Sentence Sermons (Christian Inspiration) #107 --- Self-Discipline

Quotations on Self-Discipline

Faith can master life. But faith is the result of years of self-discipline and the mastery of small things until the largest can also be mastered.

—Eugene M. Frank, The Topeka Daily Capital, Topeka, Kan., Jan. 27, 1952.


Discipline and training are essential to the growth and development of powers needed for the future: for years all of our faculties must be subjected to discipline, that they may be duly qualified for lawful and hopeful maturer years. The strengthening of our intellectual grasp upon all knowledge within our reach, both divine and human, requires patience, care and time. The maturing of our moral nature, that we may have a due appreciation of that which is right and worthy, is not to be attained without much labor and self-denial, nor even without the cautious study and judicious investigation of that which is best and most valuable in the experience of the past.

But still a higher quality demands even larger care, because it must sanctify and purify all our nature and demands our best attention. Spiritual discernment, whose special duty it is to receive and hold the divine life flowing into us from Christ, must itself be nourished and trained by diligent use of all the means of grace. By this means our intellect will be made reverent and careful in its study of nature and man. Our emotions will be raised to the highest degree of moral sensibility, our sense of duty will be trained to appreciate that which is most noble in character, most refined in feeling and most lofty in aspiration.

By such means "Christ will be slowly formed in us and the hope of glory will shine out from all our actions;" by this means your spirit and soul and body will be prescribed blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the changing scenes of time shall have passed away and the majestic glory of understanding shall fill the universe.

—Alexander C. Garrett, Dallas Morning News, Dallas, Texas, May 26, 1913.


Human freedom is only possible by self-discipline. ... Now discipline is not being punished for wrong doing. It is, rather, living according to the truth about life. Discipline of the body, for example, is living according to the truth about the body, in terms of food (diet), exercise, habits of rest and recreation. One enjoys freedom respecting his body by choosing to live according to the truth about it expressed in the laws of health and in healthful habits. In the matter of right and wrong, discipline means guidance by an enlightened conscience. With reference to the mental life, discipline means education and culture; with reference to the aesthetic life, appreciation of beauty; to the social life, the golden rule; to the spiritual life, living freely and joyously in harmony with God.

The way to freedom, not as a political dogma nor a philosophical ideal, but as a personal experience is the way of self-discipline whereby one's life is brought into harmony with the truth about life. Self-discipline alone makes democracy personally possible, but self-discipline also makes democracy therefore personally possible anywhere.

—E.F. Haight, The Baptist Message, Shreveport, La., July 25, 1940.


Discipline signifies submission to instruction, imparted by personal instructors and didactic experiences. The self-disciplined person is one who holds himself within restraining boundaries. In other words, the self-disciplined individual demonstrates restraint and control in all his dealings. Self-discipline is a virtue because it is in quest of "moral excellence." Thus excellence will express itself through the entire personality--obedience to law, balanced temper, constructive talk, refusal of that which dethrones reason and contributes to riotous living.

—E.D. Head, Baptist Standard, Dallas, Texas, May 24, 1961.


Rewarding self-discipline cannot be realized by unaided human effort. True self-discipline comes by cooperation with God and trustful dependence on the power He supplies.

—E.D. Head, Baptist Standard, Dallas, Texas, Nov. 15, 1961.


Someone has said that reputation is what others think we are, and character is what we really are. It may not always be possible to keep evil people from giving you a bad reputation, but one can always guard his character by keeping the truth in his heart. ...

The safe thing for a Christian, young or old, is to guard his thoughts and keep them clean and true to his profession of love for Christ, to guard his words and his behavior so that no shadow of blame may attach to this reputation. The Christian must be all for Christ, with no doubtful areas nor questionable corners that may keep others away from him or his Lord.

The Christian has a solemn duty to guard both his character and his reputation. This calls for the most strict self-discipline to control the emotions, the thoughts, the words, and the conduct.

—J.C. Hockett, Jr., The Sunday School Builder, Nashville, Tenn., June 1952.


[Read Matthew 16:24-25; 1 Corinthians 9:24-27; 2 Timothy 2:3-5; Hebrews 12:1-4.]

Here is a diet lesson prescribed by the Apostle Paul: "Whether, therefore, ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God." (1 Corinthians 10:31.)

