of “discipline” in your life: Are you choosing to walk by the Spirit or are you choosing to do it in your own strength?

So where are your eyes? Are your eyes on yourself and your own strength and abilities, are your eyes on the media and what they are telling you to buy and what you should have, or are your eyes on the Holy Spirit and His direction in your life?

Part 2 – tomorrow 🙂