Correct me, O Lord, but in just measure; not in your anger, or you will bring me to nothing.
Hebrews 12:11 (NIV)
No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
Just about three years ago I began a fitness/training program. It has been challenging at times, but I’m continuing to work on the it, making some progress. I am very thankful for trainers who are gracious and at the same time truthful. They get me to do things I otherwise never would have done. Sometimes it is painful, but there has been a benefit as well.
God does this kind of work in our lives as well. It may not be pleasant or easy, but God’s training program is a good one to be sure. As I think of what such a training program might involve these kinds of things come to mind:
- Seasons of prayer the answers to which are not obvious, apparent, or what we had hoped for (sometimes God does say no for reasons of which we may never be aware)
- Seasons of loneliness in the midst of faithfulness to God and the gospel call
- Trouble in the lives of friends for reasons of their own cause, or for reasons beyond their control
- Long lists of tasks, projects, or intense effort that simply must be done
- Trouble in your own life for reasons beyond your control
The so-called Prosperity Gospel offers a life filled with joy, peace, abundance, happiness, and obvious favor. As Kate Bowler observes, The prosperity gospel does expectation beautifully—the hope that God can always do more, the desire to see transformation before your eyes. In the end, however, there is little room for suffering, struggling, and disappointment. (Christianity Today offers an insightful interview with Kate about this subject. It’s worth the read. Click here for the interview or see link below.)
The Gospel message of Jesus Christ is that God uses difficulty for our benefit. Jesus’ suffering is the greatest testimony of that reality; His suffering and death brought us eternal salvation and peace. Through discipline he now shapes us, refines our faith, allows us to witness to others, and gives us a heart for those who are suffering. It may not feel all that enjoyable. But the most severe discipline from God will yield a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. The calling for followers of Jesus Christ is to keep the faith in the goodness of God and rejoice in our Savior who “for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” He now invites us to trust in him and embrace the harvest of righteousness and peace that his sometimes-difficult work yields in our lives.
Christianity Today Interview of Kate Bowler: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2016/february-web-only/kate-bowler-on-dying-and-sure-hope.html