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The Disciplines of Life: Lesson #16 – Distinction

Introduction

As we continue our series on the disciplines that the Christian should incorporate into his character, we would like to take a look at The Discipline of Distinction. As we have pointed out in previous articles in this series, these are called “disciplines” because they are not acquired without deliberate effort. Discipline is “training that corrects molds or perfects the mental faculties or moral character” (Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, p. 360).

We have been using, as an anchor for this series, a book by V. Raymond Edman published in 1948 titled The Disciplines of Life. Although Mr. Edman was associated with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, and I don’t agree with everything he wrote, many of the things he has written resonate with me.

As he begins the chapter on Distinction, Edman says, “There are disciplines of the soul that are deeper and more difficult to learn and that determine character more than do those that are obvious. To be sure, there is the discipline of dismay when we know not which way to turn, but there is also that of delight when the pathway is picturesque and appealing; there is the discipline of darkness when we stand humanly alone in the shadows, and also that of light when we think we walk by sight and not by faith; there is the discipline of difficulty when the road is uphill and when heart fails, but also that of ease when we are drugged into a false sense of security, and like Christian in Pilgrim’s Progress we sleep in Pleasant Arbor, with consequent loss of time and testimony for Christ; there is the discipline of disease, when in weakness and pain we make  our tryst under the shadow of His wing, and also that health when we seem sufficient to ourselves and think we have little need of Him; there is the discipline of obscurity and neglect when we are overlooked by others, but there is also the discipline of distinction when we come to a place of rare opportunity and responsibility.” (pp. 203-204).

Edman adds further evidence to substantiate that disciplines must be learned by citing Paul’s statement, “… for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: everywhere and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need” (Philippians 4:11-12).

King Uzziah Illustrates the Discipline of Distinction (2 Chronicles 26)

A good summary of his life is given in 2Chronicles 26:15b-16a where it says, “And his name spread far abroad; for he was marvellously helped, till he was strong. But when he was strong, his heart was lifted up to his destruction…” We might title his story, “A Tragic Conclusion to a Promising Life.” The chronicler says of King Uzziah, that he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, but goes on to describe that after a time he made choices that resulted in calamity for him and for his legacy. It would seem that the Lord is providing us warning that how we live, the decisions and the choices that we make, matter a great deal. To begin well is not enough. The Lord wants us to finish well, too

In verses 2 to 15 the chronicler provides us a substantial list of achievements that made King Uzziah great:

  • He rebuilt Eloth and restored it to Judah after Amaziah’s father died (v. 2)
  • He took on several long-term enemies of Judah, the Philistines, the Arabs, the Meunites, and he defeated them all. In doing so, he also gained the fear and tribute and perhaps the vassalage of the Ammonites, and as a result we read in verse 8 that Uzziah’s fame spread as far as the border of Egypt because he had become very strong (vv. 6-8).
  • He built towers in Jerusalem, at several of the gates entering the city. He built towers in the wilderness, in the foothills, and coastal plains around Jerusalem. He also constructed many cisterns for water retention for the large herds of livestock that he owned. The towers Uzziah built in Jerusalem and all around Judah provided fortification and protection for royal workers as well as storage. We read that he employed farmers and vinedressers in the hills and the fertile lands, for we’re told he loved the soil (vv. 9-10).
  • He had a well-trained army that was highly ordered with capable leaders. This was no simple militia. It was a large army of 307,500 who could make war with mighty power. Add to that Uzziah made very significant provisions for his army. In biblical times it was typical for soldiers to provide their own weapons. Not Uzziah’s army. The writer mentions that Uzziah made shields, spears, helmets, coats of mail, bows and stones for slinging for every soldier. Uzziah also had what the ESV calls engines invented by skillful men to be used on the towers to shoot arrows and great stones. This was a very modern and enviable army that would put fear into Judah’s enemies. And one more we read in verse 15 that Uzziah’s fame spread far (vv. 11-15).

The chronicler also explains how Uzziah was able to accomplish his remarkable achievements. We read in verse 4 that Uzziah did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, according to all that his father Amaziah had done. In those years that Uzziah flourished, he set himself to seek God….But secondly, Uzziah had help. We also read in that same verse that he had a religious advisor named Zechariah who taught Uzziah to fear the Lord. He was to Uzziah what Jehoiada was to Uzziah’s grandfather Joash. In addition to teaching Uzziah to fear the Lord, one can assume that Zechariah appropriately held Uzziah accountable for his life with God.

God helped Uzziah fight his battles with his enemies (v.7), and Uzziah’s fame spread far for he was marvelously helped until he was strong (v.15). But something went dreadfully wrong. Who would have anticipated anything from King Uzziah but the continued favor of God, and success in all his pursuits? We must now ask what happened.

Verse 16 says, “But when he was strong he grew proud to his destruction, for he was unfaithful to the Lord.” Something radically changed in Uzziah’s life. It seems likely that Zechariah was no longer an influence in his life and had not been replaced by another mentor. Uzziah was ambushed by pride, and with that he ceased fearing the Lord. He was at the top of his game as a king. He had great power. His enemies feared him. He had achieved great things for Judah, and at some point he forgot that it was the Lord’s doing, not his. His pride swelled and he forgot the Lord, and Uzziah fell away.

The chronicler goes on to describe in detail how King Uzziah’s pride manifested itself in verses 16 to 21. Uzziah in his pride was not satisfied to be a great king. He determined to take to himself the responsibilities of the office of priest as well by entering the temple of the Lord to burn incense on the altar of incense. This duty was strictly limited to the priests in Exodus 30 and in Numbers 16 and Numbers 18. To violate this was a capital offense.

Rather than repent, what does Uzziah do? Verse 19 tells us: He became angry with the priests. And although what Uzziah had done was worthy of death, the Lord spared his life, but there were severe lifelong consequences for him. Verse 20 we read that the Lord struck Uzziah with a skin disease described as leprosy that rendered him unclean and unqualified to continue as king for all practical purposes. In verse 21, the chronicler says Uzziah remained a leper the rest of his life and was required to live in a separate house, away from his residence and the temple. Jotham, his son, became a co-regent to rule the people from that time forward. If living the rest of his life as a leper and removed from exercising his duties as king wasn’t enough, we read in verse 23 “and Uzziah slept with his fathers and they buried him with his fathers in the burial field that belonged to the kings, for they said he is a leper.” Uzziah rested in royal land, but not in the tombs of his fathers. It’s a final dishonor. Even in death, says one commentator, Uzziah did not lose the shame of the skin disease which he received as a result of his infidelity.

