What makes a man?
What makes a man a man?
What makes a great man a great man?
This website is partially my stream-of-conscious attempt to answer those questions. At the heart of many of the bits of answer I've posted is one principle: discipline.
There are a lot of articles about Walter Mischel's Bing studies on self-control out there, and while not statistically perfect, the studies provide pretty good evidence that self-control is a good indicator of potential. I think that in large part that's because self-control, applied with perseverance and intentionality, is what's known as discipline. Discipline, I would submit, is among the most necessary characteristics of a man and, aside from providence, is the single determining factor between greatness and many merely good men. I don't mean that the formula one part self-control, one part perseverance, and one part intentionality will automatically create a man that will change the world. I mean that a truly disciplined man is the one I'd like to watch, study under, and emulate.
The Bible says a lot about discipline. We are to be disciplined in our study of the Word (II Timothy 2:15), our education (Proverbs 12:1), our pursuit of righteousness (Hebrews 12:11), our work (Proverbs 19:15), and in following Christ (Mark 8:34). I'm sure it took discipline for Joshua to march around and around and around Jericho; it took discipline for Noah to keep working on the ark for years and years and years; it took discipline for Abraham to nearly sacrifice his favored son.
I think that Luke 9:23 is one of the verses which best portrays the discipline of a righteous life. It has three parts: self-control, perseverance, and intentionality.
- Self-control: “He must deny himself.” This means that you've got to be able to not do all those things that you'd love to do if you could get away with it. Newsflash: you won't get away with it. Also, you've got to do all those little things that you hate doing but you know you should… like vacuuming, or push-ups.
- Perseverance: “[He must] take up his cross daily.” I don't know about ya'll, but I have an awful lot of trouble deciding just one time that I'm going to do better at x and then actually doing it. I have to decide over and over and over again. I have to forgive and love and work hard over and over and over again. Daily.
- Intentionality: “[He must] follow Me.” That means that you've got to put that intention first in your decisions; every decision. You've got to have a coherent commitment to follow Him, first and only and always. Intentionality is what focuses the self-control and perseverance on the goal.
Dictionary.com says (basically) that discipline is behavior according to a set of rules or training that results in that behavior (among other things). Wikipedia calls it “systematic instruction given to a disciple.” Discipline is at the core of what being a man, being a great man, being a righteous man, is all about.
Where are you going to get all this discipline? Hebrews 12:6 says that God disciplines those whom He loves, and John 14:21 tells us that if we discipline ourselves to follow His commands, then He will love us… so it's a cycle. Discipline yourself - as Bum Phillips said, “The only discipline that lasts is self-discipline” - and God will multiply and reward your efforts. Be a man: learn and practice overcoming your self; never, never, never, never, never give up; and live with a purpose.