Hall of Fame wide receiver Jerry Rice is famously known for training on “The Hill.” This is what he said about it in a Men’s Fitness Magazine interview:

Screen Shot 2017-03-10 at 1.40.56 PMThe hill sprints were about two-and-a-half miles up, and the last 800 meters were completely uphill. We ran it for time, and if you could get around that 15, 16 mark, that was excellent. A lot of guys came to train with me over the course of my career, and a lot of guys fell by the wayside. You know your body is going to be sore, and you know there’s going to be some days where you don’t want to get out of bed, but still, you’re obligated to do that, and that was my approach to the game. I enjoyed every second of it. A lot of guys dreaded going to training camp. I looked forward to it, because I had already prepared myself.”  Watch him here.

Jerry Rice was a man of physical and mental discipline.

Vince Lombardi, the famous Green Bay Packers football coach, became a sports legend because of words like this:

Screen Shot 2017-03-10 at 1.39.21 PMI’ve never known a man worth his salt who, in the long run, deep down in his heart, didn’t appreciate the grind, the discipline.

The good Lord gave you a body that can stand most anything. It’s your mind you have to convince.

He built this value into the hearts of his players. As a result, the Packers dominated football in the 1960s.

Players and coaches in all athletics know the high benefits of a disciplined physical and mental life. In any sport, at any level, growth occurs because of discipline.

The Bible recognizes this athletic reality. The writer of the New Testament book titled 1 Timothy said this to his spiritual protege named Timothy:

“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.”

As was a common practice for biblical authors, they recognize a cultural practice (sports) and use that as an illustration for a greater, spiritual reality. Paul, the author, points to the disciplined athlete as an example for Christians to discipline themselves in all areas of life.

Interestingly, this the word that Paul uses in this verse is the Greek word “γυμνάζω” or gymnazo, which is where we get the words gymnasium and gymnastics. It was the word the ancient world used when talking about gymnasts who would train their bodies in the nude. Merriam-Webster tells us that discipline is “training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character.”

The root of discipline is not originally punitive. Occasionally, this term has that in mind, but the key to developing a life of discipline is acknowledging the purpose of the training. Without a goal in mind, discipline become drudgery and effort fades fast. Notice that in the Bible verse. The goal of physical training is to receive benefits in this life. For Jerry Rice, it was to outlast the cornerbacks in the fourth quarter. For Lombardi, it was to win championships.


The same holds true for the Christian. Christians develop discipline in their life because it has benefits in two periods of time. Discipline for the Christian pays off in this current life. Discipline for the Christian also pays off once they die and spend eternity with God. So in order to develop discipline, one must have a goal in mind. For the Christian, the goal is learning to become like Jesus.


The second key to developing discipline is understanding we do it ourselves. People are mature when they take responsibility for the things they can do and discipline themselves. Sure we get help from others, but at the end of the day, a person chooses for themselves to train. A Christian counselor quipped that in marriage, “My response is my responsibility.” A person of discipline doesn’t wait on others but initiates habits and choices in life that develop. We must remember, we discipline ourselves.


Finally, the way we develop discipline is to chose the training methods that are beneficial to us. This is the concept of practicing the same things over and over and over again. For the Christian, personal reflection on scripture is an essential habit. One can read, study, memorize, and meditate on what the Bible says. One can do these things daily, weekly and monthly. Done year after year, these habits train the Christian so that they will be “prosperous and successful in whatever they do” (Joshua 1:8).

Never forget discipline was never intended for drudgery. Although it may be uncomfortable at times (like Jerry Rice sprinting up the hill for two miles), the right kind of discipline always pays off…always!

To develop discipline:

  1. Know your goal.
  2. Take responsibility for your own decisions.
  3. Practice, practice, practice good training methods.




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