God disciplines us today as He always has.
What may be different today is our attitude toward God’s discipline.
Don’t get me wrong. If the discipline comes in the form of pain or suffering, I don’t like it. I am sure you don’t either.
Also, I think it is folly to equate pain, adversity or tribulation with the degree God loves you or does not love you. God loves us all the time. Prayer helps in time of trouble. Another folly is to equate the effectiveness of prayer with the amount of suffering that is reduced by fervent petition. God hears all prayers; He just responds the way He wants to, not how we want Him to. We want a quick alleviation of pain when we pray.
Maybe it is our contemporary lifestyle but many of us struggle with God’s discipline today.
J.B. Phillips, writing in our book The God Who Hears, discusses the attitude of the New Testament authors. “the New Testament epistles present life as an incident…compared to the timeless life of God Himself. To these men, this world was only a part…of God’s created universe. They trained themselves therefore, and attempted to train others, not to be ‘taken in’ by this world, not to give their hearts to it, not to conform to its values, but to remember constantly that they were only temporary residents, and their rights of citizenship were in the unseen world of Reality.”
This is quite a contrast to the worldly temptations Christians face today. The world today is all about making the most we can out of life. We are confronted by people every day who think that this world is all we are going to have. We see media all the time with the message that we need to enjoy life; after all, it’s a bowl of cherries, we need to look on the sunny side of life, we need to get that new lease on life so we can be the life of the party. It is all about now and what we can experience now.
It is easy to have such a life affirming positive attitude until tough times arrive and then many of us struggle. C.S. Lewis states “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains…a bad man, happy, is a man without the least inkling that his actions…are not in accord with the laws of the universe.”
When we are in the midst of tribulation we have what I call “foxhole prayers”, you know those serious petitions that soldiers offer up when they are trying to survive withering artillery fire from the enemy. When we are flat on our backs, God has our attention and we get serious about prayer.
Today, we just can’t seem to understand why all those hard times come. We say things like God does not love me. God is a hateful God. God refuses to answer my prayer. God is turning His back to me.
Maybe He is not doing any of that. Maybe He is just trying to reorient us. Unlike the New Testament writers, we just can’t see that God’s purpose is to help us attain salvation through faith in Christ. The long-term goal is not to make our lives miserable, it is to direct us toward becoming a spiritual child of God and more importantly to help us live like children of God in the world today.
One of the most famous scriptures in the Bible may be the one that most contemporary Christians do not want to take seriously: “Look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal” [2 Corinthians, 4:18].
Maybe when we are being disciplined we think God is using his whip.
Maybe we need to realize that is not true.
He is really using His megaphone.