Wednesday, February 25, 2015

For Those Who Have Been Trained by It

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.
Hebrews 12:11

Discipline. Chances are that when you read that word you think of spankings or timeouts, depending on how your parents punished you. But discipline isn't always about punishment. Self-discipline, for example, is about forcing yourself to do things that you would rather not do in order to better yourself. Sometimes our parents discipline us in this way as well. They ask us to do things that are meant to test and strengthen us. A father might teach his daughters a strong work ethic by asking them to do hard work. He isn't punishing them for doing something wrong, he is disciplining and training his daughters up to become a certain type of women. The hard work shapes their character.

This is the type of discipline presented in today's verse. It refers to trials that God sends into our lives in order to test, strengthen and shape us into the people He wants us to become. Building character like this is never fun, but it produces the right result for those who are trained by it. The result isn't automatic. You have to be trainable. In the original language the word for trainable is gymnazo. Not hard to figure out that it is connected with the idea of the gymnasium and exercise. The idea is that the person who is willing to endure the trial, who doesn't give up or refuse to submit to the training will benefit from it. These trials seem painful at the time but they produce the right result if we will be trained by them. Most of the time when I am really struggling I sense an emphatic lack of peace and yet this passage says that peace and righteousness are the end result of those who are trained by God's discipline. It makes us stronger, better able to hold onto our peace in the midst of a storm. And it produces the right character in us, i.e. righteousness. 

When we face a difficult trial it is normal and even appropriate for us to ask why. Why has this come into my life? Have I sinned? Do I need to repent or is this just something that in God's wisdom He has chosen to allow in my life? But too often we stall out at the why questions because we can't always answer them. So in the midst of whatever difficult trial you are facing right now don't just ask why. Ask, what am I supposed to learn from this? How can I be trained by it? How can this make me a better person? How can it shape me into the type of person who trusts God more, who has walked through the fire with Him and has learned more about His character? Remember, God always disciplines his children in order to draw us nearer to Him.

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