I refuse to stop learning especially from mistakes. Heb. 12:11
I’m ready to run a marathon…soon. Okay, it will be a while. I’m in no shape to run a marathon right now. But, I’ve known men who were in worse shape than I am. They ran a marathon. Some even participated in Iron Man competitions. It took time to train and lose weight. They started by walking a couple of miles a day. They started to limit their diet and eat healthier. Day after day, week after week, and month after month, they persevered. They may have slipped here or there, but they made it. It took discipline. It took learning. And, it took failure. Most people cannot just head outside and run the marathon. Even athletic people will train and prepare. If it were easy, we would all be doing it.
Spiritual growth is the same way. I want to be just like Jesus. I want to have his same attitudes. I want to have the faith that moves mountains. I want to love people enough to forgive them from the cross. I want to be freed from the world’s values. I want to be content when all I have is Jesus. Yea, I want to walk on water. Like the marathon, I’m ready, but I’m not there yet. My “take a pill” and “want it instantly” western mentality does not like the work it takes. Regardless, being like Jesus takes time, hard work, learning, and discipline. I don’t even have the time, hard work, learning, and discipline it takes. Bad news. But, good news…God has this.
Hebrews 12:11 reads, “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” This sentence is in a specific context. Most of the chapter discusses discipline from God. We are not thinking about punishment or wrath. Chapter eleven lists the heroes of the faith. Chapter 12 starts with laying aside the weights and running the race like Jesus. How? Discipline from God. It takes time and effort. And I suspect, the process never ends until death or Jesus’ return.
On one hand, ALL discipline seems painful. “All” in most theological lectionaries means “all.” We don’t like discipline. For the marathon, there is soreness, running in the rain, avoiding the second piece of cake, and shin splints. These are painful one way or the other. There is no other way to reach the goal than this kind of learning. Spiritually, these often take the form of mistakes and failures. I once took a position as a Christian School administrator. I still marvel that I was hired. I only had three years experience teaching and none as an administrator. I wanted to be liked. I tried to please everyone. The harder I tried, the less I was liked and the less everyone was pleased. My first year was horrible. No matter what I did, it was wrong or it ticked someone off. People started to play politics. How many times did I consider resigning? I lost count. It was not joyful but painful. I hated getting up in the morning. Fortunately, I had a mentor. His name was Bud. He had tons of school experience. He encouraged me to focus on the mission and vision of the school. Say “yes” to requests when I can. Explain why when I had to say “No.” When the staff had clarity to see the big picture, they jumped on enthusiastically. They understood that all our decisions had to pass through the filter of our mission and goals. As administrator, I acted as filter. When we began to see fruit, enthusiasm grew. Not to brag, but I still hear that I was their “best boss ever.” That came not out of my skill set or talent. It came because I reached the bottom of failure. And, I tired of it. I would have never learned the lesson without the failure. And by the way, Thanks Bud!
On the other hand, all discipline pays out: peaceful fruit. The “all” still applies here. So, while ALL discipline seems painful, ALL discipline produces this fruit. This idea of payout is like receiving a deserved wage. When we work for an employer, we expect our wages. That’s the deal. When we are disciplined, we can expect the payout. If I’ve been trained in this way, I gain something. It’s not monetary though. Back to my administrator experience, when I chased popularity, I received contempt. Through the disciplinary process, I began to chase seeing Jesus honored. We all got that. It carries a deep satisfaction to see our former students grow in their faith. From time to time, these former hyper junior high students contact me. They let me know that our school was used by Jesus. I cannot express the satisfaction this brings. I could call it, “peaceful fruit of righteousness.”
So, how do we sign up for this kind of payout? You must be trained by it. There is no shortcut. We tend to be like water: we flow in the direction of least resistance. We don’t want the pain of discipline, but we want the payout. We pray for Jesus to remove the problem. Then later, we become frustrated that we are not growing in our faith. We fail to register for classes in the school of hard knocks. This is how it works. There are no honorary degrees. When Jesus warned Peter that he would be sifted like wheat, he did not pray for Peter to be freed from the sifting. He prayed for his faith. Why is it like this? Because, we’re sinners to the core. Think this process is easy? Our sin nature is just that…a nature. It’s not a character flaw or just the way we are. Down to our core, we are sinners and sinful (“full of sin”). While we are justified in God’s sight now (Romans 8:1), we are also on a journey to become more like Jesus.
What do we do when we find ourselves in the discipline process?
- Pray. Yes, you can pray to escape the pain. But, are you willing to stay in it if necessary? Are you willing to take the pain to later receive the pay out? Are you willing to do this for Jesus? Are you willing to be in pain for the rest of your life because it may take that long?
- Learn. We make mistakes. We fail. We fail because of our sin or our ignorance or our lack of skill. We can respond to mistakes in three ways:
- Pout and become stuck.
- Wallow in self-pity
- Accept the forgiveness, restoration, and discipline from God.
- Remember: He loves you. Hebrews 12 actually teaches an entire discussion about discipline. God has a specific motivation for disciplining us. It’s not for punishment. It’s for love. When we need a rough edge smoothed off our character, God wants it changed because he loves us. He knows the that it’s for our best to become more and more like Jesus. We become more in line with his design. God is not forcing to get his way and that’s final! Hebrews 12:6 says clearly, “For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” His discipline brings tremendous satisfaction and contentment.
So, I’ve failed. I’ve been discipline. I fail, and I am disciplined. But, I refuse to stop learning especially from mistakes.