My son is a pretty happy-go-lucky kid. He’s full of life and joy and is an all-around awesome three-year old. Until it comes time for bath and he’d rather do something else. Then everything changes. Even in his sullenness, he’s hilarious. I love how every trip to the bathtub becomes a scene from Dead Man Walking. He acts as though he’s walking to the end of all things instead of just walking to the bathroom.
One day I hope he will understand that making him take a bath was for his own good. Washing up, removing dirt and germs, and personal hygiene are important parts of general health maintenance. But it doesn’t feel that way to him. To him, we’re being mean parents for forcing him to get in the water and use…shudder…soap.
Truth be told we never really grow out of that attitude. There are areas in our life that God wants to clean up. It’s not that he’s a mean God who acts capriciously to amuse himself as we hang our heads and drag our feet. He has our best interest at heart and desires that we stay healthy and germ free (spiritually speaking). This is the kind of thing the writer is talking about in the biblical book of Hebrews:
Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says, “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”
Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
Our natural human tendency is to get dirty. Just like my son likes to play outside and get into an incredibly sweaty, dirty, and a filthy mess, we do that with our lives. The choices we make, the habits and addictions we become entangled in, and indulging in our own selfish desires makes us dirty and messy people.
God’s intention to give us a bath is for our benefit. And, even though we may not care for bath time, it’s because he cares about us that he teaches us discipline and hygiene. We will see the benefit of it later on.
One last example and then I’ll be off my soapbox. When I was a kid I took piano lessons. I love music and my parents found a great piano teacher who helped me find my own style and voice. But I didn’t like to practice. And it grew to the point where I felt that I was “done” with the lessons. I didn’t want to endure the discipline of it all. Now, as an adult, I really wish that my parents had forced me to endure the discipline more. I wish I were a much better pianist than I am. Had I endured it back then, I could reap the produce now.
Don’t buck when God tries to discipline you. He’s not trying to give you restrictive regulations because he’s mean. He’s trying to show you a better way of life so that, in the long run, you will be better off and reap the benefits of a spiritually disciplined life.
It’s time to throw off the sinful behavior that’s been holding you back. It’s time to understand his purpose and intent in holy living. He’s making me better; making me stronger; giving me discipline so that I will benefit and be healthy—so that I can become a better me.