“Put On Your Game Face!”
IN THE ZONE
Most football games are won or lost before the clock begins to tick. The team that is the most disciplined and has prepared themselves is best suited to win the contest. A team that is ill-prepared and undisciplined often faces defeat and discouragement.
Today, we begin a new series entitled “IN THE ZONE.” My particular topic for this series is, “Put On Your Game Face!” Before the game a coach will often say, “you need to put on your game face.” He is talking about being prepared. Getting your focus on the game. Not being distracted by anything or anyone. That takes discipline. This morning I want us to look at discipline and how to discipline yourself for success. Every great achiever in life has a common denominator and that is personal discipline. Paul was an extremely disciplined person. In fact, he had tremendous self control. He talks about it in this passage.
1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (NLT) 24 Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! 25 All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. 26 So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. 27 I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.
There isn't much talk today about discipline. We are a nation of hedonists. If it feels good, do it. If it doesn't feel good, avoid it. We're only interested in what's fun. If it's not fun, forget it. Anything that is unpleasant should be avoided at all costs. We do not like good, old-fashioned discipline.
Three Points to Understand Discipline:
1. Take Aim: On Purpose – Intentional, Planned, Prepared 1:26 “So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing.”
2. On Target: Prioritize: First things first (what are some things I cannot afford to fail at)
1:26 “So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing.”
3. Train to the point of pain
1 Corinthians 1:27 “ I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should.”
1 Corinthians 1:27 “ I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should.”
I Thess. 4:4 "Each of you should learn to control his own body, keeping it pure and treating it with respect." Do you treat your body with respect? Our bodies need more exercise, more rest, and fewer calories. That's part of discipline! Proverbs 23:2 (Good News) "If you have a big appetite, restrain yourself." That's a polite way of putting it. The New International says "If you're given to gluttony, put a knife to your throat." (Definition of a dieter: Someone who realizes that what's on the table ends up on the seat.)
Proverbs 23:7 “As a man thinks, so is he…”
2 Corinthians 10:5 (NIV) “… we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
Proverb 25:28 (Living Bible) "A man without self- control is as defenseless as a city with broken down walls." Are you a moody person? Do you live by emotions? What percent of your decisions would you say you've made because "I felt like it!" Based on moods. "I didn't feel like it, so I didn't do it. I felt like it so I did it."
Proverbs 21:20 (Living Bible) "The wise man saves for the future, but the foolish man spends whatever he gets." How smart am I? How smart are you? We must learn to live on a margin. The average American saves four percent of his income. The average European saves 16% of his income. The average Japanese saves 25% of his income. Why are we so bad at that? Because we like to live now! I've got to have it now even if I've got to charge it! I'm going to live within my means even if it means using a credit card! Most recent statistics say that the average American is buying $1300 on credit for every $1000 he earns. That's what's called deficit spending. We're imitating the government! The only problem is, the government is the only one who can get away with it because they make the money! You don't.
Learning to manage our money. The problem is lack of discipline, impulse buying -- I see it and I've got to have it. When the going gets tough the tough go shopping. If I like it, I've got to have it. We buy things we don't need -- often! Just because of an impulse. It looked good.
How disciplined are you with your money? Have you learned to manage your money? The fact is, you can't have it all. Contrary to what the beer commercial says, you just can't have it all. You never will!
1 Peter 4:7 says "You must be self-controlled in order to pray."
1 Timothy 4:8 (NLT) “Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.”
2 Timothy 2:15 “Study to show yourself approved to God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
Getting Involved in Church
1 Timothy 3:15 (NASB95) “… the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth.
Hebrews 10:25 (NLT) “And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do ...”
How Can We Put On Our Game Face:
Admit Where You Are
Don't deny it. Quit rationalizing. Quit making excuses. Don't ignore it. "I don't have a problem.... I don't have a temper.... I don't have a drinking problem.... I'm in good shape.... I'm in control." Quit ignoring the problem and admit it. I have a discipline problem. I have a habit that I cannot break. "I could stop at any time." Oh, yeah? Admit your lack of discipline.
Even Paul who was a tremendously disciplined person had to struggle with this. Romans 7:15 & 18 (Good News) "I do not understand what I do: for I don't do what I would like to, but instead I do what I hate! For even though the desire to do good is in me, I am not able to do it." Does that sound familiar? Can any of you relate to that?
