Sunday, May 24, 2009

Discipline yourself of be disciplined

I had not seen him for a while. We used to talk about life, and about Salvation. He would listen , perhaps even with interest, but generally he was lukewarm to the idea. Then I saw him again last week and this time the story was quite different. He shared a horrifying experience of having being held up by gunmen and faced, in his mind, certain death. To the point where he wished they would just " do it" and get over with it. But God was merciful, and he was thankful and would now consider living the Christian life. But he was scared out of his mind. And so are many others who have had similar experiences in my country. And so as I thanked God for His mercy, I recalled that many others had not been so fortunate, and they had been faithful.

The lesson is that life often changes suddenly and dramatically. Both for the believer and for the non-believer. None is exempt. It all depends on God's mercy. For some it may be the news of a life threatening illness, and for others, like my friend, "your worse nightmare come true". For some it may disaster of one sort or another in the family, for others disaster in the community.

Then I went to the wedding of a young lady who is one of my many " daughters", having

" grown up in my hands" and experienced the joy of seeing two young people commit their future together in the hands of the Lord. What a joy indeed. Especially when it happens to someone you love dearly.

In the midst of these reflections about life, and its many and ever changing scenes, the Lord led me through a series of meditations and a focus on His Word, to remember that life is all about worshipping Him and praising Him first, and doing everything else after. Quite often, we forget this profound truth, as we seek to cope with life's many problems, in economically, politically and socially challenging times. Or lose our focus when caught up with the enjoyment of our sucesses and good fortune. And none of the messages was more clear than this hymn, which I

" happened upon", whilst searching for another.

Fill thou my life, O Lord my God,

In every part with praise,

That my whole being may proclaim

Thy being and thy ways.

Not for the lip of praise alone,

Nor e'en the praising heart,

I ask, but for a life made up

Of praise in every part:

Praise in the common things of life,

Its going out and in;

Praise in each duty and each deed,

However small and mean.

Fill every part of me with praise:

Let all my being speak

Of thee and of thy love, O Lord,

Poor though I may be and weak

So shalt thou, Lord, receive from me

The praise and glory due;

And so shall I begin on earth

The song for ever new.

So shall each fear, each fret, each care,

Be tuned into song;

And every winding of the way

The echo shall prolong.

So shall no part of day or night

Unblest or commmon be;

But all my life, in very step,

Be fellowship with thee.

The key thing here, is that no matter what life has to offer, and no matter what God decides, if we have a mind which is geared towards praising God, at all times, then then we will find " God's peace" at work in our souls in all situations. It is a sobering thought as we seek to make sense out of a world, where there are no guarantees about life anymore - if there ever was.
But there is more. We are called not just to praise God in all situtations, as a way of life, but to work for His Kingdom, first, before looking about our own affairs.


"But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things will be added unto you." Matthew 6:33

Immediately we look at these words of Jesus, we find them the most revolutionary statement humans ears ever listened to. " Seek ye first the kingdom of God." We argue the opposite way ---" I must live; I must make money; I must be clothed; I must be fed". The great concern of our lives is not the kingdom of God, but how we are to fit ourselves to live. Jesus reverses the order: get rightly related to God first, maintain that as the great care of your life, and never put the concern of your care on the other things.
" Take no thought for your life....." Our Lord points out the utter unreasonableness from His standpoint of being anxious over the means of living. Jesus is not saying that the man who takes thought for nothing is blessed -- that man is a fool. Jesus taught that a disciple has to make his relationship to God the dominanting concentration of his life, and be carefully careless about everything else in comparison to that. Jesus is saying " Don't make the ruling factor of your life what you shall eat and what you shall drink, but be concentrated absolutely on God."
Some people are careless over what they eat and drink, and they suffer for it; they are careless about what they wear and they suffer for it; they look like they have no business to look; they are careless about their earthly affairs, and God holds them responsible. Jesus is saying that the greatest care of life is to put the relationship to God first, and everything else second.
It is one of the severest disciplines of the Christian life to allow the Holy Spirit to bring us into harmony with the teaching of Jesus in these verses.

Finally I was very impressed with the passage of Scripture which is part of the reading for the Epistle in the Anglican church this week:
" He who has the Son has life; he who does not have he Son of God has no life".
John 5:12. NIV

Increasingly, with the fall out in global economic system, - with the attendant loss of jobs - the worlwide increase in violent crimes, the constant threat of some kind of virus, whether H1N1 or HIV, and the reality of the hurricane season or the threat of earthquakes, it is very easy and understandable for human beings, even believers, to concentrate on survival. And forget that we serve a mighty God, whose purposes are beyond our abilities to reason. Whose purpose for humankind is to bring them into a deeper and more fruitful relationship with Him in and through Jesus Christ.
Sometimes, it takes disaster or near disaster for us to come to our senses - believers or Christians. We all need this kind of reminder, according to God's own plans and assessment of our hearts - the secrets of which are known by Him alone. Not even ourselves.
These last two passages, in this context, are very instructive. Pray God that we will all take heed.

" Endure hardship as discipline. God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined ( and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. 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 our spirits and live. Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our own good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the same time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been tained by it.
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.
Hebrews. 12: 7-12 NIV

" We do not want you to uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead."
2 Cor. 1:8-9 NIV

Will that gentleman rely on God, now that he been through his baptism of fire, and God was merciful? Further, and more importantly, how much more will God have to " discipline us" so that we might " share in His holiness"? Only we can answer that question by disciplining ourselves to seek the kingdom of God first.