2005 BTW header 11

Good books logo

Disciplines of a Godly Man.

Revised Edition. By R. Kent Hughes.

Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2001, 304 pp.

 Review by Mr. Song Cheng Hock

Popular leadership gurus enjoy purveying motivational ideas, inspiring anecdotes and compelling success stories to readers who hunger for such saccharine encrusted books. They are attracted, especially to authors who espouse gain without pain, and better still, the promise of quick results! Such writers are in demand because they are disarmingly sanguine about their lustrous principles. It should not come as a surprise then, that they are predictably taciturn when it comes to the subject of discipline. The reason is obvious. Discipline requires effort, self-control, self-denial, determination, perseverance and single-mindedness. Most people are fearful of submitting themselves to any form of regimen that restricts their freedom or requires personal sacrifices. While effort is an integral and indispensable part of discipline, it will not necessarily consign a person to a life of miserable enslavement, if one uses it judiciously. It will, in fact, eventually awaken the person to a new consciousness of his or hr own spirituality and personhood. 

 

Writing a book like Disciplines of a Godly Man has its hidden hazards. Besides risking a small readership, the writer may be misread as a self-righteous manipulator who uses guilt as a honing instrument, or as an inflexible dogmatist who promotes legalism. Kent Hughes, himself a pastor, is well aware of such dangers.  He explains that “the difference is one of motivation: legalism is self-centred; discipline is God-centred. The legalistic heart says, ‘I will do this thing to gain merit with God.’ The disciplined heart says, ‘I will do this thing because I love God and want to please Him.’ There is an infinite difference between the motivation of legalism and discipline” (p. 15).

 

The title of the book offers a preparatory hint of its content and purpose. It directs one's attention to the fact that men are less spiritually inclined and disciplined than women (pp. 15, 84, 179) and disciplined Christian lives are a rarity these days given the consumerist “McChristian” mentality of many "who exist as nomadic hitchhikers without accountability, without discipline, without discipleship” (p 170). Kent’s main intent is to break the discomfiting nonchalance towards one’s spirituality because “we cannot excuse ourselves by saying this has always been the case” (p. 15).  Discipline is invasive and meant to change this unacceptable status quo.

 

The book addresses four major areas of one’s life that include relationships, soul, character and ministry. These four areas encompass the 17 different disciplines of purity, marriage, fatherhood, friendship, mind, devotion, prayer, worship, integrity, tongue, work, perseverance, church, leadership, giving, witness and ministry. If the reader does not find the list intimidating, then perhaps, he will be discouraged by the number of prescriptive “do this” injunctions,  because “each of the seventeen headings contains an average of seven recommended disciplines – which amounts to over 100 ‘do’s!’” (P 224). Here,  Kent is caught within the barbs of an unenviable dilemma. Reducing the number of disciplines and “do” list, will make the book look like a half-hearted attempt to wake up the entrenched mind-set of the majority. Leaving the seemingly monstrous number of "do's" intact could lead readers to turn the book into a “Draconian structure for a harsh legalistic hybrid” (p 224). His risky approach is precariously double-edged. It could help the reader to work out a “spiritual sweat” (p 14) in his cultivation of godliness or it could repel the reader from even wanting to try. The inherent strength of the book may well be its potential weakness. The reader is left to make that judgment.

 

This book comes with study questions at the end of each chapter. Unfortunately, and perhaps ironically, the reader may not have the discipline to work through those questions The questions are mainly self-evaluative and the exercise requires concentration and honesty.  The recommendation is to read this book with another person or a group if one desires to establish some form of personal accountability. The reviewer has personally worked through this book with two pastors.

 

The book also comes with a very useful “Resources” section. The resources provide practical aids like the M’Cheyne’s Calendar for Daily Readings, Reading Through the Bible, Topical Guide to Daily Devotional Bible Reading in a Year, Hymns for Personal Adoration and Praise, and other helpful resources.

 

This book was first published in 1991. It appears that there is still a demand for it as the publishers commemorated its 10th year with the revised edition. The new edition has two additional features. It has a section on the discipline, "perseverance" and a resource guide regarding the "tongue" based on the book of Proverbs. The value of the book is as good as the reader’s readiness to follow its disciplines and “do list.”

 

If you are ready to take the challenge, do not borrow it. Buy it!

CHAPEL NOTES

At chapel on 31st March, Mr Song Cheng Hock spoke on the true essence of "the good life" based on Solomon's investigations in Ecclesiastes 1:12-2:26. Solomon's experiential research on the commonly perceived components of the good life (i.e. wisdom, worldly pleasures, worthy values and work) draws a dismal conclusion - it is an illusion. However, in an apparent dramatic turn-around, he states that "a man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work" (2:24a). The answer is, of themselves those desired components do not provide meaning. What matters is our understanding of them. They have to be enjoyed as a gift from God, "for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment?" (2:25).

 

Chapel speakers for the month of April will be

 

6 Apr - Dr Philip Satterthwaite

13 Apr  - Dr Aquila Lee

20 Apr - Mr Lewis Lew

27 Apr - Mr Alan Goei

 

NEWS BITS

  1. Dr Quek  is away in Israel, leading a group of 27 participants on the Bible Lands Study Tour till the 8 April. He will spend a week in United Kingdom before returning to Singapore on 16 April.

  2. Condolences. The Faculty & Staff of BGST express our heartfelt sympathies to:

  • Ms Wong Ee Kian (BGST special studies student) on the demise of her father on 30 March

  • The bereaved family of the late Mr Amos Gan (BGST member & Greek Tutor) who died on 2 April

  • Mr Wilfred Chan (Alumnus, DipCS, 2004) on the demise of his wife, Mdm Florence Teo, on 2 April.

INTRODUCING OUR FACULTY MEMBER

Mr Song Cheng Hock served as a pastor for 16 years before making the vocational change to be a Christian counsellor. He received his theological training from the Singapore Bible College (B.Th.,Hons) and the Australian College of Theology (M.A.), and did his training in counselling with the University of South Australia (M.Soc.Sc. in Counselling).

 

His extensive experience in pastoral work has given him the passion to support and journey with those needing assistance in coping with life's difficulties and challenges. He prefers an integrative approach to counselling and does not restrict himself to one particular model of counselling as no person or problem is ever the same and no counselling model is complete in itself. Besides counselling, he also regularly conducts seminars on pre-marital preparation, marriage enrichment, parenting, personal effectiveness, stress and anger management. 

 

Mr Song enjoys outdoor activities (walking and cycling), bowling,  watching Chinese opera and reading. His wife Nellie works in a pre-school and they both have four children - Ben (23), Joy (19), Mark (17) and Luke (15).  As a family, they enjoy playing board games together.

A Blessed Birthday to ...

Mrs Lai Siew Lian  29/3

Ms Jeanie Kou  29/3

Ms Audrey Lao  29/3

Dr Lim Hock Bin  30/3

Dr Koh Tse Yuen  30/3

Ms Lee Hui Ling  31/3

Ms Wong Kai Yun  31/3

Mr Benny Fang  1/4

Mr Johnson Tan  1/4

Mr Rupert Tsang  2/4

Ms Genevieve Goh  5/4

Mr David Lim  6/4

Ms Ng Geok Har  7/4

Mrs Emily Wan  8/4

Mr Alan Tay  10/4

Mr Peter Wong  10/4

Mr Jimmy Boh  10/4

Ms Tan Khai Nee  10/4

| Top | Home | Library | Archives | Email |
This page is updated on 8 Apr 2005. 
 © 2005