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The Disciplines of Life: Lesson #18 – Domination


As we continue our series on the disciplines that the Christian should incorporate into his character, we would like to take a look at The Discipline of Domination. As we have pointed out in previous articles in this series, these are called “disciplines” because they are not acquired without deliberate effort. Discipline is “training that corrects molds or perfects the mental faculties or moral character” (Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, p. 360).

We have been using, as an anchor for this series, a book by V. Raymond Edman published in 1948 titled The Disciplines of Life. Although Mr. Edman was associated with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, and I don’t agree with everything he wrote, many of the things he has written resonate with me.

As he begins the chapter on Domination, Edman says, “Most of us are followers, and rightly so, but it is the responsibility of some to assume leadership for the welfare of the many in the school or church, the farm or the factory, the community or the nation. Of the followers it is required to be diligent and cheerful in the performance of our duties; for the leaders there is the discipline of domination that analyzes the attitudes and measures the motives of those who are called to places of authority, lest they lead or rule for self-interest. Do we lead with love for others and with loyalty to the lowly Christ, or do we lord it over them? With true and searching insight into the human spirit, the Lord Jesus Christ said to His disciples and through them to us, ‘You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.’” (p. 219).

As Edman points out, there is no modern fiction or biography that equals that of David in illustrating this Discipline of Domination. “Taken from the humble calling of caring for sheep to becoming king of his country…. A peasant lad became a prince, a singer saved his people with a slingshot, a poet performed deeds of valor, a country boy became a king, a shepherd boy became a sovereign. What was the secret of such startling success, that we might learn therefrom?” (p. 220).

Let us consider these factors …

David’s Courage

One might think that it was David’s courage that was the cause of his great achievements. He guarded his father’s sheep from vicious wild animals. He demonstrated courage as he led Israel as their king. But David does not point to any of his own abilities to account for his rise to authority. He spoke to the Lord the words of this song on the day that the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul. “…Your gentleness has made me great…. (Psalm 18:35)

As Edman says, “Who would have guessed that gentleness, meekness, docility, mildness of spirit gave true meaning to David’s life? He appears to be a carefree, courageous keeper of sheep, a fearless soldier and magnificent leader of men, a man of war rather than a maker of peace; in brief, a man whose military prowess make him master of his people; nevertheless, these qualities were not the true secret of his greatness. Meekness made him a monarch, kindness made him a king, gentleness made him a great man in the earth” (pp. 220-221).

David’s Gentleness Toward His Own

One incident that illustrates this is found in 1 Chronicles 11. Scripture says that David was at the cave of Adullam, while the army of the Philistines was camping in the valley of Rephaim when he became very thirsty and said, “Oh that someone would give me water to drink from the well of Bethlehem, which is by the gate!” The text proceeds to describe how three of David’s Mighty Men “broke through the camp of the Philistines and drew water from the well of Bethlehem which was by the gate, and took it and brought it to David.” But David would not drink it, but rather poured it out as an offering to the Lord and said, “Be it far from me before my God that I should do this. Shall I drink the blood of these men who went at the risk of their lives? For at the risk of their lives they brought it.” Therefore he would not drink it” (1 Chronicles 11:17-19).

Edman tells of an incident similar to the account above, that occurred during World War I. General Frank Parker, who was a tough West-Pointer, is said to have been observed with tears coursing down his cheeks as his tired men passed before him as he reviewed them as they returned to the trenches. Edman describes the scene, “As the weary and battle-worn doughboys returned through a destroyed French village, the Stars and Stripes were flung into the breeze, the Regimental Band was drawn up amid the debris of the market place…. tears of tenderness for his tired men…. within he had tenderness of a woman’s heart” (p. 222).

David’s Gentleness Toward His Enemies

King Saul, out of sheer jealousy, sought to destroy David again and again. He hunted David like a wild animal in the wilderness. When David had the opportunity to take vengeance against Saul he refused to do it. More than once Saul was at David’s mercy. David’s companions encouraged him to avenge himself or, at least to allow them to, but David would not. “So he said to his men, “Far be it from me because of the Lord that I should do this thing to my lord, the Lord’s anointed, to stretch out my hand against him, since he is the Lord’s anointed” (1Samuel 24:6). “But David said to Abishai, “Do not destroy him, for who can stretch out his hand against the Lord’s anointed and be without guilt?” (1Samuel 26:9)

Do we possess this same kind of attitude toward our enemies and those who ridicule and abuse us for our faith? Are we disciplined in domination, rulers of our own spirit before we are rulers of others? “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, And he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city” (Proverbs 16:32). “Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord. ‘But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head’” (Romans 12:19-20)

David’s Gentleness Toward God

“He recognized that it was not his hand nor his strength that saved him from the bear and the lion, even from Goliath, rather it was of the Lord: for “the battle is the Lord’s” (1Samuel 17:47). From experience he could say, “My soul, wait in silence for God only, For my hope is from Him. He only is my rock and my salvation, My stronghold; I shall not be shaken. On God my salvation and my glory rest; The rock of my strength, my refuge is in God. Trust in Him at all times, O people; Pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us” (Psalms 62:5-8).


As Edman closes this chapter on the discipline of domination, he says, “Gentleness of spirit toward those who are close to us, gentleness toward those that wrongfully abuse us or are our enemies, gentleness toward the Spirit of God, through whatever means He may speak to us, this is the discipline of domination.

Thanks for reading.


(Source: The Disciplines of Life by V. Raymond Edman, pp. 211 – 218)

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