Keep In Step

FREE Ice cream!
That is a great way to start any conversation. If you need help moving, you start off by offering free ice cream before you ask for favors. If you want people to come to your charity event, you promise them free ice cream before you say anything else. If you want someone to read a blog about self-discipline, you promise them free ice cream at the end.

Self-discipline is not one of the darlings when it comes to character traits. In a culture that grows steadily younger as we age, self-discipline feels like drudgery. Most of us can maintain some level of discipline in one or two areas for a small measure of time. "I'm dieting for 21 days, and then I get a break"No TV for a month and then binge fest 2016." When you're discussing your weekend with co-workers, no one says "I was really self-disciplined, I didn't overspend or over drink, or Netflix and yoga pants for eleven straight hours."

We like to talk about compassion, and kindness and grace and peace. We share with one another the things we accomplished for the Kingdom, the dreams and longings of things we want to do, projects we want to be a part of, and the moments we could feel the presence of the Father. We like to talk about ice cream. 

Self-discipline is like broccoli.

Genesis chapter 5 is an account of the generations from Adam to Noah. It follows a simple pattern; "When Seth had lived 105 years he fathered a son, after that son he lived 807 years and had other sons and daughters and then he died. All the days of Seth were 912 years." That’s a paraphrase, but it follows the same pattern for ten generations, except for one. 
Genesis 5:21-24 "When Enoch had lived 65 years, he fathered Methuselah. Enoch walked with God after he fathered Methuselah 300 years and had other sons and daughters. Thus, all the days of Enoch were 365 years. Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him." 

What is the difference between just "living and dying" and "walking with God?" I think I know. Broccoli. I'm sure you have seen the evidence in your own heart, so this won't come as a shock to anyone. We have a tendency just to do whatever is easiest. Maintaining a close relationship with God is not the easy thing to do. 

Every day we are bombarded with messages that tell us we are the most important thing, our desire is what is most important, and our immediate happiness is the key factor in every decision. This is slavery. To chase after desire that culminates in itself, only to have to chase something bigger and brighter next time. You think you're chasing down happiness or fulfillment, you think you're headed for your ice cream, but all you end up with is a stone cold block of ice. 

I think even we believers fall for this scheme sometimes. We want the songs that make us feel good, the sermons that inspire us to chase our dreams, and little chats that start and end with "I'm fine thanks, how are you?" But the life of the believer is frequently compared to farming. Our life is hands in the dirt, sweat on your brow, and broccoli on your plate kind of life. 

I’m not always great at it, but I’ve learned a few ways to prep and eat broccoli over the years that are quite delicious.

  1. Study with fellow believers. No matter what’s going on it helps to know we are not alone.

  2. Set an alarm reminder to pray. Even if it’s only for a few minutes, at first, set your alarm to a time of day you know you usually have a few minutes of free thinking and dedicate that time to pray. 

  3. Set your bible on top of your phone at night. Seriously, if it’s the first thing you touch in the morning, maybe it will help you remember to crack it open and dig in.  

Self-discipline can sometimes feel like legalism. And it can be easy to talk yourself out of practical steps if you look at it that way. The funny thing is, though, the more you study, the more you pray and engage in Christian community, the more you want to. What a gracious gift to us! It’s like discovering that you really do like to exercise or eat healthy food. Even if you only give it a few minutes a day, at first, God will still hear and still help. 

We know that God saved us through Jesus. He saved us from a life of fruitless chasing after desires of the flesh to a new life bursting with the fruit of the spirit. 
Galatians 5:22-23 "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things, there is no law."

Our tree needs to be tended to with prayer and meditation and diligent study. Galatians 5:25 "If we live by the Spirit let us keep in step with the Spirit." Being prone to take the easy way and to wander away from our savior, it makes sense that by His Spirit we are called to keep in step with the Spirit. Keep walking, keep digging, keep pruning and keep at it. 

The truth is, God sees our wicked hearts, sees how we are making a mess of things just trying to get what we want, He rescues us from the mess and puts true joy in our hearts. He pulls us out of the wreckage and replaces the shadow with substance, the plastic toys for the real deal. There's your ice cream; you just have to eat your broccoli too.


-This weeks post is by Ashley Bowie, a member at Redeemer. She pours an excellent cup of coffee, and loves words the way some people love their pets, or children.