But if, then, such and so many pains are borne untiringly for temporal and unsure rewards, what ought we to endure for eternal, true and sure ones, whose conclusion is eternal?
- Columbanus, Sermon IV, Irish, 7th century
... exercise yourself toward godliness. For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.
- 1 Timothy 4.7, 8
Columbanus offered an observation about how people make their way in life. If you want to be a success in life, to enjoy your life, and the good things it can offer, you must apply yourself. Learn a trade, keep up a home, raise a family, improve at your work – all this requires “such and so many pains,” yet these are “borne untiringly” by anyone determined to get the most out of life.
And, Columbanus asked, if we are willing to discipline ourselves for the “temporal and unsure rewards” of this fleeting life, “what ought we to endure for eternal, true and sure ones, whose conclusion is eternal?”
Americans work hard and play hard. There is no end to the kinds of exertions people will put out to get ahead in their job, stay fit, or get the most out of their chosen avocation. American Christians are no exception. We know we must work hard at our jobs, and we play hard at fitness, sports, and other avocations – just as hard as the next guy. We’re no different than our unsaved neighbors when it comes to the pursuit and enjoyment of “temporal and unsure rewards.”
But we should be different. It’s not that we shouldn’t work hard at our jobs, exert ourselves at keeping fit, or enjoy our hobbies and avocations as fully as possible. The discipline and exertion we make toward these ends is not out of bounds for the believer. Rather, we must not give our best exertions to that which will fade with time. There’s more to life, especially, more to Christian life – “eternal, true and sure” rewards, which have as their ultimate destination, eternal life with Christ.
The state of discipline among the followers of Jesus Christ is apallingly low. We don’t pray as if prayer was our great delight, or really mattered. Reading, meditation, and study – in Scripture and otherwise – are, for too many of us, tedious, not as important as work, and not as much fun as video games, sports, TV, or other diversions. We don’t fast, worship, pursue solitude, seek the Kingdom, study the works of the Lord, or press on toward holiness with anything like what might be expected of people who believe the promises of Christ and long to partake of Him.
Are we lazy? Perhaps a bit. More likely, we just aren’t well taught, and we aren’t encouraged or held accountable for disciplined lives by those entrusted with the oversight of our souls.
The expectations church leaders hold out for us are neither demanding nor lofty. As long as we keep coming – to church, Sunday school, Bible study – and keep giving, we or our pastors and church leaders don’t really care much about training in godliness. We may speak affirmingly about discipline – every Christian should read his Bible, pray, and study the things of the Lord. But, as we know, people don’t do what you expect, only what you inspect. If all our leaders intend to inspect is whether we show up and keep giving, that’s what we as church members will expect of ourselves – and not much more. And if we and our leaders find the numbers agreeable, we’ll do the same thing week after week, year after year.
But just showing up is no guarantee that we’re growing in the Lord or making progress in His Kingdom. Such aspirations require discipline, training, accountability, exertion, and time.
If we are going to exert ourselves – to exercise – for godliness, we must resolve that such a course will define our lives from here on. Then we must fill the time of our lives with the kind of disciplines that can help us realize more of the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God. We need to seek out disciple-makers who exemplify that way of life, teach it plainly and with passion, and lead their charges through the ropes and hoops of every spiritual exercise that can renew their souls and fit them for ministry.
That lacking, expect only more of the same mediocrity and comfortable Christianity that characterizes the waning Christian movement in our nation today.
We can grow in Christ, but not without effort – on our part, first of all, but on the part as well of those who are called to present us complete in Christ to our Savior and King (Col. 1.28, 29).
1. How would you describe the state of your Christian disciplines at this time? Where do you need improvement?
2. What can you do to start getting more “exercise” in the disciplines that will strengthen your soul and help you to be more fruitful for the Lord?
Psalm 116.7-14 (Mit Freuden Zart: All Praise to God Who Reigns Above)
Full well the Lord has dealt with me; my soul from death He delivered.
My weeping eyes, my stumbling feet, He has redeemed forever.
Forever I before His face shall walk with those who know His grace,
and dwell with them forever.
Afflicted, I believe His Word, though lying men would undo me.
What shall I render to the Lord for all His blessings to me?
Salvation’s cup I lift above and call upon the God of love
and pay my vows most truly.
Help me to lead a more disciplined life, O Lord, for Your sake, as well as for my own, so that I…
Parameters of Prayer
Prayer is the place to begin in gaining a more disciplined life. Our free course, Parameters of Prayer, can help you become more faithful, consistent, and fruitful in your prayers. Watch this brief video, then register with The Ailbe Seminary (upper right hand of the page) and enroll in the course.
Free Christmas Gifts
Luther’s great hymn, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”, can strengthen our faith, but only as we sing it understanding what he intended. Our book, A Mighty Fortress, walks through each stanza of Luther’s hymn to reveal the powerful testimony this song provides. Order your free copy by clicking here. Order several copies and give them to friends for Christmas. Also, our booklet, Joy to Your World!, can show you how to be more consistent in working your Personal Mission Field. Order your free copy today (click here). Please order by December 15 to make sure you get your gifts on time.
Thanks so much to those of you who faithfully support the work of The Fellowship of Ailbe. God uses your gifts and prayers to reach thousands of people every day in over 120 countries. We praise the Lord for His having moved and enabled you to share with us in this ministry.
If you’re not a supporter of this ministry, won’t you please prayerfully consider making a gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe? Only God can move you to do this, and we believe He intends to support this ministry from within the ranks of those who are served by it. If this includes you, please seek the Lord in this matter. You can click here to donate online with your credit card or through PayPal, or send your gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe, 360 Zephyr Road, Williston, VT 05495.
T. M. Moore, Principal
All Psalms for singing from The Ailbe Psalter. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.