By Dr. Harold Sala

That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.  2 Corinthians 12:10

When he was a child, he was never disciplined. “Love is all a child needs,” his mother had said, adding, “When he’s older, he’ll learn what he should do.” In grade school, he fought with his classmates and talked back to his teacher. In high school he brought beer to school, which resulted in his being suspended. In college he was caught cheating on exams but no official action was taken.

He couldn’t hold a job because he couldn’t get himself out of bed in the morning. When he married, he couldn’t say no to credit card debt or other women who were available.  He failed in marriage, in business, and in life. Is there a common thread to a pattern of failures, some of which are in the lives of millions of people?  There is—a lack of discipline. It is everybody’s problem in an age of indolence, fast foods, quick fixes, and relationships without commitment or meaning.

A lot of people, perhaps yourself included, are not on the really dangerous edge of the problem, yet in their hearts they know they need more discipline—the kind that makes you eat healthier, get up when you need to, make sure your kids learn good habits, and stop spending money when it’s gone. Sounds good, right?  How do you develop personal discipline?  The following guidelines can help you learn self-discipline.

Guideline #1: Take the little steps first. When that voice within says, “This one time won’t matter!” you’ve got to take quick, decisive action. Eating three chocolates that weigh only ounces can put pounds on you in places that cause you to sit on the beach in a t-shirt instead of a swim suit. Instead of a rich dessert, opt for a banana. Punctuality is also a matter of discipline. When you are late, it’s like saying, “All of you at this meeting are not as important as I am, so you can wait for me.” Set two alarm clocks. Put one alarm across the room.  Practicing discipline in the small things produces results in big things.  It sets the pace for future gains.

Guideline #2: Be accountable to someone.  That’s the strength of small groups—whether it is Alcoholics Anonymous, Weight-Watchers, or a small prayer group you meet with once each week. That means you have to be willing to let someone look you in the eye and ask the tough questions.  “Have you stayed on your diet this week?  What did you read in your quiet time this morning? Were you on time every day this week?” Those are tough jabs but necessary ones.

Guideline #3: Understand that developing self-discipline is in accord with what God wants you to do.  Insight: Goals which are in line with God’s purpose for your life also bring God’s strength and help for your weakness.  To the Corinthians Paul wrote, “That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10).  This means you can find strength through prayer, and find hope that things can be better. The principle of Philippians 4:13 is valid.  It quotes Paul saying, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (NKJV).

Guideline #4: When you fail, start again… and again… and again. If your first trip to the driving range doesn’t allow you to compare favorably with Tiger Woods, take some lessons, and keep hitting the ball, but don’t give up with a few hooks and slices.

One of our greatest needs in our personal lives today is the need for discipline. It can develop the key to success and can help you accomplish the will of God for your life.

Resource reading: Philippians 4