Child #1: “But I don’t want to do my spelling lesson.”
Child #2: “I really don’t feel like cleaning my room.”
Parent: “I’m not asking you to want to. I don’t expect you to feel like it. I’m asking you to do it anyway.”
There was a season in which conversations like this were standard practice in our home. With a focus on quotidian matters of chores and school work, they seem, at first glance anyway, to be inconsequential. However, the performance of small needful duties without procrastination or complaint is a sign post which, if followed to its destination, carries the promise of a more disciplined life in the future. St. John of the Cross expressed it well:
“Do not wait for desire before performing a virtuous deed, since reason and understanding are sufficient.” (134)
Elisabeth Elliot was uniquely qualified to write on the topic of self-discipline, for she brought to it her unique brand of no-nonsense wisdom, a product of having already “set her face like a flint” in this following life. A right understanding of discipline requires a right understanding of the God we follow, for training in self-discipline requires a “wholehearted yes to the call of God.” (16)
In her recently re-released Joyful Surrender, Elliot creates a linguistic mosaic featuring the words dependence, responsibility, and obedience to fine tune her readers’ thinking. Her strong gospel underpinnings keep her thoughts from a purely bootstraps mentality, for she understood that “discipline is not my claim on Christ, but the evidence of His claim on me.” (28)
7 Disciplines for the Believer’s Life
We embody self-discipline here on the ground by the miracle of grace, according to the guidelines of Scripture, and through the inspiration and enabling of the Spirit of God. What we bring to this equation is our own will–as an offering to God. (37) Our cooperation with God in a life of self-discipline shows up on seven fronts, and Elisabeth has devoted one chapter to each in a devastatingly convicting and yet hopeful celebration of joyful surrender.
- First, discipline of the body is basic and essential, and it’s amazing how Christians fall into Gnosticism when we’re confronted with the need to wrestle our habits into submission to the will of God.
- Rhythms of fasting and resting impact on the body as well as the mind, and the Christian life is a continual journey of being “re-minded”–corrected and pulled away from error by the Spirit who aids us in “thinking Christ.” (64)
- In her discussion of the disciplines of place and time, Elliot’s focus is on the authority of God in our lives to call the shots, while the main question in the discipline of possessions is: Are we willing to accept what God gives and to relinquish our grip on what he chooses to withhold?
- The discipline of work views every task as a gift to be offered back to God, no matter how big or small, and our feelings, likewise, are to be recognized, named, and then laid open before the Lord for his training. (145)
Discipline is fundamental in the life of a disciple, and it finds its expression in our lives as we give up our “right” to my-way-my-time-my-stuff-my-preferences. Living in Joyful Surrender, we find that our obedience to Christ is met with gifts that far surpass the value of anything we will ever relinquish to Him.
Many thanks to Revell for providing a copy of this book to facilitate my review, which, of course, is offered freely and with honesty.
Trusting for grace in the glad surrender,
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