The Discipline of Distinction Comes to Us When We Have Achieved

Edman says, “The discipline of distinction comes to us when we have achieved a place of prominence, a plane of privilege, a plateau of prosperity, and pleasure of plenty. In prominence do we have the humility of heart that marked us when we followed closely after the meek and merciful Man of Sorrows? … In privilege do we have the concern for the rights and feelings of others that we had when we were ourselves obscure and unimportant? … In prosperity do we have the same tenderness, even tearfulness, of heart and trust in the provision of the God of all grace and comfort that we had when we were penniless in purse and poor in spirit? … In our pleasure of plenty do we remember that once we were in painfulness and weariness, that it was of the Lord’s mercies that we were not consumed, that His grace was sufficient, that ‘every good gift and every perfect gift … cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness’? (Jas. 1:17) (pp. 206-207)

Edman says the real test of character comes when we are exalted and extoled. This certainly is confirmed by the account of Uzziah. Edman says of Uzziah, “He could stand poverty but not prosperity, work but not wealth, toil but not triumph, struggle but not success, duty but not distinction. His heart was lifted up, only to his destruction” (p. 207).

The Discipline of Distinction Speaks When We Can Answer “Yes” to These Questions…

“The discipline of distinction speaks thus: Are we as tender toward sin as when we first were lost? As thankful toward the Saviour as when He saved us? As thoughtful toward others as when we shared a cup of cold water, all we had? As thorough in our study and our service as when we began to tell others about His grace? As trusting in His promises as when we were poor? As trustworthy in our stewardship as when we tithed joyfully our meager resources?” (p. 208).

The Best Preparation for the Discipline of Distinction is Contrition of Heart

Edman says that this contrition of heart “will keep one always contemptible to himself, contrite before the Lord, cautious to hear any appreciation for others, concerned ever with the welfare of others and oblivious of his own pleasure” (p.208).

Conclusion

“May God grant to us the stern discipline that will enable us to regard distinction as a stewardship to be used in His service, bringing with it deepened dependence upon Him, more definite devotion to duty, c. disinclination to hear the adulation of others, distaste for the praise of men, death to self-interest, and daily delight in doing His bidding” (p. 208).

The chapter closes with this poem (Edman does not cite source nor author but many on the internet credit Meade MacGuire, a prominent Adventist leader and author who lived from 1875 until 1967.

“Father, where shall I work today?”

And my love flowed warm and free.

Then He pointed me out a tiny spot,

And said, “Tend that for me.”

I answered quickly, “Oh, no, not that.

Why, no one would ever see,

No matter how well my work was done.

Not that little place for me!”

And the word He spoke, it was not stern,

He answered me tenderly,

“Ah, little one, search that heart of thine;

Art thou working for them or me?

Nazareth was a little place,

And so was Galilee.”

Thanks for reading.

Randy

(Source: The Disciplines of Life by V. Raymond Edman, pp. 203 – 209)

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The Disciplines of Life: Lesson #13 – Disdain

“Is not this the carpenter?” (Mark 6:3)

Introduction

As we continue our series on the disciplines that the Christian should incorporate into his character, we would like to take a look at our response when we encounter disdain from others. I believe there are some valuable lessons to be learned as we notice what Raymond V. Edman has to say about this discipline and how it is illustrated by David and by Jesus.

Edman says regarding the words of Mark 6:3, “These quiet and inconspicuous words do not convey the caustic and causeless criticism contained therein. It was in no complimentary sense that our Lord’s fellow countrymen spoke of their neighbor in Nazareth as ‘the carpenter’; rather it was in consummate and contemptuous disdain that they thus depicted Him. They knew Him as a carpenter; ‘From whence hath this man these things? And what wisdom is this which is given unto him, that even such mighty works are wrought by his hands (Mark 6:2) was their query. A carpenter, indeed! (Edman, p. 181)

As many of us might attest, “The discipline of disdain tries our mettle as do few searchings of the soul. We may be able to defy intrigue, to disregard innuendo, to deny insinuation; but we find it difficult to endure invective. We dislike to be despised. We cringe at contumely; we become quarrelsome when under contempt” (Edman, p. 181)

As we stated earlier, both David and Jesus “illustrate admirably the discipline of disdain. David met the test many times; and his reactions were not identical in each case. The differences may be accounted for by the occasion or the personalities involved, or possibly by the age at which he endured the discipline. Like him, we all face the cutting contempt that quickens the pulse and kindles the spirit, and by the same token creates the opportunity to show a quiet and Christlike calm (Edman, pp. 181-182).

Please consider with me the first example from the life of David …

David Defied the Disdain of the Giant (1st Samuel 17:41-46)

David had come from the solitude of the sheepfold, and from the struggle with the lion and the bear. He was an inconspicuous nobody, unknown and unheralded, with no reputation to maintain nor reward to gain. The text says, “Goliath walked out toward David with his shield bearer ahead of him, sneering in contempt at this ruddy-faced boy…” (vv. 41-42, NLT), and then he said, “Am I a dog, that you come at me with a stick? Come over here, and I’ll give your flesh to the birds and wild animals!” (vv 43,44, NLT).

David replied to the ridicule with a statement of reliance upon God (v. 45). He had no fear because he knew God would enable him to defeat the giant! Edman says regarding David’s stand against the giant and what it teaches us, “Disregard for despising, disinclination to defend self, dependence upon divine aid, this is the discipline of disdain…. Out of disdain comes distinction to him that endures its discipline ” (Edman, p. 183)

Next, consider from the life of David …

David Nearly Succumbed to the Cynical Disdain of Nabal (1st Samuel 25:2-13)

The text describes the arrogance of Nabal, “Who is this fellow David?” Nabal sneered to the young men. “Who does this son of Jesse think he is?” (v. 10). Nabal compared him to a runaway slave. At this reception, David lost his temper became embittered and was about to send his army to attack Nabal (vv. 12-13). But God Met the Embittered David in the Person of Abigail (1st Samuel 25:23-31).

