“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize”
(1 Corinthians 9:24-27).
We just finished a fast during which time we focused a lot of prayer on Jesus’ command in Matthew 9:38 which says, “Pray to the Lord of the harvest that He would thrust out workers.” The Hebrew word translated “thrust” is Ekballo. It has several different connotations which indicate something similar to rocket propulsion. When we leave the sending or thrusting to the Lord of the harvest, there is a different potential in those being sent. In reality, the outcome would be that they would do the things that Jesus did which are included in Matthew 9:35-38, 10:3.
“Jesus went through all the town and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness… He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness” (Matthew 9:35-10:1).
There is a mistaken notion that this powerful impartation comes with no personal effort. The container of this power is the human temple. The body, as with the temple in Scripture, is in the hands of the servants of God. I think that God may withhold a greater anointing for service when His wisdom sees that the container cannot bear it. So what must we do? I (Norm) am not a large framed person, but I do weight-lift. At forty-eight years of age, I don’t expect to become a huge, muscular figure, yet I am encouraged to see the form and enlargement of muscle on my body. I am more fit today than I was at age twenty-eight. Some of the more muscular men who work out where I exercise have given me helpful information regarding muscle building. It is good to have coaches who speak with experience.
Bodily discipline does have benefit. We need to exercise our body because it is the temple where God dwells. Tiredness, dullness of mind, vulnerability to temptation and depression of emotion are linked to our physical state. Diet also has a lot to do with this because excessive amounts of sugars are a poison that actually kills vitality. We all need to watch our diets. Fasting is also good and necessary for many reasons. One of the by-products is the cleansing of the body. I actually feel more energized when fasting than when I don’t.
A good, consistent physical exercise program is extremely important. I normally exercise five days a week for thirty minutes. Find what is right for you. Adequate sleep is also important. Most people need eight good hours of sleep a night. Some may be blessed to get by with less, but not all. A missionary will need to be culturally sensitive about this but, when possible, we should retire early and rise early. The morning, when all is quiet and when we are well rested, is the best time to spend time in prayer and study. If you would like to receive Health Arise which is a monthly e-mail designed to encourage and motivate you toward a healthy lifestyle, send a blank e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“The one mark of discipleship is the mastership of Jesus – His right to me from the crown of my head to the sole of my foot.” Disciples Indeed
We need to realize that bodily discipline can be compared to spiritual discipline. Just as a physical muscle needs exercise, the spiritual does too. Faith is developed by exercise. Spiritual giants are not born giants; they are born as small children. Through nurture and exercise they grow and develop. We need to dismiss the idea that spiritual maturity and power comes instantly. Too many people are disappointed to find that one must expect the Lord to school them in spiritual matters. Many who read Scripture, receive prophetic words of revelation and encouragement, and/or receive a classroom education, expect to immediately go out and conquer the world. Peter thought like that, but Jesus said that Peter would deny Him. It was a little maid confronting Peter that led to His denial. How will many of us respond when confronted with trials; perhaps there will be the possibility of danger or loss? How will our faith stand if not exercised and made strong?
The Bible says in Ephesians 6:10, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power.” The Lord impressed that upon me during a time of fasting. The implication is that we have a responsibility to make ourselves strong in the Lord. Before God can commit your ministry into your hands, you must first be submissive to His discipline. As you go into God’s mission field in another country, He wants you to go forth as a disciplined soldier. He is preparing you for your destiny and so how you live now is very important.
“The cross of discipleship is that I daily and hourly delight to tell my human nature that I am not my own, I no longer claim my right to myself.” Run Today’s Race
Areas of the Disciplined Life
“Discipline yourself for the purpose of Godliness” (1 Timothy 4:7).
The following are some additional areas in which we need to be well disciplined, alert to the enemy devices, so that we will be good soldiers on the mission field. These are very basic places where the enemy will attack the believer. We urge you to discipline yourself now and strengthen your spiritual muscles so that you may not be disqualified at a later time. We have seen workers on the field fall into these very traps time and time again.
- A consistent quiet time Your devotional life is a time set aside each day to be with the Lord. It may mean study, or prayer, or it may be a time of fellowship and meditation with Him. It is a time when you find yourself happy to be with God and He with you. There are many tools that help in personal devotions. The most important tool is an alarm clock to wake you from sleep! Realize that the enemy will strongly attack this area of your life. We have seen him do this in missions again and again. “Blessed are they who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart” (Psalm 119:2).
- Taming the tongue Watch your tongue. Stay away from destructive speech, listening to gossip, or talking negatively about someone. Instead, bless others by saying constructive things, looking at the good side, practicing positive speech, encouraging others. Your tongue can have a powerful influence on others. Use your tongue to bring life instead of death. “When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise” (Proverbs 10:19).
- Using your spiritual gifts What are you good at? What do you love to do? Where do you sense God’s presence moving through you? Tell others when you see them excelling, or when you see a spiritual gift operating in their life. Your spiritual gift is your spiritual job description. “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands” (2 Timothy 1:6).
- An evangelistic lifestyle God wants all of us to reach out to the lost. We must be involved in evangelism here at home before going overseas. We need to reach out and show acts of love and kindness to our neighbors and co-workers now. “But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry” (2 Timothy 4:5).
- Journaling and listening to God Get a notebook and write down what God is speaking to you, what you are learning and how you see God working. Begin journaling now. It helps you to remember all that happens. God can give you direction through journaling. Your journal is your friend. “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27).
- Prayer and fasting Prayer and fasting has already been mentioned but we must stress how extremely powerful this is for reaching the nations. Fast a day or a meal a week, and pray for that country or area that is on your heart and for what you want to see God do there. Discipline yourself into longer fasts as you are able. We recommend Debbie’s book called Intercessors Arise that can help you grow in your prayer life. You can purchase it at intercessorsarise.org. “But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Matthew 6:17-18).
- Bible study The Holy Spirit is given to guide and teach (John 14). There are many good books that help in Bible study. Sometimes I just read through books of the Bible, meditating on certain portions, relating them to others. For a period of six years, I (Norm) would read through the Bible from cover to cover each year. I had a chart in the front of my Bible with all the books and chapters so I could check each off as I read it. This helps to ensure that you are not purposefully leaving out the “uninteresting” parts of the Bible. “All scripture is God-breathed and is profitable.” I have noticed that the more I am in the Scriptures, the happier I am with the productivity of my life. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
- Praise, worship and thanksgiving Praise and worship are our greatest weapons against the enemy. Whenever you are going through a difficult time, have a time of radical praise, worship and thanksgiving. Everything changes. Remember that God dwells in the praises of His people. “Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs” (Psalm 100:2).
Go through these areas of the disciplined life and evaluate yourself. What are your strengths and weaknesses? What areas do you need to work on now? Make it a matter of prayer. Focus your discipline on improving those areas this year. You will find it a great benefit to your life later, whether at home or overseas, and you will be a good example to others in every situation.
If a Christian is not disciplined in many of these areas he will not be very fruitful. Discipline and discipleship are one and the same. Jesus says, “if anyone would come after me.” “If” means you don’t need to unless you like, but you won’t be of any account to Me in this life unless you do. Jesus expects us to live a disciplined life. As we grow and mature in our Christian walk, we realize the importance of this truth. We become stricter with ourselves, and we do not run aimlessly. We realize that we are in strenuous training. Many times we say “No” to good things because we want the best. We know that self-denial and taking up the cross of Jesus Christ is a requirement in being His disciple.
“Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24).
For additional training on mentoring in character; preparation for knowing the will of God and approved unto God: a key to God’s will, read the book called Go Forth in Power by Norman and Debbie Przybylski.