Have you heard the New Year buzz? “What’s your word to focus on?”
It’s like the replacement for resolutions. Instead of making a bunch of specific goals you simply pick a word or phrase that you want to focus on developing in your life over the next year.
I’ve been doing this for many years and have found real value in it.
This year’s word actually came before the new year began. I was so excited, until I realized what the word is…..
One morning I woke up earlier than usual and found myself thinking about my life. At first it was a real downer. I’m prone to think of all the negatives, and beat myself up for not being more of this or less of that.
Then by the grace of God my thoughts turned toward looking for the common theme in my regrets.
The common theme was discipline. I’m lacking discipline in many areas of my life which causes me to feel undone, lost and floundering.
I’ve blogged before about how having a sense of purpose and direction are important to me; it’s part of my make up, I actually feel most comfortable and safe when I have structure and discipline in my life. It’s almost like I crave it.
What? Crave discipline? Who does that?
My 2018 word, drum roll please…..Discipline. I did not find myself jumping for joy. The word discipline does not conjure up excitement or warm fuzzies! It’s a love hate relationship. When I hear the word discipline, I dislike it, but yet I crave it.
When life is chaotic — things seem out-of-order, I’ve double booked the calendar, the house is a mess, the scale is going up, I’m pushing boundaries, my thoughts are becoming toxic and I speak without thinking — I crave discipline! It becomes glaringly obvious that I need it in my life for my own good.
Hebrews 12:11 says “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”
We crave discipline because it’s good and brings peace.
I don’t wake up excited to clean my house or do the laundry, but I sure enjoy seeing the results of order and clutter-free areas and fresh clean clothing each day.
I don’t want to exercise or take my hand out of the cookie jar or chip bag, or push away from the second helping, but I sure like the results of feeling healthier, having more energy, physical stamina and avoiding the bloat and misery of overeating.
If I’m brutally honest with myself, I’d rather pick up my phone and scroll through social media, letting my mind aimlessly wander into dangerous places of comparison, ungratefulness, and envy. All the while knowing picking up my Bible and digging into the scriptures produces truth and freedom in my innermost being.
Why? Why would I rather do what I know is not good than to do what is good?
It’s human nature. Since the beginning of time when sin entered our world we would rather do what we’re not supposed to do than to do what is good for us. Paul talks about this in Romans 7. Those things I should do I don’t and the things I shouldn’t do I do. There’s a lot of do do going on here!
It takes discipline which is typically thought of as the external rules or plans we must follow to obtain a certain outcome. Actually this discipline Hebrews 12:11 talks about takes place through a training.
True Discipline is a heart condition from the inside out.
It’s begins with admitting I don’t know all that I think I know. Acknowledging I can’t do anything in and of my own strength, that I am not my own.
True discipline is about turning from myself and focusing on the Master Trainer to teach me from the inside out. Hebrews 12:2 says we are to set your eyes on Jesus who is the author and perfecter (finisher) of faith.
A couple years ago my “word” focus was on Matthew 11:28-30. It’s the famous passage used for those who feel burdened or overwhelmed. In this passage Jesus says if you feel weary or burdened come to Him and He will give rest. But then he says an interesting thing, “Take My yoke upon you and LEARN from Me.”
Jesus is the Master Trainer.
Focusing on anything other than the Trainer is self-focused and will bring us short of the ultimate result.
Read that again and let it sink in a bit deeper. I’ve read it over and over and see a fine line for where we are to place our focus.
If our focus is on the training we only see the difficult road ahead. Some will be tempted to never walk the road while others like me will be tempted to make “my” plan for how I will run on that road and start out full force ahead which only lasts so long by the way.
If we focus only on the results, we may lose sight of the lessons to be learned along the way, the lessons that bring about discipline and character development.
Focusing on anything other than the Trainer often leaves us feeling frustrated or defeated because things are not going the way we expected and we’re not getting the result we wanted.
I wonder if this is rubbing you the wrong way too? I want to sit down; ok, I really want to kick and scream and argue this out. It makes no sense to my own understanding. It all seems so counter-cultural and out of my normal inclination.
It’s actually just where I need to be….at the end of myself.
At the end of trying to figure things out and ready to allow myself to be yoked, joined to Him, the Master Trainer and to follow His lead.
Honestly it doesn’t make me excited and eager to walk this road because I know there is going to be some blood, sweat and tears along the way as I continually deny myself and yield to His ways.
But you know the Lord is gracious. Remember true discipline comes from the inside out. He’s already ahead of me.
He’s not asking me to “do” walk this road to discipline on my own. No! He’s reminding me Christ lives in me and therefore I can do this thing…this discipline set before me because He will work it from the inside out.
“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” Galatians 2:20
In reality, I’m not going to wake up tomorrow fully disciplined. I will have to resist making “my” plans for how to become more disciplined.
What I can do is show up each day for training empty of self and willing to learn!
I’ll show up by diving into His presence more through prayer and reading His Word.
I’ll show up by pay attention to His leading and ask Him to teach me His ways.
Basically I’m going to show up….sit still….and listen!
Seems so foolish to think that discipline begins with sitting. Yet have you ever tried to sit and listen for extended time in your prayer time? Those sitting times have produced the most change in my life because I’ve surrendered to the Master Trainer and His ways!
Now I’m excited to embrace discipline as my 2018 word! It’s not a warm fuzzy excitement; it’s more of an anticipatory excitement knowing that the Master Trainer wants my full attention to reveal how true discipline brings about righteousness and peace for those who are trained by it. (Hebrews 12:11)
Do you have a word or phrase to focus on in 2018? Would you share with us in the comments? Let’s continue to take this journey of life together encouraging and praying for one another!
Happy New Year!