What are the lessons to be learned from this Bible account? “Would that we might remember in the fire of the injury and the fury of the insult that it is foolish to answer the fool according to his own folly. Therein we become ‘like unto him’ (Prov. 26:4).” The fool passes away, his foolishness fades, his sneers cease. By disregarding his disdain and doing our own duty we are masters of ourselves and mindful of tomorrow. David’s son could say, ‘He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that a city’ (Prov. 16:32). Yielding to disdain can destroy us; disdaining to yield can delight us” (Edman, p. 184).

And then a third example illustrating David response to the disdain of his own wife…

David Met the Disdain of Michal (2nd Samuel 6:20-23)

“He led them to Baalah of Judah to bring back the Ark of God… from Abinadab’s house (v2-3). After the oxen stumbled and Uzzah reached out to steady the ark and the Lord in his anger struck Uzzah so that he died, David decided not to move the Ark of the Lord into the City of David. Instead, he took it to the house of Obed-edom of Gath. After 3 months, he retrieved the ark from the house of Obed-edom and, amongst much rejoicing and celebrating, he brought the ark to the City of David.

“Perhaps he was overly exuberant, unduly excited. Perhaps he needed some restraint in his rejoicing. A smile of approval would have pleased him, a word of kindness would have cautioned him, a note of gratitude to God would have gladdened his heart; instead there was the measured and miserable meanness of Michal’s mimicry,” (Edman p.185) “How distinguished the king of Israel looked today, shamelessly exposing himself to the servant girls like any vulgar person might do!” (v. 20, NLT)

Nothing hurts like that which comes from one’s own family. David could have expected sympathy, assurance, expressions of love. Instead he was greeted with cynicism and sarcasm. And David, wounded in spirit, responded, “I was dancing before the Lord, who chose me above your father and all his family! He appointed me as the leader of Israel, the people of the Lord, so I celebrate before the Lord. Yes, and I am willing to look even more foolish than this, even to be humiliated in my own eyes!” (vv.21-22).

As much as David was subjected to the disdain and responded in an honorable way, he did not hold a candle to the way our Lord was disdained and ridiculed and despised but responded in a way to leave us the perfect example. Consider that …

Jesus Knew, Above All Others, the Deep Discipline of Disdain

“He went everywhere doing good unto all, and in that ministry of mercy He came to His native village of Nazareth” (Mark 6:1-6)(Edman, p. 186). “There also He offered to be helpful with words of wisdom and healing touch. His efforts were ineffectual, for his hearers would non of Him; rather ‘they were offended at him’ (v. 3) (Edman, P. 186). “They summed up their scorn in the caustic query, ‘Is this not the carpenter? (v. 3). To them He was a carpenter, not the Christ; the son of Joseph, not Jesus the Lord. And who can measure the depth of wound caused by the contempt of countrymen and kinsfolk, the known and loved whom He would fain help? (Edman, p. 186).

“Disdain that damages or destroys – unless we determine to dominate our spirit, and to follow in the footsteps of the Saviour. He could reply with gentleness of spirit, ‘A prophet is not without honor, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house’ (v. 4) (Edman, p. 187). “No censure nor sarcasm in return – only civility and sweetness. He did what good He was allowed by their antagonism, but no might deed (v.5)” (Edman, p. 187). “Their unbelief filled Him with astonishment; but He went onward (v.6). There were others to help, the hungry, the helpless, the heartsick in other villages” (Edman, p. 187)

Conclusion

“That is enduring the discipline of disdain: no harsh reply, no self-justification, no rendering evil for evil. Rather it is by gentleness, goodness, graciousness under provocation, that we prove ourselves true apprentices of the Master Carpenter” (Edman, p. 187).

Maybe you have been the object of someone’s disdain and ridicule and it has hurt you deeply. We definitely live in a time where much of that spirit is alive and well. I hope these thoughts might help you to respond appropriately if and when that happens.

Thanks for reading …

Randy

(Source: The Disciplines of Life by V. Raymond Edman, pp. 181 – 188)

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Disciplines of Life: Lesson #12 – Discontentment

“And when the people complained, it displeased the Lord” (Numbers 11:1)



Introduction
We continue our series on the Disciplines of Life by looking this month at the Discipline of Discontentment. As we have pointed out in previous articles in this series, these are called “disciplines” because they are not acquired without deliberate effort. Discipline is “training that corrects molds or perfects the mental faculties or moral character” (Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, p. 360).

The Pilgrim’s Progress is   a religious allegory written by English author John Bunyan, and published in two parts in 1678 and 1684. The work is a symbolic vision of the good man’s pilgrimage through life. At one time second only to the Bible in popularity, The Pilgrim’s Progress is the most famous Christian allegory still in print. It was first published in the reign of Charles II and was largely written while its Puritan author was imprisoned for offenses against the Conventicle Act of 1593 (which prohibited the conducting of religious services outside the bailiwick of the Church of England). (Patricia Bauer, Assistant Editor, Encyclopedia Britannica) (https://www.britannica.com/topic/The-Pilgrims-Progress)
 
V. Raymond Edman begins his chapter on discontentment by looking at an excerpt from this work by Bunyan. He says, “Bunyan paints a colorful portrait of contentment in his description of the shepherd boy in the Valley of Humiliation, ‘Now as they were going along and talking they espied a boy feeding his father’s sheep. The boy was in very mean clothes, but of a very fresh and well-favored countenance; and as he sat by himself he sang: ‘Hark,’ said Mr. Great-hart, ‘to what the shepherd’s boy saith.’ So they hearkened, and he said:
‘He that is down need fear no fall;
He that is low, no pride;
He that is humble, ever shall
Have God to be his guide.
I am content with what I have,
Little be it or much;
And, Lord, contentment still I crave,
Because Thou savest such.
Fullness to such a burden is,
That go on pilgrimage;
Here little, and hereafter bliss
Is best from age to age!’
 