It calls for doing things to the glory of God. It prescribes a satisfactory diet, and calls for self-discipline not only in eating and drinking but also in all the other affairs of life.

A word picture of what is meant by our lesson subject, "Self-Discipline," is given us by Dr. Winfield Burggraaff in Earnest Worker, a Presbyterian Sunday School periodical. I quote his words:

"Trees, climbing roses and tomato vines cannot discipline themselves--they have to be pruned and staked and tied up. We are not trees or tomato vines or climbing roses. We are humans made in God's image and that means, among other things, that we have the power of self-discipline."

It is the right use of this power of self-discipline, plus the help of the Lord, that keeps men and women from falling and enables them to lead understanding, right, virtuous, and useful lives. If and when one's foot slips and he falls, it is the right use of this power of self-discipline plus the help of the Lord that enables him to ask for forgiveness and get up and go on.

I have had more than 20 years' experience in using probation and suspended sentences, etc., in efforts to reform and rehabilitate men and women who have violated the law. The first inquiry in any case is whether the individual still has or can repossess the power of self-discipline. The reason it is more difficult to reform a narcotic or liquor addict is that the use of narcotics or liquor weakens or wholly destroys the will power--the power of self-discipline.

But many of us who are not lawbreakers but are pretty good folks also need self-discipline. Let's not pass this subject with a wave of the hand. Self-discipline merits the careful, prayerful study, along with self-examination, of all of us.

Coming now to the verses in Matthew 16:24-25: Peter, in answer to His question, declared Jesus to be "the Christ, the Son of the Living God." (Read also Matthew 16:13-20.) After that Jesus began to prepare His disciples, including the 12 apostles, for what was to come--His death on the cross, etc. He wanted them to get up on higher ground to exercise with His help the power of self-discipline. He wanted them to grow. He said to them, "If any man will come after me let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me." (Verse 24.)

There is every evidence that 11 of the 12 apostles met the test. That they did deny themselves, exercised self-discipline, and grew into useful Christians. There was one exception--Judas Iscariot. He could not, or would not, keep his hands out of the money bag. He had a sharp, critical tongue. He continuously put obstacles in the way of the Lord's work. He stirred up trouble. He did not grow, he shrank up. He shrank to the point of betraying and selling Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. If a man is not growing, there is danger that he may be shrinking.

—Thomas Martin Kennerly, Houston Post, Houston, Texas, Aug. 13, 1954.


What is the way indicated by God that leads from immaturity to spiritual maturity? The way from immaturity to maturity is the way of self-discipline. Man had to discipline his body by doing the work assigned him by God. ... The discipline to the mind would come through observation and solicitude and judgment and decision. ...

If some of us were asked to name the one failing on the part of professing Christians that is most responsible for their remaining in the state of immaturity we would have to name the failure in self-discipline.

Let us look at this failure in one sphere. There is a growing appreciation of the tremendous resources in prayer for self help and help to others. And yet what percent of Christians are willing to discipline themselves by setting apart even a few minutes of each day not only for reading and studying about prayer, but for actual prayer? All of us could give a list of the problems involved in prayer. We are long on problems, but short on practice. Those who have most disciplined themselves in the sphere of prayer have the fewest problems.

The way to spiritual maturity is the way of developing God-given capacities. ...

How thrilling to be on the campus of a college or university when classes change rooms. Every boy and girl making his way ladened with books from one classroom to another is an illustration that God does not bestow learning. He bestows the capacity to learn. The road to maturity in education is the road of self-development.

—Charles L. King, Houston Post, Houston, Texas, Nov. 7, 1954.


A disciplined mind is a mind that is trained to work normally and righteously. A mind that lies idle and untrained will rust like a plow standing idle in the furrow. It will grow soft and decay like wood exposed to bad weather. The only hope of preserving a sound mind is to work and keep it forever busy. That is what schools are for, to give the mind practice in thinking and to give right direction to the thoughts. Some people may go through school without attaining it; others may attain it without going much to school.

—P.I. Lipsey, The Baptist Record, Jackson, Miss., Jan. 22, 1920.


There are at least four elements in discipline which must be included in the full development of personality and full service or functioning of all our faculties. We would place first of these the habit of obedience. ...

