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NIV is used unless otherwise noted.

Asleep in the Boat: Day 3

God disciplines us for our good that we may share in His holiness. 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.   
Hebrew 12: 10, 11

Once upon a time, for one brief, shining moment, I was a psychology major. My desire in pursuing that degree was to help people think clearly so that they could solve their problems and have better lives. Imagine my surprise when, on the first day of the first required class for this major (at the highly respected institution of higher learning where I was enrolled), the professor said, “We aren’t concerned with what people think; our concern is with how they behave.” He then proceeded to introduce us to our rats and their mazes and demonstrate how to dispense both food pellets and shocks.

If that seems extreme to you, consider that we now live in a world governed by the well-accepted principle of carrots (rewards) and sticks (punishment). People are motivated and shaped by their natural desire to maximize the carrots in their lives and avoid the sticks. In many situations this kind of motivation is effective in attaining a short-term goal. However, this approach to life is a dangerous detour away from Scriptural truth.

Christianity, as some advertise it, is the ultimate carrot-filled life with God as the dispenser of everything good. Jesus took the sticks; ours is to enjoy the produce. When we encounter bumps, or just feel ourselves being worn down by the daily grind, we assume something is amiss. Where is God? Where is the joy, joy, joy down in our heart? At the least, Jesus seems to be asleep in the boat; at most, he has jumped ship entirely.

Both the answer and the encouragement can be found in verses like today’s verses from Hebrews. Discipline, contrary to what the world says, is not a stick, a punishment, something to be avoided. For a Christian, discipline is a shaper of behavior, a changer of attitude, the pathway to sanctification. It is the means by which God produces in us His lushest bounty, the graces of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

If you are feeling very alone in your struggle or depleted by the demands of your situation, go to Jesus today and ask Him what His purpose is for this time. He is not asleep: He is present and fully engaged in your life. He will answer you with His comfort, His guidance and His overcoming power.

Nancy Shirah   

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