November 17, 1998
The pastor asked for simple prayers. “Tell God why you love Him. Make it short and to the point.”
My first thought was, “I love You God because You are the only friend I have that can give me a hug and a kick in the pants at the same time.”
It happened that week. My errands included picking up cardboard cartons at a local moving company. I called first and a man said he would have them for me. I cringed at his voice. It reminded me of someone who is dishonest, an unsavory character. With some reluctance, I went for the boxes.
When I got there, this man met me at the door with a huge grin. He acted as if he knew me. I cringed. He was paunchy, covered with grease and talked constantly. I was unimpressed, even repulsed. He loaded the cartons in the back of my van and said something about moving. I mentioned I was not looking forward to this one. He said, “Don’t worry. The Lord will give you the strength and stamina when you need it.”
Smack — pow! The Lord blessed me from an unexpected source; He reminded me that He gives strength when we need it. He also rebuked me from that same unexpected source as He confronted me about my judgmental attitude.
On the way home, I confessed my sinful pride to God. The Bible is true when it says we “look at a person’s outward appearance, but God looks at their heart.” That man may not have been much to look at but he has a heart of gold.
After receiving God’s forgiveness, I chuckled at His humor in dealing with me. While it is important not to behave like I did, God knew that I was downcast about the large task ahead. He knew I did not need an added burden of His unfavorable judgment. Instead, He rebuked me lightly and at the same time lifted both my discouragement and my sin of pride.
Hebrews 12 offers good advice to anyone who senses God is correcting them. “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when He rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those He loves, and He punishes everyone He accepts as a son.”
The passage goes on to emphasize our relationship with God as our perfect heavenly Father. He trains and disciplines only those who are His children, those born into His family through faith in Christ. A rebuke from God is a correction from a Father who loves us and wants us to be the best people possible.
It takes time to learn this. When I was a new Christian, God’s displeasure devastated me. Then I began to realize that He had good reason. The Bible says, “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.”
Notice it says the profit comes to those who are trained by the experience. Sometimes we respond to a rebuke with excuses, blame-shifting or “everyone does it.” God wants us simply to agree with Him, to say “Yes, I have sinned. You are right. I was wrong. Forgive me.”
Another verse says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
If we do our part, God does His. Instead of being stuck with a bad attitude or wrong behavior, He goes beyond what a human father can do; He purifies our lives.
That is why He is both Father and Friend. He is the only one who can confront our sin and make us feel sad about it, motivated to change. Then, at the same time, He also makes us glad that He told us about our problem.