"I defy you to read the life of any saint that has ever adorned the life of the Church without seeing at once that the greatest characteristic in the life of that saint was discipline and order. Invariably it is the universal characteristic of all the outstanding men and women of God... Obviously it is something that is thoroughly scriptural and absolutely essential." (Martyn Lloyd-Jones)Challenging words, aren't they? And maybe particularly to those of us who are a bit tossed to-and-fro by habits that are more spontaneous - or OK, yeah, compulsive!
I found them quoted in a book I recently picked up called Agape Leadership: Lessons in Spiritual Leadership from the Life of R.C. Chapman. One of the authors lives in my town and we have several mutual acquaintances, though I've never met him.
Robert Chapman was a 19th century pastor among those who would come to be called the Plymouth Brethren. One chapter in this book deals with self-control. Chapman, say the authors, was marked by self-control; he saw great value in caring for his body, mind, and spirit.
Is that what personal discipline is about? Hmmm...
Some excerpts from Peterson and Strauch's little book:
"Chapman fed his spirit daily. He believed that because the Lord's servant is 'continually ministering to others, he must be receiving fresh supplies from the God of all grace through all channels. Meditation on the Word and prayer should occupy the chief part of his time.'"Results
"Chapman was also very health conscious. To care for his physical body, Chapman usually went to bed early and got up early. He took long, vigorous walks each day. He ate simply and sparingly... Chapman often remarked that our bodies are to be used for God's service and that we must therefore take good care of them."
"He gave equal care to his mental well-being. He firmly reserved each Saturday for himself, conducting no business and only seeing visitors in emergencies. His favorite spot for relaxing... was a woodworking shop..."
The results are pretty appealing too - a long and fruitful life, with plenty of loving and creative energy with which to serve others:
"Even at age ninety-eight, one of Chapman's guests found him to be disciplined, enthusiastic, and mentally vigorous: 'I heard him exclaim, with exuberant joyfulness, to one of his friends, "The Lord is risen indeed, my brother; the Lord is risen indeed!"... He is most entertaining, keeping up a genial and edifying conversation with his friends, and laughing very heartily when any amusing anecdote is related to him... The beams from his cheerful countenance fall upon all alike, he having no favorites. "To have young brethren around me is one of my greatest comforts in my old age," he would often remark.' "Hospitality
He wasn't only concerned about keeping himself healthy and balanced - he wanted that for others as well. Chapman had seen many Christian workers become discouraged and burned out from overwork. He believed God was calling him to provide a place of encouragement and refreshment for them - some place where they could be free from worries and responsibilities and have someone to talk and pray with them.
So, even though Chapman had given away most of his wealth, lived very simply, and never married, he bought a large house and determined that it would be a place of rest where any missionary, pastor, or Christian worker could come to stay as long as he wished. After spending time in a loving, caring environment, he hoped that they could return to their work with renewed enthusiasm.