What does God have to do to get your attention? We in modern Christianity tend to focus on God’s great love for us, yet sometimes fail to recognize that it is because of that love that He is willing to go to great lengths to motivate us to do what is right.
“I have called for a drought on your fields and hills—a drought to wither the grain and grapes and olive trees and all your other crops, a drought to starve you and your livestock and to ruin everything you have worked so hard to get.” (Haggai 1:11 NLT)
God gave this harsh message to Haggai, a prophet in the Old Testament, to get the Israelites motivated to rebuilt the temple. Not the kind of message you would expect from a loving God, right? “Why are you living in luxurious houses while my house lies in ruins,” He rhetorically asked. (Haggai 1:4 NLT) It isn’t that God needs a building made by human hands; it was that the Israelites needed motivation to do what was right. The temple was where they worshipped God, and God did not want them separated from Him and vulnerable. I’m sure it wasn’t comfortable, and it might not have fit in with their previous plans, but it worked. Having recently returned from exile in Babylon, they understood that God meant what He said and did what was right.
It really isn’t any different today. While not every evil thing that happens is Divine discipline (or necessarily intended for us), God does sometimes allow terrible things to happen to get our attention:
“And have you forgotten the encouraging words God spoke to you as his children? He said,
‘My child, don’t make light of the LORD’s discipline, and don’t give up when he corrects you. For the LORD disciplines those he loves, and he punishes each one he accepts as his child.’ As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Who ever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its father? If God doesn’t discipline you as he does all of his children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really his children at all. Since we respected our earthly fathers who disciplined us, shouldn’t we submit even more to the discipline of the Father of our spirits, and live forever? For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness. No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way. (Hebrews 12:5-11 NLT)
Sometimes we allow ourselves to fall into sins or patterns of living we know we shouldn’t be doing, and it takes something unpleasant, or even painful, to get us to stop. Perhaps you already feel guilty and a little nudge is all it takes. Or perhaps you’ve stubbornly set your face against God and a nudge isn’t enough. Regardless, the goal is the same–to humble us and get us to agree with Him. We must remember that while we would prefer the absence of the unpleasant, God’s goal is His righteousness in us!
Help us be quick learners. Help us submit to You, the Father of our spirits, and live! Amen.