If you’re a movie buff, you may be familiar with the movie Meet Joe Black (1998, starring Brad Pitt). It is a remake of the movie Death Takes A Holiday (1934, starring Frederic March). In both films, Death in human form takes a 3-day hiatus.
Fascinated by humanity’s love of life, Death doesn’t anticipate the consequences of vacationing from his purpose. In case you haven’t seen either movie, don’t worry I won’t spoil it for you.
Mortality is not my focus this week. I’m thinking about our life’s mission.
And when I look at the mission Giver, I see a disciplined life.
Christ was consistent with his prayer life, fellowship, service and ultimately, his sacrifice. And yet, as I seek to follow his example, at times I struggle with maintaining the rigors of my routine.
At its worst, my discipline takes a holiday.
Discipline, of course, can mean providing correction to change behavior. But the discipline I speak of means application – our willingness to apply what we already know.
It is fueled by what we know about ourselves (to prompt self-control) and what we know about the Lord (to prompt obedience). It stems from the word “disciple.”
If you have an area of your life where there’s distance between you and discipline, you know what this holiday looks like.
I am two days behind on my bible reading plan. I am several months behind on completing my next book. However, I’m four months into reestablishing my long-lost fitness routine.
Thank God for grace.
In a general sense, spiritual disciplines include prayer, fasting, bible study, witnessing and fellowship. Other disciplines require regular practice to develop a skill or enhance our well-being.
Taking a break from the rigors of some routines may be good. But continuously skipping what’s significant can cause significant damage.
If discipline leaves, we lose. But wisdom tells us how to go get it.
I hear rallying cries to heed what’s necessary for my success. But for each rally, there’s a rationale wanting me to settle for less:
Rallying cry: Write something every day.
Rationale: Emails count.
Rallying cry: Read your bible daily.
Rationale: You read it yesterday.
Rallying cry: Pray without ceasing.
Rationale: Praying when you feel like it matters.
It certainly does.
Everything counts towards our goal of pleasing God or towards our tendency to please ourselves. But when discipline takes a holiday, we lose opportunities to grow stronger, wiser and more consistent in experiencing what God has in mind.
In the movies, eventually Death comes back from his vacation and jump starts his purpose. He goes back to ending lives on earth and escorting folks to the hereafter.
Thankfully, discipline has a way of coming back too.
It happens the moment I realize I’m living beneath the privileges and power I have in Christ. My jump-start begins with repentance, as I acknowledge where I’ve slacked off and ask God for forgiveness.
Then I seek his help with establishing what my new level of discipline should look like. He never throws me a ball and chain of shame or guilt. He always offers me freedom and fulfillment in his grace. (see Romans 6:13-16)
There is great honor in knowing the Lord and participating in his plan. There is great privilege and power in being a student of his word and approaching his throne.
And yet, when any privilege or honor feels more like drudgery or a burden, we may tell discipline to take a holiday. It’s helpful to have a caring and honest friend to be accountable to. They can remind us to tell discipline it’s time to come home. As I’m welcoming mine back, I feel a great deal more of hope for the heart and joy to the soul.