A right understanding of discipline requires a right understanding of the God we follow, for any effort in that direction is truly a "wholehearted yes to the call of God."

Self-Discipline: A Wholehearted Yes to the Call of God

Child #1:  “But I don’t want to do my spelling lesson.”

Child #2:  “I really don’t feel like cleaning my room.”

Parent:  “I’m not asking you to want to. I don’t expect you to feel like it. I’m asking you to do it anyway.”

There was a season in which conversations like this were standard practice in our home. With a focus on quotidian matters of chores and school work, they seem, at first glance anyway, to be inconsequential. However, the performance of small needful duties without procrastination or complaint is a sign post which, if followed to its destination, carries the promise of a more disciplined life in the future. St. John of the Cross expressed it well:

“Do not wait for desire before performing a virtuous deed, since reason and understanding are sufficient.” (134)

Elisabeth Elliot was uniquely qualified to write on the topic of self-discipline, for she brought to it her unique brand of no-nonsense wisdom, a product of having already “set her face like a flint” in this following life. A right understanding of discipline requires a right understanding of the God we follow, for training in self-discipline requires a “wholehearted yes to the call of God.” (16)

In her recently re-released Joyful Surrender, Elliot creates a linguistic mosaic featuring the words dependence, responsibility, and obedience to fine tune her readers’ thinking. Her strong gospel underpinnings keep her thoughts from a purely bootstraps mentality, for she understood that “discipline is not my claim on Christ, but the evidence of His claim on me.” (28)

7 Disciplines for the Believer’s Life

We embody self-discipline here on the ground by the miracle of grace, according to the guidelines of Scripture, and through the inspiration and enabling of the Spirit of God. What we bring to this equation is our own will–as an offering to God. (37) Our cooperation with God in a life of self-discipline shows up on seven fronts, and Elisabeth has devoted one chapter to each in a devastatingly convicting and yet hopeful celebration of joyful surrender.

  • First, discipline of the body is basic and essential, and it’s amazing how Christians fall into Gnosticism when we’re confronted with the need to wrestle our habits into submission to the will of God.
  • Rhythms of fasting and resting impact on the body as well as the mindand the Christian life is a continual journey of being “re-minded”–corrected  and pulled away from error by the Spirit who aids us in “thinking Christ.” (64)
  • In her discussion of the disciplines of place and time, Elliot’s focus is on the authority of God in our lives to call the shots, while the main question in the discipline of possessions is:  Are we willing to accept what God gives and to relinquish our grip on what he chooses to withhold?
  • The discipline of work views every task as a gift to be offered back to God, no matter how big or small, and our feelings, likewise, are to be recognized, named, and then laid open before the Lord for his training. (145)

Discipline is fundamental in the life of a disciple, and it finds its expression in our lives as we give up our “right” to my-way-my-time-my-stuff-my-preferences. Living in Joyful Surrender, we find that our obedience to Christ is met with gifts that far surpass the value of anything we will ever relinquish to Him.


Many thanks to Revell for providing a copy of this book to facilitate my review, which, of course, is offered freely and with honesty.

Trusting for grace in the glad surrender,

Michele (1)


I  am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by linking to Amazon.com. If you should decide to purchase Joyful Surrender, simply click on the title (or the image) within the text, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

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Michele Morin

Michele Morin is a teacher, blogger, reader, and gardener who finds joy in sitting at a table surrounded by women with open Bibles. She has been married to an unreasonably patient husband for nearly 30 years, and together they have four sons, two daughters-in-love, two grandchildren, and one lazy St. Bernard. Michele loves hot tea and well-crafted sentences, poems that stop her in her tracks and days at the ocean with the whole family. She laments biblical illiteracy and advocates for the prudent use of “little minutes.” She blogs at Living Our Days, and you can connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.

52 thoughts on “Self-Discipline: A Wholehearted Yes to the Call of God”

    1. Yes, I really took some hits as I read, and I’m grateful for the faithful wounds of my book friend Elisabeth, but it was a jarring read.
      Which makes me wonder why I’m planning another read through this summer, but I am…

      Like

    1. I absolutely do.
      Just as there are people who are more naturally outgoing and inclusive and welcoming, I think there are also people for whom the structure of a disciplined life comes more naturally.
      But I don’t think we get to use our “natural bent” as an excuse for sloppy living any more than we get to use it as grounds for living like a hermit.
      What an awesome question, Sue!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I remember some of those conversations like the ones you described with my children. I need to talk to myself that way as well. I read the original book some years ago, but need to read it again. I wonder if this new release changed anything from the original. I like that concept of being “re-minded.”

    Liked by 1 person

      1. The opening conversation still happens a lot at our house.

        I have enjoyed several of Elizabeth Eliott’s books, but have not read this one. She does know a bit about surrender. We are reading her book on the life and testament of her late husband Jim. I believe he helped Elizabeth take surrender to the next level.

        Thanks for letting us know about this book, and for your thoughtful post.

        👒

        Like

  2. Oh, yes, Michele. I agree whole-heartedly. Discipline is central to living a believer’s life. You are preaching to the choir here! 🙂 Another book to add to my TBR list. I am enjoying “The Color of Life” right now!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I tend to procrastinate a lot more than I would like, more when it comes to doing things for myself than for others. I like how you say we get so much more than we relinquish that is so true. Thank you for linking up, you have given me something to ponder #ABloggingGoodTime

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  4. I think Elisabeth Elliot’s no nonsense, laid down life Christianity is completely opposite of most of western church thinking these days. She makes me uncomfortable in the best of ways, as she always has when I read her words. She reminds my life isn’t my own or to be lived my own way.

    Like

    1. You are so right on, Elizabeth. And I love the way you put that: “uncomfortable in the best of ways.” Yes. We need someone wise and strong to push us out of our comfortable ways and into a fierce obedience.

      Like

  5. So true. If we don’t push ourselves for the follow through of small tasks, then in life the larger ones could become mountains of giving up. I’ve never read Elisabeth Elliot so may have to check her out. 🙂

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  6. This is the quote I will be thinking on today … ““discipline is not my claim on Christ, but the evidence of His claim on me.” Wonderful way to start my day and week!

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  7. Is the original version of this called Discipline: The Glad Surrender? If so I have a copy sitting in my pile of books to be read. It sounds like it will be challenging but helpful!

    Like

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