I praise You, Lord, the God of the new and the old, of innovation and tradition. Visit me once again today.
Read HEBREWS 12:3-13
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. All rights reserved throughout the world. Used by permission of International Bible Society.
Jesus called a child and said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18:3).
What Christians do becomes a self-contradiction when it takes the form of a trained and mastered routine, of a learned and practiced art. They may be masters—and even virtuosos—in many things, but never in what makes them Christians, God’s children. Understanding ourselves as childlike beginners in the Christian life is helpful as we look back at Proverbs and meditate on today’s text. Proverbs is unsubtle, direct, black and white in its insistence that there are right and wrong, wise and foolish ways to live. It vividly juxtaposes forgiveness, integrity, courage, faithfulness, empathy, humor, kindness and generosity with lies, grudges, gossip, malice, retribution, laziness, jealousy and greed. Learning to practice those wonderfully attractive values and reject the ugly ones will be a lifelong learning process, a struggle (4), but one in which our Father interacts with us as his beloved children in discipline (6-8).
How then are we to understand “the discipline of the Lord” (5)? Punishment, chastisement and trials (5-7) are not experiences we would choose. What we can choose is how we respond to the painful but potentially formative episodes, or lifetime testing, that God permits us to experience. Hebrews urges us not to dismiss these or be unduly discouraged (5), but to “endure” them (7). The Greek word has the sense of standing steady in the face of suffering, the word used about Jesus as he faced the cross (3). This is no passive stance. Rather it is one that actively seeks to cooperate with God. Eugene Peterson insists on our need to name what is wrong—as Proverbs so bluntly does. “In spiritual direction we don’t apply truth so much as discover particular temptations and actual graces,” he says.
Look back over the Proverbs texts. Thank God for changes that he has brought about in you. Tell him the temptations assaulting you that still need his help.
Lord, I know that You can use correction to bring spiritual growth in me. Lord, mold me and make me as You will.
Click here to sign up to receive the EXTRAs via email each quarter.
© 2023 Scripture Union U.S.A. All rights reserved. Reproduction of the whole or any part of the contents without written permission is prohibited.
Encounter with God is published in the USA under license from Scripture Union England and Wales, Trinity House, Opal Court, Opal Drive, Fox Milne, Milton Keynes, MK15 0DF.