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Jesus: Best Friend Forever

(This is the final segment in the chapter “Your Private Relationship: Jesus, Best Friend Forever.”) 


Undisciplined persons lose control over their private lives.  In the company  of others, they may seem to have it together.  By themselves, however, they cannot force themselves to do anything, whether diet, exercise, study, pray or anything else that is done privately.  

First, failure to discipline yourself does not represent an inability to choose. No one has stripped from you the right to determine your own behavior. No self-discipline means you are making the wrong choice. Lying in bed when you should get up is simply choosing one behavior over another. Do not say to yourself, “I can’t get up.” Say, “I can get up but I choose to lay here in bed and accomplish nothing.” When you do not write the report that you should write, when you do not make the phone call you should make, when you do not exercise your body when you should, you exercise this same privilege of choice. Your choice of inaction means that you could just as easily have chosen to act. Telling yourself otherwise is self deception.  

Second, self discipline deserves loving, not loathing. It cuts out the fat that has glommed on to your soul. It releases the vibrancy of life locked up within your bones. It gathers up all the potential power wasting away in your being and sets it afire. Self discipline is a huge bolt cutter that chomps through the steel chains wrapped around your arms and legs, setting you free to do what you were created to do. It is an emancipator, not an executioner; a redeemer, not a captor. Self discipline can write the check for your costliest dreams. Until you see it as an ally, you will never fully submit to its demands.  

Finally, the unfortunate connotation about self discipline is that no one can help you. Not true. You need the input from friends, relatives, teachers, coaches, mentors and advisors, especially in the formative years, in order to remain securely engaged in self discipline. Blessed are those whose parents imposed strong discipline upon them as children. In my personal conviction, discipline is not something a parent does to a child; it is something a parent does for a child. The youth who emerges from childhood with self discipline firmly in hand is fortunate indeed.  

Think of the difference between a disciplined and an undisciplined life as the difference between a power grid crackling with thousands of volts of generated electricity versus a bolt of raw lightning flashing across the sky. The one is methodical, the other spectacular. The harnessed electricity in the grid, however, powers thousands of homes. The lightening creates a great commotion, and then it’s gone. Self discipline does not suppress, it compresses your effectiveness into a concentrated form.  

“In reading the lives of great men, I found that the first victory they won was over themselves…self-discipline with all of them came first.” –Harry S. Truman

Thought Life 

Nothing is more private than our thoughts.  In the arena of the mind, we can roam wild and free, without restraint and without penalty from external powers.  Frank Crane’s nineteenth century classical musings about thought life in poetic verse still stir the imagination:

                Bend close! You will smell the lily fragrance of love, the stench of lust,

now odors as exquisite as the very spirit of violets,

and now such nauseous repulsions as words cannot tell.

         Nobilities, indecencies, heroic impulses, cowardly ravings,

good and bad, white and black — the mystery of mysteries,

the central island of nescience in a sea of science,

the dark spot in the lighted room of knowledge,

the unknown quantity, the X in the universal problem.  

Thought preceeds behavior.  Even expressions or acts that we label thoughtless, or that we chalk up to impulsive actions, follow patterns orchestrated by premeditation.  Unless we impose restrictions on our thoughts, we imperil our welfare, if not our lives.  Imagination, fantasy, speculation and virtual reality can create immoral scenarios in which we can engage in wrongdoing without actually commiting sin.  To indulge in these thoughts may be the threshhold to the real thing.   Indeed, many people sin vicariously  in their minds through the sins of others.  Though they are fully aware of God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve to die, they not only do them themselves but approve and applaud others who practice them. Romans 1:32 (AMP).  This possibility elicited this strong admonition in the Scripture: 

For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled. 2 Corinthians 10:4-6.  

