“He disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness” (Hebrews 12:10).
“…And now I am happy all the day” (“At the Cross,” a gospel song in our hymnals).
It’s good to be happy. I’m all in favor of it, and I think the Lord is also.
God’s primary concern is not in making us happy. He does not fret because someone is displeased with the job He is doing, someone else is .unhappy with the way a Scripture text is worded, and another is complaining about the weather today.
Pleasing us does not appear to be high on His agenda. He seems not in the least concerned that some of us do not like His methods or the personnel He has sent in our direction as our teachers, pastors, comforters, companions.
I can just hear it now. “Lord, are you aware that some of us are unhappy with you? Doesn’t that concern you?” He that sitteth in the Heavens shall laugh; the Lord shall have them in derision. (Psalm 2)
Scripture shows that God is far more interested in pleasing Himself and making Himself happy than in satisfying us.
Put that in your pipe and smoke it, as we used to say as kids.
God wants to make us holy.
Now, we need to say that when He is pleased with us and we are living holy and faithful lives, doubtless we experience happiness in the fullest and truest sense of the word.
Making us holy is a far more difficult task than making us happy. The Almighty can make us happy by sending us fluff and toys, sweetness and softness, and never require anything remotely difficult from us.
To make us holy, however, is a more arduous task, one that will involve friction and sparks and may produce pain and discomfort.
Not all the children will be able to sit through the discipling sessions. Some, addicted to sweetness and softness and forever floating between churches and religions in search of same, will get up and leave the room. Only those wishing to be pleasing to the Father and to be shaped into the likeness of the Lord Jesus will endure to the end.
“For this is the will of God, even your sanctification” (I Thessalonians 4:3).
Sanctification means being changed into the likeness of Christ, a process that begins at the moment of our salvation, that continues throughout our earthly life, and that is completed only when we stand in His presence. “We shall be changed” (I Corinthians 15:51) . “We shall be like Him” (I John 3:2).
“We all,” said the Apostle Paul, “are being transformed into the same image (of Christ) from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18).
In order to achieve this, to make us more and more like Jesus, the Father will do a lot of things, some thrilling and some quite painful. He will also allow a lot of things, and seem to turn His back when His most faithful children/servants are having the hardest time of it. (But keep in mind, as a friend likes to point out, that the teacher is always silent when the students are being tested.)
You will not always understand. I type that and smile, as something inside me says, “You will not often understand!”
One. He will say ‘no’ to us at times.
You’ve noticed all those “thou shalt nots” in Scripture. Think of them as fences. Outside are poisonous weeds, venomous critters, and scary places. He wants us to stay inside where it’s safe.
God will forbid certain things, behaviors, activities, entertainments, pursuits. “Abstain from sexual immorality…for God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification” (I Thessalonians 4:4,7).
The faithful will not be looking for a proof text (“Did God actually forbid this in the Bible anywhere?”) but will pay attention to the witness of the Spirit within his/her heart. That is reason enough for not participating in a certain behavior, entertainment, or pursuit.
Two. He will discipline (chasten or chastise) us.
“Whom the Lord loveth, He chasteneth, and scourges every son whom He receives” (Hebrews 12:6). If you can live the Christian life without being disciplined, says Scripture, then the news is all bad. “Then you are illegitimate children and not sons” (12:8).
After all, said Jesus, “Every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it, that it may bear more fruit” (John 15:2).
Simply put, the Lord takes the obedient to the woodshed. The Lord requires more of the faithful. The untamed and undisciplined He leaves to their own devices.
Discipline is a sure sign God loves us and that we are His.
Three. He will allow trouble to come our way from time to time.
The purifying process involves fire, heat, and pressure. Those things are painful, but the end result is pleasing to the Master Artist. “For the joy set before Him, Jesus endured the cross.”
The passage Matthew 10:16ff also reminds us that the trouble the Lord allows into our lives may be for a witness to outsiders. “Caesar ain’t coming to your revival,” we like to remind God’s people. “So the Lord will be asking some of you to be hauled into court so the high judge can ask the big question: ‘Tell us exactly what you were preaching in the marketplace.’ The Holy Spirit will be the One speaking, so don’t plan a sermon for the occasion.”
God did this in the life of Paul. See 2 Timothy 4:16-18.
Four. He will be with us every step of the way, using everything that happens to us for His purposes.
“I will never leave thee nor forsake thee…. The Lord is my Helper and I will not be afraid” (Hebrews 13:5-6).
“When you pass through the waters, I’ll be with you. And through the rivers…and through the fire…” (Isaiah 43:2). “Do not fear, for I am with you” (43:5).
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me” (Psalm 23:4).
(Here’s a Bible study you will enjoy. Reading through Scripture, notice how almost every time the Lord calls someone into His work, His constant answer to their protests is the same thing: “I will be with you.” He said that to Moses, to Joshua, to Gideon, Jeremiah, and so many others. Clearly, the Lord thinks His presence should calm our fears and compensate for our missing parts!)
Five. The end result is you will have a joy deeper and a peace greater than what we normally think of as “happiness.” This new joy and peace will be rock solid and steadier than the fluctuating, bobbing-up-and-down, ephemeral thing we call happiness. It’s what the Lord had in mind, I expect, when He said, “I have come that you might have life and have it more abundantly.”
Six. Our constant prayer should be “Thy will be done” and “Have thine own way, Father.” The wiser we are, the more we will find ourselves wanting not our own way, craving not our own will, and seeking not our own pleasure. But His.
His way, His will, His pleasure.
I love the text which says, “In the volume of the Book it is said of me, ‘I come to do Thy will.'” Or, “I delight to do Thy will, O Lord.” (That’s Hebrews 10:7, quoting Psalm 40:7-8). So, what we have here is the New Testament writer quoting the Psalmist who, himself, is quoting from something somewhere. I love it.
Seven. The point is our faithfulness. Our obedience.
In the Philippian jail, Paul and Silas were not happy. But they were rejoicing. They were faithful. And God used them in a wonderful way. (Acts 16:25ff).
No chastening for the present time is enjoyable. But afterwards…. (Well, you know the rest of that, I’m guessing. It’s Hebrews 12:11.)
God bless you and me with faithfulness. “Be thou faithful unto the end and I will give thee a crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).
Then, your happiness will be constant, full, and complete.