About the para­dox of dis­ci­pline and hap­pi­ness

Daily Press (Sunday) - - Good Life - Brian Sixbey

The Scrip­tures are full of chal­lenges that cut both ways — Je­sus said, “Let any­one who is with­out sin throw the first stone,” (John 8:7), and, “Go now and leave your life of sin,” (John 8:11).

Like­wise, he said, “If any want to be­come my fol­low­ers, let them deny them­selves and take up their cross daily and fol­low me,” (Luke 9:23), and, “I came that they may have life, and have it abun­dantly,” (John 10:10).

None of these ap­par­ent dif­fer­ences are op­posed to each other. Both are true and point to the same re­al­ity. We should nei­ther con­demn oth­ers nor do what we be­lieve is wrong. We need to prac­tice self­de­nial and self-ful­fill­ment. The deep truths of the Bi­ble are of­ten para­doxes, truths that seem con­tra­dic­tory, but point to a deeper re­al­ity.

Life is of­ten too com­plex to be boiled down to only yes or no. How many par­ents, friends and cou­ples find them­selves need­ing to say, “I love you and I can­not per­mit you to do (fill in the blank)?”

Love has bound­aries. Fields have fences. Life has lim­its.

As we have re­cently be­gun a new year, I want to ex­plore the para­dox of dis­ci­pline in re­la­tion to hap­pi­ness, be­cause this is of­ten the time we are con­sid­er­ing mak­ing changes in our lives. How can we ob­tain abun­dance in a life when we are re­strict­ing our­selves? How can we take on full­ness of life when we at the same time put lim­its on what we do?

Phys­i­o­log­i­cally, if we re­strict our diet we know our me­tab­o­lism will slow down to com­pen­sate, Faith and

Val­ues be­cause the body likes to main­tain its cur­rent state. This is the di­et­ing onetwo punch: With­out low­er­ing caloric in­take, the body will not lose weight; but if we lower the in­take, the body tends to slow down the me­tab­o­lism so that our cur­rent weight can be main­tained. I will not pre­tend to be a doc­tor to solve this is­sue, so let’s move on to life practices I can safely talk about.

At one of my pre­vi­ous churches, I vol­un­teered to visit the lo­cal jail for a two-hour Bi­ble study once a week for nearly three years. I came to it be­cause my Bi­ble study group wanted to do it as a project, but when I tried to set it up, the jail did not like the idea of group vis­i­ta­tion, so I went with a part­ner un­til he had to stop.

One day af­ter I fin­ished the study, a new in­mate men­tioned to me that he thought he had a call to

We can say with con­fi­dence, then, that a mea­sure of abun­dant life is to rec­og­nize that we must prac­tice self-dis­ci­pline. We can­not keep our­selves from do­ing wrong all the time, but we can prac­tice do­ing right — and do­ing right by the way we treat oth­ers — and build in practices that help us stay on a good path.

pas­toral min­istry. He con­fided that he had been caught when he com­mit­ted a se­ri­ous crime against a ju­ve­nile fe­male. I told him I was sure God had a call on his life, but he should con­sider work­ing in other ar­eas be­cause he needed to learn dis­ci­pline.

It is true that we are all sin­ners. To quote the pas­sage Billy Gra­ham made fa­mous, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Rom. 3:23). It is also true that Je­sus for­gave many whom the world thought un­for­giv­able, and that he urged them to go and sin no more.

We can say with confi- dence, then, that a mea­sure of abun­dant life is to rec­og­nize that we must prac­tice self-dis­ci­pline. We can­not keep our­selves from do­ing wrong all the time, but we can prac­tice do­ing right — and do­ing right by the way we treat oth­ers — and build in practices that help us stay on a good path.

I have found there is no sub­sti­tute for be­ing ac­count­able. I have a group I meet with reg­u­larly that re­quires me to re­port on the state of my spir­i­tual life. I en­joy the ca­ma­raderie, and I helped cre­ate the group, but when it comes my time to an­swer how my soul is, I strug­gle ev­ery time. The ques­tion forces me to step out­side of my­self and ad­mit to the thoughts of my heart I usu­ally keep buried. An­swer­ing the ques­tion, which causes me to strug­gle, ul­ti­mately causes me to re­joice.

Putting it sim­ply: Keep in com­mu­nion with God and with oth­ers. Prac­tice self-dis­ci­pline. Dis­cover that abun­dant life has be­come your life. Brian Sixbey is the se­nior pas­tor at First United Methodist Church Fox Hill in Hamp­ton.

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