June 5, 2012

The Flipside of God's Discipline

One of the great lessons from the book of Joel – which we have begun studying on Sunday mornings – is that God disciplines those whom He loves. When His people wander off the narrow road; when they settle into patterns of unrepentant sin; when they are sleep-walking spiritually, our merciful heavenly Father reserves the right to sting them awake. Perhaps He will use a national crisis, like the plague of locusts in Joel’s day. Perhaps He will use kidney failure, or financial straits, or just sheer frustration at every turn in our chosen path. But, because He loves us, He will not let us continue in the broad road that leads off the edge of a cliff. That is a hard lesson, but a biblical one … and one for which we should be grateful, if we value a safe docking in heaven more than smooth sailing in this life.

But there is another side to the coin of God’s providence. Books like Joel remind us of how God deals with His people when they are wandering from the path. But on the reverse of the coin are books and verses that remind us of God’s dealings with us when we stay the course. Take Psalm 84.11, for instance:

No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.

Isn’t that a marvelous text to put up on your mantel, alongside the truths of the book of Joel? Yes, it’s true – no form of difficulty may God withhold if that’s what it takes to break us from our sinful ways. But, when we have returned to the narrow path, and are walking uprightly, “no good things does He withhold from us!” O, what blessing there is – on work, and family, and prayer life, and so on – when we simply walk in the Lord’s ways; when we are diligent to keep His commandments; when we are dogged in our integrity; when we give ourselves to the people of God; when we serve the Lord with gladness! Take this promise to the bank – if you are serious about walking uprightly, your life will be blessed beyond all that you can imagine. The Lord will meet needs, and pay bills, and answer prayers, and bless relationships, and honor your witness for Him in ways that lukewarm Christians know nothing about! “No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.”

Now, lest I sound like a legalist, let us remember that, if any one of us walks uprightly, we must, at the end of the day, echo the words of the apostle: “yet not I, but Christ within me.” Even our Psalm 84.11 obedience comes from Christ’s strength, not ours! But when we walk in it, “no good thing” does God withhold!

And, lest I sound too much like Joel Osteen, let me remind you that there is often a significant difference between what we think would be a “good thing” for our lives, and what God knows would be the best thing. So Psalm 84.11 is not a TBN-like promise that you’ll be wealthy, healthy, and well-dressed if you just walk with the Lord. No. Sometimes the upright have to walk through the valley of the shadow of death in order to retrieve the “good thing” that God has for them. Sometimes, in God’s wisdom, it is better for us to spend some days in the hospital, or to stand over the grave of a loved one, or to live hand-to-mouth for a season. Perhaps the “good thing” that God is granting to us in those moments is greater faith, not earthly blessing. And if that’s what He gives, rather than the other, than we must conclude that it is for the best!

So the point of Psalm 84.11 is not that life will be a cakewalk if you just walk with God. The point is that, if you really are walking with God, you can trust that whatever happens to you will be for your ultimate good. Because, when you walk with Him, “no good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly!”


Katie said...

Oh Kurt, what blessed words; what blessed truth! And just what I can rejoice in this very hour...so like our Kind Father to direct me here at just the moment I need these words. May I have your permission to borrow for our ladies' summer bible study? Thanks in advance for I know the answer. I'm smiling--hope you are, too. love to Toby and all the crew! m.kathy

Kurt Strassner said...

Ms. Kathy, good to hear your 'voice'! Thanks for the kind words ... and yes, you are always welcome to borrow! May the Lord be with you this summer! Say hello to the gang for us!