The word discipline can often create negative connotations. Children might think of strict parents while a young cadet may visualize his or her drill sergeant barking out commands. The implication of personal discipline generally means that an outward force has the intent of bringing our inward being into subjection toward its will and ultimately to a place we'd rather not go. (However, in most cases, we know that is where we should end up for our own good!) Take exercise for example. We know that exercise is good and that it produces a sought after result of good health. However, look at how many of us balk at submitting ourselves to the daily discipline to achieve this desired goal. We may do well for a while, but then for whatever reason, we tend to compromise our resolve and fall back into our former state. Why is this? Is it because we are unmotivated and lazy and we don't desire to be in shape? I don't believe that is the case although it may appear that way in some instances. Many people forgo exercise because other things crowd out their time, such as work or family or any number of life's activities. That is not to say that exercise is more important than work or family. One could use the same example toward striving to be a more disciplined parent or a worker, and one might "relapse" by going to the gym to escape it all! No, what I'm talking about is a disciplined lifestyle that is able to embrace all responsibilities, including familial, social, and personal. Not only to embrace, but to love discipline as that which powers the engine of life.
Solomon points out a diametric attitude regarding discipline to many in our present world. The wisest man to ever walk the earth (besides Jesus Christ) states that a love of knowledge will mean that a person is in love with discipline. The word knowledge that the ancient king speaks of is derived from the Hebrew word yada which has a much fuller and deeper meaning than it's English counterpart. In western civilization, we may take the word knowledge as meaning an understanding of any given subject. The Hebrews, however, used this word to describe not only understanding but also perception, experience, and recognition. Perception was not limited to man's perspective but was intertwined with God's, just as man's experience was not complete unless we experience God within the midst of our respective lives. These all led to a total understanding and recognition that God Himself is the author of all knowledge -- the very creator of wisdom and enlightenment. Just as one cannot separate true wisdom and knowledge from the Person of God and the Lord Jesus Christ, one cannot divorce themselves from God's discipline otherwise they are none of His (Hebrews 12:6). It is something all should seek because from it flow His knowledge and His life.
One might ask, "How then does one love discipline? Is loving God simply enough, for if we love God will we not want to keep His commandments?" If we all, when we gave our hearts to Christ, came into a place of joyous enlightenment and saw Him in His full revelation, then we would most certainly embrace His discipline (or discipleship, if you will) with a passionate surrender. However, we see dimly in our present state and need Him to reveal His true character to us through degrees (I Corinthians 13:12). Therefore, embracing discipline as we would embrace Jesus, can be a test of character in the beginning of our journey. (If we don't have the desire as Christians, we should ask the Lord who will grant us grace to begin.) Some will fail to see that the Jesus Christ they accepted into their hearts was not only love but He was also the embodiment of discipline. As the writer of Hebrews tells us, it can be uncomfortable in its initial stages but will reveal the character of our Risen Lord like no other practice: All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness (Hebrews 12:11). For example, many runners will tell you (this one included) ...that the only thing harder than running is not running! The knowledge and the understanding of what the run produces is not always enjoyed during the exercise but the thought of not doing it is unthinkable. When those who are disciplined by a daily routine, to break it means to somehow lose the "daily manna" that the discipline creates. The remorse of letting one's self down is more trying than the physical exertion of the run itself. It is the same way when one disciplines themselves to walk a balanced life with their Lord. To do anything more than the bare minimum, in the beginning, is hard and takes work. To do anything less, once a disciplined life is attained, is a betrayal of both one's self and the Lord.
We all seek balance in our hectic 21st century lifestyles. We would all like to claim that we live disciplined lives that are well-rounded. If we know the Lord Jesus Christ, then we stand a chance to find true balance. If we don't know Him, we may have some external things in order but the inner person of the heart will still be dead and unknowing. Solomon used the word yada to imply an all knowing and all understanding knowledge was possible through a love of discipline. However, this discipline cannot be divorced from a love for God and His dealings toward His beloved children. To love discipline is to love knowledge. To love knowledge is to love Christ. For only through a submission to His loving commandments will we find humble hearts and a joy to grow in His discipline as the Creator molds and shapes us for His will. May we all find that glorious place of loving His knowledge through the firmness of His counsel. May we all love God's discipline as it empowers us to be transformed into His image!
Heavenly Father, teach us to love your discipline. Though it may be uncomfortable and somewhat daunting in the beginning, give us the wisdom to embrace it as we pursue the knowledge and understanding of Your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Perfect us as children of the Most High and brothers of our Savior through the affirmation of disciplined love. We thank You and give You all the praise and glory! In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Your Barefoot Servant,