“Excuse me, Doug Gehman, but, what kind of a killjoy title is this?! Feelings are BAD? What are you saying? That passion is wrong? Am I to have no desires? Well, excuse me, but, if I can’t live passionately, if I can’t enjoy life and feel good about myself, what then is the point?”
Before you click the Delete key, let me explain.
We are in fact designed for passion! We should have feelings, and be fanatical… about some things. Passion is powerful! No team has ever won a game without passion. Every team member must fanatically believe in himself, and then that belief must become a corporate ethos. Without it, winning is almost impossible.
Passion makes life real, and gives it meaning! But, here’s the caveat to feelings, desires, and passion: Referencing a team metaphor again: until every player disciplines himself, invests in rigorous training, gets into the best physical shape of his life, and coordinates his skill with a defensive or offensive squad under the tutelage of an insufferable coach, victory will allude the team.
No marathon runner finishes a twenty-six mile race until he or she has become a fanatical disciplinarian. And, no runner WINS a race unless he or she has trained more and is in better shape than everyone else. The JOY of winning is the fruit of discipline! To have THAT joy, athletes endure brutal training for a long time.
Victorious Christian living is no different! If “sin” has any accusation against us, it is that we are out of shape spiritually, which implies we are out of shape in other areas, including our emotions and relationships.
Pop culture sells the exact opposite of a disciplined life. We are prompted at every moment to follow our feelings, indulge our appetites, and abandon everything to our heart-felt desires. To deny ourselves pleasure, to deny our feelings and appetites, we are told, is almost inhuman. We are conditioned almost daily to think this way! Advertising and media pour this stuff into our brains. Too often we drink the poison and make the mistake of super-imposing this mentality on our expectations from God. We want Him to forgive us, fix us, and make everything better quickly and with very little participation or personal effort. In short, we want the feelings without the discipline!
Successful people know such thinking, and such expectations, are a lie. Nothing of real value is obtained without a disciplined routine, usually for a long time. Feelings just don’t get you there. They are too unpredictable. Passion is a fleeting commodity. Success in life is built, not on passion and feelings, but on a foundation of work. Passion may be the driver, but discipline is the vehicle that gets us down the road.
The Apostle Paul wrote about “winning the prize” (2 Timothy 2:3-5). He listed two essential criteria: toughness (i.e. discipline) and adherence to rules. This is boring stuff in contemporary culture’s worldview. But, to win, one must learn the mundane skill of self-control. The bedrock of successful living is getting out of bed, day after day, and just doing the right thing, regardless of how one feels! To follow Jesus, to be godly (i.e. to be like God), to live Jesus’ promised “abundant life” we must learn this! Self-control, the disciplined adherence to God’s way, does not come naturally, is not experienced by wimps, and gets little encouragement from the world! But, God calls us to a higher level of existence than what the world offers! He assists us in getting there by the power of the Holy Spirit!
Too many of God’s people are confused about the importance self-control and personal responsibility. Discipline and restrained behavior is too often viewed as a happiness killer, and is based on a ridiculous belief that God wants me to feel good all the time. The stupid idea that says, “If I am NOT happy, God has abandoned me,” is abusive to the soul! It is a lie! God will never abandon us! He is with us all the time, regardless of how we feel: always loving us, always nudging us hang in there, to press forward, work through our difficulties, and do better! God even hides sometimes, like a treasure, daring us to look for Him with patient, fervent (i.e. disciplined) searching! This is God’s wisdom! This is God, our Coach, helping us get the life training and personal growth we need to succeed!
God wants to fulfill all of our desires! But, that kind of fulfillment only comes by:
- Faith (a positive belief in His intentions and disposition),
- Discipline (a pro-active cooperation with Him, knowing I HAVE A ROLE in my own success and discovery of His plan,
- Patience (realizing that anything worth having is worth waiting and working for), and
- Holiness (separating myself from every unhealthy distraction).
When Jesus called us to forsake all and come after Him, THIS is what He was talking about! To “take up your cross and follow” Jesus is to deny every self-indulgent weight that is dragging you down and lying to you about life’s true joys and your most rewarding experiences.
In this new year, let THIS be your resolution: “My highest goal will be the patient pursuit of God’s highest purposes!