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Fri, 2010-12-03 11:39 — Kevin Jackson
"MY SON, DO NOT REGARD LIGHTLY THE DISCIPLINE OF THE LORD,
NOR FAINT WHEN YOU ARE REPROVED BY HIM;
FOR THOSE WHOM THE LORD LOVES HE DISCIPLINES,
AND HE SCOURGES EVERY SON WHOM HE RECEIVES." (Hebrews 12:5b-6)
I am a discontent person by nature; but then, aren’t we all. In my previous job I would spend half my day resenting those over me and the other half of the day doing my work. Then God disciplined me. At the beginning of September I lost my job. When I was fired (“let go” sounds so much nicer, and even “terminated” has a certain ring to it, but I choose to use the word that is most stigmatized) I was told that it was “not working out.” Not working out? That was the understatement of the year...
I never felt as if my employers wanted me there and I did little to make them want me to stay. I hated my job. Yes, I got my work done, but it was not the best that I could do and if they asked me to do something I didn’t think was right, rather than simply saying so -- respectfully -- I just wouldn’t do it, or I’d do it my own way. Yeah, I was that guy.
Now, I never wanted to be where I was in the first place. About a year and a half ago the company that I used to work for sold the software that I supported and I went along with the deal; kind of like Tom Fortugno, I was traded for a box of network cables and used hard drives. But even before that, I was looking for new jobs because I had misgivings about the company acquiring the software; I knew too much about them to want to be a part of their organization. I don’t say any of this to excuse myself, but to show that I knew full well what I was getting into. The main reasons that I stayed in the first place were two-fold; loyalty to my former employers -- I believed it would be more difficult for them to sell the software without experienced personnel coming with it -- and loyalty to my clients.
All of that to say that I fully deserved to be fired and, although I felt as if a weight had been lifted from shoulders when I walked out of that office for the final time, I knew that the discipline of the Lord was on me. And that made me fear Him and love Him more than anything I have ever experienced in my life.
I suffer from a very common ailment among Christians -- it’s called unbelief. I have struggled with this condition for years, fighting against it with varying degrees of success, but one thing has always remained, I find it easier to believe God’s promises of blessing than His promises of punishment. I would read passages like the one above and think “oh, yeah, I got that hangnail last week. That was God’s punishment for impure thoughts. Whew, I’m glad that’s over.” It was a textbook case of “regard[ing] lightly the discipline of the Lord.” To me God’s punishment was little more than what pagans would call “bad luck”; something to be avoided as much as possible, but something also out of my control. It’s only when you truly experience His discipline that you begin to really understand it.
God’s discipline is comforting and wonderful and it is good. It was good for me to be fired and then to come to my Father with humility, asking for His comfort, strength, and provision. In His discipline of me I have felt His love and mercy more sharply than any other time in my life.
The sad thing is that, to most of the world -- Christians included -- this seems utterly perverse. Why would I rejoice so much in my discipline? Isn’t God’s gift of grace the greatest thing He can bestow on us? Yes, absolutely it is. There is no way that we can lift ourselves from the pit of sin and darkness in which we are born. When God reveals to us our depravity and gives us a new nature, it is an awesome thing. However, God’s great mercy to us is also the fact that He often does not reveal the utter depths of our sin to us all at once. It is merciful because we couldn’t handle the full extent of the truth of our fleshly natures in such a short period of time. It is also merciful because, as Martin Luther says, “When our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, said ‘Repent’, He called for the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.” If we could point to one moment in time and say “I have already repented of all my sins, so I don’t need to do so anymore,” what reason would we have to lean on God and trust in Him for forgiveness? When would we cry with David “Against You, You only, I have sinned and done what is evil in Your sight, so that You are justified when You speak and blameless when You judge”?
Where would the fear of the Lord be?
God’s discipline is very good and I rejoice all the more for having experienced it. I repent of my sins of discontent and despising those in authority over me and I know that His goodness will never fail, something which I have also experienced through this and something, dear reader, which I will share with you in my next post.