Lessons Learned: Figuring Things Out the Hard Way
by Nathan Parker, Senior Pastor
March 5 – 1 Sam. 3:1-4:1a, "The Word of the Lord was Rare"
March 12 – Guest Preacher, Roger Severino
March 19 – 1 Sam. 4:1b-5:12, "The Glory has Departed from Israel"
March 26 – 1 Sam. 6:1-7:17, “Returning to the Lord with All Your Heart”
Parenting is not for the faint of heart. It is staggering to me how rebellious our kids can be (at times). People who deny the doctrine of original sin have surely never tried to parent a child … And the thing is, we discipline our kids because we love them. We want what is best for them, to flourish and thrive. Children who believe they can do whatever they want and get away with it will not make responsible adults (or, more importantly, mature Christians). Sometimes I will ask our children to do something, like go brush their teeth and get ready for bed. And they will whine and push back, to which I will say, “Look, you can do it the easy way or the hard way.” Then they ask, “What’s the difference?” To which I say, “The easy way is for you go and obey immediately. The hard way is you go and obey and you get grounded for the rest of the week.” One time I made the mistake of scooping up a child and carrying them upstairs over my shoulder as “the hard way,” which they loved, of course. The next time I asked, “Easy way or hard way?”, the kids yelled, “Hard way! Hard way!” Part of our job as loving parents is to ensure that “the hard way” is indeed hard in order for our kids to learn their lesson.
The high and holy triune God is a perfectly loving Father to His children. Scripture reveals both His tenderness, grace, patience as well as His justice, fairness, and righteousness. God reveals Himself to Moses in Exodus 34:6-7a as, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty” (ESV). We would do well to remember that God does not desire for us to suffer any more than a loving parent desires for their children to suffer. My parents used to tell me, before doling out discipline, “This is going to hurt me more than it’s going to hurt you.” As my friend Michael Kelley says, “Punishment is easy; discipline is hard.” Discipline requires loving discernment, and the true burden of that discipline is borne by the one in authority.
In our sermon texts for the month of March, God’s nature as a loving Father is on full display. His sovereignty over His people is wielded for their good, which means, sometimes, disciplining them (and anyone else who profanes His holiness). We begin in chapter 3 during a time in which “the word of the Lord was rare … there was no frequent vision.” It was a dark time in the life of Israel. And yet we are told that in the temple, “the lamp of God had not yet gone out.” Then we move to chapter 4 where God’s people suffer a double defeat after taking matters into their own hands instead of relying on the Sovereign God who holds all of us in His mighty hands. In chapters 5-6 we see how the Lord triumphs over the false gods of Israel’s enemies. Finally, in chapter 7, the Israelites and repent and realize their inability to save themselves. Then the Lord’s grace is lavished on them, and they are saved.
My prayer for our church during this Lenten season is that we would learn to surrender to our good, good Father and stop trying to make things happen on our own. I pray that we would learn to cherish the Lord’s loving discipline, knowing that it is always for our good and, ultimately, for God’s glory. Deuteronomy 8:5 reminds us, “Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the Lord your God disciplines you.” Will we choose to do things the easy way or the hard way?
Grace and peace,