And have you forgotten the encouraging words God spoke to you as his children? He said, "My child, don't make light of the Lord's discipline, and don't give up when he corrects you. For the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes each one he accepts as his child." As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Who ever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its father? If God doesn't discipline you as he does all of his children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really his children at all. Since we respected our earthly fathers who disciplined us, shouldn't we submit even more to the discipline of the Father of our spirits, and live forever? For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God's discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness. No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it's painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way. So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees. Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong. (Hebrews 12:5-13, NLT)
As he stood up there to give his sermon that Sunday, he let us know that there would be an object lesson of sorts. He proceeded to reach behind one of the benches on the platform and produce a pair of stuffed bears ... all ready for Valentine's Day which was only a week away. He illustrated his point further by reading the verse inside a Valentine's card ... one coming from the cat to you (and I'm not making this up). The theme was "encouragement" and our youth pastor, Dan, was showing us how the world normally views the subject, if not the act of encouraging each other.
Then he reached down again and brought up about a four-foot length of a two-by-four. I laughed (as did so many others), but the point was clear. God doesn't always offer His encouragement in the form of cute cards or fluffy animals. On the contrary, He offers His greatest encouragement in the form of discipline. We may want a pretty, clean picture to view, but our salvation is anything but clean and pretty to look at.
So, back to the passage from Hebrews. What we have as chapter twelve, follows that undeniably uplifting record of those who stood strong for the Faith - those who have gone before us, proving we can endure because we serve the same God as they did. We are His children, plain and simple. And, if we are His children, we can expect to be corrected and disciplined by Him. Knowing that He is the perfect Father, we can rest assured that any discipline He does choose to bring comes from a heart of love, not anger ... from the heart of our Abba. So rather than losing heart in the midst of the discipline, we can take heart in knowing God's work is always perfect for us.
Our issue, more often than not, is because we view things incorrectly ... out of focus, if you will. We miss the point of the discipline at its heart. It is always about God and what He is doing. Through the encouragement of the discipline, I can have a better opportunity to know the God of the universe as the one and only Perfect Father - and my own Father at that! He isn't mad at us (as we seem to believe), but rather He is showing us the great extent of His love for us. And if that isn't a source of encouragement, perhaps we just don't want to be encouraged after all.
As I travel the Crooked Path every day, I can take God's encouragement in His discipline as the chance to commit more to Christ. After all, he committed to me to the point of dying and I should never underestimate that level of love. In embracing my relationship with my Heavenly Father, especially during the acts of discipline, I can (as verse twelve reminds me) "take a new grip with my tired hands and strengthen my weak knees." I'm not walking this way alone ... the One who walks with me is ever present to encourage me. His plans are far better than anything could possibly imagine.
- When was the last time you clearly felt God's encouragement through discipline? Were you able to accept it, or did you find yourself just wishing it was over (or had never happened)?
- Have you felt God's love lately as that of the Perfect Father? Has your own relationship or remembrance of your earthly father helped this or hindered it?
- Are you ready to look past your own perception of what is happening in your life and trust God's heart? Can you imagine the freedom and encouragement if you do?
NLT – Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright 1996, 2004. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.