So far in our series on choices we have seen how we need to choose purpose over popularity so that our lives have a deep sense of meaning and fulfillment. The fashions and styles of the world are fleeting so if we seek just to be popular we will never find a firm foundation on which to stand and we will never experience the life God has for us. Last week we heard how we need to choose surrender over control because when we try to control everything in life we often end up destroying the very things that matter most. Trying to control our family can drive them away. Trying to control our jobs can make us miserable to work with and trying to control or future can destroy it. Purpose and surrender are important choices we need to learn how to make and in many ways they are needed before we can consider the choice for today – discipline over regret.
Already you might be saying to yourself, I don’t want to hear where this is going because I have so little discipline. Well, you are not alone. Everyone struggles with the lack of discipline and there’s a reason for that, no matter what we choose when it comes to discipline, there will be pain. Let me say that again, no matter what we choose when it comes to discipline, there will be pain. There is pain when we choose to live with discipline but there is greater pain when we don’t. So yes, today’s message for us is difficult because we are talking about choosing the pain of discipline over the pain of regret.
Pastor Craig Groeschel has defined discipline – choosing between what you want now and what you want most. Let’s think about this in financial terms. Discipline in our spending means choosing between what we want now (new phone, new clothes, new car) and what we want most (ability to buy a house, save for retirement, get out of debt). While we think that choosing what we want now won’t cause any pain because we get what we want, we are wrong – the pain will come and it can be more difficult to resolve. So with our finances, we can live in pain now and choose discipline and live within our means or we can deal with the pain of debt, foreclosure and bankruptcy which are not only hard to resolve but can destroy jobs, marriages and families.
Discipline over regret is the choice we face in many areas of our life. When it comes to our diet we can choose the pain of giving up things we want to eat now or the pain of diabetes and heart disease later in life. When it comes to exercise we can choose the pain of giving up time and feeling the burn now or we can experience the pain that comes when our body breaks down physically and we aren’t able to enjoy mobility in the years to come. In relationships we can live with the pain of going slow and making Godly decisions as we date or we can experience the pain of regret when a relationship comes to an end or when we find the right person but look back on all the mistakes we made along the way. There are real consequences when we give in to what we want today instead of holding out for what we want most and so we need to weigh the pain of discipline vs. the pain of regret.
Before we dig into this deeper, let me be clear that not every situation we may be struggling with today is because of poor discipline in the past. Many times we can do everything the right way and God’s way and live with discipline and yet still face financial, physical and emotional issues in the future. Our world is broken and full of difficult situations that we will all face. Jesus himself said, In this world you will have trouble and it is not all the result of our poor choices. Since we will all face challenges in the future we don’t need live in ways that will add to them. The more we can choose discipline today the less regret and the less problems we may face in the future.
To help us think through this difficult choice, we are going to look at a moment in Jesus life when he choose disciple over regret. The night before Jesus was crucified he went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. Jesus knew that Judas was coming to betray him, he knew he would be handed over to the religious and political leaders who would condemn him and he knew that dying on the cross was just a few hours away. And yet Jesus really did have a choice that night. Jesus could have walked out of the Garden of Gethsemane under the cover of night and simply walked away.
The reality of Jesus’ choice that night was made clear to me when we visited the Garden of Gethsemane. First of all, it was amazing to think that some of these trees may have been there when Jesus was there, but what was more amazing was that from the Garden you could see the Walls of Jerusalem. When Jesus was praying he could have seen the lights of the fires all around the walls and heard the noise of a city crowded for the Passover. The choice for Jesus was so clear and so tempting. He could choose discipline and stay in the garden and be handed over to die in that city the next day or he could walk away. Literally just walk away. But was walking away God’s will? Was that part of God’s purpose? If it wasn’t then Jesus would be choosing what he wanted now (to save his life and avoid the pain) over what he wanted most (to be faithful an one with God his father). Luke 22:39-44
In prayer, Jesus is wrestling with this choice of discipline over regret. There would be pain in being faithful to God but there would be greater pain in not being faithful. Jesus was making the choice that night between what he wanted now and what he wanted most and it was not an easy decision. If says he was in anguish, he prayed earnestly and his sweat was like drops of blood. What Jesus shows us is that this is never an easy choice. There is always a pull, a very strong pull, to live the way that we want to live and the way that is easy and comfortable now. The apostle Paul says it best in his letter to the Romans.
I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do, I do not do, but what I hate I do. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord.
(Romans 7:15, 18-19, 24-25)
This is the struggle between discipline and regret. Do we do what we want to do now, what is easy and comfortable for us now, or do we give that up for something greater? If we live the way want to now knowing it is not God’s will for us and not God’s best for us, then there can be huge regret later because we know we have given in to evil and failed to be faithful to God. These are difficult choices. Do we choose the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. Do we choose what we want now or what we want most?
We need to ask ourselves what do we want most? In all our decisions and in all areas of life we need to ask ourselves what we want most, which goes back to knowing our purpose and the ability to see beyond today. So in all the different areas of life, what do we want most?
What do we want most when it comes to our faith? Do we want to live close to God, knowing God’s will and hearing God’s voice? Do we want to live like Jesus and walk hand in hand with God through life? If this is what we want it is important to keep this vision of our lives and faith in front of us.
What do we want most when it comes to our families? Do we want a strong marriage that can endure through the years so we can handle the storms of life together? Do we want children who are strong and wise? Do we want children and grandchildren to know God and have a strong faith and trust in Christ?
