February 28, 2013

Discipline from a loving Father

Memory says I had a closer relationship with my father than with my mother. Reasons and examples would fill too much space, but this has had an impact on how I perceive God; He is like both of them. My parents loved us and never fought with each other. They sacrificed themselves for the family and did their very best to raise us with morals, character and a good work ethic. 

If my father had a flaw, it was related to his value for hard work; he was very critical of those who were lazy. This verse cannot help but put thoughts of my father, even my mother, in my head.

As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. (Psalm 103:13)

Also, I read it understanding that many people do not experience good fathers, even good mothers. The word ‘compassion’ might as well be a foreign language for it is not experienced in many families. For those, the meaning of compassion might be clear and there is a deep desire to have it, but also a deep sadness knowing that it will never come from their parents.

I remember my father’s face when he had to discipline one of us (I have a sister and two brothers). He found this difficult and painful. Even if we made him angry, only determination to do the right thing kept him on track. Otherwise, I think he would not have done it. I’ve since learned that love disciplines, even if it doesn’t enjoy the process.

It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. (Hebrews 12:7–10)

These verses point out that love disciplines. God’s compassion may never more be felt than when He is allowing me to suffer affliction so that I might become more like Jesus. Whether the affliction is smoothing rough edges, teaching patience, or rooting out a sinful attitude, God would rather I learned it some other way. If He didn’t love me, He would not put me through the purifying process of discipline and trials.

Today’s devotional zeros in on a certain type of person that is one object of God’s compassion. In the category of those who fear Him are “the very best and brightest of his saints, the brave heroes, the well-instructed fathers, the diligent workers,” and any who sometimes “imagine that the very roots of sin have been eradicated out of their hearts.” In their estimation, they had arrived, lived without sin for weeks “except some wandering thought, but they could hardly refer to that as a fault.” 

The author says he pities people like that, and imagines God in His compassion saying to Himself, “Poor dear creatures; how little they know of themselves, and how different their estimate of perfection is from mine.” God feels compassion for those children who have become an embarrassment to the rest of His family, the self-righteous who have forgotten that such self-estimation is a sin also. 

The biggest lesson for today is that I am like my father, but am supposed to be like our Father. I can also be critical of others who do not see things the way I do, or have not yet learned the lessons I’ve learned, or those who think they know it all when and have missed God’s estimation. All of this puts me in the same place as those I criticize because I am doing the same thing. This makes me just as guilty and just as needy as they are. I also need to be more like my Father who has compassion on all His children who fear Him, even those who do not realize how much they need it or how much God is showing it to them.

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