“And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.” (1 Corinthians 9:25)
What Paul is saying to the Corinthians here is that if you really, really want to get good at something, I mean really good, you’re going to have to extend that same discipline to every corner of your life. “Temperate” it says, or self-possessed, “in all things“. A tall order. But then again, in society, “discipline” carries the negative connotation it does because so many people have gotten their way and gotten to where they are through means other than the prescribed order of hard work, perseverance and yes, discipline.
An Italian word—more of an ideal really—that means “practiced perfection”. Something difficult that’s made to look effortlessly easy. There’s a double-edged sword about it though, in that the word also implies an extremely effective disguise. A veneer of nonchalance that belies something deeper—and possibly sinister—at work beneath the surface.
Notice this, with reference to that (Hebrews 5:14): “But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern good and evil.”
“Those…who have their senses exercised?” Sounds a lot like discipline, doesn’t it? When God calls us out and desires to teach us something, He uses everything at our disposal and everything in our sphere. Nothing is off-limits. “In all thy ways acknowledge Him.” (Proverbs 3:6b)
“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman (and workwoman!) that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)
“Approved unto God”. Citing the inverse reaction to sprezzatura, I would have to say that anytime we want to become really good at whatever it is we do (Paul, in his letter to Timothy, is talking about becoming well-versed in the proper usage of God’s word), we must—must do it with reference to God. God is the one whom we’re living towards and the one from whom we came. It never changes. Every little thing tells.
“What man is he that feareth the Lord? him shall He teach in the way that He shall choose.” (Psalm 25:12)
Similar to sprezzatura, satori is a zen-like concept that refers to actually seeing something (akin to enlightenment). The “Aha” moment, as it were. Satori carries with it the connotation of having attained an effortless working out of whatever it is you do. Where I disagree with it, in spite of the enticing nature, is where we’re asked by God to both humble ourselves and also, to not care too much about the outworking and outcome of what it is we do—provided we’re looking to please God. And whereas Paul refers to “he that striveth for the mastery”, he also says that “the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient…” (2 Timothy 2:24). In other words, lay down your quest for perfection and serve others.
“Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you.” (1 Peter 5:6-7)
Thing is, pride is never satisfied. It is always reaching, striving for perfection—something it will never attain. But the proud person doesn’t know this. Humility, on the other hand, knows that perfection (mastery) is something that you’ll always be looking forward to in service to God. And that’s fine with the one who is humble.
“Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before. I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14)