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Be Ready For Discipline

Hebrews 12:12-13
Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. 'Make level paths for your feet,' so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed. (NIVUK)

This verse follows a series of explanations about the Lord's discipline: it is evidence that we are loved by God as His children (Hebrews 12:5-8); it shows how much God wants us to share in His holiness (Hebrews 12:10); it will produce a harvest of righteousness and peace, if we submit to God's chastening hand. The writer is clear that discipline is painful and not pleasant (Hebrews 12:11). But it is an essential part of God's work through His Sovereign hand in our circumstances, through the ministry of the church and our study of His Word. Jesus called His disciples to go into all the world and 'make disciples'. Discipleship is neither natural nor automatic. Disciples are made from people who once would not submit to the Lord but now do.

We all start our walk with Jesus weak because we have no previous experience, and wounded through sin. Sick people whose muscles have wasted away through inactivity need physiotherapy, and athletes whose muscles have been damaged in training or competition need physiotherapy. And yet physiotherapy is hard work for both the patient and therapist, and the treatment is often painful until the muscles, nerves and joints start to cooperate well. Disciple-making is a sort of spiritual physiotherapy.

We all need help to know how to get stronger as disciples of Christ. That is one of the reasons the Lord has given us His Word in writing. We should also get help from pastors and teachers who explain the Word, and apply it to our lives at work and home. Believing family and friends should also spur us on. But after years of spiritual neglect, or after spiritual falls, it can be hard to get back 'on our feet'. Some try to 'run before they can walk', others are frightened to walk lest they should fall again. But if we do not get back on track with Jesus, we will be disqualified from the race.

In 1 Corinthians 9:27 Paul writes, "I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize." Athletic training is useful but spiritual training is essential (1 Timothy 4:7-8). But it is not easy, requiring the willingness to be challenged to say no to ungodliness and learn to be like Jesus Christ (Titus 2:11-14). Often the Lord puts us in circumstances we would not choose so that we can learn how to be a disciple. So, get ready, be willing and start to practise what He says in His Word; and enlist a believing friend to whom you will be accountable.

Father God. Thank You for not leaving me to find my own way through life but for giving me clear instructions to obey and a character to be shaped by Jesus Christ. Forgive me when I have despised Your Word, resisted Your hand in difficult circumstances and refused to submit to Your discipline. Please help me to be ready for spiritual training. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams