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The Disciplined Life
by Debra Brinckley
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“He will die for lack of discipline, led astray by his own great folly.” Proverbs 5:23

There are many words that could begin this particular verse, just about any noun in the English language. For example, dreams will die for lack of discipline, love will die for lack of discipline, children will die for lack of discipline, and so on. A former pastor of mine used to say, “The link between desire and destiny is discipline.” That statement is so true. Take me for example. I am one of those people who talk and dream big, start with a bang, but due to a lack of discipline fizzle out. This book is truly a challenge for me. I have had the desire to write a book for as long as I can remember, and as I was doing my personal study on godly wives I felt the Lord prodding me to write. However, “the link between desire and destiny is discipline.” It was well and good that I wanted to write a practical book to women about the things that I had learned. It was a very noble intention. It was even more wonderful that the Lord showed me confirmation through a number of sources that He wanted to me do this. Nevertheless, it took me setting up a schedule and sticking to it to actually make my dream a reality. It also took my husband asking me every day, “So, are you going to write some more today?” He has been a wonderful encouragement from the day the dream was first planted within me.
I realize that discipline is one of those words that most of us would simply rather skim over and not dwell on for too long. However, it is one of those items in life that we cannot afford to just “skim over”. Most of us tend to live on our good intentions. We have wonderful intentions to be the wives and mothers that the Lord calls us to be. We have great intentions to take care of ourselves and follow through on our dreams. We have whole hearted intentions to invite our neighbor to church on Sunday and go visit our friend who just lost her husband. Then life happens and all too soon those intentions have faded into distant ideas. We feel bad momentarily, but pacify our consciences with our good intentions.
I trust that God is not satisfied with our good intentions. He wants us to live a life of abundance (“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10b), but He knows that the abundance only comes from a life of discipline. That is why in Proverbs the Lord tells us that we “will die for lack of discipline”. Am I talking about a legalistic approach to life that requires that we run on perfect schedules, never missing a beat or an opportunity? No! We are not perfect and neither are our lives. There will be times that life just happens. I have a friend who always says, “Blessed are the flexible for they won’t get bent out of shape.”
We cannot use the excuse of being “flexible” though to justify a lack of discipline in our lives. Every day of our lives things are going to come up and if we allow them they will rob us of our time and the fulfillment of those wonderful intentions that we spoke of earlier. If you are a wife and a mother, days will rarely go as planned, but that does not mean that things that needed to get done cannot be accomplished.
What exactly is discipline? We are not talking about the discipline that is used in punishment. I am not saying that we should implement negative reinforcements to keep our lives in order. The definition of discipline that I would like us to use throughout this chapter is “training that develops self-control”. I love the word training. It tells me that discipline does not come naturally to any of us. Trust me. I am one of the firmest people in the world when it comes to living life on a set schedule and routine, yet, even with that natural schedule-minded personality, discipline is something that I have to work at daily.
To train means, “to guide the growth of”. Paul spent quite a bit of time in the New Testament using the analogy of training to illustrate our spiritual growth. In 1 Corinthians 9:24,25 he says, “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. 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.”
Consider what Paul is saying to us. Take into account the incredible amount of training that an athlete must undergo to participate in the Olympics. For most of them, their sport is their life. From very early on in life they are consumed every waking moment with their training. They eat, breathe and sleep their particular field. Many of them as children are provided with tutors so they do not have to waste unnecessary time in school, and some of them even live away from their parents so that they can have the best trainers in the most elite arenas. Moreover, they do all of these things to gain “a crown that will not last”.
Paul is exhorting us, as believers, to put that kind of energy, passion and time into our Christian walks; for it is with that training that we will receive “a crown that will last forever”. The author of Hebrews goes on to elaborate on this idea of training. Hebrews 5:13,14 reads, “Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.” (Emphasis added) The Lord is telling us here that without a serious mindset and a discipline to train, we will never move up to the next plateau in our spiritual lives. Spiritual growth takes discipline and training, otherwise we simply dwell on the basic tenets of our faith, missing out on the abundant life that Jesus so longs to provide for us.
2 Timothy 3:16,17 tells us “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (Emphasis added) We will be equipped to be mighty women of God, faithful wives and devoted mothers as we train or discipline ourselves in righteousness.
I know that many of you are thinking, “Yea right!” It all sounds dandy, but I am just not a disciplined person. I can see that I do need discipline to grow spiritually, but that won’t help me get up any earlier or wash the laundry or work on the project I have been meaning to get to for months. Let me graciously remind you of two things.
One: Colossians 3:23,24 “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” If you are a believer there is no separating your “spiritual” life from your “real world”. Everything you do should reflect your relationship with Christ and His character being etched in you. Being disciplined in every aspect of life opens many doors that will lead directly to your participation in the enlargement of the Kingdom of God.
Two: Galatians 5:22,23 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (Emphasis added) The definition of discipline again was “training that develops self-control”. God promises us that if we are faithful to train in His ways and to abide in Him that self-control will be a natural by-product. “If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit” John 15:5
Discipline is not just going to happen in your life. You will always have a million and one excuses to not do the things that you know that you need to do. I know this will sound ironically simple, but I think that it is. Make a decision and stick to it, no matter what. Determine in your heart that you are going to discipline yourself and your life and follow through. As I stated earlier, I do not suppose that our good intentions get us very far, and they certainly won’t gain for us the abundant life that Jesus promised.
Before we move on to the real world and discuss some practical areas of our lives that we need to be disciplined in, I would like to relate our discipline to our husband’s happiness just briefly. Let us revisit our Proverbs 31 friend momentarily. Let us reread verse 11, “Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value.” Why does her husband have full confidence in her? We talked a little about her fear of the Lord in the last chapter. Also, I imagine that her husband had full confidence in his wife because he knew her to be a woman of discipline. He could count on her having his meals prepared on a regular schedule and his boxers washed. He knew that he could ask her to do a few things for him during the day, and without fail those items would be taken care of. Our husbands need for us to live lives of discipline so that they can live lives of peace and joy.

The Real World…

Okay, we can all now acknowledge the need for discipline in our lives, but discipline is such a vague word that can cover any number of areas. Let’s talk about a few of the daily, practical areas of life in which we need to have discipline.

Rising early. I can hear many of you sighing or laughing; sighing because you knew this was coming and you hate the thought or laughing because, like me, you have small children and rising early simply is not optional. Let me bold in a few statements here. I do not deem it profitable or God honoring for a woman to sleep in until nine or ten on a regular basis. I know some women who could even go to eleven or twelve. I also do not think that simply rising when your children do is sufficient. _ This is something that I really struggled with when I was first married. Sleeping is a hobby for me. I could sleep any time or anywhere. However, there are many things that were robbing me of time during the day that could be eliminated in the early morning hours. I could have quality time with the Lord before my day was started, I could fix my husband breakfast, get the house picked up, start a load of laundry, and a number of other small tasks. Once my daughter was born, I pacified my conscious because I was now rising at seven or so with her, but there is not much that you can get accomplished with an infant awake with you. In order to remain disciplined in these areas I had to rise earlier than she. Rising early is not a new concept. Our Proverbs 31 woman “gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls.” verse 15. Jesus, himself, demonstrated the discipline of rising early throughout his time here on earth. “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” Mark 1:35 Determine a time that is sufficient for you, set your alarm, and raise when it sounds! Just this year, the Lord has really implanted the truth of this concept in my life. My alarm sounds at 5:45 am. That time allows me to shower, get dressed, have my time with the Lord, cook and enjoy breakfast with husband, get my daughter fed and dressed and the light household chores taken care of by nine. My daughter and I are able to share in a good book or a quick swing before her morning nap at ten and then I am free to write or take care of small projects while she naps. Now, I am not saying that every woman needs to get up at 5:45. That is the time that the Lord gave to me. Search your heart and arrange a schedule that works for you. (I do try to plan for a thirty-minute nap or so in the afternoon, so that I will have the energy to finish out the day and spend quality time with my husband when he gets home from work.)

Going to bed at a decent hour. Contrary to popular belief, women are not superheroes who can survive on four or five hours a sleep a night. If you are going to be diligent in rising early then you must also be faithful at going to bed at an appropriate time. More and more medical studies are proving that a lack of good quantity and quality sleep is a major detriment to our health. In order to be good stewards of our bodies we should plan for at least seven hours a night. I know many women who use the late hours of the night to tend to their household chores, but I really feel that if you discipline yourself to rise early and plan out tasks throughout the day, then you will have no need to stay up late. It is also wonderful to be able to climb into bed alongside your husband. You not only get the joy of falling asleep by his side, but it is also a wonderful time to talk. Some of my fondest memories with Lee were made in those nighttime conversations and laughter. They are moments that I would have missed out on if I had stayed up to fold laundry or do the dishes after he had gone to bed. I knew that I was no longer in college when I could not even make it until 10:00 anymore. My bedtime goal is 9:30 each night. Sometimes I read for a while or talk with my husband for a few minutes, but I aim to be in the bed by 9:30 pm.

