When we consider the observation of “opposites” (as we did in our previous post) how likely would it be to describe any of the world-changers throughout history as lackadaisical or unemotional. No, we ascribe the opposite qualities to those of influence – purposeful, brave, or driven. Where, we might wonder, do people of influence get their enthusiasm and determination?
One man of major-league influence was the apostle Paul. One of the reasons for Paul’s great impact on others was that he was an impassioned and disciplined man. Where did Paul get his drive? Was it because of his strict religious training as a Pharisee? Was it due to what some people call a type A personality?
These elements may have contributed to Paul’s drive, but the real reason for Paul’s discipline was the focus of his life. Paul passionately and persistently focused on the “crown that will last forever” (1 Corinthians 9:25). Many who compete at any level in any sports event or business venture, have their earthly reasons for their high levels of motivation—an earthly prize, a “crown that will not last.” But Paul’s motivation was Jesus Christ—an eternal prize. And, that focus made all the difference!
Paul wanted to pursue the knowledge of Jesus Christ (Philippians 3:10). Paul wanted to preach the message of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 9:16). And Paul was willing to pay any price and do whatever it took to stay in the Christian race for Jesus Christ. As I said, Jesus Christ was the complete focus of Paul’s life. And the more Jesus Christ influenced Paul, the more Paul influenced others.
Paul’s motivation to please Jesus Christ and to obtain an eternal prize were chief contributors to his life of discipline. These were his goals and his passion. And friend, like Paul, you and I have certain people or things who are driving our life. So I ask you, What is motivating you these days? What is getting you up early every morning and keeping you up late at night? What is consuming the hours and days of your life? Is it a career? Is it a desire for success? Is it the goal of financial independence? Is it a dream of future happiness or retirement?
These desires in and of themselves may not be wrong or evil. But what happens when you reach any of these physical or financial goals, these “earthly” prizes? Will you be satisfied? Maybe. But also maybe not. My friend, here’s the hard question: Are you willing to take a chance and expend your life and energies on these kinds of pursuits that, in the end, might not fulfill your deepest longings?
Paul was a man who had it all. He had the right background, the right job, and was the best at what he did. He was making excellent progress toward the top of his “profession.” But after he became a Christian, Paul saw his accomplishments and goals in a different light. So he gave up all his earthly and personal pursuits for something better—far better! He gave all of it up for a life of following hard after Jesus Christ. Hear the heart of Paul as he searches for the words to describe for us the new focus of his life:
Whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ (Philippians 3:7-8).
My friend, discipline is a good and profitable thing. You will never get anywhere without it. You will never be a man of influence on any level without discipline. But make sure your discipline has the right focus, the right direction. Like Paul, make sure your goal is, first and foremost, Jesus Christ. Then all else will fall into place!
A Verse to Recall:
“Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things [the necessities of life] shall be added to you.” Matthew 6:33