From Lazy to Self-Disciplined – Part 1

Once again in this month’s Mom’s Corner, I would like to use some questions that came in via e-mail as a springboard. Here is what this mom is struggling with:

I was wondering if you had any advice (or possibly you could address this in a Mom’s Corner) on how someone can improve her work ethic. I am terribly embarrassed to admit this, but I really feel like at times I can be lazy. I know there are things that need to be done, but I just don’t feel like doing them! I realize that this is a sinful attitude, and I want to change. Do other moms struggle with this? Would you have any tips on how I can improve or Bible verses that could encourage me in this area? Self-discipline is a character quality I would very much like to see flourish in my life, and I would like to pass it on to my children!

One thing I can tell you is that you are most certainly not alone and that many, if not most, moms struggle with laziness to some degree or another. I expect it is part of the sin nature of flesh that we have all inherited from Adam. “For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would” (Galatians 5:17).

Let’s begin by discerning if self-discipline is important and something for which we would want to strive. We don’t find the word self-disciplined in the Bible so we have to determine its value based on other criteria. Would the Lord have us to be self-disciplined, or would it be legalistic to feel like we need to be busy and productive with our time? We often hear the word legalism used against those who desire to follow the Lord Jesus in a spiritual walk of obedience. Let’s look at this verse. “For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another” (Galatians 5:13). Our liberty is freedom from the bondage of sin, and we are not to use it to serve ourselves but rather to serve others. If we are going to be servants in our homes, to those we love, and to those we come in contact with, it will take time and discipline.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23). Here we have “temperance” as a fruit of the Spirit. Strong’s Concordance defines temperance as “self-control—the virtue of one who masters his desires and passions.” When we master our desires and passions, then we will be focusing our energy on the tasks the Lord Jesus has called us to do.

“And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23). In order to set aside laziness, which involves self-indulgence, we have to deny ourselves. We will choose against what we might in our flesh choose to do with our time and rather decide to obediently accomplish what the Lord has set in front of us.

“. . . for my heart rejoiced in all my labour: and this was my portion of all my labour” (Ecclesiastes 2:10). The Lord wants us to have joy in the fruit of our hands rather than dread or avoid it. The work He sets before us is a blessing not a curse.

Scripture shows us that working, the opposite of being lazy, is positive. “Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work” (Exodus 20:9). For six days of the week, the Lord expects us to be diligently working, and on the seventh day, we get to worship and rest.

“The labour of the righteous tendeth to life: the fruit of the wicked to sin” (Proverbs 10:16). Our work, the fruit of self-discipline, leads to life. It allows us to complete what the Lord wants us to do, and it brings a sense of joy, peace, and contentment along with it. Sometimes we think that doing what we want to do leads to life but there is truth in this verse that it more often leads to sin.

Here is an interesting verse: “In all labour there is profit: but the talk of the lips tendeth only to penury” (Proverbs 14:23). Do you know what penury means? According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, it is extreme poverty. In our situation of desiring self-discipline to help us accomplish our tasks of mothering and homemaking, we aren’t talking about profit and poverty. However, we can easily discern from this verse that working is beneficial while “talk of the lips,” which could be equated with laziness, is harmful.

Our labor would be the choice to set ourselves to the tasks that allow us to love and care for our husbands, our children, and our homes. I think the “talk of the lips” would equate to time wasters such as sitting doing nothing, reading novels, Internet browsing and blog hopping, frivolous shopping, or large amounts of time on the phone. There is nothing wrong with these activities in and of themselves, but when we do them rather than the tasks the Lord Jesus has called us to do, then we have a problem and are entering into the realm of laziness rather than self-discipline.

“The soul of the sluggard desireth, and hath nothing: but the soul of the diligent shall be made fat” (Proverbs 13:4). I think sluggard would be a good word to apply to us when we allow laziness to creep into our lives and rule them. In this verse, we see that the sluggard wants the good things that come from working and self-discipline, just like we moms want the fruit that would come in our lives and home from these positive characteristics. However, it is not the sluggard who reaches that goal, but rather it is the diligent—the mom who is self-disciplined.

This section of Scripture provides us with a great analogy for self-discipline. “Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise: Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest. How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep? Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man” (Proverbs 6:6-11).

The ant works hard even though there is no one watching him, holding him accountable, or telling him what to do and when to do it. For the sluggard, the ant is set out as an example from which he should learn and one he should follow. If he will learn from the ant, he will become wise. In studying the phrase “a little folding of the hands to sleep” in the Hebrew that section doesn’t mean physical sleep but rather just resting. Resting could certainly be one root of our laziness, if it becomes the habit of our lives, because usually we are avoiding work that we need to do and are choosing to do something that we consider more restful, whether it is less physically taxing or less emotional taxing. Again, please don’t misunderstand me. It is okay to rest by doing things like sitting and talking to your family, rocking on the back deck while you look at the garden, closing your eyes for an afternoon nap if you are tired. However, when our lifestyle and focus becomes that of resting and avoiding what needs to be done, that is when we have a problem.

As we begin this series that is examining a move from laziness to self-discipline, the biblical view of those two characteristics is essential. We don’t have to look far to see that the Bible directs us away from laziness that indulges the flesh and toward self-discipline that denies the flesh. Perhaps as you are in the Word this month, you will discover more Scripture that reinforces self-discipline. Next month we will move into the practical aspects of developing self-discipline.

A Godly Legacy – Part 3

We are continuing the topic of a father’s godly legacy. To read the previous two months, see Part 1, Part 2. How critical is it to us when we are gone that we leave behind children who love and serve the Lord Jesus Christ? You can tell how important something is to a man by the decisions that he makes. A man will find a way to do what is important to him. No matter how difficult it is, how expensive or how much time it will take, he will do what he considers must be done. The question is just how important is it to us to raise mighty sons and daughters who will love and serve the Lord Jesus Christ? Our decisions and the life we live will be the proof.