‘Then said their guide, ‘Do you hear him? I will dare to say that this boy lives a merrier life, and wears more of that herb called heart’s-ease in his bosom, than he that is clad in silk and velvet.’”
 
“Godliness with contentment is great gain” (1st Timothy 6:6) is the divine commentary on this wholesome and healthful attitude of the soul. On the contrary, the danger of discontentment is written large in the Scriptures. Is it fair to infer that godliness without contentment can be great loss?”(pp. 173-174). There are many things in this world that might tend to create discontentment in us, especially in this time where we are so concerned about the COVID pandemic, political and social unrest, and the approaching election. Let’s take a look at some reasons why discontentment is a discipline that the Christian should monitor and control.  
 
Discontentment Disregards the Divine Presence Promised to the Lord’s Own.
 
Consider God’s relationship with Moses and the Children of Israel. He led them by a pillar of cloud during the day and by a pillar of fire at night (Ex. 13:21-22). He defended them with this same pillar (Ex. 14:19-20). He showed them where to pitch their tents & when they should journey (Num. 9:15-23). The Lord had made a strong promise to Moses (Ex. 33:12-23). Throughout the long wilderness journey, Moses “kept right on going because he kept his eyes on the one who is invisible” (Heb. 11:27, NLT). But the Children of Israel complained (Num. 11:1). They forgot God who had done great things in Egypt (Ps. 106:21).
 
Consider the promises made by Solomon in his Proverbs, to those who seek the wisdom of God:
“5Then you will discern the fear of the Lord And discover the knowledge of God. 6 For the Lord gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding. 7 He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk in integrity, 8 Guarding the paths of justice, And He preserves the way of His godly ones. 9 Then you will discern righteousness and justice And equity and every good course.
10 For wisdom will enter your heart And knowledge will be pleasant to your soul; 11 Discretion will guard you, Understanding will watch over you, 12 To deliver you from the way of evil…” (Proverbs 2:5-12, NASB)
 
Consider what we find In New Testament times. Jesus promises to always be with us (Mt. 28:18-20).  Jesus promises to send His Spirit to the apostles (Jn. 14:15-17). When we consider all that Scripture has to say about how He is always with His people, discontentment disregards those statements of affirmation. As Edman concludes, “Sweet, wonderful, gracious Presence of the Lord! With us by His Spirit, whom we disregard when we are discontent!” (Edman, p. 175).
 
Discontentment Despises the Promises of God.
 
Moses reminds the Children of Israel that they had been led out of Egypt by the powerful hand of God to the land promised to their fathers.
 “3 Moses said to the people, “Remember this day in which you went out from Egypt, from the house of slavery; for by [c]a powerful hand the Lord brought you out from this place. And nothing leavened shall be eaten. 4 On this day in the month of Abib, you are about to go forth. 5 It shall be when the Lord brings you to the land of the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Amorite, the Hivite and the Jebusite, which He swore to your fathers to give you, a land flowing with milk and honey, that you shall [d]observe this rite in this month” (Exodus 13:3-5).
 
But dissatisfaction gripped their spirit:
“Then they despised the pleasant land; They did not believe in His word, 25 But grumbled in their tents; They did not listen to the voice of the Lord” (Psalms 106:23-24).
 
Their memories selectively only remember the good parts of their time spent in
Egyptian bondage
“4 The rabble who were among them had greedy desires; and also the sons of Israel wept again and said, “Who will give us meat to eat? 5 We remember the fish which we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic, 6 but now our appetite is gone. There is nothing at all to look at except this manna” (Numbers 11:4-6).
 
We need to be careful, lest we express discontent during troubled times. We need to maintain a positive disposition and emulate the Apostle Paul’s attitude:
“I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. 12 I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. 13 I can do all things through Him who strengthens me (Philippians 4:11-13).
 
Discontentment Discounts the Provision God Makes for Us.
 
Daily bread, received in the form of manna was initially much appreciated:
4 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether or not they will walk in My instruction….  14 When the layer of dew evaporated, behold, on the surface of the wilderness there was a fine flake-like thing, fine as the frost on the ground. 15 When the sons of Israel saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, “It is the bread which the Lord has given you to eat. 16 This is what the Lord has commanded, ‘Gather of it every man as much as he should eat; you shall take an omer apiece according to the number of persons each of you has in his tent.’” 17 The sons of Israel did so, and some gathered much and some little. 18 When they measured it with an omer, he who had gathered much had no excess, and he who had gathered little had no lack; every man gathered as much as he should eat” (Exodus 16:4, 14-18).
 
But eventually they tired of the manna and greedily desired meat:
4 The rabble who were among them had greedy desires; and also the sons of Israel wept again and said, “Who will give us meat to eat? 5 We remember the fish which we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic, 6 but now our appetite is gone. There is nothing at all to look at except this manna.” (Numbers 11:4-6)
 
We must be careful lest our taste for the Word of God become less appealing to us as did the taste of the manna change from the taste of honey to the taste of fresh oil (Numbers 11:8).
 
Discontentment Displeases God (Numbers 11:1).
 
Though Scripture tells us that the Lord “delights in blessing his servant with peace” (Psalms 35:27) and that He “satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things” (Psalm 107:9), it is possible to be a disappointment to God by not believing Him. For faith is a very important characteristic that He looks for in His children (Hebrews 11:6).
 
Of Israel it is said, 
“The people refused to enter the pleasant land, for they wouldn’t believe his promise to care for them. Instead, they grumbled in their tents and refused to obey the Lord” (Psalms 106:24-25).
 
Unbelief among His own people in Nazareth caused Jesus to marvel and limited his opportunity to do mighty works in their presence!
“Then Jesus told them, “A prophet is honored everywhere except in his own hometown and among his relatives and his own family.” And because of their unbelief, he couldn’t do any miracles among them except to place his hands on a few sick people and heal them.  And he was amazed at their unbelief” (Mark 6:4-6, NLT).
 
What about us? We have the Lord’s assurances of His presence, promises and provisions but do we displease Him by our lack of faith when we face a little inconvenience in our lives?
 
Discontentment May Be a Natural Part of Our Disposition, but Contentment Can Become a Major Characteristic of Our Christian Life.

