The “Brave New World” of the 21st Century requires a “Brave New Discipleship” strategy.

Self-Discipline: the Key to Personal Freedom! Part 1

Posted on: December 05, 2017


Someone once said, “In order to be free to sail the seven seas, you must make yourself a slave to the compass.”

This is because every freedom has a corresponding bondage, and every bondage has a corresponding freedom. You can be free from the toothbrush and a slave to cavities, or you can be a slave to the toothbrush and free from cavities. But you cannot be free from the toothbrush and free from cavities. That kind of absolute freedom doesn’t exist because all actions have consequences.

Therefore, self-discipline is the key to personal freedom.

Admittedly, it seems backwards: discipline = freedom! But much in the Bible seems backwards. To save your life, you must lose it. To be first, you must be last. To receive, you must give.

So it is consistent with the “backwardness” of what we find in the Bible that freedom comes only through self-discipline. This truth is important to everyone for many reasons, but it is especially important to the Christian if we are to become God’s best version of ourselves.

What is self-discipline?

Self-discipline is

the ability to make oneself do what is right when it would be easier not to.

Self-discipline has two facets.

  1. The ability to delay an immediate gratification for the sake of a greater long-term reward. For example, you might not take a one-week vacation this summer so you can accumulate your vacation days and take a two-week vacation next summer.
  2. The ability to endure something unpleasant in the short term for the sake of a greater reward in the long term. For example, you might get up early and exercise now so you can be in shape to hike the Grand Canyon next October.

Both of these facets fall within the scope of self-discipline: delaying something pleasant or enduring something unpleasant, each for the sake of a greater reward later.

Self-discipline is a fruit of the Spirit.

In Galatians 5:22-23, we learn that The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

Just because self-control, which is a synonym of self-discipline, is listed as a fruit of the Holy Spirit does not mean that only a Christian can be self-disciplined.

There are plenty of non-Christians who are very self-disciplined. Think of all the non-Christian Olympic athletes, for example. They are amazingly self-disciplined, even though they do not have the Holy Spirit.

But, as Christians who have the Holy Spirit, we will be become increasingly self-disciplined if we allow Him to govern our lives over time.

Self-discipline is a key to success.

Christians are not the only ones alert to the need for self-discipline. Business literature and secular self-help literature are awash in articles on the need for self-discipline and the role that self-discipline plays in success in life.

A quick search of the Internet reveals an article in Inc. Magazine: 6 Ways to Develop the Self-Discipline You Need to Reach Your Goals (Jan. 24, 2014)

In Forbes Magazine we see the headline: 5 Proven Ways for Gaining Self-Discipline (June 18, 2014)

In Success Magazine, we read: The Key to Getting All You Want? Self-Discipline (Jan 21, 2016)

From that article we read:

“For every disciplined effort, there are multiple rewards. That’s one of life’s great arrangements. If you sow well, you will reap well. Life is full of laws that both govern and explain behaviors, but the law of sowing and reaping may well be the major law we need to understand: For every disciplined effort, there are multiple rewards.

“What a concept! If you render unique service, your reward will be multiplied. If you’re fair and honest and patient with others, your reward will be multiplied. If you give more than you expect to receive, your reward is more than you expect. But remember: The key word here—as you might well imagine—is discipline.

 “Everything of value requires care, attention and discipline.

 “Remember the law: For every disciplined effort, there are multiple rewards. Learn the discipline of writing a card or a letter to a friend. Learn the discipline of paying your bills on time, or arriving to appointments on time, or using your time more effectively. Learn the discipline of paying attention, or paying your taxes, or paying yourself. Learn the discipline of having regular meetings with your associates, or your spouse, or your child, or your parent. Learn the discipline of learning all you can learn, of teaching all you can teach, of reading all you can read.

 “But a word of caution here for those who neglect the need for care and attention to life’s disciplines: everything has its price. Everything affects everything else. Neglect discipline, and there will be a price to pay.”

So, self-discipline is a core trait needed for freedom in other areas.

Frankly, self-discipline comes more easily for some than others. Some appear born with greater natural self-discipline. Some learned self-discipline more effectively than others as a result of effective parents or other external influence, while others may be at a disadvantage as a result of neglect, abuse or emotional trauma in childhood or even in adulthood.

Nevertheless, truth is still true, and self-dicscipline is still the key to personal freedom.

No matter who we are, if we want the freedom to sail the seven seas of personal potential, we must become increasingly more self-disciplined.

In the next blog post, we will explore the tremendous advantages in life that self-discipline gives us.

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