If at first discipline doesn't succeed, ... Try, Try Again!

Discipline fails oftentimes because the disciplinarians quit too early.  Junior is grounded because of bad grades, then he goes and sulks in his room, determined to do even worse the next test just to spite Mom and Dad.  Junior makes out on both fronts; he does do worse, and Mom and Dad get so frustrated that they quit grounding him because it “doesn’t work.”

It’s not supposed to work.  Not like that, anyway.

Discipline is not about fixing a specific problem.  It’s about training a person in good habits that will gradually replace bad habits.  An athlete doesn’t win a gold medal because he woke up at 4 a.m. and did 100 pushups; he wins a gold medal because he woke up at 4 a.m. and did 100 pushups every day for 15 years, and in so doing learned to value hard work and self-denial.

God’s discipline works that way.  He trains us, then He trains us, then He trains us some more.  Some days we make progress, some days we lose ground.  But overall, as we commit ourselves to the process, He begins to have His way with us.  The transformation process that was always planned for us (Romans 8:29) becomes more and more visible as we grow our faith.

A big part of His discipline, then, is building up the patience to wait for results.  Whether we are the disciples or the disciplinarians, we can grow weary while we wait.  But both parties must “not lose heart in doing good” (Galatians 6:9).  If we have chosen the right path, that means we stay on it.  Yes, it is natural to question your commitment when the task is longer and more trying than we had planned; still, if the foundation for our commitment is something as basic as our faith in God and His word, we should be able to find the endurance we need.

It helps to remember that the endurance is itself a noble objective.  James 1:2-4 reminds us that the trials of life that seem pointless and counterproductive in the moment are actually having a long-term positive effect on our character.  We likely do not see it in the moment, any more than a teenager sees the value in weeding the flowerbed or an athlete sees the harm in 15 more minutes of sleep.  But the dedicated disciple trusts in the plan and the planner; he gives as little thought as possible to the momentary conditions.  For the Christian, who trusts in God for all things, this should be instinctive.  As James goes on to say (James 1:5-8), the confident Christian is the one who finds the wisdom God has waiting for him; then, finding the wisdom, he is able to refocus his energies on pleasing God in this life and meeting Him in the next life.