From Discipline to Delight

by Scott Stake

For the last 10 years, I have had the wonderful privilege and pleasure of watching my daughter Abigail grow as a ballerina dancer. Her cute little hops and spins as a three-year-old have now transformed into beautiful arabesques, pliés, and all sorts of other French words that I can't pronounce or understand. However, it wasn't until Monday when I was able to observe Abigail's ballet class and get the behind-the-scenes look for the first time ever that I understood how this transformation really has taken place.

I expected Abigail to be leaping, turning, and spinning the entire class, but I was surprised to find that most of her time was at the barre – a stationary handrail to help her balance, stretch, strengthen her core, and stand on her tippy toes, all while making very deliberate movements with her arms, hands, and fingers. It is this focused, routined discipline each week that provides her with the foundation she needs to float through the air as a graceful ballerina.

In the same way, God instructs us as believers to "discipline ourselves for godliness" (1 Timothy 4:7). If we want to be godly, we can't just snap our fingers and expect to be like Jesus. To experience the freedom and joy of the Christian life, we are to ask for the Spirit's help in relentlessly pursuing the plodding, ordinary means of grace that God has given to us through spiritual disciplines, such as Bible study, prayer, giving, serving, and worshipping with other believers. All our fellowship group leaders are walking through a book this year called Spiritual Disciplines by Donald Whitney, and he says it like this: "We aren't merely to wait for holiness, we're to pursue it."

So, how are you and I doing at pursuing godliness and holiness through the disciplines God has given to us? If you're like me, you're probably saying, "Not so great! I need to grow in my pursuit of holiness." And if that's you, then let's start today by going back to the barre, training ourselves through the ordinary means of grace.

However, I want to offer a warning: spiritual disciplines are not the end but the means. In other words, the goal is not to remain on the barre, but to dance, to spin, and to enjoy the beauty, the wonder, and the splendor of our God. So, when we're tempted to fulfill a list of morals and "white-knuckle" our way through these disciplines as the end goal, I want to remind us that God has designed these disciplines to put us in a position of receiving and enjoying Him and His grace. They are the means by which God helps us to "enjoy the dance." Whitney puts it like this: "Discipline without direction leads to drudgery, but discipline with direction leads to delight."

As you may recall from last Sunday, when instructing the Corinthians to grow in the discipline of giving, the Apostle Paul did not just tell them to "do better" or "try harder." No, he called the people to consider the gospel of grace-Jesus became poor so that we might become rich (2 Cor 8:9). What would truly fuel the Corinthians' generosity in giving was not moralism, but having eyes to see Jesus in his mercy, grace, faithfulness, and glory toward us. And as we see Jesus, we can't help but joyfully and sacrificially worship, give, serve, and share the good news with others.

So, Four Oaks, my hope for us this week is that we would not only discipline ourselves for godliness but also that God would, through His Spirit, give us delight in knowing Him more and more each day.