THE ROAD TO SUCCESS
2 Timothy 1:7 NLT
For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love and self-discipline.
Prov. 5:23 NIV
For lack of discipline they will die, led astray by their own great folly.
1 Timothy 4:7b NASB
On the other hand discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness.
1 Corinthians 9:27 AMP
But like a boxer, I strictly discipline my body, train it by hardships, and make it my slave.
In my 46 years following Jesus Christ as a devoted disciple of His, I have discovered that the only path to success in any and every endeavor of life is self-discipline. There is absolutely no substitute for this invaluable practice and application of our faith.
Every aspect of my growth and maturity as a man, a husband, a father, and a pastor and leader, is the result of the diligent application of rigorous self-discipline. It is in fact still the pursuit of my life, to maintain and grow in self-discipline in all aspects of my life.
When I made the decision to give Jesus Christ my everything and follow him for the rest of my life, at 19 years of age, I was anything but self-disciplined. My words were undisciplined, my mind was undisciplined, my time was undisciplined, my body was undisciplined, my money habits were undisciplined, my spiritual life was undisciplined, my sleep habits were undisciplined, my eating habits were undisciplined, my emotional life was undisciplined, my servanthood was undisciplined. I came to understand very, very quickly as I began reading my Bible that God wanted to change me in every single aspect of my life and that this would mean a life of rigor and self-discipline. I knew I must devote myself to the diligent application of habits that would intentionally bring about a more self-disciplined man, one whom God could use for his purposes.
Men, it is imperative that you face yourself honestly, and grasp the need for greater self-discipline in your life, and then take specific action steps to develop this in each important area of your life. Keep at the forefront of your mind that God himself has given you and me all the power we need for a life of self-discipline, but we must use it, avail ourselves of it, and then use it on ourselves, over and over again.
There will be no success without self-discipline.
Do not let the devil intimidate you, or overwhelm you with your failures in this, or with the great needs that you see in yourself. Rather, with faith in God and his power, set yourself to the task today, start by taking small steps of self-discipline in your life, and build on each one of those successes.
Let me give you some very simple examples.
I knew as a young man I needed to discipline myself for the purpose of prayer. I knew prayer was the single most important discipline of a Christ-following disciple of Jesus Christ. However, my powers of concentration were very small. I was easily distracted. Though initially in my newfound passion, fervor, and love for Jesus Christ I found prayer to come quite easily, in time, it was much more difficult and seemed not as important as getting out there and being busy for God.
So I made a simple plan. I would go on a ten-minute prayer walk every single day at a specific time, out in nature, away from all distractions. I designed a prayer walk because I found sitting down while praying makes one very lethargic. After doing this for one month, I doubled it to 20 minutes, then after doing that for a month, I increased it again, until I worked up to my hour-long daily prayer walks, which I continue to this very day. Little did I fully grasp the incredible impact my prayer walks would have, how deeply they would take me in my relationship with God, and the amazing answers to prayer I have seen God bring about.
I have always had great difficulty with my mouth. My emotions and my words have often gotten the best of me. My words hurt my wife many times and did damage to our relationship. I have shed many tears in my prayer times to God over this issue. So I made a simple plan. I first wanted to learn to shut up, to keep my mouth shut, when my emotions wanted to pour out of me towards my wife. I took a little Living Proverbs book, and colored in every verse on the tongue, the mouth, our words, and read it over and over again. I begged God in prayer to help me, then I set about changing the way I interacted and spoke to my wife. If I felt my emotions getting the best of me, I would strive to simply excuse myself and leave the room, I had to learn to keep my big mouth shut. I also needed to train myself to intentionally say encouraging things, things that would build her up. Little by little I worked to build this habit. Even as a preacher, most people do not realize that for years, as I began preaching, I would write out my messages, word for word, go into my garage all alone, and practice it out loud as though in front of a room full of people, time myself, and go over it until I basically had it memorized. This helped bring great focus, power, and discipline to my words and my messages. My mouth remains one of the great challenges of my life, but I will not give up the fight.
When I was growing up, I had many jobs, I really enjoyed working and earning money. But, I loved to spend it, and I did not like to save it. I did not bring this discipline to my life. I can tell you this, I wish I had taken all the money I spent on hostess twinkies, bbq potato chips, snickers bars, pop, ice cream bars, and other junk food, and put it into an IRA savings account mutual fund. I would literally have thousands of dollars today that I wasted and flushed down the toilet, literally! So, I had to start somewhere, I had to bring self-discipline to my money. I started by writing out a budget in my 6 column analysis pad, then I started to live by it. It was a dog fight, man, spending is so easy. I quit going into the gas station to pay for my gas and paid at the pump instead, so I could avoid all the temptation of the junk food staring me in the face. I determined to get my finances to a place where I could pay cash only for a car, and never pay more than a predetermined amount for a vehicle. It took me some time but it paid off. I began to put a small amount in a 401k plan, taken from my check each month, and little by little it grew. I’ve disciplined myself to become a wise financial steward of all God has given to me. I still stick to that rigorous self-discipline to this very day.
In May of 2001, I was put through one of the most difficult, treacherous, devastating trials of my entire life. That summer I thought it would take the life right out of me. On Thanksgiving of that year, I dug my guitar out of the closet, I had not played it in over 10 years. God met me there and I spent several hours playing, singing, and writing, as song after song came to me. I wrote them down, and for the next 4 years as God gave me more songs, I played and sang them every single day for almost an hour. It brought great comfort to my soul, and literally fought off the demons of despair. In Dec. of 2005, after playing and singing those songs over and over again for 4 years, every single day, I recorded them on my Medicinal Spirit cd. None of that would have been possible without the self-discipline of playing, writing and singing them over and over again, and the pain of that trial.
At 30 years of age, I realized I needed to bring much greater physical self discipline to my body. I began by simply doing 100 pushups, 4 days a week, in sets of ten, right by my office desk. I began to ride our old exercise bike for 10 minutes while watching the news. Eventually, I added more, and longer times.
Now I take my 3 miles a day, hour-long prayer walks, I take another mile speed walk later in the day. I’ve added my total gym for the last 21 years, which takes 10 minutes a day, kept up with 50 pushups each day, a few other things, and I can tell you, the rigorous self-discipline of my body has been tremendous for my spiritual life, my health, my prayer life, and has helped me achieve discipline in my life in so many other ways. These are just a few examples of the many areas of my life that I have needed to bring rigorous self-discipline to, in the hopes that these examples will inspire you and help you understand simple ways you can do the same thing.
Men, any one of you reading this can accomplish these same kinds of things in your life. If God can work in my life and help me in these matters, I am absolutely confident He can do the very same thing in each of you.
Never forget this! All of us are works in progress! Just make sure you keep up the work on your progress!
Helping you become a Strong Disciple,
Because of Jesus,
Pastor Mark Darling