I stumbled upon this book while living at my grandmother’s house over the months of November and December. I remember exploring in her house looking through her bookshelf and passing by a number of books. Then tucked away, sandwiched between two bright colored book covers was a dirty brown, tattered and worn book that was easily the thinnest book on the shelf. I thought to myself – “Old, tattered and small? It must be a good book.”
This is often a sure fire sign of a book’s worth – it’s use. Many books are read once. But few, very few books are read twice, if more. What showed me the book’s worth as I flipped through the pages was the several different kinds of markings used throughout the book – red ink, pencil, black ink, blue ink, and they were continually used to the end, showing that this book had been read and reread all the way through.
“It must be good.”
So I sat down and read this small book, running just over 100 pages. My suspicions were true – it was a gem. From the Introduction to the final chapter, Richard Taylor lays out a very helpful book on discipline. Here are a few reasons why I would recommend this book.
It’s short. Learning about discipline is a task and must assume the learner has a short attention span. This book is not a labor to read or finish.
It’s convicting. Taylor exposes many of the foolish excuses we give to avoid disciplining ourselves. He leaves little room for any to weasel in a way to bypass discipline.
It’s realistic. Taylor doesn’t think that a disciplined life is the be-all and end-all to life. He argues that holiness is what is most important. Taylor doesn’t believe that discipline is holiness, but directs holiness and helps it to flourish. He knows that discipline has its pitfalls, but he also knows that it is one of the most important tools we have been given in life.
It’s practical. The “how to become a disciplined person” is at the end, and Taylor opens this chapter confronting the reader who would skip straight to the “doing” without “understanding”, telling them to return and read the whole book all the way through. Then, Taylor lays out simple steps of achieving a disciplined life, which can be summed up in, “be disciplined in the small things”.
So, if you are looking for a book that could easily be read in an afternoon, this is one that I highly recommend. There is one directive that I would give for reading the book. Taylor is brief on showing that discipline is not simply giving up joy altogether. Discipline does not mean a miserable life. I would say that discipline is the redirection of joy. Discipline helps you to pursue what is truly satisfying and lasting – it’s painful because your forgoing immediate pleasures that you are accustomed to enjoying. Though Taylor touches on this at times, the Christian life is not meant to be a new form of stoicism, which may at times seem to be emphasized. That is my only bone to pick, but it is minor in comparison with Taylor’s purpose.