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  • The Rev. Charles Smith

Discipline: Its how you become a saint

We read in the book of Wisdom that having been disciplined a little we will receive a great thing for God has tested us and found us worthy of himself.

So let’s seriously talk about discipline for a minute. I will be the first to admit that discipline is generally not a whole lot of fun when you are receiving it but it is essential for success

at anything whether that is becoming a saint or becoming really great at something. No one achieves real success without a concerted effort applied towards a specific goal over an extended period of time.

Success takes discipline.

No one becomes a great musician without practicing the musical scales. No one becomes a great athlete without being physically fit and a lot of practice. No one becomes a great teacher, or nurse, or doctor, or, builder, or anything else without really focused intentional practice practice over time. This takes discipline. Anything worthwhile takes discipline.

It is not a coincidence that the words “discipline” and “disciple” share the same root. No one becomes a great follower of Jesus, that is a saint without intentional practice over time; the word we use to describe practicing following Jesus is discipleship. It takes discipline to become a disciple of Jesus and being a disciple of Jesus is how you become a saint.

Let me tell you a story about learning to type. I was a hot mess using my left and right pointer fingers to hunt and peck at the keyboard while staring down at my hands to find the right keys. I was a slow typer, like painfully slow. It was next to impossible to type text from a sheet of paper into a word processor. And yes if you are wondering this was before the magic of OCR software where you can just take a picture of something with your phone and turn it into a Word document. Long story short, being able to really type was an important thing back in the day. I even took a keyboarding class in the 6th grade.

The teacher saw me hunting and pecking away at a blazing twenty words per minute and realized that my unfocused practice of just hacking away was never going to lead to me being a great typer. She realized that I need intentional focused practice to break up the bad habits I had slipped into. So she took two sheets of paper and taped them to the top of the keyboard and placed my hands under the paper. She forbid me from removing the paper and thereby forced me to engage in intentional practice with touch typing. I can now type as quickly as someone would speak conversationally.

This season of Lent that the church is about to begin is a season of intentional practice of following Jesus.

Contrary to what others may have told you it is not about just giving up something so you can say you gave it up or about reminding you that you are going to die so that you will be scared enough to finally behave in a way that someone else wants you to. It is about taking on some discipline in following Jesus which helps you become a disciple which is how you become a saint.

Having been disciplined a little we will receive a great good for God has tested us through that discipline and found us worthy of himself. This discipline, this discipleship God invites us into is never about punishing us or damning people but about helping us to become saints. Like a loving parent God wants us to be ready for the great life that is to come as his friends forever.

The church has historically taken or the discipline of discipleship in three ways: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.

Prayer is having an honest conversation with God. No fancy language or extreme holiness required. Take a look at a couple of videos linked below to help you get started with these conversations with God.

Aim to spend 15-20 minutes a day talking with God. Set a schedule and be as consistent a possible with it. A scheduled time really helps. The Daily Office is a great way to do this. You

can download a version of it here. Connect with me for help getting started.

Fasting is about disciplining your body by intentionally abstaining from something you would normally enjoy. It is a good way to help focus your prayer and can make it easier to connect with God. St. Augustine puts it this way" fasting cleanses the soul, raises the mind, and subjects one's flesh to the Holy Spirit. [Fasting] renders the heart contrite and humble."

A great way to start fasting is to abstain from meat on Fridays during Lent. The church has historically done this as a way to remember and honor the crucifixion and suffering of Jesus

and in a small was unite our sacrifice to his. Bonus points if you save the money that would have purchased meat and use that money to bless others in Jesus name.

Almsgiving or direct financial support of ministries that in the name of Jesus serve those who are in physical need submits our financial lives to the Holy Spirit. Jesus tells us that when he comes again one of the questions he will ask us is how we supported the most vulnerable in society. Shrugging you shoulders and saying, “I paid my taxes” is not going to be a very good answer. You get no credit in heaven for paying you taxes.

One of my favorite ministries that listens to Jesus' call to support the most vulnerable is the Boys' Home of Virginia. The Boys' Home takes at risk boys and young men and teaches them how to follow Jesus and how to be good men.

My congregation, St. Michael's, does a mission trip to the Boys’ Home in the summer and we support a cottage there, helping to provide for basic needs for the boys and some wants. Any money donated to the discretionary fund at St. Michael's during Lent will be used to support the work of the Boys' Home. I hope you will consider joining me on a mission trip there in the future and see for yourself how vital the work of the Boys’ Home is.

Discipline is how you become a disciple. Discipleship is how you become a Saint. Prayer, Fasting, and Alms giving is how you do discipleship well. Won't you join me over these next forty days with some intentional practice of following Jesus. Let's be disciplined a little together and help each other become saints.

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