The Apostle Paul serves as an excellent example, for he said,
“Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:11-13, NLT).
 
“Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. 7 After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. 8 So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content” (2Timothy 6:6-8).
 
Conclusion

“The discipline of discontentment is to turn from a complaining spirit, and the criticism that corrodes, from the dissatisfaction that displeases God, to a thankful attitude and a ‘merry heart that doeth good like medicine (Proverbs 17:22), to the faith and praise that bring pleasure to the heart of the Almighty” (Edman, p. 179)

The discipline of discontentment is to be “be satisfied with what you have. For God has said, ‘I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.’ 6 So we can say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me’” (Hebrews 13:5-6, NLT).

(Adapted from: The Disciplines of Life by V. Raymond Edman, pp. 173-179)

Randy

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The Disciplines of Life – Lesson #8: Defamation and Defense

This is the eighth lesson in our series, The Disciplines of Life. We have studied: Solitude; Discipleship; Dependability & Determination; Discernment, Decision & Duty; Declining Days, Deformity, & Disability; and Danger, Daring and Darkness thus far. There are many disciplines that should be evident in the life of the Christian. In this lesson we want to look at the Disciplines of Defamation and Defense.

As we have been emphasizing in this series, these are called “disciplines” because they are not acquired without deliberate effort. Discipline is “Training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character” (Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, p. 360). We have been using, as an anchor for this series, a book by V. Raymond Edman published in 1948 titled The Disciplines of Life. Although Mr. Edman was associated with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, many of the things he has written resonate with me. Mr. Edman appears to have had a love for alliteration, as all thirty-0ne of the the disciplines he wrote about begin with the letter “D.” Another source that I have used for this series that is not so “contrived” is the Twelve Spiritual Disciplines edited by Warren Berkley and Jon Quin and published by Expository Files.

Defamation (2nd Samuel 16:5-14)

Defamation is defined as “the act of defaming; false or unjustified injury of the good reputation of another, as by slander or libel; calumny” (www.dictionary.com).

Edman reminds us of the admonition of Scripture, “For God is pleased when, conscious of his will, you patiently endure unjust treatment. Of course, you get no credit for being patient if you are beaten for doing wrong. But if you suffer for doing good and endure it patiently, God is pleased with you. For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps” (1st Pet. 2:19-23, NLT). He then says, “This is a deep discipline of the soul, this evidence of our true sonship with God, as described by our Lord Jesus Christ… ”But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike” (Mt. 5:44-45, NLT).

David’s conduct before Shimei excellently illustrates the discipline endured by those who are defamed.

The situation: David is old; he’s been driven from his capital, caused by his rebellious son Absalom. Scripture describes Shimei’s stinging insults and David’s response (2nd Samuel 16:5-14, NLT).

Shimei said, “Get out of here, you murderer, you scoundrel! The Lord is paying you back for all the bloodshed in Saul’s clan. You stole his throne, and now the Lord has given it to your son Absalom. At last you will taste some of your own medicine, for you are a murderer!”

David’s response, “My own son is trying to kill me. Doesn’t this relative of Saul have even more reason to do so? Leave him alone and let him curse, for the Lord has told him to do it. And perhaps the Lord will see that I am being wronged and will bless me because of these curses today.”

This is an often repeated theme in David’s Psalms:

“Help, O Lord, for the godly are fast disappearing! The faithful have vanished from the earth! Neighbors lie to each other, speaking with flattering lips and deceitful hearts…. The Lord replies, “I have seen violence done to the helpless, and I have heard the groans of the poor. Now I will rise up to rescue them, as they have longed for me to do” (12:1, 2, 5, NLT).

“Malicious witnesses testify against me. They accuse me of crimes I know nothing about. They repay me evil for good. I am sick with despair. Yet when they were ill, I grieved for them. I denied myself by fasting for them, but my prayers returned unanswered. I was sad, as though they were my friends or family,    as if I were grieving for my own mother. But they are glad now that I am in trouble; they gleefully join together against me. I am attacked by people I don’t even know; they slander me constantly” (35:11-15, NLT).

“I said to myself, “I will watch what I do and not sin in what I say. I will hold my tongue when the ungodly are around me” (39:1, NLT).

“I have seen wicked and ruthless people flourishing like a tree in its native soil. But when I looked again, they were gone! Though I searched for them, I could not find them!” (37:35-36, NLT)

“How great is the goodness you have stored up for those who fear you. You lavish it on those who come to you for protection, blessing them before the watching world. You hide them in the shelter of your presence, safe from those who conspire against them. You shelter them in your presence, far from accusing tongues. Praise the Lord, for he has shown me the wonders of his unfailing love. He kept me safe when my city was under attack” (31:19-21, NLT)

“O Lord, I have so many enemies; so many are against me. So many are saying, “God will never rescue him!” But you, O Lord, are a shield around me; you are my glory, the one who holds my head high. I cried out to the Lord, and he answered me from his holy mountain” (3:1-4, NLT).

Others demonstrated this discipline as well – the soft answer “that turns away wrath” (Prov. 15:1)

Moses was the object of criticism, not only from the Israelites in General, but even from his own brother and sister. “While they were at Hazeroth, Miriam and Aaron criticized Moses because he had married a Cushite woman. They said, “Has the Lord spoken only through Moses? Hasn’t he spoken through us, too?” But the Lord heard them. (Now Moses was very humble—more humble than any other person on earth.)” (Num. 12: 1-3). “One day Korah son of Izhar, a descendant of Kohath son of Levi, conspired with Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, and On son of Peleth, from the tribe of Reuben. They incited a rebellion against Moses, along with 250 other leaders of the community, all prominent members of the assembly. They united against Moses and Aaron and said, “You have gone too far! The whole community of Israel has been set apart by the Lord, and he is with all of us. What right do you have to act as though you are greater than the rest of the Lord’s people?” Num 16:1-3, NLT)

The humble response of Moses is described, “When Moses heard what they were saying, he fell face down on the ground. 5 Then he said to Korah and his followers, “Tomorrow morning the Lord will show us who belongs to him and who is holy. The Lord will allow only those whom he selects to enter his own presence. Korah, you and all your followers must prepare your incense burners. Light fires in them tomorrow, and burn incense before the Lord. Then we will see whom the Lord chooses as his holy one. You Levites are the ones who have gone too far!” (Num. 16:4-7, NLT).

