Why Godly Discipline Is about Learning to Fail Better

July 23, 2019 by: R. Kent Hughes

Disciplined, Not Rigid

My family, my wife, my children, and my colleagues would say I’m a disciplined man. But they wouldn’t call me rigid and they wouldn’t call me a man who is so devoted to his disciplines that he starts to develop an edge and an intensity that makes him unapproachable because he is so disciplined, because he is so focused. I have learned to have some grace with myself.

For example, if we’re talking about the discipline of prayer and I get in the circumstance where I don’t really have personal time with the Lord during the day or a couple of days in a row, I don’t consider myself to be a failure, think I have to go back to the drawing boards, or that I need to be forgiven so-to-speak. Because I have a relationship with Christ, I go back to praying.

My failures in discipline do not impede me from in engaging in further discipline.

Keep Going through Failure

And so my failures in discipline do not impede me from in engaging in further discipline. There are a lot of men who will take some area they fail in and think: “Well, I failed in it; I can’t do that.” No. You just go back and you fail better and fail upward until that discipline starts to be more consistent in your life. We’re not talking about some sort of draconian self-discipline that makes you into a machine.

The other thing that I’ve found is that the disciplines kind of manage to feed each other. I’d say in all of this, I’ve learned to be self-forgiving and realize that I’m a sinner, I’m an imperfect man. I’m not striving for perfection but I am striving to please God, my Father.


R. Kent Hughes (DMin, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) is senior pastor emeritus of College Church in Wheaton, Illinois, and professor of practical theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Hughes is also a founder of the Charles Simeon Trust, which conducts expository preaching conferences throughout North America and worldwide. He serves as the series editor for the Preaching the Word commentary series and is the author or coauthor of many books. He and his wife, Barbara, live in Wyncote, Pennsylvania, and have four children and an ever-increasing number of grandchildren.


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