About three years ago I started on Weight Watchers and over the next 18 months lost 50 pounds. I weighed the least I had weighed since Navy boot camp and felt really great. Well...with all the traveling I do it wasn't long before the weight started creeping back. A pound here and a pound there until I had regained much of the weight I lost. I've started back on the program and decided to jump start it by going all this week without meat. Nothing but fruit and vegetables. It hasn't been fun trying to find something to eat that doesn't include meat. That's not how I was raised, and it's not a lifestyle I want to live. But, the discipline has been good, and I do feel that I've lost weight this week. (I force myself to only weigh myself the first thing every Monday.) When this week ends I'll be back to eating meat, but I'll continue to count my points and get this weight back off. I did it once and I'll do it again, but the discipline that is required is not a lot of fun.
But isn't that the whole point of discipline? If discipline was easy everyone could do it, and it wouldn't be discipline any longer. What's true of discipline in weight loss is also true in the life of a Christian. We talk about discipleship much more than we practice it. The church may talk about being a disciple, but few churches define what that means and even fewer provide any real discipleship training. In most churches they substitute Sunday school classes for discipleship believing that discipleship is all about education. Discipleship includes education, but it goes far beyond it. To be a disciple means that there must also be some action.
Jesus told a rich young ruler to sell all he had, give it to the poor, and follow Him. Jesus did not tell him to study a quarterly that taught about the needs of the poor; He told him to actually do something about the poor, and what He asked the man to do was to give away everything he owned so he could follow Jesus. What was the man's response? He went away sorrowful because Jesus had asked him to do something difficult. To be a disciple is hard.
We should not use this story to announce that every Christian is to sell everything he or she has to give to the poor. Jesus asked the rich ruler to do that because his wealth was what was standing between him and Christ. What Jesus asks each of us to do is to remove everything in our lives that prevents us from fully following Christ. It may be money. It may be a relationship. It may be a habit. It may be something that is totally ethical and proper, but it is a problem in your life because it hinders you from following Christ. Whatever it is, it will always hurt when you give it up. Jesus taught that we should count the cost of being His disciple because there will be a cost involved.
Accepting the call to bivocational ministry also requires discipline on the part of the minister. There will be a cost to accepting that call, and sometimes the cost is really deep. It takes discipline to work a second job and serve as a pastor. It takes discipline to prepare a sermon(s) every week. It takes discipline to lead others. It takes discipline to continue to grow as a person and a minister. But, the cost is always worth it when we are in God's will for our lives.
Whatever your goals for the new year, it will require some discipline on your part to achieve them. If it doesn't, your goals weren't much. There will be days when you'll wonder why you ever decided to pursue a particular goal, but when it is finally achieved you'll understand the discipline was worth it.