What do we want most when it comes to our finances? Do we want to live without the constant burden of debt, or in fear of the future and how we will care for our needs? Do we want to experience financial freedom and the joy of giving away our money in ways that bless God and others?
What do we want most when it comes to our own health and future? Do we want to be healthy and enjoy the days God has given us? Do we want to be free from the physical limitations that come when we don’t care for the bodies God has given us?
Before we can choose discipline today we have to focus on what it is we want most because that is what gives us the motivation to even think about the pain of discipline. So this week I want to invite you to spend some time thinking about what it is you want most in life. Write it down so you can see it and remember the rewards that can come through the pain you might experience today.
Once we can focus on what we want most we then need to ask the hard question: What do I need to choose now in order to achieve what I want most? This is where the rubber meets the road. This where our walk has to meet our talk. This is where we have to tell ourselves that while choosing discipline will come with pain, the pain will be less costly than the pain of regret and the consequences that will come in the future if we give in to what is easy.
When it comes to our faith, what do we need to choose NOW in order to achieve what we want most? It might start by turning off the TV, getting off social media and spending that time reading God’s word or talking with God in prayer. Can we discipline ourselves in devotion, prayer and worship so that we develop into the kind of followers of Jesus we want to be?
When it comes to our families, what do we need to choose NOW in order to achieve what we want most? It might be sacrificing some of our activities to make sure we are spending quality time with our spouse and children. It might be deciding as a family to cut down on all of our activities so that the family can spend time together. It might mean seeking out some counseling to heal a relationship with a spouse or a child or a parent.
When it comes to our finances, what do we need to choose NOW in order to achieve what we want most? If what we want most is to be free from the burden of debt, then we need to get guidance on how to get out of debt. We need to live below our means so we can pay off our credit cards. If what we want most is a good retirement, or money to help our children through school then we might need to rethink all our spending so we can find ways to save and invest.
When it comes to our health and our future, what do we need to choose NOW in order to achieve what we want most? It might be to start eating healthy, cutting out alcohol or sugar, learning what fruit and vegetables look like so we can add them to our diet. It might mean we start walking, slow and short for now, but getting out there to begin living a healthier life.
At some point in time, we all have to choose how we are going to live our lives today. Will we choose the pain of discipline now or the pain of regret in the future? If we do not chose discipline today and start something new and move in a new direction today then it might very well be the biggest regret we will have tomorrow.
This summer we talked about the discipline needed to be an athlete. All athletes train, they all get up and do something painful that moves them toward the goal of winning the prize. Are we willing to get up and train? While on the one hand the Apostle Paul said that he was a wretched man who always seemed to choose the wrong thing, he was also the one who said, Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. 1 Corinthians 9:24-25. Paul knew that we all have choices. At some point we have to get up and do something – we will have to make a choice
If we go back to the Garden of Gethsemane, we can see the choice Jesus made. When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. Luke 22:45 Jesus choose to go back to help the disciples. Jesus chose to go back and give himself on the cross to save the world. Jesus chose discipline and that choice made all the difference and that is a choice we can make too, but it won’t be easy.
If we want to choose disciple today but feel like Paul in Romans and are saying, I know what I need to do but I just don’t do it, there are two sources of help we can turn to and we learn these from Jesus in the Garden. The first is to ask God for help. Jesus was tempted and struggling with this decision so he goes off to pray. He knew his purpose was to be the savior and he knew he needed to surrender his control to God so when the moment came for him to choose discipline, he asked God for help and strength and God provided. Luke 22:43
It is because Jesus turned to God for help and surrendered the struggle to God that God was able to help him. In some sense Paul is saying the same thing in Romans. On our own, we always choose the wrong thing, but if we will turn to God, we will find the strength to choose the right thing. It is Jesus who gives us the strength to choose the pain of discipline now. God doesn’t take the pain away – there is often pain in discipline – for Jesus there was pain in discipline – but like Jesus we can get strength from God to choose that pain if we will ask. .
So the first thing we can do is ask God for help and trust that when we surrender to God – God will give us what we need. The second thing we can do is ask others for help. Jesus didn’t go into the garden of Gethsemane alone, he took his disciples with him, and when he went deeper into the garden he took his closest friends, Peter, James and John. Jesus didn’t try to do this alone, he actually asked others for help and when we are faced with choosing discipline we need to ask trusted friends for help. No discipline is easy because we are choosing pain now so we will need help and support and someone to hold us accountable in grace and love as we move forward.
In so many areas of our life we are faced with the choice of discipline or regret. What we want now or what we want most. With the help of God and others, choose the pain of discipline over the pain of regret so that like Jesus we will be able to experience the power of resurrection and the power of life. Choose discipline and we choose life.
I CHOOSE – Discipline Over Regret
Discipline is choosing between what you want now and what you want most.
1. In the following areas of life, identify what you want most.
2. In each of these areas, what do you need to choose now to achieve what you want most?
3. Read about Jesus’ struggle to choose discipline over regret in Luke 22:39-46. What was the struggle for Jesus? What helped Jesus make the right choice?
Prayer for the week:
Holy Spirit, we need your power. We are so weak. We know what to do and then we do what we know we shouldn’t. Will you give us the ideas, power and grace to stick with discipline? AMEN
Memorize Philippians 4:13
I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.