DISCIPLINE, TESTING, OR... 2-24-19
Discipline, Testing, or Something Else?
February 24, 2019
We all go through trials in our life. Most times the reason for them is not clear, and we need to ask God to show us what He is trying to accomplish through them. And while we are waiting on the answer, we need to trust Him that everything that happens to a child of God is the will of a Father who loves us; and will ultimately be for our good and His glory. Often the reason is not revealed until long after the trial has passed. But at other times we know in our spirit why it has come about, even if our heart and mind reject that knowledge.
The first possible reason is the least popular, and that is that God is disciplining us. But do not confuse discipline with punishment. Punishment stems from God’s wrath against sin, whereas His discipline stems from His love for His children. Punishment is God acting as Judge; discipline is God acting as Father. The Greek word for discipline means child-training. Under punishment, the sinner pays for his sins. Under discipline, Christ paid for our sins. Punishment is God’s demand for justice. Its aim is not to restore. Under discipline, justice is not the issue, since Christ already paid the price for our sins. Rather, God intends to correct our faults and to develop holiness in us. And while discipline does not remove the consequences of our sin here on earth, God often tempers it with grace if we repent. If we do not repent, His discipline can be very severe, even to the point of physical death. You can read a very powerful example in 2 Samuel 12: 1-24, which tells of how the Lord’s discipline of King David for his sin of adultery and murder resulted in the death of his newborn son. But when David finally repented, the Lord gave him another son, who grew up to be the wise and mighty King Solomon. I do want to be sure to add that the sinning child of God may lose earthly blessings and heavenly rewards, but will not lose his or her salvation (1 Cor. 3:14-15).
Therefore, if there is known sin in your life, whether or not discipline has yet ensued, heed the words of our Lord in Revelation 3:19, “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent.” Entire churches can also be under God’s discipline, for Jesus’ told the church in Ephesus, “Look how far you have fallen! Turn back to me and do the works you did at first. If you don't repent, I will come and remove your lampstand from its place among the churches.” (Revelation 2:5). I pray our light continues to shine in the years to come.
Now, if you have searched your heart, and eliminated discipline as a possible cause for a specific trial in your life, and you are actively pursuing maturity in Christ by not living according to the flesh, and are truly seeking the things of the Spirit, then your trial might be a period of testing that God is using as a means of developing even greater growth and maturity in you. The apostle James said (in James 1), “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” (vs. 2-4). Therefore, if you are going through a period of testing, instead of allowing it to drag you down, or possibly even turn you away from God for a season, pray that God uses it to build you up in the faith. And know that once the trial is complete and you have grown spiritually through it, that God “blesses those who patiently endure testing” and “afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him” (vs. 12). So even though we might not enjoy these ‘tests’ when we are in the midst of them, if we trust God through them, we will emerge with more joy, love, peace - and rewards - in the end.
What other reasons might there be for trials in our lives? In John 9 the disciples asked Jesus why a certain man was born blind, inquiring whether it was because of his own sin, or that of his parents. But what did Jesus reply? “’It was not because of his sins or his parents' sins,’ Jesus answered. ‘This happened so the power of God could be seen in him.’” (vs. 3). His blindness was not the result of disciplinary action on him or his parents. Neither he or his parent’s faith was being tested through the blindness. But rather through his healing the blind man came to faith in Jesus Christ, as did others who witnessed it. God’s power and glory was displayed through that miracle. Perhaps something you went through earlier in your life was a means that God used to bring you to faith in Him. Or maybe there is something you are going through right now that God will use to bring others to faith in Him. We live in a world that is filled with sin and evil. And although Jesus said in John 17 that we, as Christians, are not of this world, any more than He is of this world, while we are living here we are subject to the results of this corrupted environment. We are subject to disease, to violence, to natural disasters, and to death. But God can use anything, even the most horrendous evil, the most agonizing grief, the most debilitating pain, to bring about salvation, healing, and blessing in our lives and the lives of others.
This is why we must always trust “that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28). If we truly love God and have put our faith in His Son for our salvation, we should gladly submit to discipline when we stray, knowing it is a sign of our Father’s love. We should gladly endure testing, knowing it will draw us even closer to Him. And we should we willing to be used by God, in whatever way He chooses, to draw others to Him. For what greater joy can there be than knowing that God has allowed us to play a part in leading souls to Him and thus saving them from an eternity of darkness and torment? May you be an instrument in God’s glory, and be blessed for every trial you endure. Amen.
“Reign in Us” (Starfield) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MApGTojo-xU
"Diamonds" (Hawk Nelson) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yf1ARbpB0gA