The restraint of law is a necessity for the development of character and for the enjoyment of all social contacts. There must be a recognition of a common source of authority for all men. No man can be a law unto himself without being a barbarian. No man can fail or refuse to recognize the authority of God in his life, nor can he fail without destroying his own character. The discipline of obedience is at the basis of personal development.

The second thing is close akin to the first. There must be order, system, regularity in conduct and life. The discipline of orderliness and system are necessary to make men and women. And this goes down to the minutest details, and to the most ordinary and apparently unimportant things in the daily life. Take the day's work: there ought to be a regular time to get up out of bed every morning. This may seem unimportant but it is of the utmost importance to start right. ...

To drag late is irritating and injurious. Character is dissipated by the habit of being late or "out of pocket" when anything is to be done. The habit of being late for any engagement is an index of slovenliness and a close cousin to dishonesty. It is robbing somebody else of what is more than money. ... There is something morally wrong with the man who is habitually late.

Of course system and order cover more than mere punctuality. It is regularity in the performance of tasks; it is system in arrangement of all details of conduct and business. ... Time is rhythmic; all life is in periods. They must be taken not of and conformed to. Time and tide wait for no man. The world works mathematically and poetically. And men are made or ruined by observing system or disregarding it.

The third element in discipline is self-restraint or self-denial. We had as well make up our minds that we can't have everything we want in this world. And if we did we would be eternally ruined. Self-indulgence or to be pampered by others is utterly ruinous to character. ...

The last thing in discipline is hard work. The man who did not learn to work in childhood is handicapped as long as he lives. And if he never learns it, he is a doomed man, doomed to worthlessness and littleness. There is no excellence without labor. Jesus does not invite any other sort into His company. "Come unto me, all ye that labor"; not that you may stop work, but that you may know how to do more work and do it with more facility and efficiency. "Take my yoke upon you." And everybody knows what yokes are for. If any man will not work neither shall he eat. And what is more he shrivels up to nothingness.

—P.I. Lipsey, Baptist Record, Jackson, Miss., July 21, 1938.


Mental discipline is a practical process of the mind. A live perception, a vivid imagination and a good memory, recollection and reason are necessary intellectual traits. ... Then there are moral qualities which must be cultivated, in order to fill the requirements of mental discipline. He should exercise prudence, mind his own business, not have to many irons in the fire, avoid gossip and be very guarded of his tongue. He should jealously and carefully guard the integrity of his character. He should be pure, honest and charitable, so that he might exercise that influence which should reflect the true gold of his integrity in his own soul to all about him. Another characteristic of mental discipline is the spiritual nature. This includes philanthropy to all without regard to station in life. The child of the poor–in rags suffering for a word of kindness–must be treated as well as the son of the wealthy, blooming in all the privileges of better treatment. A [man] must be a true citizen, loyal but yet standing above paltry citizenship. Then above all he must be imbued with the religious influence that rises above bigotry and sectarianism to that perfect state where man shall become like unto his God.

These are a few of the characteristics of mental discipline; now as to their means of development. A [man] must be consistent with himself, cultivating his own individuality, and placing before him that ideal of perfection which probably none can obtain in this world but which all must try to get–the ideal, which is his better self. He must be progressive. The moment [he] ceases to learn, he becomes a pedant; and pedantry is [a] curse. ... The greatest means is a devotion to his calling that is as strong as sacrifice. Nothing but enthusiasm will hold [him] in the place where he must stand to be successful. The results from the practice of these means of development is a firmness of character, the esteem of his fellowmen and a success in his profession.

—Karl G. Maeser, Utah Enquirer, Provo, Utah, July 2, 1889.


Crime is an indication of an abnormal character, a mental infirmity manifesting itself in the lack of self-control and self-discipline. Character which is governed by the impulses of the heart requires strengthening to appreciate moral values, even as the mind must be educated to appreciate science, art and literature.

Just as the body must be built up to withstand the ravages of germ disease, just as immunity must be developed against the pernicious infections which lurk everywhere, so must character be immunized against all manner of temptation and vicious influences which tend to corrupt the morally weak and lead them to lives of crime, wrecking their own lives and the lives of those who are dear to them. There are a thousand and one causes for crime. Bad home environment, bad association, the slums, the clash of cultures, inborn criminal tendencies and the like; but all of these go back to the one basic cause, and that is the lack of proper discipline to resist these influences.