Have you considered how important your role of discipling your children is in determining whether you will leave a godly legacy? We have observed many families where Dad’s responsibility is to bring home the income, and Mom’s is to raise the children. That is fine if they aren’t Christians, but Scripture is clear that Dad is to take the lead in the process of discipling the children. “And, ye fathers . . . bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).

If discipling the children was the wife’s responsibility, then it wouldn’t make sense that a bishop/elder’s qualifications were contingent on his having faithful children. “This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)” (1 Timothy 3:1-5). Are we willing to own our responsibility, and how committed are we about raising godly sons and daughters?

Everyone has a spirit, soul, and body; therefore, we need to develop all three in our children if we are to do our job well. “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:23). Last month, we discussed preparing our children physically, and this month we will begin to look at disciplining their souls.

The soul is comprised of the mind, will, and emotions of a person. It is what makes us unique and often in Scripture is referred to as the heart of man. “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh” (Luke 6:45). We have tremendous opportunities to shape the hearts of our children. This month we will look at preparing the treasures of the mind.

Dads desiring a godly legacy understand the need to train their children’s minds in a Christ-focused, virtuous environment. They will pay their property tax bills (much goes to public and charter schools and state colleges) without the “benefit” of having their children’s education funded in order to avoid the godless, promiscuity-promoting, humanistic environment that the state system provides. Families avoiding state-funded education bear the added financial burden to purchase their own curriculum to ensure that God has His place in the knowledge that is shaping their children’s minds.

Sadly, we hear of families who have taken the “bait” of free curriculum or large dollar checks and been enticed to join charter homeschools thinking they are just another way of homeschooling. Since funding is from public money, Dad is signing away his ability to make choices as to how his children are educated. HSLDA (Home School Legal Defense Association) reports that some thirty states prohibit the use of Christian curriculum in their charter schools. When enrolling his children in a charter school, Dad is now agreeing to fill his children’s minds with the same humanistic material that the public school children receive. With Jesus thrown out, Dad’s hope of a dynamic godly legacy is questionable at best.

I’ve heard that some are happy to enroll in charter schools with the hidden agenda of using Christian curriculum. Such a plan can be both illegal and a violation of conscience. If an agreement was signed stating that the provided curriculum would be used, to do anything else is wrong. The consequences associated with such a bad plan will be to teach the children that breaking one’s word is acceptable behavior as long as you have what you believe to be a good reason. This sort of corrupt example will produce a legacy of compromise.

Dads, who have a passion for a legacy of men and women of God, desire that their children function well in society by being able to speak, read, and write as ambassadors for Christ. Also, abilities in mathematics, science, and business are important. History is beneficial in understanding how God has worked with mankind following the historical account of Scripture. A knowledge of the wrong social choices man has made and the resulting consequences is important in preventing similar future problems.

Another aspect that shapes our children’s minds is not only what they learn but also how they learn. School is preparation for life, and life consists of work. Whether it is Dad providing for the family or Mom managing the home and teaching the children, life involves work. Work is what we are called to do. “And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it” (Genesis 2:15). The Hebrew word for “dress” means to work. God put man on the earth to work. That is why an essential part of raising our children is that as they transition from childhood to adulthood, they transition from playing to working.

Therefore, it is good that children are accustomed to doing schoolwork (as opposed to “schoolplay”). The older they are, the more they need to know how to apply themselves to the task of learning. God gave us a great example with the Bible. Notice it is not filled with pictures or cartoons but words. “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). “Study” in the Greek means to make diligent effort. One of the best preparations for life is to teach our children to study diligently (which requires work) and enjoy it.

During our homeschooling years one of our greatest joys was when one of the children would come to Teri or me exclaiming about things they learned while studying. A tremendous blessing of the children learning to study independently is how they now readily apply themselves to learn new things even after their formal schooling is over. As a result, our children enjoy learning new software, acquiring new skills, working toward certifications, and additionally, the young men love sermon preparation and the ladies doing Bible studies. It is important that our children become lifelong learners. I believe when a person stops learning, they will likely stop growing and begin to shrivel up mentally. Teach your children to work and give them a love for learning. The caution is always to guard our minds and choose to learn only things that do not compromise our convictions.

In addition, we must be cautious to learn in a safe environment. You may want to visit ITonRamp.com, a new website that we launched in May. The goal is to equip young people and parents with new skills through long-distance courses.

In some aspects, twelve years of educating our children seems like a long time, but in reality it is short. There is so much for our children to learn that twelve years goes by quickly. That is why wise parents jealousy guard that time and stay home to concentrate on the children’s learning. Over the twenty years that we have encouraged homeschool families, we have observed that once a homeschooling mom leaves the house with her children for an activity such as a field trip, doctor’s appointment, or errand, little school work is accomplished when they return home. Each day must be seen as a precious resource and every minute used wisely.

Teri and I were shopping for a rug for our bathroom. We stopped into a “rug store” we have driven by many times. Unrequested by us, the salesman began showing us his most costly rugs, which turned out to be handmade. There was one rug roughly three feet by four feet. Every thread was hand inserted and then tied-off in the back. It took two people four months to make that rug. The patience and determination to work day-after-day on such an intricate design was overwhelming to me. We then told him we weren’t interested in paying a lot for something you walk on and would be very satisfied with a synthetic, machine-made rug at a fraction of the price. There’s a time to invest and a time to conserve. The souls of our children, who have been entrusted to our raising in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, are of infinite value. Are we investing in their lives? Are we being faithful stewards?