Tuesday, August 11, 2009


Although it is in our nature to do so, we should never sympathize with those who find themselves in trouble that they, themselves, have created. Sympathy can fuel resentment for those conditions, and possibly God’s discipline. We get in God’s way when we react with sympathy for it is not up to us to decide how He chooses to discipline His children. We are apt to hinder Him when we intervene and attempt to alleviate a Saint’s discomfort. By doing so, the Saint who is suffering often feels God is being unfair and unjust, and sympathy can feed these unhealthy emotions when we apply it. My daughter-in-law, Rachel, summed it up nicely: “[Disobedient Saints] are like children who ask for a cookie. When they are told ‘no’, they come back again and continue to ask for a cookie!”

There are times when God has a Saint right where He wants him to teach him an important lesson. It is most always by the Saint’s own making or choosing that he finds himself in these positions. And the Lord will often allow him to sink to the very depths of despair in order to instruct him on a particular point he refuses to address. But as long as the Saint stubbornly rejects God’s guidance, God will continue to allow him to wallow in discomfort. Because of their continued disobedience, God told the Israelites, “I will discipline you but only with justice; I will not let you go entirely unpunished” (Jeremiah 46:28). The Lord punishes His children to draw them back to Himself and to correct and purify them. He disciplines us with the purest form of justice because He loves us and wants our total obedience and allegiance, not merely a part of it.

“Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent” were Christ’s words to the Church in Laodicea (Revelation 3:19). They were “lukewarm” towards God (v16). The doors to their hearts were only half open to Him, preventing them from the full benefit of fellowship with their Savior. They had placed their earthly “wealth” and riches above their devotion to God instead of acknowledging they were “wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked” (v17). Jesus didn't sympathize with them for their disobedience. His words of discipline were a warning to turn from their indifference or suffer His just wrath.

Jesus never sought sympathy from men. He came to complete His work on the cross of Calvary and He knew self-pity was the work of Satan (Matthew 16:23; Luke 3:1-10). Nor should the Saint expect or accept pity from others when they find themselves in turbulence of their own making. It is commendable to feel compassion and empathy for the suffering of others - Jesus Christ was the greatest example of this - but never sympathy. It causes us to want to step in and fix whatever the problem may be and if we mistakenly play the amateur “fixer”, the troubled Saint may miss a vital lesson the Lord is attempting to teach him and continue to repeat his mistakes.

It is never wrong to offer a hand up, to help others get their feet back under them. But we must always step back when it is necessary and allow God’s discipline in the lives of others. He will decide when it is time for the cookie.