Why Do You Hate Me? part 3
August 6, 2019, 9:10 AM

The next type of discipline is protective discipline. Sometimes God allows struggles to come into our lives in order to prepare us for something that is yet to come. For example, you may be going through a financially difficult time right now and having to learn to budget and pinch pennies. You may be feeling overwhelmed and wondering what you did to deserve these circumstances. But what if God is teaching you to be a good steward because He knows you’re about to come into a tremendous financial blessing and He wants to make sure you honor Him with His gift to you. Or, for instance, take the old illustration of spanking a child’s hand when they try to touch a hot surface. The child doesn’t understand the punishment is for their own good, but the results of not disciplining the child would be a greater detriment and much more painful. Sometimes we face spiritual less intense spiritual battles so that we will be better prepared to face the super intense ones when they come. To use a sports analogy, championships are won in the offseason through training and preparation that leads to victories on the field.

I heard a story many years ago when I was a youth pastor. I had taken a group of students to camp and we were in the evening worship service. I must confess I don’t remember the text the pastor preached from that night, but I will never forget the example he gave about God’s loving discipline. That sounds like an oxymoron to many of us when we are in the middle of the storm of discipline, but it is out of love that He disciplines us. At the time I had never heard anything like it but I know now it has become quite popular.

The story involves a baby giraffe and a momma giraffe. I’m sure many of you know where I’m going with this but if you don’t you can search it on the internet. The pastor told of the time he was watching a nature program on T.V. He had begun to get the warm fuzzies watching the amazing act new life greeting the earth. He continued to gush about the way the momma giraffe loved on the baby and cleaned it up and the way the momma seemed to be cheering on the baby giraffe as it struggled to get its weak and wobbly legs underneath it. Finally, after struggling to stand up, in a moment of splendor and glory, the baby giraffe looks up at the momma and momma looks down at baby with pride. You could almost hear the angels singing and see the bright lights of heaven shining down. It was one of those amazing moments. Then, without warning, the mother giraffe ninja kicked the baby and knocked it to the ground.

Not sure how to feel about the treatment of the baby giraffe, he continued watching as the process repeated itself several more times. As he told the story, those who had been laughing at first had now stopped and focused in to hear the pastor explain why the momma giraffe would commit such an atrocity against her child. The fact is, giraffes live in the wild and are often viewed as fast food by predatory animals. The reason the mother giraffe continually knocked her newborn child to the ground was to build strength in the leg muscles of the baby. That way, when the predator came, the baby would be able to quickly jump up and run away to safety. You see, something that seemed to be cruel and unusual punishment was actually life-saving training. It’s not a matter of if the predator comes for the giraffe, but when. The same applies to followers of Christ, it’s not a matter of if the roaring lion roaming to and fro seeking to steal, kill, and destroy will come, but when and will we be ready.

There is another way to look at this type of discipline. My brother is one of the strongest people I have ever known, mentally and emotionally speaking. Growing up without a dad, he was always my rock. After high school, he shipped off to Marine Corps boot camp. When he came home after boot camp he was a different person. He was no longer a regular guy, he was a Marine. His mentality and behavior had radically changed. I remember asking him about this change because he had always said that the Marines would never be able to “break” him. He recalled to me the moment it happened to him. He was the last one in their group to give in to the Marine Corps way. After enduring countless numbers of push-ups, hours of running in full gear, and other such exercises over a period of time, he saw the light. He realized that unless his old way of thinking was broken and replaced with the Marine Corps way, he was always going to be a potential liability to himself and those around him. His drill instructors were teaching him things that would help keep him alive in battle and unless he got to the point where he could follow commands and not do things his way, there was a risk he could get a lot of people hurt. They could give him everything materialistically to survive, but unless he learned through discipline how to be obedient and follow his commander, he would still be in danger.

Paul uses a similar illustration in his teaching of Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:3. Paul references the behavior of a good soldier staying focused and pleasing his commanding officer. One way to please the commanding officer is to follow instructions and be obedient. That is also one way to assure the greatest safety because the commanding officer, both humanly and divine, often knows more about the bigger plans for us and the logistics of those plans. So the discipline the commanding officer is putting us through is for our best and is training us up to be good soldiers, not just so they will have someone to be mean to.

Consider Daniel and his friends Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. These four young men, according to Daniel 1:3-6, were good Israelite men who were found to be distinguished in lineage, physical appearance, and intellectual ability. After being taken captive by the Babylonians, Daniel records the battles they endured, the discipline they would undergo, and the eventual outcome. First, it began with a changing of their names. This may not seem like a big deal to some, but the name of an Israelite usually meant something. It wasn’t just randomly selected by joining parts of other names that sounded cool or given because it was great-grandpa’s name. Also, changing the names was an attempt by the Babylonians to assimilate the Israelites into their culture and thus making them more compliant, model citizens.

The next battle came by way of food. If I may be honest for a moment, this is probably where I would fail. Daniel asked that he and his friends not have to defile themselves with the royal food and wine, but rather they preferred to continue with a modest diet of vegetables and water. As the story goes, the appearance of Daniel and his friends was far better at the end of ten days than those who delighted in the royal food. Passing this “small” test provided for a bigger stage via promotion in the kingdom, and eventually bigger tests. Daniel chapter 2 records this test in the form of King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. As the sentence of death was soon to be carried out, Daniel put to good use the tact and favor he had received from previous tests to secure time enough to seek God and ultimately interpret the king’s dream and preserve his life and the life of his friends.

These and other events would eventually culminate in what is probably the best-known test Daniel had to face. When the decree was passed that prayer should be offered to no god or man other than Darius for 30 days, Daniel continued praying to God. His faith was stronger than the fear of a lion’s den because of the discipline that God had used to train him up. Daniel’s obedience led to God glorifying Himself in a manner that required every member in the kingdom of Darius would revere the God of Daniel. Let us not forget the discipline that led to this great victory. God was strengthening Daniel for this test long before it ever happened. Like the mother giraffe kicking the baby to the ground so that it would be able to survive the attacks of the enemy, so Daniel through captivity, name changes, dietary, disputes, dreams, and other tests were strengthened to survive the attacks of the enemy and glorify God through protective discipline.