Healthy, Devoted Relationships

God Disciplines Those He Loves

The point is, don't think it's strange if you experience a little bit of a struggle or problem or trial in a relationship, be it on the job or in your neighborhood. It's going to happen. You will find yourself under great heat, under great pressure and trial—first of your own doing, maybe, but then not of your own doing at all. It will happen because satan sees you being willing to endure the chastening rod of God.

God "disciplines the children that He loves" (Hebrews 12:6), and you're willing to endure it because you want the "harvest of righteousness and peace" (Hebrews 12:11) in your life that will follow. You're willing to reap what you've sown. You face up to it and 'fess up to it. You humble yourself and say, "Look, I've been way off track in this area." You're willing to let that discipline come to you and to stretch out your hand and accept the nail of your cross. You're not kicking or fighting or fussing. You want to be refined by God and "built up in the Most Holy Faith." You want to learn how to "pray in the Spirit in all circumstances" and to take up the sword of the Spirit to fight for your brothers and sisters. You want that reality more than you want your own comfort, more than you want your reputation or the love and appreciation of your family members who always thought you were a little odd, but never stood against you.

Well, those times are coming. People will stand against you, and there will be more fury, more chaos, more hatred, more name calling, and more twisted, manipulated accusations than you've ever dreamed of in your life. If you're going to fool around feeling sorry for yourself with this little problem or that, if you're going to be lazy instead of getting on your face before God, if you insist on pulling yourself up by your bootstraps, you're going to get slaughtered. God is preparing you now through simple things that may hurt really bad but are really harmless. God is totally in control. He wants to see what we are going to do with those tests.

It was just like that for Abraham. The future of that "great nation" that he was to become—and our own future as part of that nation—somehow hinged on his willingness to put Isaac on the woodpile. Because the next thing God told Abraham was, "I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me" (Genesis 22:17-18).

God will put those kinds of tests in front of us, too. So much for the "neutral" stuff—you know, just "place membership" at this church or that church, have a happy sing-along, say some neat things, and if the members don't like it, they'll just go somewhere else. I mean, that whole scenario is going by the wayside because there's some really hard-hitting, heavy-pressure sorts of experiences coming down the pike.

Now if we're going to give in and crumble under the little, baby things, we'll never be fit to overcome the onslaught of the last days. I guarantee you there will be an onslaught then! I also guarantee this: there will be a people who are ready for it. But the only possible way to be ready is to face the little things with courage, with loyalty to one another, with love, with peace in our hearts, with joy, with worship, and with righteousness. What set Jesus apart from his peers was that He "loved righteousness and hated wickedness" (Hebrews 1:9). Well, it will set you apart from your peers, too, if you love what's right and hate what's evil. Not everyone does. But the ultimate climax is coming, so for there to be a prepared people, there must be training now.

In the face of those little tests, will you whine and moan and complain and throw a fit? Will you disappear in your room for two days? Will you refuse to talk to so-and-so, or choose to be critical and distance yourself in your heart, even though you still smile on the outside? If you play those games now, you are going to be in trouble when the real heat comes. The spiritual attacks then will be so deceptive and will come with so much energy and power. The accusations will become so twisted in the attempt to make you lay down your faith and to become lukewarm like everybody else. Of course, not everyone else will be lukewarm, but that's what the pressure will be.

So as the little things come along—the light and momentary troubles—rest assured that they are necessary for your preparation. When the bigger things come, they're going to hit real hard. You need to be ready for them if you are to be an overcomer: "I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God lives in you, and you have overcome the evil one" (1 John 2:14). "To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God" (Revelation 2:7). To him who overcomes…to him who overcomes. The bigger challenges are going to come, and I really want to be ready for them. I know that without clean hands and a pure heart—without a good conscience, a pure heart, and a sincere faith—I'm going to wander and miss the mark.

Now, then: why is it important that church not mean just sitting somewhere in a pew on Sunday morning, even if the message is really good and biblical? Because according to Hebrews 3, the only way we're going to get through the tough things that are ahead, instead of being deceived and hardened, is by being involved in each others' lives on a daily basis. "See to it brothers that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God." Well, how can you obey that command if you don't have relationships? "See to it that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart." God is calling us to be very, very deep in relationships.

And the same Hebrews writer went on to say maybe twenty-five minutes later when he was writing, "Watch out that you don't fall into the habit of not gathering yourselves together" (Hebrews 10:25). Do you remember what else he said? "..and all the more as you see the day approaching." As the Day gets closer and closer and closer, it becomes increasingly important that the wineskin be right. It's not only for the sake of the harvest that's coming. It's not just so that the wineskin can hold together all the babes that God will bring out of the idolatry of the world system. It's also so that we all can overcome the pressure of family members and the hatred and selfishness that the world offers—the beast's enticement to sell yourself for the sake of material things, and even to satisfy your own belly. The pressure's going to be there. So the wineskin must change, not only for the harvest, but also because of the nature of the opposition that the enemy will throw at us as he sees the Bride making herself ready. Be sure to prepare yourself now.

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