For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Hebrews 12: 11

There are disciplines that I find relatively easy. These include things like brushing my teeth and washing what hair I have. Then, there are others that are very hard to remain faithful to; these are exercise, avoiding certain foods, and getting enough sleep. Although my doctor and dentist might disagree with me on this, all of these are of little importance when compared to the discipline that God wants to bring into my life. I would guess that most of us can make similar comments about our own spiritual journeys. Remaining faithful and committed to righteousness and to its practice is not easy to do.

Unfortunately, it seems clear that living in a fundamentally righteous manner does not come naturally for most of us. It seems that we all have areas and aspects of our lives where people will have a hard time seeing the true image of Christ when they encounter us. Since all children of God are called to be His hands and feet, to live as an expression of His love and grace among people who desperately need Him, and to continually grow and develop in our relationship with Him, God puts extra effort into bringing the discipline that this sort of living requires into each of our lives.

This process requires us to experience blood, sweat, and often bitter tears; yet, it is absolutely necessary in order to gain the depth of understanding of God and of His will that leads to a life that is peaceful and productive in His eyes. Discipline is made easier as we stop fighting against it and start working with the changes that it demands. Christ asks us to start simply in this process of transformative change; so, He asks us to give just one troublesome habit of thought or action to Him. Then He will start to transform this aspect of us into His way of walking through life. Christ promises that if we plan to stick with the process of change through the hard work days, we will be able to delight in the joy and the peace that His Spirit will bring to our weary hearts as we dwell in the soul-deep peace that flows out of righteous living. 

Now, I Nebuchadnezzar praise, exalt, and honor the King of heaven, for all

His works are true and His ways just, and He is able to humble those who walk in pride.

Daniel 4: 37

 

Here are the words of one of the most accomplished men to ever walk on the face of the earth. He had empire, position, and wealth. Anything that he commanded was done without question, and Nebuchadnezzar had been able to surround himself with splendid buildings that were monuments to his leadership and power. Still, God wanted something else from him, and the Lord continued to pursue him with a relentlessness that was even greater than King Nebuchadnezzar’s desire to build monuments. God spoke to him, He provided human testimony, and compelling examples of His might and sovereignty. Yet, Nebuchadnezzar’s pride was strong, and he continued to know who God was, but he didn’t submit to the Lord and so actually know Him.

 

So, God humbled the great man. The Lord took him quite literally to his knees, and forced him to depend totally on the protection of others and on the grace of God. Thus, these words are the deeply felt utterance of a man who has plummeted from the peak of his own success to the depths of living in a pasture, and who has been restored totally by God’s unending love and total grace. This is the story of an ancient king that applies to our world as much as it did then, and it is a story of how God continues to work in the lives of everyone regardless of station, status, or rank.

 

There is almost no one alive who does not deal with issues of pride and self-sufficiency. We are made so that survival and even dominance are wired into us, and we are taught and trained to seek after the results of our efforts that would seem to provide the highest degree of worldly success. Yet, these results are not always what honors God, and they are not usually the way that our Lord would have us travel through life as followers of Christ. Now most of us do not require as dramatic an experience as the one that Nebuchadnezzar underwent in order to relent, repent, and turn away from our own way. However, God is ready and willing to do whatever it might take to get our attention and to cause us to turn toward Him in humble submission to His will and in willingness to serve His kingdom in whatever way the Lord desires. If we are open to hear, Christ does speak His will to us, and as we surrender to His will, He empowers our service in the name of the Lord.

I delight to do your will, O my God;

your law is within my heart.

Psalm 40: 8

 

It seems that understanding motivation should be fairly simple. In theory, this is what all employers, governments, and religious leaders do. This is also an important part of what parents engage in when attempting to lead our children and to get the basic aspects of family living accomplished. These examples do not begin to cover all of the relationships in which seeing and using the motivation of people is a central part of what takes place. In addition, most of us struggle to fully understand the forces and the influences that drive our own actions and reactions as we go about living. It is apparent from David’s comment in this Psalm that this struggle to understand what drives us is not a new one, either.

 

David has already stated that tradition, ritual, and even the system of sacrifices that God, Himself, had set out for them to follow were not the reason for living within the favor of God. All of these practices could be a form of worship that was engaged in out of love for God and even in obedience to His law, but they were not the motivation for that desire to follow God’s will, and adherence to them was not sufficient to satisfy God’s desire for relationship with His people. As stated above, very little has changed over the years. We still strive for understanding, and we still seek after a system of worship that makes our relationship with God simple and provides a formula for receiving God’s favor through our demonstrated devotion. This reciprocal relationship is often how we understand God’s law and His will.

 

Yet, that is not what God intends or desires. The Lord delights in our worship, but that delight is greatest when that worship is the on-going expression of the way that we live. In Christ, we have something that David could only imagine, for we have the Spirit of Christ dwelling within us, and this transformative aspect of the relationship with God implants God’s living law of righteous love within our beings. The presence of Christ within changes the fundamental nature of who we are, and He also clearly defines the motivation for all that we think, say, and do. In Christ, all of our lives can be lived out in worshipful service to God, and so, to the glory of His name and for the purposes of His Kingdom on earth. This possibility should challenge each of us who know Christ, for the question that it raises is one of true commitment and of willing obedience through surrender of self.

 

So, in all matters whether great or small, my prayer needs to be, “Lord, I repent of my selfish and stubbornly willful thoughts, words, and actions. Show me Your will and lead me into Your ways so that my life will bring glory to Your name and delight to Your eyes. O Lord, You are the delight of my heart and Your loving grace, righteousness and truth are the law that I desire to follow.”

It is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.

Philippians 2: 13

 

When I was a youth, there was a summer where growth and change took over my body; I grew three inches taller and actually lost a considerable amount of weight in just a few weeks. From my viewpoint, I knew that things were changing, but my sense of the change was less than that of people who saw me after it had happened. I did experience pain, for my joints ached; and I had some really awkward moments; since, my hands and my feet did not know where they were in relation to the rest of the world. God does some remarkably similar things in us. I doubt that He will make you much taller, but He will give you the confidence to hold your head a lot higher. He won’t necessarily cause you to lose weight, but He will carry the load of life for you. Just like in my growth spurt, you may not notice the dramatic ways that you are changing, but others will see a new person emerging.

 

In Christ, we are new persons; people who now have our identity in Christ. We have been made right and righteous, and our relationship to God has been restored. Whether we are four, forty, or at any other age, and throughout all of life, we grow and mature as the Spirit of Christ does the amazing and loving transformational work that He has planned for each of us. You see, every personal trainer, mentor, guru, yogi, pastor, and coach who has ever worked with people possesses nothing more than a mere shadow of life=changing ability of God. He knows us from the heart out, and He plans for our greatest good in ways that are beyond the capability of any human.

 

The growth pains and awkward moments that do come as we are on this life-long path of transformation are simply minor bumps in the road. They are reminders of how far we had to go and of how very far we have come in the journey of being transformed into the living image of Christ. This change that is afoot in our bodies, minds, and spirits is there because God loved each of us totally and willed that it would be possible. The change occurs and continues as we accept this love and yield ourselves in order to allow Christ the opportunity to bring about further transformative change.