Lack of Discipline

Bible Book: 2 Peter  1 : 5-8
Subject: Discipline; Steadfastness; Commitment; Faithfulness

Sometimes discipline requires tough love from parents. A father and a school counselor were discussing children when the dad saw his son climbing a tree. He asked the counselor if he should make the child come down. "Well, it depends," the professional replied. "If a fall would hurt him just a little bit, leave him alone. He will learn a valuable lesson. But if a fall would injure or kill him, then make him come down."

No one enjoys discipline. Solomon said, "Fools despise wisdom and instruction" (Prov. 1:7b).

But, lack of discipline leads to inertia. A woman said, "When I was twelve I saw a flower seed display in a feed store. As I looked at the bright pictures, I got excited. I wanted to plant a flower garden. So I bought five packages of seed.

"When I got home I raced out to the garden to begin. But I found an untended clump of hard ground spilling over with weeds. As I stood beside the miserable little plot, reality set in. It would take a lot of work-pulling weeds, hoeing, tilling. I went inside and laid the seeds on my windowsill. In August they were still there, reminders of a garden that never grew."

When we believe one thing and do something else, we're inviting misery-the heart, the head and the body must work together. Live your belief or let that belief go. If you're not actually living a belief, it's not really your belief anyway. You're just kidding yourself. If you aren't actually involved in getting what you want, you don't really want it. Thoughts, feelings and actions must match.

If these three are out of sync, nothing is accomplished. Thoughts plan the process and analyze the consequences. Feelings motivate interest and enthusiasm. Actions accomplish the task. The writer of Ecclesiastes said, "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might . . ." (Ecc. 9:10a).

In fact, success breeds success. Dr. Maslow found that when a person has completed about 75% of the necessary steps toward his goal, a new goal appears. Paul said, "God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline" (II Tim. 1:7).

We lack discipline because of aimlessness, procrastination, and not being persistent.

I. First, We Are Aimless.

Few of us have direction, goals or focus. Instead, we are indecisive and uncertain and inconsistent. The reason we don't get what we want is because we don't know what we want. We're like the man who said, "I don't know what I want, but I'm sure it ain't what I've got."

Peter said, "Therefore, prepare your minds for action . . ." (I Peter 1:13a).

A thought only lasts about 7 seconds. So without definite plans, our dreams stay just that-dreams! Anyone going on a trip takes a road map. Goals provide life maps. Most people spend more time planning their vacations than they do planning their lives. A Harvard University study found that only 3% of people have written goals. 7% have a fuzzy idea, and 90% have no idea at all. But follow-up surveys reveal that the 3% who had written goals achieve more than the 97% all put together. Paul said, "I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me . . ." (Phil. 3:14a).

Some of us confuse wishes with goals. We say, "I wish I were a better parent." "I wish I could go back to college." "I wish I could lose some weight." But a wish by itself does no good. If there are no plans, there is no commitment, and until we're committed, there's no progress. A wise man said, "The moment one definitely commits oneself to a positive goal, providence moves in and supports the process."

Then, we have contradictory goals. We try to do too many things. We confuse activity with accomplishment. A French scientist put a caterpillar on the rim of a flowerpot. Inside, he placed pine needles, the insect’s favorite food. The caterpillar began to crawl around the rim, smelling the food and trying to reach it. It crawled around for 7 days and 7 nights until it died of starvation. Just working harder is not enough.

 Sometimes we have a clash of values. When we're playing with our children, we need to be preparing a work project. Since there's only so much time to spend, we have dissonance. If earth were a large store, you'd have enough time to buy anything in the store, but not everything in the store. If you fill your cart too full, you can't pay out. Too many people put wants in their cart-new careers, new relationships, new houses, new recreations without considering the cost in time and effort it will take to get and maintain that want. At some point in everyone's life, the wants outnumber the available hours. So, pick the thing you want most and if it's available you can have it.

Jesus had a purpose from childhood. At the age of 12 he said, "(Knew) ye not know that I must be about My Father's business?" (Luke 2:49).

II. Next, We Procrastinate.

We put things off. But the writer of Hebrews says, there's only one day. "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts . . ." (Heb. 3:7-8b).

A restaurant had this sign: "Free meal Tomorrow." Many would return for the free meal, but the sign didn't say the offer was good for that day-it was for tomorrow. This scheme got more patrons in the diner, but since tomorrow never came, no free meals were ever granted.

Tomorrow can be the busiest day of the week for well-intentioned procrastinators.