Daily devotional time. We talked about this need in our first chapter, so I won’t elaborate too much. I just want to reemphasize that it is a discipline to set aside a quality time with the Lord each day, but it is also a necessity. This is the only way that we will have the strength and joy to fulfill all other obligations.

Keeping busy. Proverbs 31:27 states, “She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.” Make it a rule in your home to not turn on the television during the daytime. T.V. is a vicious trap that can eat away hours of your time. There is always something that can be done. Many women say that they get bored at home. They can have the house picked up and the children cared for by ten o’ clock. That is wonderful. They have the entire rest of the day to explore personal projects, ways to contribute to their home, write letters to friends, extend a ministry of hospitality to their neighbors, engage in an in-depth Bible study; your options are limitless. There is always something that can be done. If you need to, schedule a nap into your day, but just do not allow yourself to waste days by lounging. Enjoy some alone time while the children are napping, by all means, but why not make it productive alone time? 1 Timothy 5:13 is referring to the tendencies of women when Paul warns, “Besides, they get into the habit of being idle and going about from house to house. And not only do they become idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying things they ought not to.” So, keep busy. There is not only a great productivity in keeping busy, but there is also a sense of joy and fulfillment as you make the most of every day.

Daily chores. Discipline yourself to tend to your daily chores. Do not let the laundry pile up so that you have to wash in order to have a clean pair of socks to wear. Determine how often you need to do the big tasks such as cleaning out the refrigerator or dusting the ceiling fans and stick to your schedule. We’ll talk more about this later.

Physical health. This is the one that most of us hate to think about more or less put into practice. Keeping up with your physical health not only has medical benefits, but it also has spiritual ones as you are tending to the care of the Spirit’s temple. “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. Therefore, honor God with your body.” 1 Corinthians 6:19, 20 By exercising and eating balanced meals, you are honoring the Lord and instilling wonderful, life-long habits into your children. You are also keeping your husband interested in you physically, which will contribute to the intimacy in your marriage. Having children is not an excuse to allow your body to fall apart. Make a commitment to do what it takes to get back into shape after the birth of your children, and be disciplined to carry through with your commitment. Being naturally small is not an excuse to look over this one either. Being small does not guarantee that you are healthy. Only exercise and balanced nutrition can offer that security. Your discipline of physical fitness does not have to be an intense daily regiment. My husband and I simply walk every evening. It gives us a wonderful chance to unwind and connect as a family at the end of every day. We do not buy low-fat, non-sugar foods; we simply eat balanced, healthy meals with moderate sweets. In this day and age we tend to categorize sins. The “biggies” are things like homosexuality, murder and adultery. Nevertheless, sin is sin is sin! Gluttony and slothfulness are sin just as much as homosexuality. Not honoring the Lord with our physical health causes a breach in our relationship with Christ just like adultery or any other “big” sin would.

Living on a schedule. Now I am not about to say that my way is the only way. As I stated earlier, my life is extremely routine and that is the way that I organize it. I know that not everyone can or wants to live their life in such a way, but there does need to be some order to our lives. Having at least an outline for a typical day’s schedule allows for a peace of mind and accountability when you are trying to get certain things accomplished. It also offers our children a sense of stability if they can count on their daily routines. Most of our husbands work and live on a pretty tight schedule, so it also enhances our marriages as we align our schedules with theirs as much as possible. This does not have to a be a minute by minute memorandum that hangs from a magnet on the fridge; it simply needs to be an outline of the day’s events that are understood among the family members.

Again, these are just a few areas that we need to have discipline. These real world sections are here merely to get your brain kick-started. Evaluate your own life and determine what areas should be put on a schedule, how to practically discipline yourself to fulfill your obligations and then do it. There is no magical formula for a life of discipline. The only answer to a lack of discipline is self-control. I realize that probably sounds a bit unsympathetic, but it is true. I know there are some legitimate excuses that can steal our time and intentions, but we cannot allow those excuses to dictate our lives. If we are committed to a life of discipline, then we will work in the interruptions without allowing our balances to fall apart.
I would also like to say again that this is not a matter of legalism. We cannot live by lists and time schedules hoping to impress the Lord with our efficiency. Trust me, I have been there. I am a performance-based person. It does not work. We must walk in the grace and mercy our Lord offers. It is only there at His mercy seat that we will find the freedom to walk in His discipline. “But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it – he will be blessed in what he does.” James 1:25
Imagine the joy and peace that will envelop your husband when he knows that you have committed yourself to a life of discipline. He will be able to have full confidence in you and your friendship. Discipline to do things that are asked and expected of us enhances the level of trust between you and your husband. That trust will lead to a greater appreciation for you and your role and also a stronger foundation to your marriage.

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