The more I study the lives of Christian men and women I admire, the more I realize how much they resemble a sailboat. From a distance, sailing seems effortless; you glide majestically over the waves powered only by the wind. But the closer you get, the more you realize there’s a tremendous amount of work going on to make the ship sail. The same is true of our lives with God. On one hand, we’re powered by the breath of God and hopelessly adrift without the grace we need to fill our sails. On the other, following Jesus takes a lot of work.
If you want to grow spiritually, it’s going to take grace and discipline.
Paul hints at this in Colossians 2:5 when he writes, “For even though I am absent in body, nevertheless I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good discipline and the stability of your faith in Christ.” Paul rejoices in both their good discipline and their faith in Jesus.
As our churches pursue gospel centeredness, we run the risk of ignoring the need for discipline in the Christian life. If you fall into that trap, you will face spiritual stagnation. If you want to spend time with God every morning, it’s going to take discipline to get out of bed – angels aren’t going to magically transport you; you need to turn the alarm off, get up and move to that first cup of coffee! If you want to read books that nourish your soul, it’s going to take discipline to turn off the tv. If you want to experience the joy of giving generously, it’s going to take discipline to reign in your other spending. If you want to preach a great sermon, it’s going to take discipline to prepare. If you want a great marriage, it’s going to take discipline to prioritize your relationship. Stop thinking any of this is going to come easy without you having to do some work.
On the other hand, you can have the greatest crew in the world on the fastest yacht ever and you’re not going anywhere without some wind. Discipline doesn’t move the boat, it can only help you catch the wind of God when it blows. Our only hope of real momentum in life is the grace of God. All the discipline in the world won’t get you out of bed in the morning if God doesn’t give you a love for His Word. It’s only as we understand the gospel more, embrace the lavish grace of Jesus and learn to find our identity in Him that we experience real growth in our lives. If you want to know how central grace is, consider that even the discipline we have is a gift of grace. Paul points that out in 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.”
If we want to live the life God created us for, it’s going to take discipline and grace. The key is getting the order right. Grace motivates discipline. Discipline never produces or earns grace. So, pursue grace. But you’ll know you’ve found it when that grace produces discipline in our lives.
Catch the wind, work hard and see how far God will take you!