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Self-discipline

To understand the power of the will and the importance of self discipline.

by Janice Ross

Suitable for Key Stage 3

Aims

To understand the power of the will and the importance of self-discipline.

Preparation and materials

  • Variety of chocolate bars.
  • Mobile phone.
  • Computer.
  • Pupil to read Luke 4.1–2 (optional: read Luke 4.3–13) and Luke 4.1–14:

    The Temptation of Jesus
    1 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, 2 where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished.

    3 The devil said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.’ 4 Jesus answered him, ‘It is written, “One does not live by bread alone.”’

    5 Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6 And the devil said to him, “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. 7 If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” 8 Jesus answered him, “It is written,
    ‘Worship the Lord your God,
    and serve only him.’”

    9 Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, 10 for it is written,
    ‘He will command his angels concerning you,
    to protect you’,
    11 and
    ‘On their hands they will bear you up,
    so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’”

    12 Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 13 When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.

    14 Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through
    all the surrounding country.

Assembly

  1. Explain to the pupils that you love chocolate. Usually you need a fix of chocolate each day. (Show chocolate bars) These are all yours. Imagine if you made a decision not to touch them for 40 days. That would require a large amount of self-discipline. Many people make such a commitment at this time of the year. This is because, in the Christian church, we are entering a season called Lent. Lent is a time of preparation for Easter, a time when we can think about things we have done wrong and when we can put our lives in order. It’s a spring-cleaning time.

    So what has that got to do with chocolate?
  2. In the past, during Lent, Christians would give up all rich food for 40 days. The day before they started this regime became known as Shrove Tuesday (or Pancake Day), and was the day when all the leftovers from the pantry were used to make pancakes. After that feast, butter, flour, sugar and eggs would all be given up. Today, many Christians give up things they enjoy, or enjoy eating, for Lent. This focuses them on trying to overcome their own faults and cravings because they believe it is humanity’s sin that causes so much pain in the world.

    This is hard, because, when faced with not being allowed something, we tend to crave it even more. Chocolate can become a serious craving!
  3. It may not be difficult for you to give up chocolate for 40 days, but it might be far more difficult for you to give up your mobile phone or your computer. Try it for a day and just see how much you crave them, how uncomfortable things can become, even how bad-tempered it might make you!

    Denying ourselves something is not easy: it involves our will. We need to choose over and over again that we will not have that thing. Our will, the choosing part of us, can be very weak. It is the part of us that can lead us into things that are harmful to our lives.
  4. During Lent, Christians try to follow the example of Jesus by giving up luxuries and by practising self-discipline.

    Pupil reads Luke 4.1–2.


    Jesus didn’t eat for 40 days. A tough assignment. Those of you who have done a day’s fast for a charity, such as Action Aid, will know what your body thinks about being denied food! Jesus also did this in a wilderness-place – away from the comfort of a nice bed or company to help pass the time. It was not easy, and the Bible tells us that after 40 days he was very hungry.
  5. Not only was Jesus very hungry but also he was sorely tempted to give in and to give up.

    (Optional: pupil reads Luke 4.3–13)

    Pupil reads Luke 4.14.
  6. Jesus overcame. He mastered his will. Now he was ready for a lifetime of ministry, that would see him often having to choose to go against what he felt like doing. Probably, he often didn’t feel like getting up a great while before dawn to pray; he probably got tired of crowds following him needing his help, and often felt like getting away by himself. He certainly had a big struggle with his will when faced with the kind of death he was going to die.

    By denying himself time and time again, and by choosing to do what was right for others’ sake, Jesus became stronger.
  7. We will never have those kinds of struggles to face, but we do have decisions to make every day: ‘I will try to understand this work again,’ ‘I will face up to that problem I have.’

    Learning to say ‘I will’ when we simply don’t feel like it will make us strong.

Time for reflection

What would be difficult for you to give up during this period of Lent?

Why not practise some self-discipline and show your will who is the boss?!

Prayer
God,
You have made me with a will,
and you have given me the responsibility to choose how I will live.
Please make my will strong so that the choices I make in my life are good and wholesome.
Amen.

Hymn

‘Jesus, good above all other’ (Come and Praise, 23)

Publication date: March 2011   (Vol.13 No.3)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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