5-9So don't lose a minute in building on what you've been given, complementing your basic faith with good character, spiritual understanding, alert discipline, passionate patience, reverent wonder, warm friendliness, and generous love, each dimension fitting into and developing the others. With these qualities active and growing in your lives, no grass will grow under your feet, no day will pass without its reward as you mature in your experience of our Master Jesus. Without these qualities you can't see what's right before you, oblivious that your old sinful life has been wiped off the books.
(2 Peter 1:5-9)
Peter employs the words "alert discipline" as the third characteristic of a disciple of Christ. To our strong moral foundation (created by allowing the Lord to remodel our basis for how we interpret moral or good choices) and our developing spiritual discernment, we are to add alert discipline. Usually, we think of discipline in one of two ways: 1) the character traits of being very organized, on top of things, and ordered in our daily work; or 2) the punishment we get when we don't make the right choices.
In this case, the term "alert discipline" is really a kind of self-control. It is the ability to exercise some type of restraint over our actions and our feelings. It carries the idea of being "level headed" in our daily walk. Peter knows that a disciple of Christ needs to be balanced in their emotions - that balance influences the actions that one takes.
Alert discipline is really a state of "stability" in our mind, emotions, and will. I have often asked friends if they have any prayer requests - things I can be keeping them in mind for as I remember them that week in prayer. There are many types of responses I receive, but the one that is probably closest to what Peter is speaking of here is the response, "Pray for my sanity!"
The idea of alert discipline is really an attitude or mindset toward remaining in a condition of stability or "sanity" in our daily walk. It is the ability to resist the tendency to "over-focus" on things that are really "minor" in the scheme of things and the ability to "re-focus" on the things that we need to be "majoring" in. It is the consistent control of our emotional investment in the things we are going through - attentively investing the right amount of emotional energy into those things (neither too much, nor too little). It is also the determined strength to resist that which will provide a negative affect in our lives and to invest in that which will allow us to grow.
I don't take the request for "sanity" lightly - it is a reflection of a heart that is being "pulled" in a whole bunch of directions. It is the plea for balance. That is exactly what Peter said we needed to add into our lives - total and complete balance. The next time you feel your world beginning to spin out of control, remember to ask God to add "alert discipline" into your daily walk, redirecting your emotions, focusing your mind and assisting in your battle of the will.
Stability (the ability to continue on without much change) is really a state that we are constantly moving toward. As we come to Christ, as babes in Christ, we possess very little stability in the area of our emotions, will or mindset. We find that we are up one day, down the next, obedience coming easily this time, but with much effort the next. That is a natural part of growing in Christ. We need to recognize that as our moral fibers are "re-knit" and our spiritual discernment is being "fine-tuned", God is also about the work of bringing us into a state of stability (in our mind, will and emotions).
The character traits build one upon the other. We cannot have stability if the foundation is "off". We cannot enjoy consistency in our choices if we are not accurately "interpreting" life's events. Each character trait described for us in this passage is only one "key" that opens us up to really being strong in Christ. Each "key" is necessary on our "spiritual key-ring". We cannot eliminate even one of them. So, your key today is alert discipline. Tomorrow's key will be passionate patience. I know...you already think that is an oxymoron - how can you be passionate and patient at the same time? Guess you'll just have to tune in tomorrow to see!