Saturday, October 24, 2009

Bring on the Discipline!

Woo hoo! Bring it on! Bring on the discipline! Can you imagine thinking that way? Who asks to be disciplined? Well as believers, we really should be thankful when we are disciplined!

I don’t know about you but my children have never asked for punishment. In fact, they have run from it or in other ways tried their best to avoid it. I do have a friend with little ones and she recently told me that every so often they will give themselves a time-out. Couldn’t we learn from that?

I was thinking about my beginning relationship with the Lord, when it was fresh and new and how everything just seemed to come together. My prayers were answered; I could see God moving in my life. Then as I became comfortable in my walk with God, I began to see something else happen. He began to discipline me. I found it very uncomfortable and unwanted. I fought against it at times. I used to think that because He was disciplining me, I had done something really wrong and made Him so frustrated that I had stepped out of His grace. I didn’t see His discipline as something to welcome.

Looking back now, I recall those times He was disciplining me and can now understand that it was all about refining me. Discipline is training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character, as defined by Merriam Webster Dictionary. It is a process that we must go through in order to grow in Christ.

I like the Message version of Hebrews 12:11: At the time, discipline isn’t much fun. It always feels like it’s going against the grain. Later, of course, it pays off handsomely, for it’s the well-trained who find themselves mature in their relationship with God.

Let’s pick this verse apart. First, At the time, discipline isn’t much fun. During the moments of discipline, it is certainly NOT fun! Think of the times you have had to discipline your child. Did they whoop it up as they received that spanking, reprimand, or loss of a privilege? Did they thank you and ask for more? I seriously doubt it. No, they probably either cried or became angry. When God is disciplining us, we don’t look at it as a fun part of our life. We don’t ask for more of it. We don’t say, “God, that was so much fun that I would like to ask for more!” Instead, we may do the same thing as our child…we cry or we may even become angry at the moment. “God, why are You doing this to me?” is a question we may ask.

Then it says It always feels like it’s going against the grain. When you go against the grain, you are facing some resistance. I’m not into carpentry but the best example I can give is when I am using my Steam Shark Mop. To get rid of scuffs or dirt, it takes less effort when I am going with the grain. If I try to use it against the grain, I have to put a lot more effort into it.

So there is resistance involved in discipline. Have you ever had to spank a child that resisted so much you had to practically wrestle them down? Resistance is a common reaction to any form of discipline. We do the same with God. It feels like His discipline is going against the grain and so we try to resist it.

Now we get into some good stuff. Later, of course, it pays off handsomely, for it’s the well-trained who find themselves mature in their relationship with God. LATER! Later is the first thing I want us to focus on. At the moment, at that very instant of discipline we don’t see anything good in it but later, at another time, sometimes not much later and other times it is years later, we see the good in what God has done.

It pays off! Discipline pays off! As my children get older, I can see how some of my earlier disciplining has been paying off. It is worth the effort and whether or not they realize it, the discipline has brought about some good. I can look back on the many times that God has disciplined me in the past and I see the payoff. I see the good it has all brought about in my life.

Let’s remember again what discipline is, according to Merriam Webster Dictionary: training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character. This is what produces a well-trained person. If you are into sports, you know that disciplining your body is what prepares a well-trained athlete. If you don’t discipline yourself to practice, to study or whatever it is, you won’t be well-trained for the task that is before you.

We cannot be “well-trained believers” unless we first go through discipline. Think of someone you may know who was never disciplined as a child. What type of adult do they usually grow up to be? Selfish, demanding, out-of-control and without any moral fiber in their beings…this is what is produced. So if we are not disciplined in our relationship with the Lord, we will not grow in the character and fruit that God has called us to.

So to bring it home, what are we being well-trained for? We are being trained for maturity in our relationship with God. Let’s recap that last sentence: Later, of course, it pays off handsomely, for it’s the well-trained who find themselves mature in their relationship with God.

If you have ever thought that your relationship with the Lord is stagnant, not going anywhere, not what you would like it to be…then you’ve missed out on something in the discipline process. Perhaps you have fought against it. Or you may have gone through the discipline but then went right back to doing wrong. As you resist God’s refining in your life, you are preventing yourself from receiving a “handsome” payoff.

Is it fun to be disciplined? No! We don’t have to pretend that it is. We don’t have to whoop it up. But we do have to embrace it and realize that while the process may hurt, the end result will be worth it. Here are some verses to help you out during those times of discipline:

Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the Lord your God disciplines you (Deuteronomy 8:5)

Blessed is the man whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty (Job 5:17)

Blessed is the man You discipline, O Lord, the man You teach from your law (Psalm 94:12)

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline (Proverbs 1:7)

My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline and do not resent His rebuke (Proverbs 3:11)

Because the Lord disciplines those He loves, as a father the son he delights in (Proverbs 3:12)

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