Jesus was above all men spoken against falsely. In return for the miracles and healings He performed, He was repaid with the anger and envy of political leaders who sought to kill Him. One such example is that is recorded says,  “Jesus went into the synagogue again and noticed a man with a deformed hand. Since it was the Sabbath, Jesus’ enemies watched him closely. If he healed the man’s hand, they planned to accuse him of working on the Sabbath. Jesus said to the man with the deformed hand, “Come and stand in front of everyone.” Then he turned to his critics and asked, “Does the law permit good deeds on the Sabbath, or is it a day for doing evil? Is this a day to save life or to destroy it?” But they wouldn’t answer him. He looked around at them angrily and was deeply saddened by their hard hearts. Then he said to the man, “Hold out your hand.” So the man held out his hand, and it was restored! At once the Pharisees went away and met with the supporters of Herod to plot how to kill Jesus. (Mk. 3:1-6, NLT)

Mark also records, “One time Jesus entered a house, and the crowds began to gather again. Soon he and his disciples couldn’t even find time to eat. When his family heard what was happening, they tried to take him away. “He’s out of his mind,” they said. But the teachers of religious law who had arrived from Jerusalem said, “He’s possessed by Satan, the prince of demons. That’s where he gets the power to cast out demons.” Jesus called them over and responded with an illustration. “How can Satan cast out Satan?” he asked. “A kingdom divided by civil war will collapse. Similarly, a family splintered by feuding will fall apart. And if Satan is divided and fights against himself, how can he stand? He would never survive. Let me illustrate this further. Who is powerful enough to enter the house of a strong man and plunder his goods? Only someone even stronger—someone who could tie him up and then plunder his house. “I tell you the truth, all sin and blasphemy can be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven. This is a sin with eternal consequences.” He told them this because they were saying, “He’s possessed by an evil spirit.” (Mark 3:20-30, NLT).

Many other examples could be cited (Mk. 6:3; 14:45, 61; 15:3, 5; Isa. 42:2, 3; 53:7; Mt. 5:11-12) but suffice it to say that Jesus was without question the greatest sufferer and the most prolific example of the discipline of Defamation.

Paul described some of the things that he faced, “We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed” (2Cor. 4:8-9). When we arrived in Macedonia, there was no rest for us. We faced conflict from every direction, with battles on the outside and fear on the inside” (2Cor. 7:5).

“If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly. Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all! Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the Lord. Instead, “If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap    burning coals of shame on their heads.”Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good” (Rom. 12:7-21).

Defense (1Sam. 22:8)

“And there is none of you that is sorry for me.” “These are the words of a king! Who would have thought it could be so? A sovereign stooping to self-pity, a monarch making himself miserable and mean, a crown that cries like a spoiled child! But that is what the story tells, with penetrating insight and illumination into the character of Saul, first king of Israel” (Edman, p. 63).

Selfishness and self-pity were not conspicuous in Saul’s character at the outset his royal career, but he would soon develop a character dominated by those attributes.

At the outset of his royal career he seemed to have commendable characteristics: He came from a good family (1Sam. 9:1). He was a dutiful son (1Sam. 9:2). He was tall, handsome, competent, cooperative, and had qualifications to be over God’s people (1Sam. 9:16). He was humble and unassuming (1Sam. 10:14-16). He shrunk back from being king (1Sam. 10:22). He held his peace when criticized (1Sam. 10:26).

When time came “to reveal his qualities of leadership, he was not inadequate” (1Sam. 11:4-11). He showed that he could be magnanimous; for when his soldiers wanted to cut off his erstwhile critics, Saul could say with generosity, “There shall not be a man be put to death this day… (1Sam. 11:13)

But flaws began to appear in his personality & character: He seemed to lack a sense of the spiritual despite his home training. He became self-willed, impulsive, and imperious (“domineering in a haughty manner”-dictionary.com). He presumed the prerogatives of the priest by offering  the sacrifice (1Sam. 13:13-14)

He “seemed to lack a sense of fitness in things human as well as divine” (Erdman, p.65). He denied his men food when a great victory was in the making (1Sm. 13:15-23; 14:24). Even his son Jonathan said he “troubled the land” (1Sam. 14:29-30).

The test came years later when he was to destroy the Amalekites (1Sam. 15:1-3) but his obedience was only partial (1Sam. 15:9). The Lord was sorry he had set up Saul to be king (1Sam. 15:11). When confronted, he made excuses (1Sam. 15:20, 21) as he had done earlier (1Sam. 13:11-12).

Erdman says about this discipline:

“This is the discipline of defense. As long as a man is on the aggressive, alert to his liabilities and limitations, active in his service for God and man, he can be courageous, generous, altruistic, large-spirited; but when he allows himself to get on the defensive: defending his position, policies, procedure, personality, program, then he tends to become timid, selfish, self-centered and small. He has lost the magnanimity that can minimize insults and injuries. He forgets the wholesomeness and soul-health necessary for his own soul. As indicated in a prayer of Phillips Brooks, ‘Let me not lose faith in my fellow men. Keep me sweet and sound of heart, in spite of ingratitude, treachery or meanness. Preserve me from minding little stings or giving them.’

“Self-centeredness makes a man soft, sensitive, selfish. Self-pity makes him pitiable, a picture of pathos when he should be a power for good. Self-importance makes him unimpressive, important in his own eyes but impossible to others. Conceit makes him contemptible. Bitterness of spirit over the success of others makes him blind to his own shortcomings. Envy makes him unenviable. Petulance makes him picayunish. Self-pampering makes him sarcastic. Self-indulgence makes him indolent. Self-defense destroys his self-respect, and makes him less a man.”

“This I say is the discipline of defense. To whimper is to be a weakling to complain is to be a coward; to blame others is to be a baby; to pity self is to be pitiful; to yell is to be ‘yellow,’ which term of contempt contains the whole concept of the unworthy and worthless.”

