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There is something in our thinking that responds to the idea of discipline negatively. This negative response probably goes back to our experience of discipline as a child. If our parents and/or our school teachers administered discipline poorly, then we carry those memories into adult life and any talk of God disciplining us passes through the filters of those experiences.

Series: THE DISCIPLINE OF GOD                 Session No. 1                        Reading: Hebrews 12/1-11

The fairly standard pattern of thinking goes something like this: good experiences and circumstances come into our lives from a ‘happy’ God whereas "bad times and unpleasant events" (i.e. those times that feel bad to us) come from a God who is mean and cranky. These bad times are an expression of His displeasure - or so we think.

The result of this kind of thinking means that we interpret the trial or test incorrectly and, therefore, we resist trials because, according to our understanding, they are punishments and are unwelcome in our lives. Even among Christians this kind of thinking means we would prefer to attribute these experiences to the devil rather than acknowledge that our Heavenly Father might be allowing and using such difficult times for our benefit and blessing.

That being the case, we are not sure what to do with a verse like this one.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.  (James 1:2-4 NIV).

Question: In your own words, would you restate what James is saying here.

Question: What is the goal or purpose of these "trials of many kinds"?

Question: What is to be our attitude to the trial of faith?

These tests of faith (as James calls them) may be tough at the time but they have a very positive goal or purpose:  " .....that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything".  If that's the purpose behind these tests of faith, what Christian wouldn't put their hand up to go on that journey towards maturity?

This is not to suggest or imply that all negative seasons or events can or should be attributed to God. Sometimes such an experience can be orchestrated or engineered by the devil himself. Sometimes they may be the result of a foolish decision or choice we make in our ignorance or immaturity.

Question: How can we discern the source of these "trials" or "tests"?  Is it from God.....from the devil....or from my own foolishness? Then think about this: The temptations of Jesus recorded in Luke 4/1,2, were they from God or from the devil?

The answer to those questions lies in the fruit that the experience produce. If God is the source, the trial we are undergoing will be producing positive, God-honouring results.

If, however, the negative circumstances are producing damage and destruction, then we can be reasonably sure that the trial did not originate with God. Consider the following:

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10 NIV).

God is at work in our lives to produce good results - life and life to the fullest!! The devil is at work to bring about death and destruction and damage. So not all trials come from God.

But it is obvious that some do! So, I want to invite you to explore this aspect of the Christian life; an aspect that doesn't get much in the way of good press. We might just come away with a new perspective and attitude to this issue of the discipline of God.

First, I encourage you to memorize the above verses and embrace them into your life. In our next session we will try and explore the question, "How Does God Discipline Us?"

For now, read Hebrews 12/1-11 and become as familiar as possible with the text. This New Testament letter was written to a group of believers who were passing through tough times because of their faith in God. The writer of this letter urges them to "keep on keeping on" and not throw away their faith in this season of discipline. (Heb.10/35-39)

Hebrews 11 (the renowned faith chapter) lists the names and exploits of Old Testament characters who, by their faith, accomplished great things for God. But, as you read through such a list, you will be hard pressed to find one of these characters who did not experience  the "discipline of the Lord" - some more than once!

A CLOSING THOUGHT: Have you experienced such a season of trial; a test of your faith? If you are using these notes in a home group, could you share your experience/s with the group?

In the next session, we will begin to examine just how God disciplines us.

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