—F.B. McClain, St. Petersburg Times, St. Petersburg, Fla., June 22, 1936.


The cutting edges of mental discipline need sharpening. They have been dulled by many abusing processes. Mental sloth, modern educational techniques which fail to teach the art of concentration, and poor incentives are but a few of the dulling forces of the mind. Mental excellence is that rare state of the mind which determines many moods, as well as much of our health and religious faith. Without the right "frame" of mind and attitude, all types of negative forces crowd life, robbing it of the joys of living.

When it comes to evil thinking--that degraded attitude toward God and humanity--man needs to be told that wrong thinking gives rise to wrong conduct. Today's new-found psychological gimmicks have served to confirm man's foolish notion that evil thoughts do not constitute an area of responsibility.

Many people are being led to believe that passion is little more than natural obsession; that compulsion toward neurosis is but an advanced degree of natural drive. Such being the case, why should any consciousness of guilt follow compulsive conduct?

A long time ago Jesus Christ warned of the danger involved in wrong thinking. In essence He said to throw the devil of evil thoughts out of one's mind much as one would throw unsightly and useless furnishings out of a house. A cleaning out of every corner was essential.

He said that the dismissal of the devil is but half the process of victorious thinking. Throw the devil out in "wondrous potency." The house is to be swept and garnished and then furnished with new furniture, fresh occupants, positive thoughts, creative desires, and worthy aspirations. Otherwise, a mental vacuum will result, and the time will come when the devil in company with seven worse devils will return to invade the house, and the "last state of that man is worse than the first."

Replace degraded thoughts with elevated ones; substitute the lustful for the lovely; fix the mind on things above; stay it on God in trusting belief. Pleasant thoughts direct the mind in quest of the best.

Actually, this is the nature of faith. Knowing such intellectual force of mental disciplines, faithful thinkers through the ages have created a communion of thinkers whose mental excellence lifted them above the rest. Said Herder to his son as he lay near death, "Give me a great thought that I may quicken myself with it." The Biblical reminder is, "As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he."

—Roy O. McClain, The Atlanta Constitution, Atlanta, Ga., March 1, 1965.


If many insane persons could come back to rational thinking, they would convince us that among the things that caused their mental illness was the lack of intelligent, mental discipline. Things were allowed to run away with them, the mind never had a steering wheel to guide the personality around the roadblocks. This starts in the cradle, when a child finds that he can get what he wants by acting, such can carry over into adulthood. Who asks today whether or not what we want so much is best for us, or will contribute to the good of other than ourselves? Who forgives pleasures that life's higher outreaches may be accomplished? We want what we want when we want, most times, regardless of consequences. Practiced long enough, the mind becomes a marshland of undisciplined forces and eventual illness. Each of us needs to relearn, if perchance we ever knew it, the art of saying "no" with as much ease as we say "yes"' To know that a red light means to stop, rather than rationalizing our colorblindness, is to speak of abiding wisdom, the like of which we know too little.

This ugly fact of life is hard to live with. It is the picture of many employers shouting to employees in the autocratic tone of a dictator, or the father of the house in commanding tenor, or wife or mother in shrilling yells trying to mimic the year-old child. ... A wild passion, an unruly temper, a vulgar tongue, whatever it be, a sense of cultured discipline can overcome it. Living in the carousel whirl of modern tensions, nothing short of an intelligent disciple can survive the dervish of moods, changing temperament and unstable fortunes.

In the soilbed of an undisciplined mind, neuroses of every hue and color can germinate. The depths of depression, the notion that the whole world is against you, the feeling that we can't win, and all that sprout up in a mind that refuses to police itself.

—Roy O. McClain, The Beam, Fort Worth, Texas, December 1957.


No life is perfected except by discipline.

—S. Stephen McKenney, Western Christian Advocate, Cincinnati, Ohio, May 9, 1929.


You may or may not favor censorship, but allow me to remind you that when liberty turns to license, liberty is gone. When a free people are unable to exercise self-discipline, then automatically and ultimately they bring about the ruin and destruction of their society. This is a spiritual law indelibly written by the hand of God on every mortal being.

—E.P. Nichols, The Shreveport Times, Shreveport, La., Nov. 10, 1963.


Discipline of the sternest is the path of spiritual progress, the rigorous rejection of all that is even second best, that the best and only the best shall be built into one's self.