“The discipline of defense demands that we destroy self-centeredness, self-pity, self-importance, self-indulgence, self-defense of any kind. If others are honored, congratulate them (1Cor 12:26); if you are neglected, forget it. If the job is too big for you, admit it to yourself and to others and step aside graciously; you will be a bigger and better man for it. If others can do the job better than you, let them do it with your ‘God bless you!’ Let no dog-in-the-manger attitude make you snappy, showing teeth and temper rather than kindness and courtesy; in other words, be a Christian rather than a cur!”

“The discipline of defense is to ‘to be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love in honor preferring one another … not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith … (to) bless them which persecute you; (to) bless and curse not’ (Rom. 12:10,3,14).” It is further defined and described in Phil. 2:3,14,15. “It is to do your duty and to do good unto others.”

“To defend yourself is to descend to the despicable, the degrading, the destructive; to deny yourself is to ascend to the worth-while, the wholesome and the helpful” (Erdman, pp.66-68).  

Conclusion:

This article has dealt with a positive discipline that we should seek to develop and a negative that we should be on guard against.

The positive, Defamation, that is doing good and living for God, no matter the consequences that may come to you as a result, is a discipline to be developed.

The negative, Defense that is allowing yourself to get on the defensive: defending your position, policies, procedure, personality, program, tending to become selfish, self-centered and small. You have lost the magnanimity that can minimize insults and injuries. This is a discipline that would cause us to guard against the invasion of flaws of personality and character like those that developed in Saul.

(Source: The Disciplines of Life, V. Raymond Edmond, pp. 55-70)

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The Disciplines of Life: Declining Days, Deformity, and Disability

This is the fifth lesson in our series, The Disciplines of Life. We have noticed: Solitude, Discipleship, Dependability, Determination, Discernment, Decision and Duty thus far.  As we have said, there are many disciplines that should be evident in the life of the Christian. In this lesson we want to look at the disciplines of Declining Days, Deformity, and Disability. As we have been emphasizing in this series, these are called “disciplines” because they are not acquired without deliberate effort. Discipline is “Training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character” (Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, p. 360). Please consider …

 

Declining Days (1Samuel 8)

1Samuel 8 tell us that when Samuel was old that he appointed his sons judges over Israel but they did not walk in his ways. Instead they turned aside after dishonest gain and took bribes and perverted justice. As a result the elders of Israel got together and confronted Samuel. They said to him, “Look, you’re an old man, and your sons aren’t following in your footsteps. Here’s what we want you to do: Appoint a king to rule us, just like everybody else” (paraphrasing). As we think about Samuel’s situation we can think of several difficulties that can beset us as we get older. These difficulties require a disciplined mind to approach them with the proper attitude.

Difficulty #1: graciously granting responsibilities to younger people without feeling that you are no longer wanted or needed

In the local congregation, we know that we need to begin transitioning responsibilities to the younger folks. If the local church is to survive, we need to recognize that our young people are the church of the future, but

Difficulty #2: seeing your children no longer walking in the way of the Lord

How embarrassing it must have been for Samuel that his very sons whom he had appointed to positions of responsibility and leadership were now involved in dishonest gain, bribery and perverted justice. It can be very discouraging to Christian parents when their children no longer walk with God when they become of age. It causes them to question where they went wrong in carrying out the instruction to “bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. As discouraging as it is, parents cannot allow their own faith to be wrecked. They must continue to walk faithfully and to pray that their children might return to the Lord as well. Proverbs describes both the sorrow of the parent of the child who is disobedient and the joy of the parent of the child who is obedient (Proverbs 13:1; 23:24-250.

Difficulty #3: adaptation to demands of a new day

Samuel had succeeded Eli as judge in Israel. He followed in a long line of judges with an established routine of governing. But now the nation was demanding a new form of government and a new ruler. This left Samuel feeling, not only that he was losing his job, but also that they were rejected him as a person. Of course the Lord told him, “Listen to the voice of the people in regard to all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them” (v. 7).

So it can be with us today. Declining days may bring unemployment or forced retirement. A professional who has given many years to the profession, that he chose early in his career, may find that employment in that field is not possible, for whatever reason. The Christian must have the discipline to reject the despondency and despair that could come upon him. Reacting positively to the demands of a new day, he turns to a second career or accepts the reality of retirement and turns his attention to spiritual pursuits.

Difficulty #4: seeing the next generation turn from “the old paths”

Like Samuel, a Christian can give earnest, even tearful admonition (8:11-18; 12:6-17) to the oncoming generation. He can try to teach about the issues that have faced God’s people in the past. But still some will not want to bother studying “Issues That Divide Us.”

Rather than becoming sullen in such a situation, the challenge is to maintain the sweetness and sincerity of a Samuel. His response to those who he felt was rejecting him was, ‘Yet turn not aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart … For the Lord will not forsake his people for his great name’s sake: because it hath pleased the Lord to make you his people. Moreover as for me, God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you: but I will teach you the good and the right way” (12:20, 22, and 23). Christians today need to sound the same call made by Jeremiah, “Thus says the Lord: “Stand in the ways and see, And ask for the old paths, where the good way is, And walk in it; Then you will find rest for your souls” (Jeremiah 6:16).

To Pray and To Teach is one of the “deepest disciplines of declining days.” Erdman makes an excellent point when he says, “In my opinion, Samuel did more for Israel in the days of retirement than in all the long years of active and conspicuous service. He prayed for all his people and their new king, in days that were darker and more difficult than any they had known under Samuel’s administration.”

It is not difficult to believe that Samuel was so busy with his administrative duties that he had not been able to give much time and effort to teaching. Now that he was no longer the leader, he could pray and he could teach. Thus began “the school of the prophets” (1Sam. 19:18-20; 2Ki. 2:15; 4:38; 6:1).

“The discipline of declining days that comes when days wane and strength subsides, when doors close and comforters depart, when others bear the heat and the burden of the day; then to grow old graciously and sweetly; to grant responsibilities to stronger, though less experienced, hands of our sons or others; to adapt oneself to the demands of a new day; and above all, to pray for others and to serve the Lord in whatever hidden ministry may be ours. This disciplines in spirit we are sweetness and strength to those who need us most” (Erdman, p. 53).

