“All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful. Yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.” (Heb. 12:11)
“But deliver us from evil.” (Matt. 6:13)
I have written often about the absolute need for discipline in the Christian walk. Unless instantaneous commissioning is divinely granted by God, any meaningful endeavor we undertake as believers typically begins with discipline. But is discipline the end game? I have spent a good part of my Christian walk working with, and ministering to, those caught up in the throes of addiction, partially due to the fact I’ve spent my entire Christian walk struggling with one of my own. So I’ve witnessed and experienced many discipline-based programs, and certainly seen much good fruit resulting from them. But as to the question above, James did not think discipline was the end game, but rather a means to an end. I would concur.
Recently God has shown me there are two ways He helps us conquer whatever demons we may be struggling with. One is through helping us survive by learning to stand and fight through discipline and accountability. Some would call this “sin management.” Entire industries, like the 12 Step and Celebrate Recovery programs, have grown up around the concept of sin management. And that’s a good thing, because we must start somewhere if we are serious about our sanctification process. And disciplining our lives to fight what we used to just give in to is where it starts for most.
But what I have recently realized would be analogous to the “peaceful fruit of righteousness” James speaks of – a condition the disciplinary process is supposed to yield. That, for me, is deliverance. After almost 40 years of dealing with my issues through sin management I have been seeking, and at times knowing, what deliverance feels like. James 1 tells us the slippery slope into sinful practice begins when we are carried away by our own lusts. Employing discipline, because the temptation that carries us away is constant and unwavering, is anything but peaceful. It’s a constant battle – a war between the flesh and spirit (Rom. 8).
On the contrary, it is “peaceful” when God removes the temptation before you have to fight it. The rest of slide into sin James’ describes simply doesn’t happen, because the head of the snake has been cut off. When I am functioning in sin management mode I am constantly looking over my shoulder, and under every rock, for the next battle the enemy is bringing to my doorstep. When I am feeling God’s deliverance, however, such thoughts never even come up.
The next logical question is how God’s deliverance can be temporary? If God delivers us, are we not then delivered for good? It seems some people I have shared this with have been, but it has not been my experience thus far. I used to let that bother me, but now am learning to be thankful for whatever time He gives me free of the tempting thoughts. As any sinner saved by grace, I do not deserve anything from the hand of God and so should be thankful for what I do get rather than disappointed over that which I feel entitled to I do not. Been there, done that too many times, and it’s a dead-end street.
So while discipline is necessary, and the place where the vast majority of us must begin the battle against our addictions and sinful practices, it is my desire now to be finally, and fully, delivered from the one that has tormented me for so long. As Romans 1 tells us, the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith. It takes faith indeed to trust in God through the discipline process, but it takes a greater faith – that next level of faith – to trust Him for deliverance. So while you are engaging in the disciplines of the sanctification process, take some time to pray for deliverance and expand your trust-envelope in believing for that. Having experienced both discipline and deliverance, I chose to join Paul in “forgetting what lies behind, and pressing on” towards the upward call of deliverance in Christ Jesus!