Discipline, Habit, Passion

Discipline, Habit, Passion

Article by JC Neely 
I took piano lessons for ten years. Chill out, I don't know what you are thinking… but I'm really not that good. I can remember in 4th or 5th grade, something clicked for me. One day I walked into the front room at my parent's house and willingly sat down to play the piano. I wasn't being forced to get in my practice time, and there wasn't a recital coming up. I simply wanted to play the piano. This was new for me (I'm fairly certain my sisters thought I was crazy). Until that point, it had been solely discipline, primarily my parents' discipline, that drove me to the piano. But after that day in elementary school, things changed. Suddenly, practicing piano moved from something I had to do to something I got to do.

It's true in all areas. Disciplines become habits. Then over time, habits become passions. Isn't that true? You started running to get in shape, and then it was something you did regularly, now you think about your next run. Or maybe for you, it's financial. You started off as a disciplined giver and saver. Soon it was part of your regular financial life, and now you love to look for opportunities to give and save. It could be lots of things- an instrument, golf, writing, art, photography, etc. Disciplines become habits, and habits become passions.

Unfortunately, we all want to jump to being passionate. My kids have asked me to teach them to play the piano on multiple occasions. I always start by showing them the keys on the piano. "Not that!" They yell! "Teach us to play like you do!" See, it's in them, and it's in you- we want to skip disciplines and habits and jump straight to passion. I don't want to walk; I want to run. I don't want to work out; I want to be fit. I don't want to save; I want financial stability. I don't want to practice; I just want to be good.

The same is true in our relationship with Jesus. We all, hopefully, have folks we look up to spiritually. People we think, "I want to know Jesus like them in 5 years."  "I want to relate to God and others like them in my life." So what should we do?

Discipline. Not for discipline's sake, but for God's sake. We set aside time to be with God. We learn about prayer. We attend corporate worship. We attempt to surround ourselves with others who are on the same journey… but it is hard. It is discipline.

In this stage, we often get discouraged. We start comparing ourselves to others and think we will never make it. So how can we escape the discipline? Confess to God- "I feel stuck, I know the only thing that will grow my faith is you, so I'm asking you to take my weak efforts and grow strong faith."

But don't give up. It's not a formula- God save us from formulas- but then one day, it's not a discipline to read the word, pray, give, confess; they are becoming who you are! Grace is working. And we watch ourselves shift from discipline to habit. And then, if only we could control this, it becomes what you want to do! It becomes a passion of yours. I desire to worship the Lord, I carve out time for Christian community, I think about the next opportunity to serve- all of a sudden, what started as a discipline is a passion.

So we continue to grow, and as our Heavenly Father shows us new areas of growth, we pick up new disciplines. Perhaps you have started and stopped a dozen times in the past couple of years. That's ok; that's why there is grace today! Perhaps you are stuck in the legalism of discipline. Or maybe you are so scared you will just never really desire God the way you think you want to… All of these are good prayers, so take them to God.

Practically in your life with God, ask: How could I be more disciplined? God, would you take my disciplines and make my heart turn towards you and make them habits? And Lord, if you would be so kind, would you give me a passion for you? I know it doesn't just happen, so give me a grace-driven effort.  

Romans 12:10- No longer be conformed to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

JC Neely

Associate Lead Pastor 
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