Friday, September 27, 2013

Discipline vs. Obedience


It's a tricky word for me.  My gut instinct is to say that I am an inherently undisciplined person.  And I think in my core this is probably true.

But as I  have matured I have learned to apply discipline to different aspects of my life.  

I have completed 2 marathons and 4 half marathons.  It has taken discipline to achieve these goals.  Well, that and 2 really obnoxious running partners who happen to be morning people -which I am not - who make me get up at insanely early hours to run whether I want to or not.  The only good thing I can say about these early morning runs is they have forced discipline into my life.  And allowed me to check a couple things off my bucket list!

Both my husband and I have a history of heart disease in our family and have been forced to become more disciplined about what we eat.  That doesn't mean we don't splurge every now and then but for the most part we are fairly healthy eaters.  For me, it takes discipline to back away from the cupcakes.

My husband also longs for me to be disciplined with our finances.  Alas, this one has not yet been mastered.  But hey, no one's perfect right? 

The other area in my life that takes more discipline than this little lady has, is in my walk with God.  It takes discipline to make time in my day to read his word.  It takes discipline to carve out time and quiet my mind for prayer.  It takes discipline to put Him first, when there are a thousand other things vying for my attention.  I guess that's why these things are called "spiritual disciplines", huh?

But some people also get these things confused with "works".  Ephesians 2:8-10 has been running through my mind for the past couple of days.  

"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so no one can boast.  For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared for us to do."

There is no amount of Bible reading, sunday school teaching, choir leading, or even prayer that will get me in to heaven.  Those in and of themselves are works.  And they don't lead to salvation.  When done out of duty, because we have "disciplined" our body to do x,y, and z, they are nothing but a list of things people boast about.  And they do not lead to salvation.  According to this scripture, not even our faith is truly ours, it is a gift of God. 

But when that gift from God is received, nurtured, treasured and enjoyed it will lead you to complete works that God (no one else) has prepared for you to do.  When this happens its stops being discipline and starts being obedience.  These "works" may include sunday school teaching and choir leading, done out of obedience to God's plan but they also may not.  They should include scripture reading and prayer but only in obedience and response to His love, not because the act of doing them will lead to salvation.

Discipline is good but obedience is better.  

I made a decision a while back that I am sure many of you will whole heartedly disagree with.  My kids don't have chores.  They don't.  There is no task, job, "works" or "discipline" that they need to complete on a daily basis.  Now before you judge me too harshly let me follow up with BUT.  BUT... I do expect them to help when I ask.  I expect them to be observant of their surroundings and help when they see something that needs to be done.  And when I give them a task or a job to do, I expect them to be obedient and do it.  Trust me, there is something they are asked to do everyday, maybe help a sibling, put dishes away, clean up their room, put laundry away, set the table, whatever it may be. But it changes from day to day, and my needs and the needs or our family change.   My hope is I am teaching them a life skill.  To look around and help do the things that need to be done.  To be responsive to promptings and to be obedient.  Not just to be disciplined.

Don't get me wrong.  Discipline is a good thing.  It is a necessary thing in many, many aspects of our life.  It is even necessary in our spiritual life.  But don't confuse discipline with obedience.