Watching the NFL playoffs, it reminded me of what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore, I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”
Having been a pretty high-level athlete myself (nothing close to the NFL), I understand that what Paul is saying is that we have to choose our pain. Do we choose the pain of discipline, so that we can have that prize or do we choose the pain of regret, wishing we had lived our lives different? I’ve trained to play baseball, basketball, and football. I’ve done the football drills in the extreme cold of winter. I’ve run until my guts hurt and my legs were like noodles. I’ve lifted weights until I couldn’t raise my arms. That’s the pain of discipline.
In our Christian lives, as we strive to be true disciples of Jesus Christ, we must also choose our pain. We must either choose the pain of discipline or the regret of the consequences of our decisions. For example, I struggled with pornography for many years (thank God that He delivered me and I am free!) and so I minister to other men who are in the throes of that struggle. Many did not submit themselves to God’s discipline and are now living with the regret of a ruined marriage and damaged relationships with their children. Some are dealing with possible jail or prison sentences.
Other people deal with addictions to food, spending, drugs, alcohol, gossip, negativity, envy, coveting and so on. Again, if we don’t discipline ourselves by submitting to God’s ways, rather than our ways, we will suffer the pain of regret at some point in our life.
Many people lay in their death bed with regrets. I’ve never met anyone who didn’t have some type of regrets – should have spent more time with family, should have worked less, should have taken care of my body, should have traveled more, written that book, started that business, invented that product. One day you will face death and I’m hoping you will be one of the few without regrets.
Start today to discipline yourself. It will be painful at first, as you give up those bad habits. When you start new disciplines, your brain with create new neural pathways (renewing of the mind), which will make those disciplines much easier over time. If you don’t already have a discipline to meditate in the Word and pray every day, then start today. If you don’t have the discipline to tithe and give, start this week. If you have money struggles, develop spending disciplines by creating a budget and sticking to it. If you have health issues, gain discipline in your eating habits, exercise and pray daily, and watch those health issues disappear.
The difference between a true disciple and the average person sitting in a chair most Sundays, is the same as the difference between an NFL player and the average person watching the games. The former has endured the pain of discipline to run the race and win the prize, whereas the other person never even enters the game and will live with regrets. Which are you?