I got the chance to preach at Crossroads this morning! I ended up talking about how hard it is for me to take correction, even from God. Maybe you can sympathize?
The download link and notes are below. And if you like this kind of preaching, check out the Crossroads Podcast.
Aside from being a sci-fi nerd, something of a comic book guy, and a gamer, I’m a Bible geek. I’ve read it in four translations. I love connecting different passages and seeing what they say about God.
That’s why I’ll be starting a Sunday School series next week about the minor prophets, those little books in the middle of the Bible that only a few of us have read. I’ll be talking about Nahum and Habakkuk and Joel and all those guys. When I decided to teach on them, I realized I had to preach out of them too. There’s so much good stuff they have to teach us. God spoke through them, as I hope He will to you this morning.
One of the reasons God sent the minor prophets to Israel — and so many of them — was to correct Israel. This really hit me as I was reading through the book of Amos this last time. Israel was in a really bad spiritual situation, and God send the prophets to warn them, to set them straight.
That’s what I want to talk about today: taking correction from God. Because when God corrects us, sometimes we take it hard. Or we get stubborn and don’t want to listen. Or we get bitter because we think He’s depriving us of something we like. But God wants us to be humble as He corrects us through the Spirit and through the Word. And I wanna talk about a few reasons why we should be.
See, one of the things that’s hindered me the most in my young life is that I think I’m pretty smart. With that, I think I’m right all the time. It makes it hard on the people around me sometimes. I think my mom would agree.
Things is, with that, I hate to be corrected. Haaaate it. It’s not just that I think I’m right a lot, or that I like being right a lot, I have this sick need to be right. When I get corrected, it feels like my brain is trying to crawl out of my head. My heart sinks. I get sweaty. I feel judged. I feel inadequate. I feel stupid and worthless. It’s awful.
Maybe you just hate to be told what to do. You want to make your own decisions, and when correction comes, you automatically fight it.
Maybe you’re in a bad situation right now, but you’re kind of okay with it. Or you don’t want to put in the effort to get out.
But God corrects us for a good reason. If we can change our perspective to be closer to His, we’ll start to see that. So here are three reasons why correction is actually a good thing.
Comfort can lead to complacency.
We ought not to be comfortable when we’re not right with God.
Is your comfort distracting you from Him?
How does that relate to God correcting us? Let me explain.
Sometimes God’s correction comes when we think we’re quite comfy where we are, which can be weird. When we’re comfortable, we’re tempted to assume that everything’s okay. When enough of our needs and wants are met, we tend to get complacent.
Case in point: the Israelites were in a dire spiritual situation, but they were distracted by creature comforts.
Woe to you who are complacent in Zion,
and to you who feel secure on Mount Samaria,
you notable men of the foremost nation,
to whom the people of Israel come!
You put off the day of disaster
and bring near a reign of terror.
4 You lie on beds adorned with ivory
and lounge on your couches.
You dine on choice lambs
and fattened calves.
5 You strum away on your harps like David
and improvise on musical instruments.
6 You drink wine by the bowlful
and use the finest lotions,
but you do not grieve over the ruin of Joseph.
7 Therefore you will be among the first to go into exile;
your feasting and lounging will end.
The leaders of Israel at the time had a pretty cushy lifestyle, sounds like. So, was God angry at them for being comfortable and living the good life? No. Let’s look at what was happening in the meantime.
6 This is what the Lord says:
“For three sins of Israel,
even for four, I will not relent.
They sell the innocent for silver,
and the needy for a pair of sandals.
7 They trample on the heads of the poor
as on the dust of the ground
and deny justice to the oppressed.
Father and son use the same girl
and so profane my holy name.
8 They lie down beside every altar
on garments taken in pledge.
In the house of their god
they drink wine taken as fines.
Amos is accusing them of bribery, oppression, perversion, idolatry, corruption… you name it. He’s talking to the judges of Israel, and he’s saying they could be bought cheap. One commentator notes that the sandals Amos refers to are simple, practically worthless things, certainly of no use to someone with means. He’s saying that they would sell out someone who has nothing if they could gain even the most insignificant thing for themselves.
While all this was going on, they sat back with some wine and played the guitar. Comfortable. These Israelites were numbed to the injustice around them, the injustice they were causing. They were the leaders of their nation, but they couldn’t be bothered to lead. They should have been working against the problems of their nation, but they were busy drinking. They were fine as long as they had a comfy place to sit and good food to eat.
We ought to be bothered when we’re not right with God. It should eat at us. When we’re okay with disconnection from God, our hearts will get harder and sicker as time goes on. Like the Israelites Amos preached to, we’ll accept more and more evil in our lives. We will drift from the purpose for which God made us into futility. Being comfortable itself isn’t bad. But we ought not to be comfortable when we’re not right with God.
