By Shannon Caughey
Sadly, we all know athletes who fell short of their potential for greatness. These athletes possessed an abundance of talent. They had more natural athleticism than most of their peers. They had access to excellent coaching. They had no shortage of opportunities to keep improving. But often the reason they failed to maximize their potential was because they lacked one essential quality: discipline.
Just as sadly, too many coaches miss out on the chance to maximize their influence for what matters most because of this same reason: lack of discipline. In this series of devotions, we’re looking at what the Apostle Paul says in 2 Timothy 2:1-6 about how to maximize your influence. We’ve seen that a central component is having a multiplication mindset – living and coaching for Jesus today in a way that he can use to impact generations to come. As we explored in the last devotion, a multiplication mindset that leads to maximizing your influence requires dedication – like that of “a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (v. 3) who is focused on pleasing him, their commanding officer (v. 4).
In 2 Tim. 2:5, Paul turns to the world of sports to highlight another essential quality: “And athletes cannot win the prize unless they follow the rules.” What’s needed for an athlete to follow the rules when it seems more expedient to do otherwise? Discipline. In the same way, Coach, for you to be victorious in what matters most – living for Christ and maximizing your influence for him – it will require discipline. Here are two reasons why discipline is so important:
1) Discipline enables us to avoid pitfalls. Just as an athlete is given rules for successful competition, God’s Word gives us “rules for living” – instructions and boundaries that enable us to successfully pursue God’s good design for our life. These rules protect us from the pitfalls of sin and missing out on all God desires for us. Because we live in a world that largely ignores or rejects Jesus, daily pursuing the path the Bible lays out for us is often not easy. It can seem more expedient to think, speak, and act like those around us. It takes discipline to resist this temptation and instead live for Christ.
2) Discipline helps us to accelerate progress. For an athlete to progress toward their potential, they must build certain practices into their weekly and even daily schedule: training, skill development drills, conditioning, etc. This requires discipline. In the same way, there are certain practices that help us progress toward our spiritual potential as followers of Christ: studying the Bible, praying, meeting with other Christians for worship and learning, etc. As we build these practices into our weekly and even daily schedule, our growth in trusting and following Christ is accelerated. To do so requires discipline. In fact, these practices are sometimes called “spiritual disciplines.” Being disciplined in pursuing these practices gives us the chance to experience the Lord’s work in and through us in greater ways.
Athletes who look for shortcuts and “the easy way” are rarely victorious in the long run. Success in sports takes discipline. The same is true when it comes to maximizing your potential to live and coach for Christ in a way that has significant impact. Discipline is an essential quality. But this discipline is well worth it. As you exercise this discipline, you can echo Paul’s words in Philippians 3:14 – “I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.”
For reflection: To maximize your influence for Christ, what are some specific ways you need to exercise discipline – both to avoid pitfalls and to accelerate progress? Ask the Lord for his grace and power to enable you to be disciplined in living and coaching for him.