By Dr. Harold Sala
Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. 2 Timothy 2:3
From time to time new words and phrases are coined to describe changes in our culture. The word “lifestyle” is one which describes how we live in the twenty-first century. I’d like to suggest that one is needed which modifies the one I’ve just suggested–something we desperately need today. It’s lifestyle discipline. And what’s that? It is lifestyle which has parameters, which is circumscribed by values you are convinced are important, and ones which you defend. That’s where discipline is necessary!
The reality, however, is that the last generation has been lacking in discipline. To the contrary whether it is with our appetites or how we raise our children, lifestyle indulgence is far more common than lifestyle discipline. Why? For one thing, we enjoy indulgence. That second helping, the ice cream on top of the cake, the extra hour of sleep, the latitude to do whatever you want with your life with few, if any, moral constraints has come to characterize the way we like to live today.
Permissiveness–“I’m OK; you’re OK, too”–is far more common than the Spartan discipline of a by-gone generation that took cold showers and ate vegetables “because they are good for you.”
If you are a regular listener to Guidelines, you’ve probably picked up on the fact that the lives of people fascinate me–what makes them succeed, what causes failures, what allows some to triumph over almost impossible circumstances and what causes others to quit when they have such great potential and ability. That sometimes indefinable drive is often a spark of determination or a driving force which seems to have been plowed under by the “easy life” and the soft cushion.
I’ve read the diaries, the biographies of men such as Robert Falcon Scott, who died striving to reach the South Pole, and Sir Ernest Shackleton, whose little ship Endurance was crushed by the pack-ice, who managed to lead his men across a wasteland of over 1000 miles without loss of limb or life. I’ve admired men such as Sir Winston Churchill, Charles Lindberg, Dwight David Eisenhower, along with David Livingston, Jim Elliott, Hudson Taylor, and a host of others in the Christian world, and I’ve asked myself, “Are we made of the stern stuff these heroes had?” They were tough individuals who didn’t quit when they got cold or had calluses on their feet, or missed the comforts of home.
Frankly, today’s commentary will mostly fall on deaf ears who would much prefer that I tell you how to reach your Everest without the taxing climb that confronted Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, who got there without miracle fabrics and sophisticated equipment. We prefer the body that Arnold Schwarzenegger once had without pumping iron, or the figure of a model without the starvation diet that often produces the slim figure we admire. But we need the advice of Paul to a young man by the name of Timothy, who wrote, “Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (2 Timothy 2:3).
Why? Tough times are survived only by tough people, and tough situations overwhelm the weak of heart and the undisciplined who have associated “the good life” with the Godly life, and the shortcut to the top.
Lifestyle discipline has the strength to say “No” when it is necessary and make the hard decisions.
When Wang Ming Dao was released from twenty-two years of forced labor in a Communist prison, he returned to Shanghai, physically weakened but strong in spirit. In talking about the will of God, he wrote that the right path is usually “the hard one.” He knew; he had been at the crossroads and had made the tough decision. You can as well.
Resource reading: 2 Timothy 2