We have an unhealthy relationship with the word discipline. It connotes the worst in our emotions. Pain and some form of suffering are usually associated with this word. And sadly, many people today are damaged physically, mentally and spiritually by our often flawed ideas of what constitutes proper discipline. Simply put, we have merged the word discipline with punishment.
This week as we look at A Matter of Life and Death we will concentrate on discipline from the eyes of God. As the Bible states “his ways are not are ways’‘ and this is certainly true in the area of discipline.
We all agree that God loves those He disciplines (For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth Hebrews 12:6). That is not to be interpreted that God beats, whips, flogs those whom He disciplines. That’s usually how we view it, but there is evidence to the contrary.
Trials and tribulations are often God’s mechanism for discipline. And we all have gone through, are going through or will go through times of tribulations.
These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. John 16:33
These times of difficulties often take us to the brink of our relationship with God. We often wonder if we are being punished for some offense, some transgression against heaven. And many times we feel that God has abandoned us and left us alone during the times when we need Him most.
This scenario was vividly demonstrated during what should have been a short excursion for Jesus and the disciples. As their boat headed out for the eastern shore of Gennesaret, Jesus fell asleep. While He was sleeping a fierce storm broke out on the lake.
The Bible paints the picture of a life and death situation. Winds and waves were crashing into the ship and water filled it as the disciples feared for their lives. None of their skills could help them then. They were doomed to perish without divine intervention by God.
The flashing from the intense lightening revealed to them a peacefully sleeping Jesus. In their panic they cried out to Him.
Master, carest thou not that we perish? Mark 4:38
It’s right here that we can see ourselves in this experience. Without warning calamities, tests and trials befall us. The intensity of the storms raging around us seems to signal our demise. Our boats of life are taking on water and we appear to be doomed.
Sadly, just like the disciples, we try to save ourselves by ourselves. We exhaust every resource we have in an attempt to extricate ourselves from the discomfort, all the while feeling that God does not care enough about us to save us.
But thanks be to God, a flash of light will bring to our mind our only hope – Jesus. And in our despair and helplessness we cry out to Him, “Master save us or we perish!”
On that day as the disciples cried out to Jesus He arose in calmness and addressed the storm with these simple words, “Peace, be still.”
There is so much to learn from just this part of the story. Lessons of man’s extremity being God’s opportunity. Lessons on keeping your peace in the midst of life’s storms. But behind the scenes is a deeper lesson that reveals the why behind our trials and tribulations.
After Jesus rebuked the storm He turned to His disciples, who are looking at Him in amazement and He asked them what appears on the surface to be quite obvious.
“Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?” Mark 4:40
This question draws back the curtain on why God allows those He loves to go through difficult times. Searching their hearts they each had to grapple with their faith in who Jesus was and their confidence or lack of confidence in His love for them.
So too we, when pressed down by trials are often, forced to evaluate our relationship with the Master. Have we begun to rely on our own strength? Have we ceased to grow in our understanding of His love for us?
Each testing time in our lives should lead us to lean more heavily on Christ. God has a way of revealing to us things about ourselves that we are blind to. He often shakes up the currents of our lives with the ultimate aim to strengthen our connection with Him. His aim is our salvation and making Him our all in all should be the trajectory of our lives.
His discipline is not punishment. He is training us, refining us and preparing us for our future home.
“I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil.” Jeremiah 29:11
Here are a few Hit the Mark questions for this week’s lesson discussion:
- What does the word “discipline” mean to you?
- Is it true that God often punishes those who follow Him in order to correct them? Why yes or no?
- How can one tell if they are going through trials and tribulations as a consequence of their own actions?
- Should not those who love and follow God be spared from financial ruin, health crises and other difficulties that are faced by those who don’t follow God? Explain your answer
- How would my life be better if I trusted and loved God more each day?
- Is the following statement True, Mostly True, Somewhat True or Not True: The absence of crises in our lives is an indication that were are on good footing in our relationship with God. Explain your answer.
We close this week with some insightful texts from the book of Hebrews. They explain the seen by the unseen.
In this all-out match against sin, others have suffered far worse than you, to say nothing of what Jesus went through—all that bloodshed! So don’t feel sorry for yourselves. Or have you forgotten how good parents treat children, and that God regards you as his children?
My dear child, don’t shrug off God’s discipline,
but don’t be crushed by it either.
It’s the child he loves that he disciplines;
the child he embraces, he also corrects.
God is educating you; that’s why you must never drop out. He’s treating you as dear children. This trouble you’re in isn’t punishment; it’s training, the normal experience of children. Only irresponsible parents leave children to fend for themselves. Would you prefer an irresponsible God? We respect our own parents for training and not spoiling us, so why not embrace God’s training so we can truly live? Hebrews 12:4-10 The Message
Until next week, let’s all continue to Hit the Mark in Sabbath School!