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Sunday, October 10, 2010

Well-Trained

4-11In this all-out match against sin, others have suffered far worse than you, to say nothing of what Jesus went through—all that bloodshed! So don't feel sorry for yourselves. Or have you forgotten how good parents treat children, and that God regards you as his children?  My dear child, don't shrug off God's discipline, but don't be crushed by it either.  It's the child he loves that he disciplines; the child he embraces, he also corrects.  God is educating you; that's why you must never drop out. He's treating you as dear children. This trouble you're in isn't punishment; it's training, the normal experience of children. Only irresponsible parents leave children to fend for themselves. Would you prefer an irresponsible God? We respect our own parents for training and not spoiling us, so why not embrace God's training so we can truly live? While we were children, our parents did what seemed best to them. But God is doing what is best for us, training us to live God's holy best. 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.
(Hebrews 12:4-11)

It is the well-trained who find themselves mature in their relationship with God.  Eleven chapters have been written to record the specific blessing of all Christ accomplished by the cross.  Within those words we find the facts skillfully laid out - his work as our High Priest, presenting the one perfect sacrifice that dealt with our sin once and for all.  In summarizing the work of Christ in our lives, the writer knows our propensity toward "feeling sorry" for ourselves whenever we endure things we consider to be hardship - especially any type of discipline in our lives.  His aim in writing these words is that we will embrace discipline - seeing its value - instead of resisting or rejecting it.

It is the child God loves that he disciplines - the child he embraces he also corrects.  Discipline is instruction that impacts our experience.  We "go through" times of discipline (seasons, so to speak) in order to improve the experience of our daily walk.  Correction sets us right where we have embraced wrong belief, practice, or intent.  Both are based on God's intense love for us.  Neither is experienced without God's oversight and tender care.  Yet, we resist both because we don't understand why a "loving God" would allow us to experience any type of sorrow or pain.  Sometimes, experience is impacted only when our attention is obtained - a wake-up call, so to speak.  Even a loving parent on this earth will discipline the child who reaches toward a hot stove - waking that child to the danger of touching the hot element.

It is human nature to look at discipline as punishment.  As a matter of fact, punishment is one of the primary definitions of discipline in our English dictionary.  In God's economy, discipline is not intended as punishment.  Punishment carries a penalty - discipline carries a lesson to be embraced.  Punishment carries a sense of a penalty that must be pain - discipline is based on a penalty that has already been paid.

While we are being disciplined, it never seems fun.  I know that when I was in boot camp, being trained to be a soldier, the daily discipline of our physical exercise program did not seem like much fun.  At the end of boot camp, I was in the best shape of my life.  The impact of that daily physical exercise provided a positive outcome in my physical body.  The impact of God's discipline provides a positive outcome to our spiritual well-being if it is embraced in the spirit of love in which it is being administered.

We want to grow up in Christ, but we don't want the discipline or correction.  Unfortunately, it comes with the territory.  One cannot escape the watchful eye of our heavenly Father - he knows where we need to be given a "wake-up call" and he knows where we need our spiritual movements adjusted.  It is time that we begin to see his watchfulness over us as that of a loving parent - not a disciplinarian God.  The well-trained find themselves mature in God - to be trained, we need a trainer.  To be trained, we need to submit to the training.