Connect, Lead, Equip: Leadership Discipline Insights for Spiritual Growth
Does your life ever feel chaotic? Is it messy or out of control? We may wonder why God doesn’t just do something to fix the disorderliness and dysfunction of our lives and make leadership easier. Yet, He has done something and is asking us to apply His resources through discipline to our daily lives. Discipline is the ability to control our conduct by principle rather than by impulse, desire, or social pressure. Below are two key principles of biblical self-discipline which are key for leaders.
2 Top Leadership Discipline Secrets:
Discipline requires true effort –
Professor, theologian, author, and Christian thinker D.A. Carson wrote,
“People do not drift toward holiness. Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer, obedience to Scripture, faith, delight in the Lord. We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance; we drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; we drift toward superstition and call it faith. We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated.”1
Discipline requires effort.
“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure,” (Philippians 2:12-13, ESV).
It’s important to note the instruction is not to “work for” our salvation but to “work out” the salvation we already have. We’re to make progress toward the goal of spiritual growth and maturity (of conformity to Christ). We’re to be active, not passive. We’re not alone because God is at work in us so that we can work out the life He has for us.
So, verse 12 is our responsibility and verse 13 is God’s enablement.
Now the term “work out” is intensive. It describes labor and effort to work out fully, thoroughly, and bring to fulfillment the salvation we have.
Paul described his own effort in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So, run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So, I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”
He used strong language saying he didn’t let his urges and his passions control him. He firmly said “no” to those thoughts, feelings, and longings that keep him from accomplishing his goal and honoring God.
Denying the pleasures of the moment means saying yes to what is more important to us in life. That’s discipline. The opposite of discipline is indulgence. Indulgence means sacrificing what matters most in life for the pleasure or thrill of the moment.
Discipline involves persistence –
The phrase “work out” in Philippians 2:12 is present tense. It puts the obligation squarely on each of us. We need to keep on working out…
We can’t do a 90-day plan and expect that’s all we’ll need to stay on target. We must continually be disciplining ourselves to doing the will of God. We know how it is physically. We decide to get in shape and we work hard at it. In three to six months we’re feeling better, we’re stronger, and we’re healthier. Now, can we stop and stay in that condition? No! Have most of us have discovered that we can get out of shape quicker than we can get in shape. And the older we get, out of shape is faster and in shape is slower.
Remember we drift toward self-centeredness and not toward doing the will of God. So, discipline is not something we let go of but we continue throughout our lives. Effort and persistence are at the core of spirituality and discipline. Spirituality and discipline are at the core of strong leadership.
- D. A. Carson, For the Love of God: Volume 2: A Daily Companion for Discovering the Treasures of God’s Word (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1999).