I have enjoyed posting snippets of my messages from Sunday mornings and I hope they have been of some benefit to all you precious readers out there. This week's offering continues in the book of Hebrews, 12:3-11. This represents my last message from the book as I will head into holiday messages next Sunday that will carry us through the end of the year.
Here is an excerpt from Spiritual Discipline.
Verses five and six teach us that discipline is a mark of the relationship of a child of God with his God. "You have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons." He says, "My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord," rather welcome it! He says, "Do not be discouraged when you are rebuked," rather be encouraged!
For to be disciplined means you are a child of God and that He loves you! Too many children these days get away with too many things. I wore enough stripes on my legs as a boy to know that my father was concerned about my erring ways and that he desired for those ways to be trained out of me. He never punished out of malice; it was always out of love. And there are certain levels of discipline we can expect according to this writer.
The first level is that of a rebuke. Consider with me the power of a mother's eyebrow. My mother could make me stand up lock-straight just by a curl of her eyebrow. Consider the snap of a father's finger; same effect. This is God getting your attention. It may come as a friendly word of advice from a friend; a word of admonition from your pastor; a song lyric; an impression from the Holy Spirit. This level is by far the simplest and easiest to endure, yet easily overlooked and typically broomed away.
The second level is God getting more serious because you didn't. It is the level of chastening. The discipline is stepped up so that you might take notice of the path you are now treading and the dangerous place you have put yourself. This comes as the stern "talking-to" that my dad used to give me as a teenager. (Sometimes I wished he would just whip me and get it over with.) This is the prayer that lays heavily upon your heart, the word of admonition that went unheeded that constantly troubles your heart and mind, when the skies feel as gray as gun metal and are closed just as fast. However, this is the level that God desires that you PAY ATTENTION because in no way does He desire to proceed to the next level.
If you choose to ignore Him it gives God no pleasure to proceed to scourging. This is the same word used of Jesus' scourging in Matthew 27:26; a frightening prospect indeed, knowing that all our sins were laid upon Him and He received all our punishment for them. It pleased God to bruise Jesus, but in no way does it give Him pleasure to bruise His children.
I just recently finished Elie Wiesel's book Night about his imprisonment and hard labor in a German concentration camp. Elie just happened to catch a German guard with a young woman. Fearing he would get in trouble, the guard took measures to insure Elie would keep quiet. He called for a crate and had Elie stretched out over it, bare-backed. Elie only felt the sting of the first lash; the following twenty-four lashes drove him into unconsciousness. After the beating, the guard had Elie stand in front of him and he demanded that he would never speak of what he had seen. Elie's response was, "My head bobbled yes, it bobbled as if it would bobble that way for all eternity."
In no way is scourging ever done in such a way by our loving Father. Every stroke is measured; every stroke is for our good. He does resort to such horrendous means but only when He has exhausted all others. When He scourges, it isn't to be taken lightly, but soberly and sensibly. His correction is always to be received to bring us to our senses, never to leave us senseless.