Through the years that I have been privileged to work in a Bible college I have met so many extremely talented, capable young people.  And yet, it has always puzzled me that the ones who seem to have the greatest promise often do not finish.  On the other hand, there are students with far less ability who finish, finish well, and go on to serve the Lord.

What is that unseen, unknown quality that is the difference between those who dream and those who do?  Discipline.

Educational institutions speak of disciplines, or branches of instruction.  Yet few of the students that pass through those halls ever learn the power and joy of a truly disciplined life.  Discipline is more than education.

It is at the heart of good business.  It is the secret of successful athletes.  It is the key to great men.  Most of all, it is at the heart of what is meant by being a true follower of Jesus Christ.  it is interesting that the word discipline comes from the same word for disciple.

Perhaps if we exercised more personal discipline we would be subjected to less discipline by our loving Father.  Discipline is indeed hard to define.  It is best understood by its absence.  When there is a lack of discipline, it always shows.

Recently I read the sad observation that William Barclay once made of Samuel Taylor Coleridge:

Coleridge is the supreme tragedy of indiscipline.  Never did so great a mind produce so little.   He left Cambridge University to join the army; he left the army because he could not rub down a horse; he returned to Oxford and left without a degree.  He began a paper called “The Watchman” which lived for ten numbers and then died.  It has been said of him: “he lost himself in visions of work to be done, that always remained to be done.  Coleridge had every poetic gift but one – the gift of sustained and concentrated effort.”  In his head and in his mind he had all kind of books, as he said, himself, “completed save for transcription.  I am on the even,” he says, “of sending to the press two octavo volumes.”  But the books were never composed outside Coleridge’s mind, because he would not face the discipline of sitting down to write them out.  No one ever reached any eminence, and no one having reached it ever maintained it, without discipline.

Tragically, the story of Coleridge is the story of most men.  Full of potential that will never be realized.  The subject of discipline is not just for college students; it is for all of us.  It is not just a matter for youth – it is for life.

Recommended books for further reading:

The Disciplines of Life by V. Raymond Edman

Disciplines of a Godly Man by R. Kent Hughes