Once a talented painter spoke constantly of creating his masterpiece. But when questioned, he'd always answer, "Oh, I didn't get around to it today. Maybe tomorrow." Or "I didn't really feel like painting today. Maybe tomorrow." Or "The weather wasn't right today, Maybe tomorrow." After he died, people read these words on his tombstone, put there by someone who knew him well:

"He was going to be all a person could be - tomorrow;

And no one will be stronger or better than he - tomorrow.

If a friend was in trouble and weary,

He knew and he wanted to help; and he needed it too.

He was planning to call and see what he could do - tomorrow.

But the fact is, he died and then faded from view,

And all that was left when his living was through,

Was a mountain of things he intended to do - tomorrow."

We emphasize good intentions rather than solid accomplishments. If we "mean" to do it, that seems to substitute for actually doing it!

We emphasize verbalization rather than performance. We say just the right words and then if this promise is rewarded, there's no need to follow through. A teacher described a gifted student who had many creative possibilities, but he always stopped just short of actualizing them. He would get an idea for a story. He'd organize it in his mind. He'd talk about it with enthusiasm; but he never wrote it down. It was as though being able to view himself as one who is able to write brought its own reward. Therefore, he wrote nothing.

We emphasize later rather than now. We say, "When I have time." When I have the proper tools"; "When I feel better"; and on and on.

If we can find any plausible reason to delay a task, we do. We say, "I won't do it now. I'm too tired"; or "I'll make a fresh start in the morning"; or "I'm not in the mood. Maybe this afternoon will be better." But when afternoon comes, some other activity interferes and we postpone it again, and again, and again.

Always ask yourself: "Which will be more important tomorrow, this activity or this distraction-not which is more appealing at the moment."

Jesus never procrastinated. "As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work" (John 9:4).

III. Finally, We Are Not Persistent.

Edward Butler said, "Every man is enthusiastic at times. One man has enthusiasm for thirty minutes, another for thirty days. But it is the man who has it for thirty years who succeeds!"

Jesus believed in persistence. He said, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God" (Luke 9:62).

We are not dependable. We promise and then forget. We start and then quit. We commit and fail to follow through. We give up too soon.

There are many reasons for this. Sometimes it's because we're rebellious. We don't want to do what we're told to do. Sometimes it's because we're impulsive. We jump in without thinking; then by the time we realize the project is not possible or productive, we've already wasted time and energy, and even money.

Sometimes it's because we're fascinated by almost everything. We try to do too much. Then, we either lose interest or become overwhelmed and drop out. The First African Baptist Church in Savannah, Georgia was built by slaves. Their owners allowed them to work on it at night by the light of bonfires after their other tasks were done. Their wives brought bricks in their aprons to the men as they worked. Records of the construction are almost nonexistent, except for this single phrase in an old ledger: "The man who laid the first brick was the man who laid the last."

Sometimes we become discouraged in the middle of a project. But when the temptation to quit comes, let's remember, "The man who laid the first brick laid the last."

Paul said, "And let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary" (Gal. 6:9).

When a college student wanted to dropout during his last semester, his grandmother was adamant, "You can't quit." she declared, "I've already bought a card for your graduation."

Paul was persistent. He said, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith" (II Tim. 4:7).

So, when things go wrong, as they sometimes will,

When the road you're treading seems all uphill,

When the funds are low and the debts are high,

And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,

You never can tell how close you are,

It may be near when it seems afar;

So stick to the fight when you're hardest hit.

It is when things seem worst that you mustn't quit. (Author Unknown)

Jesus said, "He who stands firm to the end will be saved" (Matt. 24:13).

Life requires trade-offs. No one can have everything. The loftier your goal the more you'll have to sacrifice to reach it. It's not that you can't have it. It's just that you'll have to give up many other things to have it.

One young woman said she wanted to be an actress more than anything and was terribly upset, because she hadn't succeeded.

Her counselor asked, "How much time do you spend on your career?"

"Oh, I spend all my time."

The counselor then asked, "You mean you don't sleep?"

"Of course I sleep."

The counselor questioned, "You mean you don't have any friends?"

"Oh, sure I have a lot of friends!"

Lastly the counselor asked, "You don't have a job?"

"Oh, yes, I'm a secretary."

Actually she spent about an hour a week on her career. A show business career required more time than that.


Sometimes we look at all we want to do and all we need to do, and it's overwhelming. We say, "I can't do all this." Furthermore, the backlog left undone from previous inertia confuses us. We say, "What's the use?"

We must break this cycle by a physical act. Do something-anything! If the house in a mess, pick up one thing and do something with it. Put it away; throw it out; or send it to charity. Pick up one more thing. Continue, and eventually you'll have a clean house.

Discipline is essential for a successful life. Solomon expressed it with an analogy: "Like a city that is broken into and without walls is a man who has no control over his spirit" (Prov. 25:28).