The Bible talks about fruit a weird amount for a book that’s not about cooking. If you go in your online Bible and search for the word ‘fruit’, you’ll probably get close to 200 hits! According to the Bible, being ‘fruitful’ is a good thing, even if you’re not an apple tree. In Paul’s letter to the Colossian church, he says this:
For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. (Colossians 1:9-12)
He wants the people in this church to be bearing fruit: living fruitful Christian lives and growing to know God more. But our next question, of course, is what makes for fruitful Christian living? The answer might be one word that surprises you: Discipline.
You might have heard people talk about discipline in the Christian life, and never really been sure what that meant (and maybe they didn’t seem to know what it meant either!). Maybe when you hear the word discipline you just think of a parent telling their child off when they’re naughty: no thanks, not interested. Discipline in our world is mostly a bad thing, because it’s not fun or easy. But discipline is about recognising that what is important isn’t always the fun or easy path.
Discipline means having self-control to live your life in a way that reflects what is important to you. An Olympic athlete (I’m writing this in the lead up to Tokyo 2021) has to have discipline to train, to eat right, to sleep, to stay mentally healthy…all to work towards what is important to them: to be at the top of their game when it’s time for their event. A musician will have discipline to practice every day, so they get better at playing their instrument (whether that’s the kazoo or the cello).
For disciples of Jesus, it’s the same- discipline is important!
We know that we are saved by God’s grace through Jesus death. We know that his Holy Spirit is in us and is changing us to be more like Jesus. And we also know that there are things that the Bible says we should be doing to know God more, that he will work through to change us. These things will make us more fruitful in our Christian lives as God works in us!
There are three of these things that Jesus’ followers are commanded to do in the Bible:
Talking to God (prayer)
Listening to God’s word (engaging with the Bible)
Fellowship with God’s people (church)
Doing all of these things can be incredibly enjoyable and simple a lot of the time. But there’s no point in hiding the fact that sometimes they won’t be fun or easy! There will be times in your life when your daily Bible reading will feel like having root canal surgery, because God will be doing major surgery on your heart. Or there may be times when reading the Bible feels dry, and you just don’t feel like it. There will be times when praying will be hard because you’re going through a tough time. Or maybe you just feel so distracted you don’t feel like you have time to pray at all! And there will be times when dragging yourself out of bed to church on a Sunday morning seems like you drew the short straw, when all your friends and family are still sleeping in.
But in the Bible, we are told that all of these are things that Christians should be doing. Whether it’s fun and easy, or challenging, we should stay disciplined in doing these things if being a disciple of Jesus is important to us: so that we can have a fruit-filled life.
So why are these three things so important for Christians, how can we do them well, and how can you mix things up when being disciplined is hard? Over the next series of posts, you’ll find answers to these questions, and hopefully see why discipline in the Christian life is a good thing.
Based on a workshop series presented in 2021 called ‘Disciplines for Fruitful Christian Living’. By Lauren B.