What goes through your mind when someone mentions the term, "discipline?" For the younger, there may be remembrances of time-out, or being sent to your room, or maybe even losing TV privileges. Those of us who are older will possibly begin thinking of a personal reprimand or a time when someone confronted us with something amiss in our lives.
Recent reading has brought me to some varied observations about those things we refer to as "Christian Disciplines." Since the beginning of Christianity there has been teaching, supported by various Scriptures, which let us know the disciplined lives we live and the Christian things we do, are important and life-changing. Some churches will have training programs and take their teens through training in a group of six disciplines, while there are those which will add a few more and some that will have a smaller list.
Perhaps we should ask up front, "What is a Christian Discipline?" The answers are varied and most of the time similar, but all seem to have the same basic idea. Henri Nouwen, in his book on the subject says, "discipline is the effort to create some space in our lives, so God can act." That means we should not allow anything to fill us to the point where we have no time, and no room for God. We can surmise from that definition, from the number of "things" we allow to occupy ourselves, a Christian discipline can be prayer, worship, scripture reading, fasting, or countless other things which will allow us to make some space for God to work in us.
For the most part, we view Christian disciplines as acts which we do individually and personally. It's a time where we can get close to God and consider priorities and seek God's ways, bringing us to make necessary changes as we try to be more like Jesus. Lynne Baab, in her book, Joy Together, makes a push for us to consider going beyond the individual nature of the disciplines and in small groups or entire congregations focus on the benefit of Christian disciplines for the whole body of Christ.
Further we can visualize the effectiveness when two Christians, sharing similar needs, can help each other through praying together, studying together, or even visiting a hospital together. Any number of chosen acts will be equally beneficial for the individuals and the church, as we are exerting the effort to allow God to work in us. Such instances of these acts in pairs or small groups help us strengthen our lives while maintaining a sense of accountability to each other.
Give all this teaching some thought. It is by no means complete, but simply a springboard for us to see a need in our lives to make God more of a priority, and training ourselves to being open and receptive to his remedy for our weaknesses.
So what is your weakness? If, for example, you struggle showing a gracious spirit toward those who do not deserve it, start by confessing that weakness to God, then allowing yourself to be totally available for him to bring about the needed changes. That will require some time and effort on your part. Make it a priority. Remember always, we are on this journey to become more and more like Jesus.