When we don't learn God's lessons
Hard times are called that for a reason…they’re hard to deal with. But the author of Hebrews gave his readers a better perspective on how to handle the difficult times in life:
Hebrews 12:7, 11
Endure suffering as discipline: God is dealing with you as sons. For what son is there that a father does not discipline?...No discipline seems enjoyable at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
And yet I wonder…What happens when we don’t embrace God’s discipline? What happens when we refuse to learn the lessons God is trying to teach us?
When we look back in Scripture, we find this theme of God instructing His people repeated, over and over. Below is just one example of what He said to the Israelites after they had spurned Him and His ways. In Hebrews, the end result of God’s teaching is the peaceful fruit of righteousness. Keep an eye out for that here:
This is what the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel says:
I am the Lord your God,
who teaches you for your benefit,
Who leads you in the way you should go.
If only you had paid attention to my commands.
Then your peace would have been like a river,
and your righteousness like the waves of the sea.
Your descendants would have been as countless as the sand,
and the offspring of your body like its grains;
their name would not be cut off or eliminated from my presence.
God says His teaching would have resulted in peace as steady and calm like a river, and righteousness that is as massive and powerful like the waves of the sea. What a beautiful (almost paradoxical) comparison…imagine your life…where you handle any/all situations with calmness and peace, and your life’s actions are so undeniably in tune with God’s plan for living that you move with power as your righteousness positively affects the people around you. A life like that would be a huge comfort to us personally and even more so to those around us.
But let’s be honest…we know that we cannot grow to that level on our own. So God offers to intentionally teach the Israelites how to be this way – how to reflect Him to the world. It’s the same offer in our Hebrews passage, where God is training us to produce the peaceful fruit of righteousness.
Teaching, training, and developing His people was God’s intention for the Israelites – both individually and as a nation. It’s also His intention for us – both individually and as the church.
But, like the Israelites, we are
slow to trust God
slow to learn
prone to really messing things up
The Israelites rebelled so many times and ran so far from God, that He allowed their nation to be overtaken and plundered by other nations. By the time they got to that point in their history, they certainly were not experiencing peace or righteousness themselves. In addition, God says the course of the following generations was also affected – their families’ descendants and offspring were heavily impacted by the foreign invasion, to the point where family names and bloodlines were cut off or eliminated.
And when we look objectively back at the times we’ve stiff-armed God, trying to keep Him at arm’s length, we can still see some of the lasting effects in our lives and the lives of our family. Perhaps we even say to ourselves like what was said about the Israelites: if only I had payed attention to God’s commands. Regret and depression are heavy burdens…and we are unable to undo the past. What do we do now?
Look back at the Isaiah passage. Right at the top, how does God describe Himself?
He is the one who buys back, delivers, and protects those who cannot do so for themselves. The ones who have messed up beyond what they could ever fix or repay…they find rescue in Him.
Yes, there were heavy consequences for how far the nation of Israel ran from God – but He did not abandon them. Yes, God disciplines His church – but we’re still part of His family. Our loving father is also our redeemer. He loves us enough to show us how to live rightly, how to live well.
Even if we don’t get it right the first time.