Ray Bradbury died recently. There was a moment in Fahrenheit 451 that really stuck with me. The main character is arguing with his wife, who is constantly drunk or high or distracted by entertainment. He’s getting very serious, and she tells him to stop because he’s bothering her. And he says:
“We need not to be let alone. We need to be really bothered once in a while. How long is it since you were really bothered? About something important, about something real?”
Not all is right in the world. There is injustice in the world that we’re called to address. We all have personal growth to do, too. God wants us to grow in holiness, to become more like Him every day, and sometimes comfort distracts us from that. Is your comfort distracting you from your connection with God?
Again, comfort itself isn’t bad. The Holy Spirit is called the Comforter. God gives us all kinds of blessings that calm and soothe us, stuff that just makes life wonderful, things that bring us rest. That can be food, games, good company, sleep, what have you. It could be anything that doesn’t violate God’s command or distract you from Him. Hear me carefully as I say that.
Let me challenge you with this: as you pray this week, ask God about the things that comfort you. Ask Him where you might have grown complacent, where you might be distracted from Him. And ask the Spirit for comfort. See what He provides. I guarantee you, it will be better than what we provide for ourselves.
That leads me to my next point.
If God corrects you, He has something better for you.
Nothing is worth losing your connection to God.
This is a fact. It doesn’t mean that God will give us something we think is better. It doesn’t mean He will give us something that’s as fun in the moment. But if He corrects us, it just means He’s guiding us to something that’s truly better for us.
When God is speaking through Amos to Israel, He’s really clear about why He’s correcting them. God strikes at the source of their false comfort in order to bring them back to Him.
“I gave you empty stomachs in every city
and lack of bread in every town,
yet you have not returned to me,”
declares the Lord.
It’s really uncomfortable when God tells us to stop doing something we’ve been doing. And sometimes, His correction seems really harsh. It can ruin our comfort. It may lead us away from things we really like to do. We feel like God’s depriving us of joy. It feels like He’s being mean to us, trying to ruin our fun. Especially when we’re comfortable.
But look at what He says. In one chapter, the same phrase occurs five times: “yet you have not returned to me.” That’s the point of His correction. Always. He wants them to come back to Him. Every time God corrects us, it’s because He wants us to return to Him.
Why is God causing all this suffering just so they’ll come back to Him? Because He knows what will happen to them without Him. He’s not trying to take from them, but to give them what matters most: a connection with Him. That’s what matters more than anything.
Our connection to God is our source of wisdom, purpose, strength, joy, and every other true blessing. Anything that hinders our connection isn’t a blessing. Our connection is worth any sacrifice–which is why Jesus suffered, died, and rose again to give it to us. It’s what matters most in this life and in the next. The leaders of Israel were leading lives of luxury and sensuality, but they were settling.
Who has been in a romantic relationship that God has blessed? Amazing, right? You can endure stuff that would crush other relationships. You have a solid love that endures. Okay, who’s been in a romantic relationship that you could tell, maybe only in hindsight, that God was against? Would you recommend it? We really think we know what we want sometimes, don’t we?
I think we’ve all sung this verse:
Better is one day in your courts
than a thousand elsewhere;
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of the wicked.
David knew that God’s correction is precious. It’s not God taking good from us, but leading us toward good.
Is God trying to remove something from your life that you’re trying to hold on to? Is God leading you to something you don’t want to face? Remember this: obeying God worth it. Period. Accept His correction, and you will be closer to Him. That’s worth whatever you leave behind. He knows us. He loves us. And that’s why He corrects us.
That’s my final point.
If God corrects you, that means He loves you.
I’m used to thinking of it like, “God’s correcting me because I did something wrong. If I did something wrong, I offended Him. If I offended Him, that means I’m offensive to Him. He must like me less now.”
That’s not how it works. Think: what does it say about God and us that He’s taking the time and effort to discipline us? It means He is taking a personal interest in improving your life.
You probably know this verse. It’s getting to be something of a cliche.
11 My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline,
and do not resent his rebuke,
12 because the Lord disciplines those he loves,
as a father the son he delights in.
When I hear that, I think, “God disciplines those He loves; oh great, I get discipline.” But think of it the other way around: If God is disciplining you, that’s a sign that He loves you.
God’s correction is not rejection. It’s not judgment, either. You realize that? It means God is on your side. It means He’s paying attention to you. It means you’re important to Him. It means He still wants you to be with Him. It means He wants your life to be better, and He’s willing to work at it.
Now, we know that God loves everyone. But it doesn’t hurt to have a reminder of God’s love, especially in a moment of correction.
Remember these things the next time you read something challenging in the Bible. Think about these things the next time the Holy Spirit tugs at your conscience. Sometimes, we need to be nudged out of a comfortable place because God has something better for us. God does that because he loves us. Remember what’s behind God’s correction.