Someone once said that self-discipline happens when your conscience tells you to do something and you don’t talk back. We are in a great struggle for self-mastery (Romans 7:15–20). The secret to success is the stewardship of self-discipline. It trains the will and refines the character as we reflect Christ (2 Corinthians 7:1). Discipline is to the Christian steward what conditioning is to the runner and the boxer (1 Corinthians 9:26, 27).
Business philosopher Jim Rohn said, “We must all suffer one of two things: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret or disappointment.” If that is the case, Christ is our ultimate example. In Gethsemane, Jesus revealed His self-discipline in His struggle regarding His purpose on earth in making the greatest gift ever given (2 Peter 1:4–7). He did not want to go through what was asked of Him but the link with His Father enabled Him to proceed with confidence and self-discipline. He was not spiritually weak, yet He still needed to manage His self-discipline.
When we recognize, through Christ, our spiritual weakness, the decision to exercise self-discipline will help us introduce a routine of doing what is right. But this is hard to do. It is a struggle between self-discipline and our old habits. They are part of who we are (Psalm 119:56).
The self-discipline it takes to establish new habits may be hard but not impossible. They can form “because the brain is constantly looking for ways to save effort. Left to its own devices, the brain will try to make almost any routine into a habit, because habits allow our minds to ramp down [rest] more often,” says Charles Duhigg.
The first step in starting a new routine is making sure self-discipline keeps a secure link with God. It is the heart of the Christian steward. That in and of itself will result in the reward of personal improvement.
John Mathews, Stewardship Ministries Director