Every one of us want to be disciplined, we just go about it in the wrong way. Two things that don't work:
1. Will power does not work. "I'm going to try..." There's a psychological principle that says what you resist persists. The moment I say, "I'm going to stop ... I should ... I must ... I ought to ... ", you are going to procrastinate in doing that very thing. Our old sin nature is full of rebellion and says "I don't want to do anything that I'm forced to do." It's human nature. Willpower doesn't work. How many of you are still keeping the resolutions you made on New Years? How many of you remember the resolutions you made on New Years?
2. Looking for a one time experience that is going to zap you and change your life and all of a sudden you have victory in every area of life. When I first became a Christian I went through several years of real defeat. I kept looking for the magical one time key that was going to change me and let me live with sinless perfection. I'd go to a seminar and think, "Maybe this will be the key." Or a conference, or a book, or a tape, or I'd think if I just get a certain emotional experience. I went from one thing to the next that just a little bit of discipline would have cured. That was the problem. The problem wasn't that I needed an experience, I needed to learn how to discipline myself.
Believe That God Will Help You
"For it is God who works in you to will and do what pleases Him." Circle those two things. He says, “First, I give you the will -- that's the desire and willpower and then I give you the power to do it.” What God asks you to do, He gives you the power to do.
Faith is very, very important in learning self-control. Why? You've got to stop saying, "I'll never be able to change." You've got to stop saying, "That's just me! That's just the way I am!" You've got to expect God to help you. You must believe that you can change. Why?
We always act according to our beliefs. Our beliefs control our behavior. Our commitments or our convictions control our conduct. The way I think determines the way I feel and the way I feel determines the way I act. Instead of working on the symptoms -- the actions -- and forcing myself to change, I need to change my thinking first. It starts in your mind. The way that I think. I need to believe that God will help me. If I don't think I can change then forget it.
Proverbs 13:16 "A wise man thinks ahead; a fool doesn't." Ephesians 6:13 (Good News) "So take up God's armor NOW! Then when the day comes you will be able to resist the enemy's attacks." When do you put on the armor? NOW! Not when you're in the battle, not when you're tempted, not when the feelings come to tell you not to do it. But now, you put on the armor in advance of the battle. Decide in advance.
Self-control is a choice. It is a choice you make in advance of the time you need it. You make the commitment before those moods start coming to tell you the exact opposite.
Lately, I've been running for exercise in the park. Every morning when I wake up before I get out of bed, my body starts saying to me, "You really don't want to exercise today. You really don't feel good. You stayed up late last night. You're tired. You ache. You've got a busy schedule. People are waiting on you. You don't want to do this." I find aches in places of my body and I didn't even know I had those places. And stiffness, and tiredness, and all of these things start rushing in saying, "You really, really don't want to get up and exercise today!"
If I waited until I woke up every morning to make the decision, "Am I going to go out and run?" do you think I'd ever run? No, way! Discipline is talking back to your feelings. When my feelings say to me, "You don't want to run today! You're tired. You stayed up late. You don't feel good. You ache. You have a busy schedule." I say, "You're exactly right, but it's not open to debate! Sorry! Case closed!" When my feelings say, "You don't want to do this." I say, "You're exactly right, but I made the decision a long time back, not this morning. The case is closed. It is not open to debate."
Don't ever argue with your feelings. Your feelings will win every time. The heart of discipline is to decide in advance. That's true of anything -- Bible reading, going to church, any area of your life. Teenagers, you don't wait until you're at the party to decide, "Am I going to take drugs?" That's the wrong time to decide. Teenagers, you don't wait until you're in the back seat of a car to decide, "What are my views about sex? Am I going to save myself for marriage?" That's the wrong time to decide. You decide in advance.
Last week Kay was real busy and I told her I'd do the grocery shopping for her. She gave me a grocery list. I got to the store and realized I'd left the grocery list back on the counter. I had two options: one, I could go back home and get the list, which I now, in hindsight, realize would have been the best thing to do. Or, I could simply go up and down every aisle and look at each item and say, "Was that on the list?" Without a list I bought three times as much stuff as was on the list. It is bad business, unwise, to go shopping without a list when you're hungry. Anybody
knows the wisest way to shop is to make a list, go in, pick out the items and leave as quickly as possible! You decide in advance so you're not given to impulse spending.
Develop a Support System
Find somebody who can encourage you, who can check up on you, make yourself accountable. We don't like that but we need it. The Bible talks about it. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 9 Two are better off than one, because together they can work more effectively. 10 If one of them falls down, the other can help him up. But if someone is alone and falls, it’s just too bad, because there is no one to help him.