—J.E. Nunn, Amarillo Daily News, Amarillo, Texas, April 16, 1927.


Most of us resent self-discipline, sacrifice, self-denial. We resent them because we think they interfere with pleasure, but they doubtless promote happiness. Over the long run moderation, discipline do more to build up and keep buoyant the human spirit than self-indulgence and lack of restraint can ever do.

—Grove H. Patterson, Milwaukee Sentinel, Milwaukee, Wis., Jan. 8, 1931.


Self-discipline is not a task for a certain day, a certain year, or even a definite stage in life, but it is a continuous process. It is a constant, daily, hourly repentance, and cleaving to that which is beneficial and eliminating that which is destructive.

—William Peterson, Improvement Era, Salt Lake City, Utah, April 1923.


The most meaningful monuments that stand among us are not along park esplanades. Truly memorable is the lengthening shadow of a disciplined life. Authentic life reproduces itself again and again; monuments do not. Monuments do not. Monuments are raised for those things that are forgettable. But the unforgettable reseeds itself in human life.

—Browning Ware, Beaumont Enterprise, Beaumont, Texas, Jan. 28, 1966.


Quiet, inner discipline is essential to good will. Good will reveals concern for others rather than idolatry of self. To desire good for other persons is a response to their needs rather than a reaction to their faults. When someone threatens or harms us the natural response is to react. With defensive counter blows we move to demolish them. Only a good, well-disciplined man can respond with love.

Reaction is automatic. It demands little thought and no creativity. Reaction loses the initiative; it only gives back what has been hurled. Response is love's gamesmanship. It takes the hard shot and turns it into a double play. Response steals the momentum, takes control, and acts to solve the problem with love. When in doubt--act, don't react.

—Browning Ware, Beaumont Enterprise, Beaumont, Texas, Oct.. 27, 1967.


We have learned that if we do not discipline ourselves life will do it for us much more severely.

We know that no child can be turned loose to follow his own pleasures or be given always the things he wants unless his conduct merits them. He must be taught how to walk, how to talk, how to eat, how to dress, how to play and how to study.

One of the first and most important things he must be taught is a respect for the rights of others. He must be taught that he cannot always have his own way. If he learns this as a child temporary failure will not defeat him when he is a man.

Such discipline involves self-control, self-sacrifice. Religion demands sacrifice, regard for others. To that extent it enables its adherents to conquer difficulties and acquire happiness with self-respect.

—Harry C. Withers, Dallas Morning News, Dallas, Texas, May 2, 1939.


Religion subordinates intellectual arrogance to the discipline of an unselfish mind.

It seeks to perpetuate truths that are more valid than those of science and values that are higher than reason.

If a child is not taught that some things are right and others are wrong, its liberated mind will reject all virtues whose observance requires self-sacrifice and self-discipline.

Doubt is substituted for faith, selfishness for love, greed for character, desire for duty, and lenience for discipline.

The result, of course, repudiates the eternal values which, during the centuries, mankind has come to regard as superior to reason or intellect in building character and creating happiness.

—Harry C. Withers, Dallas Morning News, Dallas, Texas, May 24, 1939.


We should get it well fixed in our minds that self-denial or self-discipline is not self-punishment. It is really self-emancipation.

Few things so completely dwarf life or circumscribe more completely its possibilities of growth and development as selfishness. If we live for self only we really do not have much to live for. If the plans and purposes of our lives revolve around ourselves as the center, we do not really have much of a center for life.

If we put Christ and His way of life and service for others at the center of our lives, we do have a worthy center around which to build the only life we have. Such a change in the central motives, purposes and objectives of life is a real self-emancipation.

Some think freedom and happiness are found in self-indulgence instead of self-discipline. The fact is that the most miserable, hopeless people on earth are people who have denied themselves nothing. They have given free rein to every base impulse and desire of life and have followed their own selfish inclinations to the end. The result of such a course of action is anything but freedom. It leads to abject, moral slavery and finally to spiritual death.

—Ewing T. Wayland, The Louisiana Methodist, Little Rock, Ark., Sept. 2, 1965.


No man ever became righteous without self-discipline.

—Roy L. Smith, Tampa Morning Tribune, Tampa, Fla., Aug. 16, 1937.

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