What does it mean to be a disciple? The dictionary defines the word “disciple” as a disciplined one. The Apostle Paul was this kind of disciple. He said, “I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:29 NKJV). That means if we want to run our race with purpose it will take a disciplined lifestyle.
An Olympic athlete disciplines him or herself for years, doing without many of the daily pleasures you and I take for granted. In many cases, once the competition begins, their particular event may be over in a few minutes. These athletes spend years of disciplined training in order to compete for just a few moments.
The athlete’s prize will fade away, but our prize is eternal. “So,” Paul says, “I run with purpose in every step (v. 26). The life of a true Christian is also one of self-discipline. But far too many are driven by guilt or a sense of duty instead.
It has been said the reason most leaders fail to achieve success is because they are too busy doing second things first. When unimportant things capture our attention and distract us from doing what is most important, we will fail to achieve our highest purpose.
We can logically reason that getting the little things out of the way will enable us to give our full attention to the bigger, more important ones. But our time will be consumed with the unimportant little things leaving only a small amount of time, if any, to the more important things. Consequently, the important things will never quite get the attention they deserve.
Notice what Jesus said to His friend who was distracted:
“Now as they were traveling along, He entered a certain village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. And she had a sister called Mary, who moreover was listening to the Lord’s word, seated at His feet. But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him, and said, ‘Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.’ But the Lord answered and said to her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only a few things are necessary, really only one, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her'” (Luke 10:38-42 NAS).
Martha’s heart was right. She had a desire to serve the Lord. But it’s easy to become distracted by “good” things—even serving the Lord. Jesus said she was troubled about many things. We must not allow ourselves to do what Martha did: work so much that soon we lose sight of what’s most important and become troubled about many things.