In the Image of God: Discipline

Day 4: Discipline Requires Training

2 Timothy 2:1-13

I have a good friend who is a remarkable musician. He is actually quite famous, and I am sure many of you have heard his music. He is an amazing piano player. It is actually disturbing how good he is. When he plays, everything looks so natural and relaxed.

I remember watching an interview he gave a few years ago. He was asked how is it that he can play with so much freedom and ease. His response is a good one for us to hear. He said, “It comes from years of discipline and practice.” The interviewer was taken aback. “You mean it’s not natural?” No, his piano playing isn’t natural.

Living out our faith isn’t natural either. Many of us have concocted some idea of Christian living as a thing that just “happens.” But living the Christian life takes practice, which shapes character. It has always been this way.

Just as there are no shortcuts to mastering the piano, there are no shortcuts to spiritual maturity. We see this in the lives of Jesus’s disciples. After Pentecost, when they are filled with the Holy Spirit, we still see them growing and pressing on in the faith. We aren’t somehow made into faithful disciples in the blink of an eye. It takes time and practice.

N.T. Wright says in his book After You Believe, “Virtue… is what happens when someone has made a thousand small choices, requiring effort and concentration, to do something which is good and right but which doesn’t ‘come naturally’ — and then, on the thousand and first time, when it really matters, they find that they do what’s required ‘automatically’, as we say.”

The virtue of spiritual maturity takes practice. So we train. We can’t do this on our own. We need the Holy Spirit to help us, and we need other believers to help us. We need to pray together, confess together, reconcile together, commune together, read together, and be built up together.

Then, when it really counts— when we find ourselves in the world, living out our faith— we will discover that our virtue takes over. This result is the fruit of the Holy Spirit we call self-control. It is given by God and grown by the Holy Spirit, but we have he honor of participating in that process.

May we practice the art of faithfulness even when it doesn’t come naturally, knowing that God is using our training to cultivate spiritual fruit.

written by Father Aaron Wright