So, here’s an odd one: Have you ever thanked God for pain?
Let’s start by asking, what does the Christian and Arnold Schwarzenegger have in common? Hopefully the Christian has large, bulging spiritual muscles and remarkable spiritual stamina from long, grueling, arduous spiritual workouts. Not one of those workouts is a cheat day, and you can’t just phone in the deadlifts. The best of the best workout almost every day, for many hours, and all for a phenomenal physical body. Christians should be as dedicated. I know we’re not (it’s a battle to be so rigid and active in one’s Bible reading and prayer), but that should be our goal.
Martin Luther is quoted as having said:
- “I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.”
You and I tend to say, “I have so much to do that I shall cut back on my time in prayer.”
The Apostle Paul said:
- Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.—I. Corinthians 9:24-27
Notice what Paul does:
- He runs hard and fast with the goal of winning. Remember, in the Greek world, races were not marathons in lightweight designer shoes and barely-there clothes with people handing out water and Gatorade along the way. They were naked and treacherous, often fighting as hard to win as to live.
- He controls himself because discipline is paramount if you want to win.
- He runs with an eternal goal in view.
- He boxes, not as a shadow boxer, but he actually beats his body into submission, enslaving it to righteous living (the word for “discipline” is often translated “strike a blow”, “subdue”, “pommel”, “buffet”, and “chastise” since the Greek word means to bruise yourself). His goal is to be authentic and not fake (i.e. living what he preaches).
There is one side of life where we are required to work hard on our spiritual lives. No pain, no gain. Long amounts of time in God’s Word and in prayer will transform us into who He wants us to be. But, the other side of life is that Jesus is our disciplining Shepherd Who works for our spiritual growth and holiness as well.
Now, interestingly, I grew up being taught that a wandering sheep would be wacked by the shepherd, and if he kept rebelling, would finally have his leg broken and mended while the shepherd would carry the sheep around until it healed. I even heard one pastor say that if the sheep were still rebellious after all that, the shepherd would then kill it. But, when researched, this is not a practice that a Jewish shepherd would have done and it’s not found in the Bible. Who wants to carry a 75lb. sheep around on your shoulders all day long since it can’t walk with a broken leg? What if the leg didn’t heal right? What if you had two sheep whose legs you had to break; how would you carry both of them? And why would you kill the thing that brings you money? A practice such as this would be very impractical.
But, while our Shepherd will discipline us to bring us back into line, He does so in ways that may put a little pain into us, but not in ways to break us. If we are so bad off that we need breaking, then we’re probably not really His sheep.
- For our Thankful Thursday emphasis, let us thank God today for those painful things in life that He uses to discipline us, develop us, and bring us closer to Him.
- Think of a few times in your life when He’s done this for you: _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
- “Thank you, oh my father For giving us Your Son And leaving Your Spirit ‘Til the work on Earth is done” (from “There is a Redeemer” by Melody Green)
- Can you imagine being left on our own as Christians to figure life out, and to survive? What are some of the ways we can thank Him for protectively shepherding us towards maturity: ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
- We are imperfect at imitating Christ’s example of perfect shepherding. Yet, He still loves us and is patient with us. Thank Him now for His example, His grace, and the opportunity to shepherd others (such as our kids).
Jesus Makes My Heart Rejoice Hymn by Henrietta Luise von Hayn
1 Jesus makes my heart rejoice,
I’m his sheep, and know his voice;
he’s a Shepherd, kind and gracious,
And his pastures are delicious;
constant love to me he shows,
yea, my very name he knows.
2 Trusting his mild staff always,
I go in and out in peace;
he will feed me with treasure
of his grace in richest measure;
when athirst to him I cry,
Living water he’ll supply.
3 Should not I for gladness leap,
led by Jesus as his sheep?
For when these blessed days are over
to the arms of my dear Savior
I shall be conveyed to rest.
Amen, yea, my lot is blessed.