Written and preached by David P. Nolte


Jesus is looking for disciples. A disciple is a learner, a student, a follower. A disciple is one under discipline. Paul uses athletic metaphor to describe his discipline. Like an athlete he applies discipline. He wants to be a winner, not of temporal but of eternal reward. If athletes subject themselves to strict discipline for the former, how the disciple of Jesus ought to discipline self for the latter.
    1. Paul uses a figure drawn from athletes, who in preparing themselves for the games went through rigorous training. The word for self-control here means "temperate" and suggests the exercise of self-government.
    2. Something will control us. A drug addict is under control of narcotics; a drunk is under control of alcohol; often gamblers come under the control of that activity; some are under the control of video games; but a disciple, enabled by the Holy Spirit and instructed by God's Word, exercises self-control.
    3. Self-control in simple terms means:
      1. Saying "No!" to ourselves when we are inclined to do that which we know is wrong. To Titus, Paul wrote, "For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say 'No' to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self©controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age" Titus 2:11-12 (NIV).
      2. Saying "Yes!" to ourselves when we are disinclined to do what we know is right. James wrote, "Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it." James 4:17 (NLT).
      3. Saying "Wait" to ourselves when we are in an impetuous, impulsive mode in which we act with rashness and without proper consideration. When things happen to us, we may react brainlessly instead of responding rationally. Self-control slows us down. A little rashness is destructive. The Bible says, "Dead flies will cause even a bottle of perfume to stink! Yes, an ounce of foolishness can outweigh a pound of wisdom and honor." Ecclesiastes 10:1 (NLT).
    4. A young father was taking his son out in the park in his stroller. The boy was fussy and started crying. The father said, soothingly, "Now, Timothy, everything is okay. Settle down Timothy. No need to get upset Timothy. Calm down Timothy." A lady said, "That's so sweet. You are so patient and tender with little Timothy!" Father said, "Oh, that's Johnny. I'm Timothy!" He was practicing self-control.
    1. Paul has a goal in mind. Paul would endeavor with strenuous zeal and strive diligently toward that goal and to avoid all things that hinder that. The goal is the prize he anticipates for his faithfulness. The word for prize in this text is "crown" literally. The athlete ran to receive a perishable wreath, he wanted an eternal crown. What kind of crown waits the faithful?
      1. There is the crown of righteousness: Paul said, "I have fought a good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me©©the crown of righteousness that the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that great day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to His glorious return." 2 Timothy 4:7-8 (NLT). No sin in us in heaven. We are completely conformed to God's will and likeness there. We are made to be fully righteous then.
      2. James calls it a crown of life: "God blesses the people who patiently endure testing. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him." James 1:12 (NLT). Eternal, unending, abundant life in eternity.
      3. Peter calls it a crown of glory: "And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory." 1 Peter 5:4 (NASB). Here whatever glory we have soon fades. Fame is fleeting. Fortune is fickle. But we who on earth have humbled self will be exalted to glory there.
    2. What is your goal? And how hard are you striving to attain it? Do you allow trifles to turn you aside? Do you permit stuff to sidetrack you?
    3. How can we keep going to the goal? Here are some clues:
      1. "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily hinders our progress. And let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, on Whom our faith depends from start to finish." Hebrews 12:2 (NLT).
        1. Strip off every needless weight: good things that become too prior in our lives.
        2. Strip off every sin that hinders us.
        3. Keep your eyes on Jesus. Keep Him in mind, speak to Him often, do His will humbly.
      2. Follow Paul's example in his effort to reach the goal. He said, "I am focusing all my energies on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us up to heaven. Philippians 3:13-14 (NLT).
        1. Focus your energies on getting to the goal.
        2. Don't get hung up on the past, instead press on toward what lies ahead.
    4. Speaking of pressing toward the goal, the cheetah is a good example. The big cat can sprint seventy miles per hour, but cannot sustain that pace for long since the cat has a relatively small heart which causes it to tire quickly. Unless the cheetah catches its prey in the first flurry, it must abandon the chase. Sometimes Christians seem to have the cheetah's approach to the Christian life and discipleship. We speed into it with great energy, but lacking the heart for sustained effort, we fizzle before we finish. We vow to start faster and run harder, when what we need may be not more speed but more staying power--stamina that comes only from a bigger heart. Good intentions and a good start, no matter how great, yield nothing unless we allow God to give us the heart to steadfastly press toward the goal.
    1. Athletes in training abstained from unwholesome food, wine, and sexual indulgence. They did not want to be dissipated but disciplined. "He sets before himself and them the danger of yielding to fleshly desires, pampering the body, and its lusts and appetites." (Matthew Henry). The words Paul uses here literally mean
      1. To beat black and blue, to strike so as to cause bruises and livid spots. Paul means that like a boxer he buffeted his body to discipline it and bring it under control. He would dominate it, it would not dominate him.
      2. To make a slave of your body. That is, to master it, not for it to master you.
    2. Please understand:
      1. Paul is not advocating, practicing, or condoning self mutilation or actual wounding of the body. There is a terrible practice among some people to cut themselves physically to vent frustration or anger. Paul is not referring to that.
      2. He is speaking of keeping the desire, the passion, the appetite of the body under control. The point is, master your physical senses.
    3. What does that mean to us today?
      1. Paul wrote, "So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual sin, impurity, lust, and shameful desires. Don't be greedy for the good things of this life, for that is idolatry." Colossians 3:5 (NLT).
      2. Peter said, "Dear brothers and sisters, you are foreigners and aliens here. So I warn you to keep away from evil desires because they fight against your very souls." 1 Peter 2:11 (NLT).
    4. Scott Peck tells of the time he was riding his brand new bicycle down a hill when he was nine. The speed proved to be more fun than he had imagined. He didn't want to lose the thrill by putting on the brakes, so he maintained his speed, still hoping to negotiate the corner. The fun ended seconds later when he was thrown a dozen feet off the road into the woods. He was scratched, banged and bleeding, and the front wheel of his new bike was twisted beyond use. He had been unwilling to suffer the discipline of giving up speed in order to maintain balance around the corner. He learned, however, that the loss of speed is ultimately more painful than slowing down to maintain balance. He said, "It is a lesson I have continually had to relearn. As must everyone, for as we negotiate the curves and corners of our lives, we must continually give up parts of ourselves." That's what it takes to exercise strong mastery over our bodies.

"Remember that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize. You also must run in such a way that you will win." That means exercising discipline. That discipline is strict self-control, steadfastness pressing to the goal and strong mastery of the body. In the ancient games, the athletes had to swear that they had practiced for a minimum of ten months. They had to swear that they would play by the rules and not cheat. They were under discipline. Can the Lord expect less from those who follow Him? There's a world of difference between being a church member and being a disciple, and the difference is discipline. Jesus is looking for disciples. He's looking for you. Commit yourself to being what He calls you to be - be His disciple.

Timothy and Cheetah from emails; Bicycle from Scott Peck

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