If you were to able see me you would be able to tell my body was never meant for athletics. At school I considered cross-country running to be torture. Later in life I took up jogging for the good of my health and built up my endurance to be able to run 5km. I don’t know what came over me, but I decided to go on a 5km fun run. It wasn’t much fun and what I did could hardly be called running. I finished last but at least I did finish!
God uses discipline to help us train. I often associate the word discipline with punishment, but that is not how the word is used here. The word used here is the same as that which Paul uses saying “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training (disciplining) in righteousness.” (2 Timothy 3:16) God is not punishing us, but training us. Our heavenly father is coaching us, helping us train so we can persevere in this spiritual race of life. Training can be difficult and perhaps even painful but it is something we do for a good reason when seeking positive results.
The training we receive from God is to help shape us to be Christlike, to run the course of life hitting the markers of godly character that reveal us to be his children. God disciplines, trains us so we can … run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. (Hebrews 12:1–2)
I wonder if like me you have ever prayed, Lord give me more patience or Lord make me more loving. It would be really nice if, when I prayed for these things God would just fill me up much like filling up a car with petrol at the service station. A few moments at the spiritual service station and I am topped up with patience and love. But we all know that is not how it happens. How does God train you to be patience? He allows something to test your patience. In so doing he both strengthens that part of our character and also reveals to us how well we are doing. God’s discipline may stretch us, put us under pressure or turns up the heat on our lives. It may not feel comfortable for us when God helps to knock some of the rough edges off our character.
I wonder how God might use our circumstances to discipline us regarding losing our temper, being proud or our attitudes towards work colleagues? If God wanted to make you more Christlike, where would he start to discipline you? What part of your character needs discipline in order to improve? Perhaps there is something going on in your life at the moment, a circumstance God is using to shape you. Think about it. What or who is frustrating you? Could God be using that to shape your Christlike character? What is that thing which is in your way or holding you back? Might God be using that to transform your character?
Because God loves us as a father loves his child, God will train and discipline us so we can persevere.
Take a moment to think of God as a father coaching his child in the disciplines of leading a godly life. How might that change our view of the hard experiences God may allow to test us?
Rev John Malcolm