Sunday, March 01, 2015

Learning Discipline from the Soldier, the Athlete and the Farmer

soldier, athlete, farmer

Reading: Second Timothy 2:1-19

There was a time when the then Nigerian Head of State, General Olusegun Obasanjo,  made so much call for discipline that it became a house-hold word. Many people tried to refer to their Dictionaries to find out if the word had acquired a new meaning. I did too!. The Concise Oxford English Dictionary says among other things: 
System of rules for conduct; control exercised over members of Church; chastisement (Ecclesiastical); mortification by penance; (were Paul to define discipline I feel convinced that he would have taken this last one for his definition). 
Read more on Chastisement

This morning, I want us to consider this issue of Christian discipline only from one point – that we Christians, as sons and daughters of God, should be disciplined in order to be effective for God. We shall also see few rewards for discipline.

The text of today gives three illustrations of people who must be disciplined if they must be successful: the soldier, the athlete and the farmer

The Soldier

This illustration particularly appeals to me, and I am sure, it will appeal to any of us here who has been through some sort of military training. I am going to talk from my experience in the Army Officers’ Training School. When you watch an Army or Police parade, you always get enthralled and wish you were in uniform. But have you ever sat back to think of the work that produced that parade?. If you want to see discipline, see the inside of the Army barracks – the neatness, the smartness, the respect for authority, the flag, the officers, the promptness to obey orders without looking back and without question. All these and vigorous long hours of drill and hard life make the military parade a masterpiece. What makes the soldier so hard? Why all the training? These are they who have been enlisted (voluntarily except in states of national emergency) to preserve the territorial integrity of the Fatherland. Hence they are so prepared; they are ever so ready; ever watching, ever learning and updating their methods. That is the soldier.

The Athlete

Another illustration Paul used in our text is that of an Athlete. When I was in school, I played Hockey and Tennis. I am certain that if I enter the field or the lawn now, I will be a misfit. I would not last fifteen minutes of the strenuous and rigorous exercise. Why? What has happened? I must confess that since leaving school, I have not played hockey and since 1972, I have not played Tennis. Lack of practice resulted in lack of interest and so no more strength for it. I have even forgotten all the rules. No games discipline!

Paul in writing to the Corinthians said in First Corinthians 9:24-27:
"Surely you know that many runners take part in a race, but only one of them wins the prize. Run, then in such a way as to win the prize. Every athlete in training submits to strict discipline, in order to be crowned with a wreath, that will not last; but we do it for one that will last forever. That is why I run straight for the finish line; that is why I am like a boxer who does not waste his punches. I harden my body with blows and bring it under complete control, to keep myself from being disqualified after having called others to the contest."

The Farmer

The third and final illustration Paul used is the farmer. Let us for a moment get a picture of a typical farmer in our rural areas. Let us also for a moment imagine what would happen if all the farmers, including those we refer to as peasant farmers should decide to go on strike for say six months. We have our meals regularly and are strengthened to do things simply because they have disciplined themselves to work. They have disciplined themselves to work hard, to patiently wait and endure hardship. In James 5:7-8, we read: “Be patient, then, my brother until the Lord comes. See how patient a farmer is as he waits for his land to produce precious crops. He waits patiently for the autumn and spring rains. You also must be patient. Keep your hopes high, for the day of the Lord’s coming is near”

We see that the Christian, like the soldier, is disciplined to obey without question and to mortify his body by chastisement. He is disciplined to be always ready to meet the enemy and fight in defense of his faith.

Like the athlete, he is disciplined to keep himself always in shape by reading His word and doing His command. He does so according to the rules of Him who has enlisted him into the contest and

Like the farmer, he is disciplined to patiently wait for the Lord’s coming. He is trained to endure hardship and to work hard. He plants in faith hoping that the Lord knows what is best for him.

The Rewards for Discipline

What glorious promises we read in God’s Word for the disciplined! Here are a few:

Job 11:16: “then all your troubles will fade from your memory, like floods that are past and remembered no more” 
You will forget all your troubles. God has laid on Him all our troubles.

Psalm 30:5: “His anger lasts only a moment, His goodness for a life time. Tears may flow in the night, but joy comes in the morning.” 
The joy that comes as a result of the assurance of sin forgiven! Only the disciplined confess and enjoy the goodness of God. You will then have brighter days.

Psalm 34:19-20: “The Goodman suffers many troubles but the Lord saves him from them all; the Lord preserves him completely; not one of his bones is broken.” 
God has promised deliverance to all who would subject themselves to His discipline. 

Isaiah 43:2, 4, 5: “When you pass through deep waters, I will be with you; your troubles will not overwhelm you. When you pass through fire, you will not be burned; the hard trials that come will not hurt you. I will give up whole nations to save your life, because you are precious to Me and because I love you and give you honour. Do not be afraid, I am with you!” 
What a promise! – God’s abiding presence, love and protection.

John 14:1-2: “Do not be worried and upset, Jesus told them. Believe in God and believe also in Me. There are many rooms in My Father’s house, and I am going to prepare a place for you. I would not tell you this if it were not so.” 
An eternal home for all who would discipline themselves in God’s Army

Romans 8:28: “We know that in all things God works for good with those who love Him, those whom He has called according to His purpose” 
All things work for good. 

Second Corinthians 4:17: “And this small and temporary trouble we suffer will bring us a tremendous and eternal glory, much greater than the trouble.”

Second Corinthians 12:9: “But His answer was: “My grace is all you need, for my power is strongest when you are weak” 
Sufficiency of God’s grace!

First Peter 4:12-13: “My dear friends do not be surprised at the painful test you are suffering, as though something unusual were happening to you. Rather be glad that you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, so that you may, be full of joy when His glory is revealed.” 
What a joy to share in Christ’s suffering. Peter and John went out rejoicing that they have been counted worthy to suffer for Christ’s sake (Acts 5:41). There can be no greater honour.

Revelation 7:13-14: “One of the Elders asked me; who are these people dressed in white robes, and where do they come from? I don’t know, sir. You do. I answered. He said to me; these are the people who have come safely through the terrible persecution. They have washed their robes and made them white with the blood of the Lamb.” 
Membership of the company of the Redeemed!

Revelation 21:4: “He will wipe away all tears from their eyes. There will be no more death, no more grief or crying or pain. The old things have disappeared.”

These and many others are God’s promises to the disciplined and those who have joined and remained steadfast in His Army. We all are invited to be in God’s band. Some are choosing to opt out. Don’t be an undisciplined soldier, a disqualified athlete or an unproductive farmer. Tell Jesus now where your trouble lies.

God bless you all. Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

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