*This was a recent sermon and some sermonic elements remain.
Kyle and Kate are in their mid 40s with kids in high school. They are middle class with a mortgage and a couple of car payments. They have solid career paths and casually attend church.
Things have gone well for them … until recent years.
They’ve experienced marital problems and rebellious children. They’ve felt disconnected from friends and felt like strangers at church. And despite success at work, they’ve been unfulfilled.
They assumed this was a middle class version of midlife crises. Yet, upon deeper reflection they’ve found it to be the Heavenly father’s discipline.
Before we hear the end of that story, join me in reading Hebrews 12:4~11.
Your earthly father points you to the Heavenly father
“Father” was Jesus’ favorite way to address God. It appears on his lips some 65 times in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. It is voiced over 100 times in the Gospel of John. The Apostle Paul’s letters address God as “father” over 40 times. In the famous Lord’s Prayer we are taught to address God as “Father.”
The title “father” speaks of an intimate relationship. God reated you, sustains you, provides for you, and offers you salvation through Jesus Christ. Here is the deal: Your earthly father points you to the Heavenly father. If you had a great earthly father, he does not come close to the goodness of your Heavenly father. If you had a poor earthly father, your Heavenly father is far greater than any earthly father you could imagine.
Discipline is painful but has purpose
God, as your Heavenly father, provides you with discipline. Discipline is painful but has purpose. God encourages, supports, corrects, and rebukes.
Remember when Peter attempted to get Jesus to stop talking about the cross? Peter was told, “Get behind me Satan.” I’d call that a rebuke. And Peter was better off for it.
Remember when Jesus took 70 disciples and sent them off two by two on a practice mission without him? I’d call that encouragement and support. And the 70 were better off for it.
Remember when Jesus was headed to the cross and he took three disciples to the garden of Gethsemane to pray? As Jesus prayed the disciples couldn’t keep their eyes opening. Jesus asked them, “Are you sleeping!?” I’d call that correction. And the disciples were better of for it.
God’s discipline is not symbolic of harshness or cruelty. Rather, it is a high form of love. God loves you to the point that he does not want you to wander down destructive paths. He rebukes with the loving hand of a father bringing you back into his will.
Not let me make a brief side note: not everything that happens in your life is the discipline of the Lord. Some things in your life merely happen because of sin. Sometimes things happen in your life because of your sin or the sin of others. Sometimes things happen because we live in a fallen and broken world. This might not be the Lord’s discipline but guess what? He can work it for good.
Our goal is not happiness but holiness
When you are brought into the will of God you are made holy. This point easily gets lost in many false gospels that get preached today. Many will preach that God wants you healthy, wealthy, and happy. Yet, our goal is not happiness but holiness.
If you have a goal other than holiness … you need a radical shift in priorities.
Your goal should be the will of God, to be shaped into the image of Jesus, to walk in the Spirit. Happiness is all about circumstances. I’m happy when things go my way, the Rangers win, and the kids go to bed on time. I’m made holy every time I’m disciplined into the man God has called me to be.
Kyle and Kate found their midlife crises as a great opportunity to pray. After all, they tried everything else in order to fix it. At the point of utter frustration … they found God.
They began to earnestly seek after God. They did not find him harsh or cruel but a faithful God of love. He opened their hearts to the reality that their priorities were out of whack. They did not raise their children in the ways of the Lord. They placed their careers over everything to include things of faith and church.
Through earnestly seeking after God they began to view their recent struggles, not as a midlife crises, but as the loving discipline of the Heavenly father. He was breaking the idols in their life. He was rearranging their priorities. He was putting their dependence upon God on full display.
Let me pull back from Kyle and Katie and turn to you.
God loves you, created you, sustains you, provided for you, and offers salvation through Jesus Christ. Seek him with all your heart this week. Experience his love and discipline.
But go one step further. Find the opportunity this week to share with someone God’s love and discipline. When you encounter someone going through a difficult day, speak to them of God’s love. Share how God has used difficult days in your life.