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Experiencing God's Power in Your Ministry

Relish Godly Discipline

Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV) Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.

I am constantly amazed at the arrogance of which I am capable, daring to think I have the power within myself to intimidate Satan or thwart his efforts in my life. I have no power apart from God. I am weak without His strength, vulnerable to sin and a prime target for temptation. As a woman in ministry, I can easily get caught up in human affirmation, my own sense of self-importance or the flattery of others. The result is always spiritual arrogance. The solution is always godly discipline. Godly discipline is not only a hedge of protection in our lives; it is a catalyst for spiritual growth.

Now, I know the very word, “discipline”, evokes distasteful images of pain, deprivation, sacrifice and surrender when, in fact, true discipline is simply a wholehearted “yes” to God. True discipline neither barters with God for control nor attempts to supercede His plan. Godly discipline allows us to rest within the framework of God’s sovereignty.

When our son, Jered, was seven years old, he fell while skateboarding, cut his chin and needed stitches. We raced to the nearest emergency clinic where we were greeted by a young doctor who, at first glance, seemed friendly enough. Jered, however, took one look at the strange man in white and panicked in the midst of his first experience with stitches.

After several attempts to gain Jered’s trust and cooperation, the doctor grew impatient and threatened, “Son, this won’t hurt. If you cannot be still we will have to put you in restraints.” This man obviously did not know who Jered was – mine – nor did he understand that he was now dealing with the wrath of Mary, something too horrible to describe. However, I was more than willing to enlighten him. I could see the warning in Dan’s eyes, but chose to ignore it.

I had two major problems with the doctor’s statements. First, no restraints were going to be placed on my son. Secondly, of course the stitches would hurt. Glaring at the doctor, I quietly but firmly explained, “If you will just tell Jered the truth and explain what you are doing, he will be still for you.” The doctor looked up at me as if I had just arrived from another planet and then, with an edge of sarcasm, spit out, “Right, lady. I know how to handle this.” So did I - but before I could rip off his head, Dan intervened, telling the doctor we had a plan! I knew what my plan was but thought it wise to consider Dan’s plan.

Gently holding Jered’s head in his “daddy-sized” hands, Dan softly explained what the doctor would do, how he would do it, and sweetly instructed our son to fix his eyes on me while I told him a story. It worked beautifully. Jered calmed down, and the stitches were done in a matter of minutes. The doctor even offered a sheepish apology, thanking us for teaching him a lesson in working with children. I decided to let him live. Even though Jered did not fully understand the process or trust the doctor, Jered did fully understand and trust his father.

Godly discipline is the basis for trust and is found at the feet of Jesus where we will come to know Him better, love Him more, and find the discipline we so desperately crave.

Discipline is obedience, a lifetime process that brings us to a state of God-ordained order by training and controlling our behavior.

Discipline is not self-improvement but rather, placing oneself under orders. Discipline is not the result of legalism but the reward of grace.

Discipline is not rigidity but flexibility, always free to respond to the plan of the Master.

Discipline is focusing and eliminating, zeroing in on what is important.

Godly discipline becomes a buffer against sin and temptation. Titus 2: 11-12 is clear on the importance of discipline in the life of every believer, “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.”

Discipline, holding restraint in one hand and commitment in the other, is accomplished only through the power of the Holy Spirit, training and directing us in the ways of God. Our Father will neither give us good habits nor supply exemplary character. We must resolve to walk in an “upright” way. We must choose the good habits over the bad and “work out the salvation that God has worked in.” We must choose and relish discipline.

Make the commitment to start. A famous athlete, known to rise at 3:30 am each morning to begin his demanding regimen of exercise, was being interviewed by a major newspaper. When the experienced reporter asked him to share the secret of his success, the athlete responded, “That’s easy. The secret to my success is discipline.” The reporter laughed at the simplistic answer and persisted, “Yes, but how do you start leading a life of discipline?” The athlete grinned and said, “You decide to start.” The same is true for us as women in ministry. A life of discipline begins with the commitment to start.

Make the commitment to start now. An undisciplined heart is full of good intentions that are never given life. Begin now to pursue discipline. You may not fully understand all that your commitment entails but the Holy Spirit certainly does. He will empower every well-ordered choice you make and guide every disciplined step of your journey to the heart of God.

A word from Mary: I honestly did not want to write this lesson and tried unsuccessfully to talk the Father out of my doing so. You see, while I hate the very word “discipline,” most people would describe me as a disciplined woman. If they only knew! Discipline is a constant battle for me – in every area of life. Just when I have one area mastered (or so I think), another one falls apart. I want to be a champion for God but have to admit that I am often a miserable failure when it comes to discipline. My only hope is God and His power at work in me. The principles of holy discipline will ensure the life of a champion and allow us to experience the power of God in ministry. God's discipline allows us to rest within the framework of God's sovereignty.

Taken from Mary's book, Experiencing God's Power in Your Ministry. To order, go to Mary's online store at www.marysoutherland.com