I hope you are able to go to the Lenten Luncheons at St. Mary’s every Tuesday. Good cause for charity. Also, take advantage of all the opportunities across denominational lines at various churches as we move ever closer to Easter which is April 21. Holy Week is very near as it begins with Palm Sunday on April 14.
As you know, I have been doing this Lenten season a series on love and it is hard to believe that it is just this week and next and then that series is over. But God’s love never ends and in reality, Holy Week and Easter are all about His love for us.
This week I am going to tackle a subject that can make us feel uneasy. God loves you, even when He is correcting you. Ouch. Proverbs 3:12 says this, “Whom the Lord loves, He corrects, just as a father the son in whom He delights. I am speaking about this theologically and firsthand. I imagine you can easily relate. Like all of us, I am just an old sinner saved by grace. While I would like to think I have led a pretty good life and done a lot of good, I also know I am a sinner and have more than my share of foul ups. Many were well intentioned. But nonetheless, wrong.
The Bible is clear that when we go astray or sin or make mistakes, God, out of His love for us, will correct us and even discipline us. The great writer C.S. Lewis who wrote the fabulous Narnia Chronicles said it well, “We want not so much a Father in Heaven as a grandfather in Heaven…whose plan for the universe was simply that it might be said at the end of the day, ‘A good time was had by all.’”
Lewis said that is not what we need. He said that in truth because God loves us, we need correction from time to time. And why not. Show me a child who is never corrected and I will show you in time a juvenile delinquent.
David Jeremiah said that what kind of love would it be if a conductor rescued a happy child playing on a train track with a train coming by throwing the baby out of the way in the nick of time? The baby might cry and be jostled, but saved from the train. What would it be if a parent never corrected you for not doing your homework or from hurling insults and profanities at the neighbor kid? Unfortunately, too much now-a-days does go uncorrected. But that is not love and a loving God, as our Father is not going to be that way.
God is willing to cause us some pain and discomfort, if all else fails, to benefit us, teach us, wake us up, and save us even from ourselves. He is willing to do that to get our attention. Why?
There are at least three categories of discipline. One is that He disciplines us to punish us. Psalm 89 tells us all about that. When King David got involved illicitly with Bathsheba and had his friend sent into battle to be killed so he could have her, God had to deal with His beloved David to teach Him a lesson. But it was not because of God’s wrath David was punished. It was a punishment for David’s own good. There is a difference. Sometimes, the consequences of our sins are spared, sometimes not. In David’s case, they were not. But if you read Psalm 51, you will see that the punishment had good effects on David as they led to repentance and an even closer relationship with God.
A second reason God corrects us is to protect us. Paul gave a great example of that in 2 Corinthians 12:7. He talks about a thorn in the flesh of which we are never sure what it was. But he knew that God allowed it for his good so he would not be too puffed up with pride and lose his missionary focus. God gave him the grace to deal with it.
There have been several times when I have prayed for God’s protection and it resulted not in what I wanted necessarily but what He knew I needed. He was “kicking me away from trouble.” It has often happened when I should have seen the warning signs and yet was in denial. Again as C.S. Lewis said, “God shouts in our pain. It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” God may have continually been showing you to avoid and run from a situation and you just do not do it. He may have to literally use a nuclear option to save you. He corrects your course to save you. Again, I know what that is like.
Finally, God disciplines us to purify us. Hebrews 12:10 says this. God wants us to be holy and consecrated to Him. We may where He tries to chasten us, train us, correct us, educate us into being a better Christian. Sometimes trials are necessary to do that. It is because He loves us. He wants us not to be drug down and bogged down into spiritual dwarfism. We are to grow into better Christians and trials can do that.
In summary, instead of asking why God disciplines us, we need to ask and wonder why He shouldn’t. It is a sign of His parental love. It proves we are His children. It is something that should give us a feeling of security. If you do not believe that, look at the number of problems kids have in our inner cities when they do not have a father figure or in our country when parents have children but do not raise them. I always said you can be a biological dad but it does not make you a father. When God corrects us, He is saying, “You belong to Me, and I love you.” It may make us upset but as the early church father Jerome said, “The greatest danger of all is when God is no longer angry with us.”
Having said that, it is imperative that we understand that God does not hate us when we are corrected and that we react not with rebellion but that we, as David did, respond openly, honestly, gratefully. We can take what He gives us lovingly and be the better for it to each other, to Him, and to ourselves. It is so easy to blame others when we go through these periods but God is sovereign and we need to look at the situation, our involvement and let Him have the last Word. Correction from God can leave us lonely and discouraged and isolated. But He is always watching over us and loving us. He wants our trust and wants us to know He loves us as our HEAVENLY FATHER. Consider these verses: Psalm 42:11: “Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God.”
“Though He causes grief, Yet He will show you compassion according to the multitude of His mercies.” Lamentations 3:32-33
Understand this, even in our unpleasant experiences, we can look to God’s love and faithful hand. God loves you and loves you enough to correct you and I when we need it. He always disciplines us fairly to benefit us.
There was an early Indian tribe in our nation that had a special rite to train young braves. On their 13th birthday, they were taken deep into the forest, blindfolded, where they were left alone to face the terrors of darkness, wild beasts, being apart from the safety of family and village, not being able to see a way out. When he was left and the blindfold went off, he was surrounded by potential danger and where every noise could be a danger beyond compare behind it. All night, he would be there. This was at night, but when the sun came up, he was amazed at how everything looked better and he looked ahead and discovered that there had been a warrior of the tribe, unseen, who had been with him all night to protect him. That warrior was his father. God does that for us. In the training ground of life and in our daily walk, God, even when we need correction for whatever objective He has, is right with us. Why? He loves us totally and always wants the best for us.