4 You are struggling against sin, but you have not had to give up your life for the cause. 5 You are children of God, and he speaks words of comfort to you. You have forgotten these words: “My child, don’t think the Lord’s discipline is worth nothing, and don’t stop trying when he corrects you. 6 The Lord disciplines everyone he loves; he punishes everyone he accepts as a child.” 7 So accept sufferings like a father’s discipline. God does these things to you like a father correcting his children. You know that all children are disciplined by their fathers. 8 So, if you never receive the discipline that every child must have, you are not true children and don’t really belong to God. (Hebrews 12:4-8 ERV)
I am going to tell tales on myself this morning. As a kid, I really needed a whole lot of discipline in my life - not because I was a really "bad" kid, but because I had a tendency to get myself into one muddle after another. As mom used to point out, the company you keep makes all the difference - and I didn't always choose the best company to hang around with. That said, I was still responsible for each and every "dumb thing" I did, said, or conspired to do. Sometimes I didn't even have to hang around with anyone to get things all messed up! I could do it all on my own! Yet, one thing I remember specifically about my childhood is the discipline of loving parents. Yes, at the time I was going through that discipline, I thought they were "abusive", "mean", "too restrictive", and the list of insults could go on! You probably have been there yourself, because parents just "don't understand" what you are going through as kids - right? We have no fathoming of them as children once, dealing with their own set of rebellious actions and activities. Yet, they too went through those times of discipline - and therein is the message today - none of us escapes the discipline of God in our lives because he loves us too doggone much to let us continue in our mess.
Do our "messes" differ? Are we all alike in our need for discipline? While my particular "mess" may differ slightly from yours, at the root of it all there are very similar things - pride, envy, selfishness, etc. We are all pretty much cut from the same fabric, so despite our differences, we are all pretty similar! We ALL struggle with sin - even those who have been walking a little longer with Jesus than others. Sometimes I encounter an individual who wrongly believes at some "point" in life with Jesus all this struggling with sin should be no more. Honestly, as long as we are taking in breath, that struggle will be present - it will be real - and our need of the Father's discipline in our lives will continue. He disciplines, not out of anger, or frustration - but out of love and compassion. He desire for us to be free of those struggles, yet he knows we need to go through some of them to realize we need to embrace what he has been telling us will set us free and keep us free. To be free of today's struggle doesn't ensure we won't have a different struggle tomorrow, for each day brings its own challenges.
Discipline is really instruction - similar to what a new soldier goes through in Basic Training. The rigorous training is meant to get us into a position of realizing the advantages of working as a team, listening to the direction of those who have devised the plans, and then enacting those plans specifically as directed. God is the one who devises the plans for our lives - those that will keep us safe and help us to walk strong. There are times when we don't always embrace those plans - and we wonder why we are doing push-ups all the time! If you didn't know, the Drill Sargent would use the "push-ups" as discipline - to help us realize every time we didn't embrace the instruction we were given, following through with specific details, we'd pay a penalty for that wayward action. God isn't "punishing" us - he is helping us to refocus - just like the push-ups did for us in Basic Training. As long as you are focusing on doing 50-100 push-ups, you don't have much time but to think about not pursuing that same course again! Let me just say, I came away from Basic Training in the best shape of my life! It may not have always been because of my own need for the discipline, but because we ALL did the push-ups. Those opportunities to learn from each other's failures also increased the stamina and strength of each member of the team. If we don't need the discipline ourselves, chances are we will help one another walk through it because we are part of a "bigger team" in this walk with Jesus. Just sayin!