The Bible tells us over and over in Scripture, “Christians, admonish one another. Encourage one another.” Exhort one another. That is the value of small groups. They can pray for you. You can say, "I have a need. I have a problem." You can share. That's why we have church because we need each other. You're not a Lone Ranger. God meant for you to be with other Christians who can help you, encourage you, support you and when you fall they lift you up and when they fall you lift them up. You enlist some support.
Find somebody in church and go to them and say, "I've got a problem. This is an area I need to develop some discipline in. I need to have a regular quiet time... weight loss... exercise... managing my mouth... I know it's wrong and a weakness in my life. I've asked God to forgive me. He's helping me but would you encourage me in this? Would you pray for me? Can I call you up at any time and say, “Pray for me, I'm having a tough time right now?” Just check up on me." That's for people who are serious in developing discipline in their life.
Eternal Perspective: Encouraged With Eternal Prize
This is a very important principle. Hebrews 11. Moses is an example of someone making tough decisions and showing discipline in his life by choosing in advance and focusing on the reward of his decision. Hebrews 11:24 "By faith, Moses when he had grown up [A mark of maturity is personal discipline] refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh's daughter." Circle "refused". When he was grown up, mature, he could make choices. First he refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh's daughter. Then he follows a negative with a positive. v.25 “He Chose” to be mistreated along with the people of God." Circle “chose.” Why would anybody do that? Moses was the second in command in Egypt with all the wealth, pleasure, fame of the world concentrated there at that point in time. He rejected all that, the very thing we spend all our lives trying to get -- pleasure, prosperity, power -- to go live with a bunch of slaves who were at the worse stage in their history. Why? He refused and he chose. That took discipline.
It says he did that "rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time." The pleasures of sin -- sin is fun. You know that don't you. If sin were a bummer, nobody would do it. Sin is fun. There is pleasure in sin for a short time. That's the problem. You go out and have your kicks but then you have your kick backs. It's the long term you want to look at. v. 26 "He regarded..." Circle this. That's a choice, a consideration.
"He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value..." He made a priority decision. "...than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward." Moses left pleasure, power, prosperity and went and lived with a bunch of slaves to lead them in the desert for 40 years because he saw that the long term reward was going to be greater than the short term pleasure.
The principle: Let me define self-control in two words. Self-control is delayed gratification. It is postponing the pleasure. "Delaying gratification is a process of scheduling the pain and pleasure of life in such a way as to enhance the pleasure by meeting and experiencing the pain first and getting it over with." That's the only way to live. Do the tough thing first. Get the pain out of the way so you can enjoy the pleasure. The key to discipline is to maximize the long term reward and focus on it and minimize the short term pain right now. Downplay the pain and you maximize and emphasize and focus on the long term reward. You deny the lesser in order to gain the greater. It's the old principle your parents tried to teach you growing up -- Come in and do your homework first so then you can enjoy the rest of the evening. Get it out of the way.
I saw a sign that said, "If you've got to swallow a frog do it fast." If you've got more than one frog to swallow, don't look at them, just do it! Learn to do the tough things first and save the best until last.
Have you ever seen a kid eat cake? They scrape off the icing and put it over on the side. They eat all the cake first and then when that's out of the way then they eat the icing. That's the way to eat cake.
Apply that principle in life. Do the tough things up front. That will do a lot for your marriage. In the later years you will enjoy it. Work through those problems early in your marriage. Don't put them off. Do the tough things first and focus on rewards.
What are the rewards of personal discipline? They are incredible. Fantastic. The rewards of financial discipline are you get out of debt. You get debt free living and prosperity. The rewards of moral discipline are a clear conscience and self-esteem. The rewards of physical discipline are you look good, you feel good, you have more energy, you live longer. The rewards for spiritual discipline are you are usable by God. You are useful to Him because you are disciplined.
1 Peter 4:7 says "You must be self-controlled in order to pray." The disciplines that you establish right now, today, will determine your future. Whatever you want to become, you'd better start working on it right now. The discipline and the habits you develop now determine tomorrow.
The fact is, successful people are simply people willing to do things that unsuccessful people are unwilling to do. They have personal discipline.
Every one of us knows the importance of discipline and every one of us wants to be disciplined. We do. But we just go about it in the wrong way.