The Idolatry of Discipline

This is the last blog post I thought I would ever be writing. I am such a proponent of discipline, routine and good systems, it just seems counterintuitive to who I am to write this post. However, in the last few months, I have been evaluating some things in my life on a deeper level.
I am an extremely disciplined person. I have the strange ability to "flip the switch" and adopt new disciplines, resume old ones and simply make myself do things by sheer will. Most of the time this is a very positive quality in my life. Yet, as I have been evaluating some things, and doing my best to listen to the voice of God, I recognize that discipline itself can become an idol. That’s right, an idol, meaning one of those things God refers to in the 10 Commandments found in Exodus 20:3-6...
3) “You shall have no other gods before me. 4) “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5) You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6) but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.
It is easy to make the acts of discipline the end goal versus the greater reason why the discipline is in place.
All of my disciplines have very good and even godly reasons behind them. However, if I start to lose sight of those reasons, the disciplines becomes another idol, distracting me from seeking first God's kingdom (Matt. 6:33) – my relationship with Him and with others.
My conclusion? Not entirely sure yet, but here's a few ideas currently challenging my thought process.
I need a mechanism to remind me of the greater reason why I select certain disciplines. For me, this has taken the form of a list of statements I read every morning, designed to keep me centered on what is most important. I need this daily reminder that my disciplines are a means to an end, not an end unto themselves.
I need to apply the principle of “structure submits to Spirit." This is a principle we try to apply in our worship services at Highpoint Church. It does not mean we fail to plan, quite the contrary, we have very meaningful and detailed plans for our worship services. It simply means we recognize that our plans may need real-time adjustments from God’s Spirit as He sees fit. This is true in my life personally; I need the structure and disciplines that create intentionality and prioritization, but I must stay open to God's adjustments as He sees fit and maintain the willingness to flex my disciplines to stay on page with Him.
This principle played out in real life not long ago when I sensed God leading me to skip a morning workout. If you know me well, you know working out is a discipline I rarely negotiate. However, I felt the Lord was encouraging me to spend some extra time with Him in my priority time as well as some extra time at home with Amanda and the boys before heading off to another busy day at work. Yes, I missed my workout. But, God knew better, and guided me to leverage my time to invest in truly more important things, specifically my wife and children. The truth is, there will always be time for a workout. But I will never be able to replace that time with my family. I can’t tell you how hard it was to receive that adjustment from God and trust Him to disrupt my plans.
The humility of this requires me to recognize that on my best day, I am still flawed in my judgment and need God's leadership all along the way. I trust (sometimes reluctantly) God will always lead me to the best expression seeking His will regarding what is most important. Make no mistake, I’m still operating with a high degree of discipline, maybe now with a better handle on flexibility and listening to God’s leading.
This is a work in progress in my own life. I hope this will encourage you and stimulate some critical thinking regarding your own relationship with discipline.
Posted by Andy Savage at 10:06 AM
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