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Most people, when they hear the word “discipline,” want to run the other way (and I’m with them). In this thoughtful and methodical book, Barbara Hughes challenges the negative connotations we have with this word and demonstrates how a life of godly discipline is actually incredibly attractive. This book is written for women, but the principles Hughes discusses are universal for all believers. Her husband, pastor Kent Hughes, has written the companion book Disciplines of a Godly Man, and our church’s men’s and women’s ministries are going through these books side by side.
I appreciated how Hughes intersperses her discussion of the various disciplines with personal stories from her own life and that of the godly women she has known. There is such a sense of genuineness about her, I’d like to know her personally and learn from her example firsthand. Short of that, this book is a helpful stand-in.
The book covers five major areas of discipline: soul, character, relationships, ministry, and grace. Within those larger areas are chapters devoted to specific topics (such as submission prayer, worship, contentment, propriety, singleness, nurturing, good deeds, giving, etc.). For me, the discipline of submission stands out (probably because I studied it to share at one of our women’s events). My outline was different from hers; I wanted to pack in more gospel because my context was less expansive than a book. Without submission, there is no holiness. Submission is the “posture of godliness” (p. 33)
All of the book was challenging, but two specific chapters that influenced me were gossip and giving. I try not to gossip, but she defines it more broadly than I have been and it challenged me to really think about the conversation I have about others that may actually be gossip. Giving is always an area of challenge: we give faithfully to our church, but I don’t often think of how to give creatively to others beyond that monthly check. I liked how she said to look in our closets or cupboards and think how we can use their contents to bless someone else. Oh, and I was also challenged in the discipline of witness and evangelism. Hughes and her husband have impacted so many people for Christ over the years (and interestingly, so many of the people they’ve led to the Lord have been outside the context of their immediate church ministry — neighbors, co-workers, teachers, postal service workers, etc.). Am I spreading everywhere the aroma of Christ? Or am I content to just be pleasant and friendly to the unsaved people I know?
I had just one quibble with the book: in discussing the church, Hughes falls into the oh-so-prevalent trap of interpreting Matthew 18:20 apart from its immediate context (p. 121). Matthew 18:15–20 is not a nice warm fuzzy picture of the church, but the prescription for the hard task of church discipline. When two or more are gathered in Jesus’s name in the context of obeying His directives for church discipline, there He is in their midst. The promise is specific to that particular context. It’s not that He isn’t with us other times, but claiming that single verse as applicable to all church gatherings divorces it from its true context and is simply a sloppy use of the passage. However, this seems a minor thing in light of the rest of the book and I almost feel bad calling her on it. (Almost.)
I like how Hughes closes the book with a reminder of grace — grace upon grace, like Niagara Falls. How we need that! No matter how inspired we feel by this book, we will fail in our resolutions and efforts toward discipline. But there’s grace for that. She also talks about avoiding legalism in our pursuit of holiness (which I think is a discipline in itself).
Discipline isn’t something to be afraid of. It is for our good and God’s glory. If we are God’s children, godly disciplines in our lives are part of His plan for us. We can embrace that and strive toward it, while trusting that we are secure in Him regardless of our failures (and successes). If you’re a woman seeking to mature in your walk with the Lord, this is a helpful and practical place to start. Recommended. ( )