To win the prize, all believers must “lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us . . . [and] run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Heb. 12:1, NASB). Simply put, “No pain, no gain.”
Paul reinforces this challenge with these words: “Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness” (1 Tim. 4:7, NASB). By this exhortation, Paul called for the kind of strict training that a champion athlete undergoes in order to gain the crown. In the Christian life, rigorous discipline, motivated and enabled by grace, is required of all on the path to victory. Spiritual sluggards, beware!
In light of these biblical teachings, it is astounding how many professing believers are slack regarding the self-discipline needed for growth in godliness. We live in a day of spiritual laxity. Many who confess Christ are pampering themselves to death rather than pushing themselves to holiness. Their spiritual muscles are untrained and unfit. Their wills are soft and unresolved.
D.A. Carson sounds a similar note here:
We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance; we drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; we drift toward superstition and call it faith. We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated.