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Sunday, December 22, 2013

Not another plate of brussel sprouts!

Hate is a strong word, is it not?  Many parents actually try to get their kids to not use this word, but choose to say something like "I dislike brussel sprouts" instead of "I hate brussel sprouts".  Why?  Perhaps it is the intensity of the word - hate.  It carries the idea of some extreme aversion - almost a totally passionate dislike or repulsion for that which is being described.  In the English language, we have a lot of synonyms for the word hate: loathe, despise, abhor, and even detest.  To the child who doesn't want to eat his brussel sprouts, he is probably just trying to convey the idea of the taste being a little too bitter and displeasing to his palate.  When that pungent odor of brussel sprouts gets into his tiny nose, he just cringes because it doesn't smell so very sweet or as familiar as his macaroni and cheese favorite!  When God uses the word hate, he doesn't just imply a "dislike" for something - he is indicating a much stronger sense of repulsion, almost to the point of the object of such repulsion being rejected.  Whenever he tells us he hates something - it is as a warning to stay away from it because it has a harmful effect on us.  When he warns us against having such a strong repulsion to the things we NEED in our lives, it is a chance to sit up and take notice before it is too late!

For people who hate discipline and only get more stubborn, there’ll come a day when life tumbles in and they break, but by then it’ll be too late to help them. (Proverbs 29:1 MSG)

People who "HATE" discipline are actually those who turn away from it as though it were something repulsive - they reject it.  To reject something which is to our benefit is foolishness, yet how often do we approach the discipline of God's hand in this manner?  Perhaps too often!  The outcome of rejecting God's discipline as repulsive and not beneficial to our lives is to embrace even greater stubbornness - the very thing which gets us into trouble in the first place!  Now, how silly is that?  The child rejecting those brussel sprouts has no idea they provide him with 125% of his nutritional need for vitamin C in just one serving, or give him some elemental iron, or even a pretty sizable portion of vitamin A.  He only sees the green substance as "repulsive" and "smelly", so he rejects it.  Why?  He has no idea of how much BENEFIT the tiny round spheres will provide.  I think we might just approach God's discipline this way - not really recognizing the tremendous "hidden" benefit in it!

Discipline is one of those words we'd like to eliminate from out vocabulary almost as much as the child would want those brussel sprouts to magically disappear from his plate!  I think every child would be happier if the world had as many "brussel sprout eating fairies" as it does "tooth fairies" - swooping in unnoticed, cleaning the plate free of those tiny round repulsive substances, and then leaving a quarter in their place!  I almost think every child of God would be happier if there was some "discipline fairy" who'd swoop in and do the stuff they don't wanna do, leaving them with some special "gift" when it was all over - making life painless.  The rub...painless also means purposeless.  There was no true benefit from the "pain-free" discipline avoidance.  There might have been an immediate benefit of avoidance, but in the long run, whatever we avoid today will come back sometime in the future.

The concern with rejecting discipline is not that there won't be another opportunity.  The child who doesn't eat those brussel sprouts tonight may very well see them on their plate tomorrow!  The first concern we might have is that the thing we reject will be showing up over and over again until we actually deal with it!  God's ultimate concern is that we will become so hardened in our rebellion that we won't accept his discipline and our lives will just crumble in around us as a result.  Since God is respectful of our own free will, he will not impose upon us, strong-arming us into whatever he is after in our lives.  He gives us the time and space to either come to the place of accepting what we have been rejecting, or getting downright SET in our rejection of what he knows will help us.  God's grace may be new every morning, but there comes a time when we have rejected it so frequently that we just don't see it anymore.

So, what do we do to keep ourselves from rejecting God's discipline and becoming so rebellious that our eyes are turned away from the goodness God wants for our lives?  I think it comes first in taking periodic "pulse checks" to see how we are responding to the opportunities for discipline in our lives.  If we begin to think about it, we will see times when God was speaking to us and we just ignored it, or maybe only took it half-heartedly.  It may be a special message we read which pricked our hearts, or a sermon which prompted a few "amens" from the soul, but was quickly forgotten when on the way to the local restaurant after church.  It could be the last time you met up with a good friend and they just listened to you go on and on for a while, then made just a slight observation about how much differently you could have handled the situation you were rambling on about.  Or perhaps it was the last time you just got silent long enough to actually hear how empty your heart really is and how so very much God wants to fill it with the good stuff of his provision. 

It doesn't matter how often we do these "pulse checks" - it matters how well we respond to them.  When we get serious about what God is serious about, we find ourselves learning the "benefit" of the discipline!  Just sayin!