Tom Landry the retired football coach of the Dallas Cowboys who is now a motivational speaker was once quoted as saying something like this: “I have a job to do that is not very complicated, but it is extremely difficult. It is to get a group of men to do what they don’t want to do, so they can realize the one thing they so desperately want to achieve and become the person they long to be.” Discipline is the key to success on the sports field, and although it sounds upside down, victory is secured by getting players to do what they do not want to do, so that they might achieve what they have longed for and become the person they have always wanted to be, a champion. In this seemingly contradictory statement, Coach Landry reminds us that success in life is often a matter of paradox. To get what you want, you often have to do, what you do not want to do. In the spiritual realm, it is not any different.
Of all the passages in Scripture one that has really helped me wrap my arms around and embrace biblical discipline, is Hebrews 12:11: “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.” Discipline is a Spirit-empowered ability, that you get through God’s grace, it allows you to say “no” to quick fixes and easy solutions, and say “yes” to facing the hard, difficult things on the front end, in order to receive richer, deeper, and lasting gratification.
Success and progress in the Christian life is often a matter of holy contradictions. God’s kingdom is an upside down kingdom when compared against the world’s thinking, and logical formulas on things (Rom. 12:1-2). The kingdom of God is a counterculture that challenges our intuition, and reverses our worldly values. That is why the wisdom of God displayed in the Cross of Christ is foolishness to the world (1 Cor. 1:18-31; 2:6-16). Those early Christians turned the world upside down because Christ had called them to an upside down pattern of living (Acts 17:6). The fact is that the gospel upsets, and inverts the normal pattern of things. God’s ways are not our ways (Isa. 55:8-9). In God’s kingdom you live by dying (Matt. 10:39)! In God’s kingdom the way up is down (Matt. 23:12)! In God’s kingdom foolishness brings wisdom (1 Cor. 3:18)! In God’s kingdom, weakness produces strength (2 Cor. 12:7-10)! In God’s kingdom slow is fast (Isa. 40:31)! In God’s kingdom to give is to have (Luke 6:38)! In God’s kingdom, little is much (John 6:9)! In God’s kingdom you lead by serving (Luke 22:26). We must realize afresh that the truths of Christianity are often dialectical. In God’s kingdom opposites attract. Let us not forget that God took an instrument of death, a cross, and created a new order of life.
Listen to these challenging words written by A.W. Tozer: “A real Christian is an odd number anyway. He feels supreme love for One whom he has never seen, talks familiarly every day to Someone he cannot see, expects to go to heaven on the virtue of Another, empties himself in order to be full, admits he is wrong so he can be declared right, goes down in order to get up, is strongest when he is weakest, richest when he is poorest, and happiest when he feels worst. He dies so he can live, forsakes in order to have, gives away so he can keep, sees the invisible, hears the inaudible, and knows that which passes knowledge” Think about that! The Christian life does not add up unless you remember that the Christian is an odd number anyway. Therefore, in a world that is back to front you, we have to find the courage to live lives that are viewed as upside down.