May 8, 2012

What am I being trained for?

7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? 8 If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. 9 Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! 10 They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
Hebrews 12:7-11
It's a rough analogy, but when I read this passage during my bible study a few weeks ago, I kept thinking of infertility as my discipline.  The analogy breaks down if you think too hard about it, because I know that God didn't make me this way as a punishment.  I didn't do anything wrong that caused my ovaries to age too quickly.  I didn't take drugs.  I didn't drink until I was 21 (well, twice before - but not much!).  I can count on one hand the number of times I've been drunk.  I don't smoke.  I don't break laws.  I follow Jesus' example (not successfully, but I try).  My infertility is not a punishment. 

In The Message translation, it reminds us that punishment isn't the right comparison to discipline.  Gos is educating us and training us.  Not punishing us.
 4-11In this all-out match against sin, others have suffered far worse than you, to say nothing of what Jesus went through—all that bloodshed! So don't feel sorry for yourselves. Or have you forgotten how good parents treat children, and that God regards you as his children? 
   My dear child, don't shrug off God's discipline, but don't be crushed by it either. It's the child he loves that he disciplines; the child he embraces, he also corrects.
God is educating you; that's why you must never drop out. He's treating you as dear children. This trouble you're in isn't punishment; it's training, the normal experience of children. Only irresponsible parents leave children to fend for themselves. Would you prefer an irresponsible God? We respect our own parents for training and not spoiling us, so why not embrace God's training so we can truly live? While we were children, our parents did what seemed best to them. But God is doing what is best for us, training us to live God's holy best. At the time, discipline isn't much fun. It always feels like it's going against the grain. Later, of course, it pays off handsomely, for it's the well-trained who find themselves mature in their relationship with God.

Now, look at the second half of the passage.  God gives us this cross to bear "for our own good, in order that we may share in his holiness" so that later on "it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace."   Wow!  I want things for my own good.  I want to be more holy.  I want righteousness and peace.  I want God to train me.

Their is a lot about this passage I don't understand (How does God discipline us?  How will I know that a trial is his chastening?  Does God bring down the trials, or just allow them to affect us?), but I do understand that God allows hardships and difficulties, like infertility, because it draws me nearer to Him.  Just like a parent, God allows these trials because they are for my own good and my own Christian training.  A parent allows a child to fall, but is there to pick them up.  That is my God. 

Paul wrote, "we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope" (Romans 5:3-4). My sufferings give me perseverance.  My perseverance builds my character.  Because of my character, I have hope.  God's (discipline/chastening/trials/training) is a demonstration of His love for me and His way of strengthening me and preparing me for what is yet to come.
So God, just one question: What am I being trained for? What race am a I preparing to run? And can the training end soon?

The Bible has an answer to this too:
Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don't try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.
James 1:2-4
(Message Translation again - not one I use normally, but I have been liking it lately)

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