 

Deformity

George Gordon Byron (i.e. “Lord Byron”) (born January 22, 1788, London, England—died April 19, 1824, Missolonghi, Greece) was a “British Romantic poet and satirist whose poetry and personality captured the imagination of Europe…. had been born with a clubfoot and early developed an extreme sensitivity to his lameness.” (https://www.britannica.com/biography/Lord-Byron-poet).

Lord Byron’s response to his physical handicap is captured by Erdman (pp. 71-73) in a lengthy quotation from Margurite, Countess of Blessington’s, A Journal of Conversations with Lord Byron, pp. 143-144. Byron says that it was his feelings at this period that suggested the idea of a play that he wrote calling it The Deformed Transformed.

 He said, “My poor mother, and after her my school-fellows by their taunts, had led me to consider my lameness as the greatest misfortune, and I have never been able to conquer this feeling. It requires great natural goodness of disposition, as well as reflection, to conquer the corroding bitterness that deformity engenders in the mind, and which, while preying on itself, sours one toward all the world.”

David’s desire to help the sons of Jonathan (1Sam. 20:14-16; 23:18; 2Sam. 21:7) and especially Mephibosheth (2Sam. 9:3-13) is positive Bible example of how we should respond to deformity.

Another positive example are the lepers sent by God (2Kings 7) to deliver the message that the enemy had fled, and that food had become available in abundance to the starving multitudes of Samaria, as he had promised through his servant Elisha.

“The inconspicuous have their inning, the incompetent make their contribution, the unsightly serve their God and fellow men, and the handicapped help open windows in heaven! (Erdman, p.75)

John Bunyan in Pilgrim’s Progress presents a picture where Greatheart and his courageous companions were on their way to the City of The Great King where they met Mr. Feeble-mind. Mr. Feeble-mind was hesitant to accompany such accomplished pilgrims because he was week and feeble. “In the midst of their discussion, ‘Mr. Ready-to-halt came by with his crutches in his hands and was also going on a pilgrimage.’ To him spoke the weak Christian, ‘I was but now complaining that I had not a suitable companion, but thou art according to my wish”; To which Mr. Ready-to-halt replied with gracious spirit and offered him one of his crutches” (Erdman, p.76).

“Seeing in the shadow of blindness, singing in the sadness of sorrow, serving in the loneliness of lameness, strengthened in the grace that is sufficient; this is the discipline of deformity that makes sweet our spirit, and strengthens that of others.” (Erdman, p. 77)

Disability

Life can get us down if we focus on the negative. “So much of life seems utterly meaningless, even miserable, without rhyme or reason, right or wrong and justice, least of all. There is abundance everywhere of turmoil and trouble, tragedy and tears, inhumanity and injustice, sickness and sorrow, so that anyone without would could reason that the universe is entirely unreasonable, a miserable mess, a ghastly joke. There is so much that just ‘happens,’ no apparent plan nor purpose, only pathos, pain and perplexity, loneliness instead of love, handicaps instead of help, false hopes instead of far horizons, pain instead of pleasure, inactivity instead of activity, sobs instead of song, for walls instead of for freedoms, darkness instead of daylight, futility instead of fulfillment: these happen to all of us. This is life but not all of it” (Erdman, p. 151).

But, on the positive side … “There is the discipline of disability that brings singing for sighing, serving for sitting, gladness for gloom, assurance for ashes, melody for mourning, usefulness for uselessness, duty for dungeons.” (IBID)

Consider some Bible examples …

Joseph knew this discipline. He was the subject of the envy by elder brothers (Gen. 37). In Potiphar’s household, he was misrepresented and suffered a miscarriage of justice (Gen. 39). He was forgotten and forsaken in prison (Gen. 40).

However, brighter days came! The opening of prison doors (Gen. 41:1), service in high places (Gen. 41:43), blessed with a son (Manasseh) (Gen. 41:53) that made him forget all his toil, birth of another son (Ephraim)(Gen. 41:52) that reminded him of God’s allowing him to be fruitful in the land of his affliction, and finally, the bowing down of his brothers to him (42:6; 43:26; 44:14).

Job knew this discipline. He was happy, healthy, “a perfect and upright man” (Job 1:8). In a brief time there came loss of loved ones, wealth, and health, everything. His friends became “miserable comforters” blaming his misfortunes on his supposed sins. “…in the book of Job, God is teaching us an even dozen lessons: there can be sorrow without sin, darkness without disobedience, inequity without iniquity, mourning without merit, chaos without cause, judgment without justice. The innocent suffer because of the folly of the fathers, the greed of the grafters, the arrogance of the autocrats, the laxity of the laws, the inhumanity of the uninhibited, the treachery of the tyrants, the wickedness of war, the fatality of fortune, the godlessness of the ungodly” (p.153)

Jonah knew this discipline. Jonah’s problems came upon him because of his disobedience (1:3). As a result, he found himself in the “belly of hell” (2:2-9). Repentant, he returned to the Lord who delivered him (2:10). God calls him the second time (3:1). The discipline of Jonah was relatively brief, compared to Job’s.

The Apostle Paul knew this discipline. At Damascus’ gate he is called by Jesus (Acts 9:3-6; 26:12-20). He went from city to city preaching, suffered many things. But even after all this there was no respite (Acts 21:27-22:24; 23:23-26:32). Even so his attitude continued to be positive (Phil. 1:12). Incidents in his early ministry taught him this discipline: the plot against his life (Acts 9:22-25, the perversity of the sorcerer (13:6-12), the persecution at Antioch (13:44-49), the prison of Philippi (16:25-34). Then there was the imprisonment in Rome where he provided effective witness to the guard (Phil. 1:13), gave encouragement to believers (1:14), shed light on the deepest truth of the gospel (1:21), and was provided the opportunity to write the prison epistles.

Conclusion

Declining Days, Deformity, and Disability are disciplines that we may need to apply at various stages of our lives. With the help of God, we can respond appropriately with the discipline we have gained though focus on our Christian growth.

(Source: The Disciplines of Life by V. Raymond Erdman, pp. 45-53, 71-77, 151-157)