Have you ever heard of two NBA basketball players named John Williams? Both came out of Louisiana colleges (Tulane and LSU) and made their entrance into the NBA in the same year, 1986. The first John was nicknamed "Hot Rod." He went 21st in the draft, worked really hard every season and had a very productive, 13 year NBA career, playing nine strong seasons with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The second John Williams was an LSU superstar, selected 12th in the NBA draft by the Washington Bullets. Many scouts predicted that this John Williams would take the NBA by storm and be a difference maker for his team. But, alas, that never really happened. You see, John Williams was extremely undisciplined with his diet and exercise. He literally ate himself out of the NBA. He reported to his rookie training camp 25 pounds overweight and quickly earned some undesirable nicknames - John "Hot Plate" Williams... John "Meals on Wheels" Williams... John "I'll Take Seconds" Williams. Charles Barkley once told Williams, "You could have been a great NBA player if you had just learned two simple words: I'm full."
What was the key difference in the two Johns? DISCIPLINE!
Paul told young Pastor Timothy, "But have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women. On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. 1 Timothy 4:7-8
If you are like me, discipline is something you struggle with. Peter and the disciples struggled with it. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus asked them to pray with Him for one hour... yet they fell asleep. What was the problem, "The spirit was willing but the flesh was weak." I so feel that, don't you? My flesh would much rather watch TV than read my Bible... eat than fast... play video games than pray... stay home than go to church. But, I know if I give in to the flesh, I will be a spiritual underachiever, living so far below the potential that God has placed within me.
You know what is really interesting? The word for discipline in 1 Timothy 4 is the Greek word gymnaso (from which we get our word gymnasium). The word means to train... or to exercise naked. It is an athletic term. The athletes in Paul's day would take off their shirts to work out. They would strip down and really get after their exercise routine so they could be stronger, faster, and more physically fit and able to compete successfully in the games.
You and I must do the same in the spiritual realm. We must strip away all the garments of pretense as we meet with the Lord each day in prayer, Bible study, and fellowship. We must come before Him with an open and honest heart, not telling God what we think He wants to hear, but truly sharing our hearts, hurts, fears and problems with Him.
Remember this... there is no deep intimacy with the Lord until there is first vulnerability before the Lord. Nothing makes you more vulnerable than being stripped naked. And God wants us to meet Him in the gym everyday, stripped for a productive, encouraging and enriching workout with Him. We need not try to be someone we are not... or pretend we are some spiritual giant when we are not. He wants us just to be real. God will take us where we are and bring us to a place of strength, peace and power as we come to Him day after day.
Would you make a fresh commitment to spiritual discipline? Would you get back to spending at least 15 minutes each morning reading God's Word and praying? Would you start memorizing a verse each week? Would you be faithful to witness to at least one person each week?
God will be faithful to make us spiritually strong if you and I will be faithful to the hard work of saying no to the flesh and yes to the spirit... of doing the things that are necessary (spending quality time with Him) to develop a deep and genuine walk with the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
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Jeff Schreve is Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church in Texarkana, Texas. He and his wife Debbie have been married for over 20 years and are blessed with three wonderful girls. Jeff began From His Heart Ministries, a radio and television ministry, in January of 2005. This ministry is completely listener/viewer supported. It continues only through the faithful and generous gifts of people like you. Pastor Jeff takes no salary from this ministry. All gifts go to further the broadcast. Click here to become a ministry partner.