Rebuke: Why a Kick in the Teeth Can Be an Act of Love

Have you ever been stung by a rebuke? It’s not any fun. It hurts a little, and it can be a tough thing to endure. If you’ve been rebuked, you know what I mean. But the Bible offers a statement about rebuke than can change your perspective entirely: “It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise than for a man to hear the song of fools”. (Ecclesiastes 7:5, NIV)

Who are Your Difference-Makers?

Who in your life offers you wise correction? I once made a list of all the “difference makers” in my life. I thought about people who taught me something useful, exhorted me to go farther, offered me rebuke, or pushed me to elevate my game in some form or fashion. In almost every case, those people caused me discomfort or even pain at the time. I certainly didn’t recognize 100% back then that they were helping me instead of hurting me. In fact, there were times I surely resented it; it wasn’t comfortable or (I felt) complimentary.

But maybe rebuke was a good thing. Looking back, I can clearly see how my Dad (in particular) and certain teachers, coaches, and friends motivated me to achieve more than I would have without their sometimes abrasive assistance. Oddly enough, I thought most of them were being mean to me in the moment, but they were actually pushing me to get out of my comfort zone and into my potential.

rebuke helps

Walt Disney Can’t be Wrong

Walt Disney said “You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.” Jesus said it in a different way: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” (John 15:1-2, NIV) Even fruitful branches get pruned by the gardener. A healthy plant actually bears more fruit after it has undergone the stress of losing branches; Jesus presented that as an analogy for human growth as well.

Our Father uses the pain and difficulty of today to prepare us for tomorrow. When Joseph was thrown into a pit by his brothers and then sold into slavery, he could have stayed bitter over his mistreatment. Instead, he recognized that there was a larger purpose involved. He told his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:20, NIV)

I’m certainly not trying to make light of tragedy in any way, but the next time you find yourself in discomfort or difficult circumstances, say a little prayer of thanksgiving for the fact that you will be “even more fruitful”. That person telling you to take it easy or inviting you to slack off may not be your friend; and the person who challenges you and offers you rebuke may not be your enemy.

The Harsh Sting of Pleasing Words

Jesus said we are the branches, and he is the vine;
“My Father”, Jesus said, “will prune on every branch of mine.”
Unfruitful branches are cut off completely, while the rest
Are cut and pruned so that their fruit will be the very best.
When we are tempted to relax, stop trying–just to coast–
The people who rebuke us are the ones who love us most.
A wise rebuke may hurt our feelings, or at least seem cruel,
But it’s better than the soothing flattery of a fool…

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Pain is No Fun. But Is it Possible We Couldn’t Grow Without It?

Pain is a bad thing. and certainly isn’t something we enjoy or want to experience; but is it always bad? What can it possibly be Good For? Jesus offers us some insight:

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine dresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he taketh away: and every branch that bears fruit, he purges it, that it may bring forth more fruit. (John 15:1-2 KJV)

We often wonder why pain exists, why bad things happen to God’s children. The obvious philosophical answer is that God had to allow us to experience both good and evil to give us free will—without the ability to choose evil, wouldn’t our choice of good be somewhat meaningless? Without the existence of Pain, would we truly know comfort?

Pain Might Have a Purpose

But here Christ also points out that pruning makes us more fruitful—something true in agriculture and in life. We trim away dead and unproductive branches so that all of the tree’s resources can be committed to useful ones. It is something of a shock to the tree, but in the long run you have a healthier, stronger tree as a result. The same is often true in our lives. Difficult circumstances give us growth and insight we would never otherwise achieve.

pain

Think Back

Quick: think of the 3 people in your life who helped you grow and achieve the most—teachers, coaches, leaders… Chances are they were not easy on you. They demanded more from you than you thought you had. They probably caused you pain. At times they challenged you, frustrated you, and called you to reach beyond your current level of performance. Is it possible that Your Father is using difficult circumstances in the same way?

Jesus said, “He [my Father] purges every branch so that it may bring forth more fruit.” Allow this sentence to sink in. Pray that it could change your outlook about hard times. Remember that Jesus faced discomfort and hardship throughout his life—and certainly during his painful death—so he knew what he was talking about. If we take hold of his perspective about pain, perhaps it can open us to new possibilities within our circumstances. Allow His loving care guide you through painful experiences into new perspective and fruitfulness, and perhaps you can find a thankful heart no matter what happens. Even painful things can have fruitful results.

As Paul said in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” The thanksgiving season reminds us how important having an attitude of gratitude can be; it is also a great way to start remembering the greatest gift ever given, and the birth of the one who gave it! His life proved that the even the greatest evil can be transformed into the greatest good. Perhaps in smaller ways, our lives can prove the same thing.

PAIN: What is it Good For?

Although contentment is our aim,
This life is touched by storms and rain;
Our comfort is disturbed by Pain,
Who sneaks around us like a thief
Breaking into our relief
To sow discouragement and grief.
Yet Pain can also play a part
As part of a loving Father’s art,
In strengthening our will, our heart,
If pain is used productively
The way that pruning helps a tree;
There can be more to pain, you see…
So when you cannot bear it any longer,
Keep going. Somehow, pain will make you stronger.

To purchase my newest book Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread