One Comment to “Self-Discipline”

  1. Don McMahon
    March 18, 2019

    “Self-Discipline” (1 Corinthians 9:1, 24-27)(3.17.19)
    ICE BREAKER: Ever wonder how much Olympic Medals are really worth? The Gold medal is really silver with a gold plating. It’s value is less than $600. The silver medal would be worth $320 and the bronze medal, which is made of copper, $3.50. If you divide that by thousands and thousands of hours of training…well, you get the idea. Paul asks some key questions in today’s scripture:
    1 Corinthians 9:1 (NIV84)
    9 Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not the result of my work in the Lord?
    1 Corinthians 9:24–27 (NIV84)
    24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. 27 No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
    The word of God for the people of God.
    Title: Self-Discipline
    We live in a sports crazy culture. You can watch sports on television all day long. Sports were big in the Roman and Greek cultures too. The church in Corinth, a colony of Rome, would have been familiar with the ancient games where running, boxing, and wrestling were a big deal. So, Paul uses athletic competition as an illustration for how we should live our Christian walk or run. Likewise, I will give you similar examples but also at least one from the performing arts.
    In the early days of the games, there was only one prize awarded, first place. There were not any medals. The crown that Paul references was most often horseshoe shaped and made with olive branches and leaves. Certainly, that crown would grow dry, lose its leaves, and wither away. And yet, they willingly subjected themselves to strict training. Keep in mind that everyday living in Paul’s time required a much hardier lifestyle than today.
    One of the all-time biggest sports movie series is Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky. There was Rocky 1 through 6 and now Creed 1 & 2. Rocky is not known for his brains or skills. His success was built on hard work, guts, and a huge heart. And to make his character more realistic, Rocky sometimes lost in the ring and lost in life.
    These characteristics of our fictional folk hero endeared him to many fans. The fact that much of the movies takes place in Philadelphia and Rocky is supposed to typify the local workingman’s toughness makes these movies especially popular in our region. How many other fictional movie heroes get a statue erected outside the Philadelphia Art Museum?
    In Creed, the second newest movie, Rocky Balboa is too old to box. Instead, he is cast in the role of trainer to a young Adonis Johnson Creed; who is the illegitimate son of Rocky’s former opponent, then friend, Apollo Creed. The scene I am going to show you is a great illustration for today’s scripture.
    SHOW CLIP (Leave last scene on screen)
    Rocky told the aspiring boxer, “In the boxing ring and in life, our greatest opponent is ourselves.” Rocky may not be very smart, but he has a lot of wisdom. He probably didn’t know it, but he was sharing a truth said in different ways by great philosophers.
    Most powerful is he who has himself in his own power.—Seneca (Roman 1st century philosopher)
    The man who masters himself is free.—Epictetus (A Greek Philosopher than spanned the 1st & 2nd centuries)
    Self-mastery is the essence of heroism.—Ralph Waldo Emerson (an American poet & Philosopher in the 18th century)
    Why do we encourage our kids to play sports? Or for that matter, to play a musical instrument, to draw, to dance, or any other activity? Learning of all kinds is beneficial. Physical training and exercise create healthy bodies. Creative activities expand the mind and enhance thinking, express emotions, and can bless in a spiritual way. The activities in and of themselves bring joy. Often there is social interaction and team building aspects. Hopefully, there is also a transference from these activities to other spheres of our lives.
    Then there is the aspect I am addressing in this message, self-discipline. When you are learning to play a brass instrument, you are told to practice 30 minutes every day. There are actually muscles in your lips that you have to build up. For the first week or so, you are all excited just to be making sounds come out of your instrument. After a very short while, you begin to get bored. You don’t know enough to start playing songs and just doing scales quickly gets old. The shine is already wearing off your enthusiasm and your lips do really get tired. Without an advocate continually prodding you on, most people will give up. Children try to fake it through and cheat a little on the practice tracking sheet; but, the teacher can always tell when shortcuts are happening.
    In The Disciple Making Pastor by Bill Hull, he says that in our modern day we do not understanding what is involved with shepherding sheep and how that relates to the role of pastor. The modern day pastor’s role should be that of a coach. There is classroom instruction. There are whiteboard illustrations. The players review video. Then they go out onto the practice floor with the coaches and drill and drill and drill. They are preparing for the real competition to come, the real game.
    Even those players who might never play in the game go through the same disciplined preparation. My friends, every Christian with a willing heart participates in this game that is more than any game. It is sharing the good news of Jesus Christ and living the disciplined life of a disciple. It has eternal implications and eternal rewards.
    Now, one of the basketball teams I just coached had two boys with the same problem. This team was 3rd & 4th grades. Both of them like to shoot long shots. Even when they had a clear path to the basket for an easy lay-up, they would pull up about 15-18 feet from the basket for a jump shot.
    My son and I repeated ourselves over and over again with two different results. The unresponsive boy’s father even joined his voice to ours with no avail. At the end of one of the periods in the third to the last game, I went over and kneltin front of him while he was on the bench. I asked him what I was going to say and he repeated it back verbatim, “Drive in for the lay-up.” The next time he got on the court and had an opportunity, what did he do? He shot the long shot unsuccessfully.
    The second boy was much more coachable. While it took a while for him to come around, it finally happened. In the second to the last game, he did as we coached him. He was a significant contributor to the team scoring 30 points in the first half. This is the most points I have seen any team score in a half the whole time I have been part of Upward Basketball. And, they beat a team that had previously beaten them twice.

    The Fellowship of Christian Athletes unites two passions, faith and athletics to impact the world for Jesus Christ. They have been one mission for 60 years. Sara Mostafa is our local FCA representative. I believe I will be playing on the same team with her during the Upward Basketball end of season fun day.
    Having gone to Georgetown University on a basketball scholarship, Sara knows how important coaches are and they are key to the success of reaching athletes for Jesus Christ. Sara also believes that pastors and coaches have a lot in common, just like Bill Hull. She keeps creating gatherings where coaches and pastors can inform and bless each other.
    Because I know that Hannah has a strong dance background, I asked her to help me with our self-discipline theme. This is part of what she shared with me:
    The most advanced dancers are typically those who began studying at a young age and spent the majority of their time in the studio practicing for hours and hours each day. Many dancers who seek to become professionals forfeit time with family, friends, and other activities because of the demands of training.
    Those who are passionate about dancing can easily become consumed by their pursuit; training, rehearsing, and performing influence all aspects of their lifestyle and schedule. Those who become professionals and work for the bigger dance companies train as rigorously as Olympic athletes and know that they have to maintain their health, strength, and skill set in order to avoid injury and remain employed. Injuries are common – some can postpone or end careers – and the luckiest dancers manage to have the fewest injuries.
    They have to eat healthy, stay hydrated, and many see physical therapists or other medical practitioners such as chiropractors or acupuncturists on a regular basis. Dancers who choose to smoke or do drugs tend to have shorter careers and missed opportunities.
    Discipline is a key factor in the success of a professional dancer. They have to demonstrate constant discipline physically, mentally, and with how they manage time. I believe studying dance is good for children, even if they have no aspirations to become professional, as it teaches them discipline, self-control, respect for self and others, and exercises the body and mind (not to mention an appreciation for the arts).
    Professional dancers and serious dance students are never satisfied with their technique & skill set. They are very self-critical and always looking for ways to improve, excel, and advance. Professional dance is extremely competitive, with others and with self. There are far more trained dancers than there are available jobs in their field. Those who become injured or retire from performing often end up taking work in a related field, such as teaching, costume and lighting design, or artistic direction.
    Pardon the abrupt transition, but I want to talk to you now about freedom and how it relates to discipline. I did not accidently stick the first verse of this chapter in today’s reading: Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not the result of my work in the Lord?
    What is this talk about freedom? John 8:31–32 (NIV84) 31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
    There is a train of thought here. Obedience determines true discipleship; discipline in Christ Jesus. This empowers us to know the truth. The truth of the gospel and other truths of God. Scripture is clear that sin darkens the understanding, but obedience enables it. The result is freedom.
    It starts with obedience, which is another way of saying submitting your will to a higher authority. The coach says run three miles every morning, you run three miles every morning. When your dance instructor says to stretch for 30 minutes you listen because you trust in their wisdom and their desire for your welfare.
    When your pastor says soak yourselves in God’s word, you discipline yourself to read your Bible at the start of every day. You trust that he loves you and wants you to be the disciple that Jesus calls you to be. When your pastor beseeches you to pray without ceasing, it is based on God’s word.
    Here is a Post in our Discipleship class forum: Rueben Job – “Wesley knew that a life of prayer was not an accident or a natural consequence of just living. He was convinced that a life of prayer was the result of a determined and disciplined effort…without this disciplined effort, prayer would become secondary and our relationship with God left to suffocate under the cares and delights of the world.”
    This submission to the higher authority is freeing. You are in a trusted relationship. You believe they have your best interest at heart. They are looking out for you. You have faith that this higher authority wants your best outcomes. Even when you might be tempted to go for the short term glory, instead you pursue the prize that does not wither away. Our higher authority is God Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth. We are disciples of the Son of God, who is also our Father in heaven.
    Ethel and Gary’s oldest son Zack is a student at Gregorian Court University in Lakewood, NJ. Zack has worshiped with us several times. He is there on a lacrosse scholarship. Obviously, physical fitness is critical to a college athlete. While he was completing his Associates degree here locally, he had to train and maintain to ensure his preparedness for this scholarship.
    This week, I had an opportunity to talk with Zack about his training, his strength training in particular. He demonstrated some particularly intense self-discipline. Only weighing 169 lbs. himself, he was able to deadlift 400lbs. This means he lifted it off the ground until he was standing upright holding the weight: 400 lbs!! Zack said this required twice daily workouts AND he meticulously watched his diet. He wanted to gain muscle mass, but not any excess weight. This required eating the right foods and not eating the wrong foods.
    I told Zack, isn’t that the key to everything? For our bodies, for our minds, for our spirit, what we feed them makes all the difference in the world. Do not miss the truth that one area of your life impacts other areas.
    Too many athletes may discipline their bodies, but they leave out the mental aspects. Others may eat well in most areas, but don’t give up the alcohol and it takes its toll. Others may take care of their body and mind, but their souls are bankrupt. They lose their bearings; they lose their way. Relationships deteriorate with family, friends, teammates and coaches.
    My encouragement to Zack was to apply the self-discipline that he exercised in his strength training to other aspect of his life. Apply it to the classroom. Apply it to your spiritual race.
    How about each of us? Maybe you have one part of your life where you exercised self-discipline; if not currently, in days gone by. Recapture that intentionality and purposeful mindset. Transfer what you have learned in that realm of success to your spiritual life. Bring your mind and body and soul into submission. Give yourselves over to a life of obedience to the One who has promised to never leave you or forsake you. Then you will be free indeed.
    The Apostle Paul tells us in Romans 12:1–2 (NIV84) Living Sacrifices
    12 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. 2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
    What are you feeding your body? What are you feeding your mind? What are you feeding your spirit? How are you exercising your mind, body, and spirit? Seek out the bread of life. Partake of the Living water. Run the race for the crown that will last forever.
    2 Timothy 1:7 (NIV84) For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love AND of self-discipline.

    Amen and amen. Let us pray.


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