In his excellent book, Take the Stairs: 7 Steps to Achieving True Success, Rory Vaden writes, "There is one thing that all successful people have in common: Successful people have all had to do things they didn't feel like doing in order to get where they are." Later in the book he quotes Albert Gray, "Successful people form the habit of doing things that failures don't like doing."
This is true in every endeavor in life. Like me, you have probably known many people who talked about earning a degree or learning a new skill, but talking about it is all they ever did. You may even be that person. Several people have told me they would like to enroll in a degree program and wanted to talk about my experiences in going to school while being in ministry. After our discussion very few pursued the degree they desired.
Numerous people have contacted me saying they wanted to write a book and asked how to do it. When I explain the work involved in writing a book and getting it published they seem to be less interested. So far, I've not seen a book published by any of those people.
How many people do you know who have talked about how they need to get out of debt, lose weight, quit smoking, or make some other positive change in their lives and yet never do anything about it? The one thing all these people have in common is that they are not willing to pay the price to do the thing they claim they want to accomplish. In an age of instant fixes, they lack the self-discipline they need to enjoy success.
Self-discipline is critical for those of us ministry, especially bivocational ministry. There are going to be times when we don't want to study. Maybe we had an especially tough week at work and we just don't feel like preparing a sermon. Maybe this week we can just find something online that would work. Do that a few weeks and it soon becomes a habit. If you think your congregation doesn't realize what you're doing you are mistaken.
A lack of self-discipline shows up when you take calls during your family meal time. Instead of enjoying a family dinner you feel you have to jump every time the phone rings and talk to a parishioner about critical issues such as whether or not the church rummage sale should be included in the church bulletin. Successful ministry includes loving your family well and actually being with them when you are with them.
If we are to enjoy successful ministries and lives we need to learn self-discipline. If we want to get out of debt, we need to live on less than we make, learn to budget, stop using debt to get things we want, and learn the discipline of saving and investing. If we want to lose weight we have to discipline ourselves to eat healthier and exercise more. If we want to stop smoking we need to learn to not smoke one day at a time. If we want to further our education we need to enroll in the program we are interested in, turn off our TVs, and discipline ourselves to do the work.
In order to enjoy a healthy, successful ministry we must learn how to balance the various things that demand our time. I often refer to five areas of life that must be addressed: Our relationship with God, our families, our church work, our other career, and our personal self-care. Vaden also addresses this in his book when he writes, "Balance shouldn't mean equal time spent on equal activities. Balance should mean appropriate time spent on critical priorities." This all requires that we practice self-discipline.