Sometimes, we are just too focused on something. Like the people we hear about on the news who walk into traffic while their heads are bowed (not praying, though…looking at their smartphones), we can become so intent on one thing that we walk off of the path. At times like that, we either need to look up, or have someone who cares about us give us a little reminder. For instance, when I’m driving and my wife is sitting next to me, she has permission to point out any dangers ahead, even if that means shouting. (In return, I agree to not get huffy, even if I already saw the obstacle on the road.)
The writer of Psalm 119 understood this:
I used to wander off until you disciplined me;
but now I closely follow your word.
Psalms 119:67 NLT
(See also Isaiah 53:6.)
Unlike a child who strays away from a parent’s watchful eye, God does not panic when we wander off of the path, since He sees everything we do. We are the only ones who struggle, as we try to find our way on our own. Jesus reminds us that the right path is narrow (Matthew 7:14), but He promises to be with us (see Hebrews 13:5).
While God will be with us, though, I don’t think that He wants us wandering off. At first, we might not know better (although those who have received the Holy Spirit, also receive His guidance, if we pay attention), but let’s face it: after a while, getting off of the path is usually our own choice, once we’ve learned enough to tell the difference between the narrow path and the wide path.
Just as a small child needs to be kept from straying off of the sidewalk on a busy street, God disciplines us as we are learning how to live. Sin paints a picture of fun and freedom if we walk on the wide, wrong path. However, its consequences – often doubling as the tools of God’s discipline – are just a taste of the larger implications of sin. If God had not booted Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden after they sinned, they wouldn’t have comprehended the offense and the separation that sin creates. If we don’t appreciate the long-term effects of sin, we will be powerless against its temptation for us to make short-term compromises.
Similarly, as a recovering addict needs help to keep from falling back into bad habits (which I think applies to most of us, even if what we are “addicted” to is different), God’s righteous discipline is meant to keep us from returning to self-destruction.
And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says, “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”
Hebrews 12:5-6 NIV
See also Proverbs 3:11-12.
So, if you are feeling a little like you are being disciplined, today, be sure and look up a little more often. God may have a new path for you that you won’t find by looking down or around you here on earth.
More in Part 2…