(Just had to share this recent Motl Ministries post from my man!)
By Eric Motl
"Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it." - Hebrews 12:10-11
God is after my good. He cares more about forming Christ-like character in me than He does my comfort. He will stop at nothing to make me more and more like Him - "to share in His holiness."
One of the biggest problems we humans have is cultivating an attitude of change. We don't like change; and for most of us, every fiber in our being resists it. The reason for this is simple: change is hard. But, as a follower of Christ, God is after transformation in my life, beginning with my salvation and continuing on from there.
Holiness means "set apart." After becoming a Christian, God, through the Holy Spirit's ministry in my life, will begin setting me more and more apart from myself, my old ways, and the ways of the world. He will "discipline us for our good, that we may share in His holiness (Hebrews 12:10)." God will zealously work in my life to help me live more and more like Jesus Christ lived while He was here on earth.
"Those who say that they live in him [God] must live the same way he [Jesus] lived." - 1 John 2:6
Now here's the catch: getting set apart more and more requires change; so this will be hard. It's usually not going to feel very good. "No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful (Hebrews 12:11)." God is going to use hardships, let-downs, disappointments, failures, and troubles of all kinds to cultivate holiness in me. He will use others' offenses. He will let those close to me betray me. Jesus Christ won't stop until we are broken of ourselves so that He can reign in us for His glory. It's only when I am broken of myself that I can be of any good to Christ's Church and lost people.
So, why is discipline and pain needed to form a holy life in me? The answer to this is found in how I respond to the discipline and pain. If I respond to God's loving hand allowing me discomfort for a time with an attitude of faith, humility, and submission I will change for the good - I will grow in holiness. I will be walking as Christ walked when He was on the earth (see 1 Peter 4:1-2). But, if I respond to God's pruning me with an attitude of resistance I will change for the worse - I will grow in fleshliness (i.e., my own ways).
An attitude of change towards holiness is the secret to handling life's troubles. If I respond to an insult with forgiveness rather than with another insult I will be growing in a holy life. I will be living as Christ lived. If I see let-downs, failures, or disappointments as opportunities to thank God for the good and the bad in my life (as Job did - see Job 2:10) I will turn these into opportunities of growth in holiness. In fact, I will become skilled at turning all of life's troubles into opportunities to be like Christ - to feel like Christ - who was "a man of sorrows and acquainted with griefs (Isaiah 53:3)." I will not only read verses like 1 Thessalonians 5:18 which says, "In all things give thanks, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." but I will actually be living them. I will not only read about Paul's life when he writes "I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)." but I will actually know and feel what he's talking about.
A holy life is not merely a life of going to church, giving my money, and "trying to be a good boy." A holy life is a life of growing forward as I respond to hard times and good times the way Christ would have me respond - the way He would respond. "Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more [i.e., that you grow forward in change]. For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your holiness (1 Thessalonians 4:1-3)."
The Christian life is a life of holy change. One of the best things the Christian can do is adopt an attitude and spirit of a humble learner. Be ready to thank God for all the good He gives you; but, be just as ready to thank Him for the hard times as well. God loves you because you are His child. He will bring discipline into your life at times (but not all the time) in order to change you for your good, "that you may share in His holiness."
One last thought: the lack of growth and holy change in a believers life is a sign of great danger. It is a sign of illegitimacy. For, "If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons (Hebrews 12:8)."