Olympic Discipline

I just finished watching the finals of the Women’s individual gymnastics competition. It is hard for any of us to imagine training with such discipline and fervor for anything. Most of us probably feel a safety in thinking “yeah, I might be able to do X if I put my all into it.” But, I beg the question, do we ever really put our all into anything? There is a sense of fear in putting everything we have –all the strength, discipline, love and energy into something and failing. Look at the rate of marriages that fall apart. Do we enter those with unwavering commitment when we have never practiced unwavering commitment? Simply a question to ponder.
I have been thinking on discipline throughout the Olympics. In 1 Timothy, Paul calls Timothy to discipline/train himself for godliness. He is using the vocabulary that speaks of physical training. (Picture going to the gym and practicing over and over–building up your strength through repetition and commitment over time.) Several times in the Bible, we are called to be holy or perfect as our heavenly Father is holy/perfect. I think the majority of the modern church looks at those commands and says…”well, that is not possible–that’s just calling you to commitment–it doesn’t really mean that…I do not have the time to train or do you know my life?” We trade the call to godliness with the lie of the culture of our day–keeping up with the Jones. By keeping up with the Jones, I mean being as holy as those around us. We let the culture we are in set the bar instead of realizing God’s word sets the bar. Each of us, in Christ, is called to the standard that we are watching on our screen every night in the Olympics. We are called, by the Spirit, to put to death the flesh and live in the fruit of Christ. We are called to love the LORD our God with ALL of our heart, soul, mind and strength. What does that mean for me and you? That means going to him daily–fervently studying his word, praying for strength and awareness of sin, repentance, humility. It means hard work. It does not mean hard work to be “accepted” by God, but hard work to follow after him in obedience and rid ourselves of the sin that so easily entangles. It does not mean legalism because that is mere outward “work,” but it means examining your heart and clinging to him and making steps to put off the old self and put on the new self by the Spirit.
The temptation for us is to want to skip all the training time and go for the competition where we get the glory. What we do not see is the lives of these Olympic athletes for years as they eat, sleep, train, dream, relate all with the thought of going toward the prize. They have given their lives in the pursuit of the gold. That is the very imagery Paul gives as he tells us to run as to win the prize. If you are reading this thinking–well, that doesn’t mean me. UH, yes it does. We like to believe the lie of life being for our comfort–for our convenience. I find myself training hard in the word and prayer and relationships somedays and then thinking–I really need some time off just to “rest” for me. My obedience muscles go limp because I check out needing time to refuel in me. It may even be really subtle–I am going to do this activity “for” God but I do not have time to spend “with” him. In those moments, I have forgotten the very essence of everything I have trained for. I cannot afford to forget that disciplining myself for godliness is about remaining in him and that apart from him I can do nothing. When we have an enemy that is on the prowl seeking to steal, kill and destroy, there is NO room for laziness. None.
With all of this talk of discipline, it is easy to get into a works mindset or guilt mindset. In the midst of all of this, we have to look to the whole counsel of God. We have to walk in the reality of the gospel’s power for today in our lives. Our righteousness is in Christ. Our forgiveness is in Christ. Our sin in punished in Christ. We are made new because of Christ. Our hope is in Christ. We are covered in grace through Christ. We are crucified in Christ and we no longer live but he lives in us. This is not a self-discipline issue to prove ourselves. This is a discipline issue to depend and study and move and live and examine and obey in him and for his glory.
It is living for the goal in the end to glorify him regardless of the opinion of our families, friends, the world and hear “well done, good and faithful servant.”

3 Comments

  1. I just got the chills reading this – convicting, encouraging, and true. It is the type of thing you want to read everyday. Miss you guys!

  2. Like we’ve talked about before…sinfulness requires no discipline at all but obedience requires incredible discipline and a total commitment.
    Thanks for the reminder to work out our obedience muscles and the warning to not turn it into works.
    While keeping up with us Joneses can be quite fun, we know for sure that there is no regret to be found in following Christ with all of our being.

  3. Thanks, girls. I am encouraged in all ways by each of you to run the race without wavering. Your lives and hearts point toward Christ.

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