Discipline is not something many people like to think about regularly. Discipline is how anyone makes it in life. It takes discipline to go to work every day, keep up a hobby, and maintain strong relationships. Everyone disciplines themselves in some way every day. The question is not whether or not someone is disciplined, but rather what is the object of their discipline. This is what Dr. R. Kent Hughes discusses in his book Disciplines of a Godly Man published by Crossway (3rd Edition, 2019). In its third edition, the book has been a bestseller and great resource for discipline over the span of almost three decades. In it, Dr. Hughes challenges men to discipline themselves where it really matters, in their relationship with the Lord.
Many men are caught up in daily life and too distracted to focus on spiritual matters. It is for this reason that Dr. Hughes exhorts men to discipline themselves for godliness. This challenge takes intense focus and work, which is no easy task in the busy modern world. It is the most important thing a man can do. Being disciplined in godliness affects every aspect of a man’s life and prepares him for eternity. The “holy sweat,” as Hughes calls it, is worth the effort.
Dr. Hughes’ style is simple, yet focused, but does not let the reader off the hook. He deals with four main topics in the book, which serve as the outline. First, he discusses the importance of being disciplined in relationships. In this section, he unpacks topics such as purity, marriage, fatherhood, and friendship. Each of these types of relationships require discipline in order to be fostered in a godly manner. It is vital for a man to have healthy relationships, for it is through them that a man grows to be more like Christ. Each relationship is different but essential nonetheless.
Second, Hughes discusses the disciplines of the soul. In this section, he focuses on the topics of the mind, devotion, prayer, and worship. These disciplines hit at the heart of a man’s spiritual life. While the other disciplines involve others, the disciplines of the soul are deeply personal. Even though they are personal in nature, they must be exercised in the context of Christian community. Each man must stand before God alone; however, no man is an island. It is for godly men to exercise the disciplines of the soul daily, for they are critical to spiritual growth.
Third, Hughes discusses the disciplines of character. In this section, he focuses on the topics of integrity, the tongue, work, and perseverance. These disciplines, in particular, cannot be achieved by taking short cuts. One must put in the “holy sweat” to see fruit. A man may pretend to have it all together, but his real character will work its way to the surface eventually. In private, a man’s true integrity will come out in the way he speaks, works, and lives his life over time. A godly man will be disciplined in all these areas as a testimony of God’s grace.
Lastly, Dr. Hughes discusses the disciplines of ministry. In this section, he focuses on the topics of the church, leadership, giving, witness, and ministry. As a follower of Christ, one must live for the good of others. The disciplines of ministry are how that works its way out in the church and the world. Each man is wired differently by God to serve the church in a variety of ways. These areas discussed should be the focus of ministry for every godly man. Giving of oneself for the good of others and the sake of the gospel is a reminder that the Lord did the same for the church.
I cannot recommend Disciplines of a Godly Man more highly. It’s straightforward style, and simple focus lends it for both personal and group study. The questions at the end of each chapter prove helpful in digesting the material and applying the content immediately in one’s life. For this reason, it would be an excellent resource for a men’s breakfast group or one on one mentoring. The content is best discussed with at least one other man for the sake of accountability and discipleship. The church needs godly men to step up and lead. Disciplines of a Godly Man is a great training manual to that end. Readers will find this book convicting yet encouraging. We are indebted to Dr. Hughes for his ministry to the Church and godly men in particular, through this resource.