There are two things about human nature that are universal. We want any pain to cease immediately. And if we do something right, we want to be rewarded immediately
After all, that’s how we train our animals. Do this and there is immediate gratification.
In our dogs’ case, that equals food, pleasure.
When it comes to our piety, our faith & devotion, we tend to feel as if we should get some kind of hall pass on pain. After all, doesn’t God want us to be happy? I want my pets to be happy. But then I’m not trying to build character into my dogs.
Can you imagine a world in which God rewarded piety immediately? Sports would be non-existent. Because you can’t have two winners at the end of a game. What if both teams held a Bible study and prayed before a game? God would be in a pickle.
Ultimately we would become selfish and slaves to all of our prurient interests.
But it’s still a hard concept to shake. When God sets out to be build character in us, He includes suffering.
To be clear there is nothing wrong with asking God to remove the pain in your life. And we should expect God to bless our spirituality. That is pretty much the theme of Proverbs.
Let’s just not put God on a timetable. Perhaps a better solution is to make Proverbs 3:5-6 a daily reality:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths (ESV).
Let’s trust God to decide when it’s time to reward our piety.
Wouldn’t it be nice if our character was like that? What if we could develop courage and never think about it again?
What if we could learn to love really well and then put that one to rest?
We know that is not how life works. On the other hand, are we daily pursuing the development of our character? It’s actually harder than you think. On the other hand it’s not, in that we have daily opportunities to build upon our character.
Let’s take a look at several aspects of our character.
Courage: every day we are faced with choices between convenience and courage. Paul reminds Timothy that God has not given us the spirit of fear. 1 Timothy 1:6.
Discipline: this is doing today so you can have what you want tomorrow. Just like the boxer trains for the next match so we must do things today with tomorrow in sight. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified (1 Corinthians 9:27 ESV).
Delayed Gratification: sometimes we just have to work for something or wait on God’s timing. Jesus faced this in His own ministry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread” (Matthew 4:3 ESV).
Contentment: being thankful for what we have is always a challenge while we are on the journey to attaining or accomplishing more. But godliness with contentment is great gain (1 Timothy 6:6 ESV)
Perseverance: the test of your character is what it takes to stop you. This phrase has been repeated countless times. The apostle Paul was able to come to the end of his life saying, I have fought a good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith (2 Timothy 4:7 ESV)
Love: this is not to be understood as a noun. It is a verb! That means it takes work just like all the other aspects of character. This one goes right up at the top. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love (1 Corinthians 13:13).
Realize you will never be done. You can’t work on one and then go to the next one. No. You must work at spinning all the plates at the same time. Daily you will have opportunities to continue construction on your character.
How’s the building coming?