Our thinking should be brought into alignment with the will of God.  But, can we control random, unwanted thoughts that sometimes invade our minds?  Can we really bring them into captivity? In a piece of homespun advice, my father used to say, “You can’t stop the birds from flying over your head, but you don’t have to let them build a nest in your hair!”  If you can’t control stray thoughts, you can control whether you dwell on them or not. 

Conversely, good thoughts can lead to wholesome behavior.  If you form the habit of ruminating on positive themes, or on Scriptural truths, or on thoughts about God, you can reap actions that will edify and strengthen the world around you.  This was noted in Paul’s writings to the Philippians.  Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything Praise-worthy—meditate on these things. Philippians 4:8. The thoughts that dominate your mind become the platform for your life’s endeavors.    

Popular children’s book author, Frances Hodgson Burnett, included this pithy comment in her beloved, “The Secret Garden:” “One of the new things people began to find out in the last century was that thoughts—just mere thoughts—are as powerful as electric batteries—as good for one as sunlight is, or as bad for one as poison. To let a sad thought or a bad one get into your mind is as dangerous as letting a scarlet fever germ get into your body. If you let it stay there after it has got in you may never get over it as long as you live… surprising things can happen to any one who, when a disagreeable or discouraged thought comes into his mind, just has the sense to remember in time and push it out by putting in an agreeable determinedly courageous one. Two things cannot be in one place.”’Where you tend a rose, my lad, A thistle cannot grow.’”  


To be authentic is to be honest, real and ingenuous.  But, before you consider this final aspect of your private life, remember that all  humans were born in sin and shapen in iniquity. (Psalm 51:5).  The fleshly existence of a born-again believer is not the real person.  Any attempt to establish authenticity on the basis of the flesh will be 180° out of phase.  For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Romans 8:6.  

We must place authenticity in the context of character.  In other words, don’t be phony.  The interesting story behind phony explains the meaning of the word.  It seems that nineteenth century English shysters pulled a common scam on gullible people.  They would pretend to have found a gold ring on the roadway, and then try sell it to an onlooker for a fraction of the cost, or so the con artist said.  The ring, called a fawney, was actually brass, and it was probably dropped by the faker himself.  A fawney (morphed into phony) came to be known as one who appeared to be one person, but was really someone very different.  Authentic people do not project themselves to be something they are not.  They eschew hypocrisy.  They respect themselves, they are sensitive to the sentiments of others, and they honor the overarching moral traditions that drive the culture.  These traits go beyond proscriptions against lying, cheating or stealing.  This pyramid sit on a much broader base.  Authenticity embraces the idea of truth itself, and genuflects at its shrine. 

Twenty-first century society has an authenticity crisis.  Psychologist Sherrie Campbell wrote, “In a society roiled-out on bling, cash, ego, nakedness and status we have lost our authenticity. We have lost morals and what it means to be ourselves. So many are caught up in following the crowd they have gotten lost in it. How can any type of true success come from being a follower? Followers are lost to their authenticity and are chasers of “status” and “wealth.”  Dr. Campbell continues on to cite ten qualities of authentic people.  They are:

  1. Self-reflective
  2. Healthy-ego
  3. Focus on possibilities
  4. Good character
  5. Visionary
  6. Listeners
  7. Transparent
  8. Open and consistent
  9. Team orientated
  10. Draw upon experience 

Campbell’s fourth point, “Good Character,” goes to the heart of authenticity:   

“You cannot be authentic without first possessing a strong sense of character. This means you do not say things you do not mean, promises are not made you cannot keep and you stay in a place of integrity in all of your dealings, in and out of work. The reason people trust you is because you keep your word, you are not emotionally labile and people sense they can trust you to be who you say you’re going to be with a sense of consistency.” 

These five elements: confession, transparency, discipline, thought life and authenticity, comprise a healthy private life.  The celebrated “right to privacy” may exist politically, but it doesn’t fly with God.  He knows what is in man, and He deals with us accordingly.  His omniscience perfects His judgment, and makes His pronouncements absolutely just. 

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