“But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:27).
IT’S HEALTHY TO DO SOMETHING EVERY DAY THAT WE REALLY DON’T WANT TO DO — JUST FOR THE EXERCISE. There is a great benefit in practicing the art of self-discipline, that is, engaging in it regularly just for the sake of building our mental muscles.
When Paul said that he “disciplined” his body and brought it into “subjection,” he spoke of something that requires a bit of unpleasantness from time to time. By its very nature, training requires us to get out of our comfort zone. If we never call upon our “muscles” to do anything more than what they want to do, then we never gain the ability to do anything more than that. It’s just that simple. And so we ought to look for opportunities to do things that we don’t want to do. It’s one good way that we grow.
Have you ever watched someone “exercising”? Many of the bodily movements by which strength and agility are developed would be ridiculous if we did them for any reason other than training or exercise. Take sit-ups, for example. There is only one reason to do sit-ups: to make your abdominal muscles do things they don’t want to do. No one would ever do it for any other reason except training . . . practice . . . exercise . . . discipline. When you do sit-ups, you’re demonstrating that you grasp one of life’s great principles: there is value in doing things that don’t want to be done.
Nothing is more valuable than to have our faculties — mental and spiritual, as well as physical — trained and ready to respond to important needs. But having faculties that will respond to important needs is not something that happens overnight or without any effort. When the big tests of life come along, we won’t be ready for them if we haven’t been training for them before then. So today, if there’s some unpleasant little duty that could easily be procrastinated, do it just because you don’t want to. Take that little opportunity to put the flesh in its place. Teach your body to take orders from your spirit. Someday, you’ll be mighty glad you did.
“Keep the faculty of effort alive in you by a little gratuitous exercise every day. Be systematically ascetic or heroic in little unnecessary points. Do every day or two something for no other reason than that you would rather not do it, so that when the hour of dire need draws nigh, it may find you not unnerved and untrained to stand the test” (William James).