The Secret of Discipline - Girlfriends in God - November 22, 2011


November 22, 2011
The Secret of Discipline
Mary Southerland

Today’s Truth
Like a city that is broken into and without walls is a man who has no control over his spirit (Proverbs 25:28, NAS)

Friend to Friend
Discipline is obedience, a lifetime process that brings us to a state of order by training and controlling our behavior. Discipline is focusing and eliminating, zeroing in on what is important in every area of life. Discipline not only leads to right thinking, pleasing behavior and balanced emotions, but also produces a purpose driven life based on right goals and priorities. 

And that brings us to the discipline of our time - a dreaded and often ignored spiritual discipline for many of us. We have either forgotten or failed to realize the truth that our minutes, hours and days are precious commodities - gifts from God that can be unwrapped only once. Time is wasted unless it is invested in goals and priorities that are rooted in God’s plan.

A busy life is not necessarily a productive life, girlfriends. Oh, I can hear it now! “Mary, it’s true that I am very busy, but I am busy doing good things.” Those words were the cry of my heart just before I crashed and burned and landed in a pit of clinical depression. The problem with my list of “good things” was that it was just that – my list - the wrong list for my life. The result was exhaustion, burnout and disobedience. 

One of the most important lessons of my “pit experience” was that my perspective of time was skewed. I had poured years into making my plan successful only to discover that God resources and empowers His plan alone. Outlook determines outcome. It was painfully obvious I needed an outlook adjustment, an eternal perspective. I needed to understand the truth that my time is not really mine to do with as I please. It is a resource on loan to me from God. As a result, every plan, priority and goal should be held against the backdrop of eternity because it is from that backdrop that our priorities are validated, our calling confirmed and our time best invested.

Let’s face it. If we don’t set priorities - others will. Time thieves will steal our time as we allow them to impose their plans and standards on us. While it is true that different women have different priorities and different seasons of life, it is also true that one priority remains steadfast.  “Seek ye first the kingdom of God…” (Matthew 6:33). Once that priority is firmly established and adhered to, the rest of life will surely fall into place. 

Learning how to discipline time is a challenge for us al. I am, by no means, an expert in this area, but I do want to share some simple ideas that have worked for me.

Tithe your time. Just as we tithe our money, we should tithe our time. God blesses and multiplies the time we set aside to spend in Bible study, prayer and service. 

Get organized.  In 1 Corinthians 14:40, we are challenged to “do all in a fitting and orderly way.” In other words, being organized is a spiritual discipline, freeing us from the tyranny of the urgent while making room for the eternal things that matter. Here are some organizational tips:

·         Buy and keep a calendar. Writing down things keeps me from wasting time and “bunching up” activities. It takes the pressure off of me to remember everything and allows me to see, at a glance, what is important.My weeks and months are more evenly scheduled and I am forced to prioritize, doing the important things first.

·         Choose one day a week to plan. Every Sunday afternoon, I plan the week ahead, recording the main tasks I need to complete and scheduling the appointments I need to make and keep.  Pray over your week, asking the Holy Spirit to make clear those things ordained for each day. 

·         Simplify and eliminate.Experts advise us to approach spring cleaning by dealing with one closet at a time. Break jobs up into manageable steps so that the large tasks seem doable. 

·         Tackle the dreaded task first.I have discovered that tackling the job I dread the most energizes me for the rest of the tasks.  I have also learned to use my best time, the time of the day when my energy is highest for the most important and the most difficult tasks. 

·         Stop activity when it becomes unproductive. Sometimes, a 10 minute break will boost energy, refocus attention and get those creative juices flowing.

·         Begin a task, even if you won’t have time to complete it. I hate doing laundry and frequently long for the day of disposable clothing. As a result, I do the laundry in pieces.  For example, I will start the wash and answer email.  I then toss the wet clothing into the dryer and work on a writing assignment.  You get the idea!

·         Delegate.When we delegate work to our children, we are teaching them godly discipline. The church is filled with people waiting to be pushed out of their comfort zones in service. Look for those potential leaders and delegate.

·         Leave margins in your schedule.I tend to fill every time slot during the day. Therefore, when the “unexpected” comes along, I am overwhelmed and unprepared. Building margins of time into our schedules is a step of faith, trusting God to fill them in any way He chooses. 

·         Yield to the seasons of life.When my children were small, I did not travel and speak like I do now. Do not sacrifice your family on the altar of any church or any ministry. Our greatest mission field is our home, our marriage and our children. It does not matter how much we do or how successful we are, if home and family get the leftovers of our time, energy, emotions and spiritual service we are walking in sin and disobedience. 

Discipline builds upon discipline, each success encouraging another. Make the commitment to cultivate the disciplines of a godly woman, then pick a corner of your life and begin. Discipline does not come naturally or easily. We will fail. But we can always begin again. Join me today in a new commitment to godly discipline. 

Let’s Pray
Father, I want to thank You for your unconditional love and forgiveness. Please help me focus on You and Your presence in my life each day. I pray that any stress in my heart will be swallowed up in the reality that You are faithful and that You are in control. I know You are not surprised by anything that comes my way and will transform the good into better, the unthinkable into the unstoppable and the unbelievable into fact. I praise You for the amazing way You guide me and lift me up when I fall.  Today, I choose to focus on You.
In Jesus’ name,

Now It’s Your Turn
Read and memorize Philippians 4:6-7 (ICB) “Do not worry about anything. But pray and ask God for everything you need. And when you pray, always give thanks. And God’s peace will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. The peace that God gives is so great that we cannot understand it.”

More from the Girlfriends
Already feeling the stress of the approaching holidays? Get Mary’s book, Escaping the Stress Trap, for practical steps to dealing with and managing stress and check out her Christmas MP3 downloads, The Secret of a Merry Christmasand Giving the Perfect Gift.

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Originally published Tuesday, 22 November 2011.