If you’ve had or worked with children, you have likely faced this scenario. A child does wrong repeatedly. After much instruction and admonition, the parent or teacher says, “If you do that one more time, you are going to face this consequence.”
The child does it one more time. The adult begins to administer the promised consequence, and all of a sudden, the child starts doing whatever he was supposed to, or starts crying and pleading for mercy.
Knowing when to be firm and when to show grace was one of the hardest parts of parenting for me. But if I had promised my children a certain consequence would follow certain actions (or lack of actions), I felt I needed to follow through. They needed to know I would keep my word, plus they needed to be trained away from last-minute feigned repentance that only occurs when punishment is coming.
Our church is reading through and discussing Jeremiah together, five chapters a week. Jeremiah’s message was not a popular one. Basically he had to tell the people to get ready for the consequences of their actions. In the Israelites’ case at this time, the consequences for their continued idolatry, disobedience, and lack of repentance involved the king of Babylon conquering their city and deporting most of them to Babylon as captives.
Sometimes people accuse God of cruelty when He sends judgement on people, but they forget the years of longsuffering that led up to the judgment in question. Closing the door of the ark so no one else could get in seems drastic, but people had several decades of preaching and warning beforehand. “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually (Genesis 6:5) and “Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence (verse 11). 1 Peter 3:20 says, “God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water.” God was patient, but He also said His Spirit would not always strive or contend with man (Genesis 6:3). There was a deadline.
Similarly, God had sent His prophets over years to preach to the people in Jeremiah’s time. God told Jeremiah a couple of times not to pray for the people, and the ESV Study Bible notes how unusual this command was I don’t think that meant that Jeremiah could not bring them before the Lord at all. But, if I understand it correctly, he couldn’t pray for God to turn away His judgment unless the people repented.
But the people flat out refused to repent. A few times they came to Jeremiah to inquire of the Lord for them, or they called out to God to help them, but their repentance was either not genuine or was short-lived. At one point, they responded to God’s pleas for their repentance and warnings of future consequences with “That is in vain! We will follow our own plans, and will every one act according to the stubbornness of his evil heart” (18:12). Another time they said, “As for the word that you have spoken to us in the name of the Lord, we will not listen to you” (44:16). God pleaded with the people to turn away from their folly and come to Him, but they wouldn’t. So, eventually, consequences had to come.
God’s consequences are often meant to have a sanctifying effect. He chastens out of love and for our good.
My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.
. . . He disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:5-6, 10b-11)
Scattered throughout Jeremiah are God’s promise of future restoration of His people. They would spend 70 long years in exile. But among those taken captive were future heroes of the faith, like Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who would take a bold but gracious stand for God and witness for Him to foreign kings. Ezekiel preached to the exiles. Ezra and Nehemiah led the people back to Israel.
But not everyone made it back. In the course of 70 years, many died.
Back in Numbers 13-14, Israel refused to advance into the land God promised them. He pledged to be with them and help them overtake it, but they refused in fear. They were condemned to wander in the wilderness for 40 years, until every adult who had refused to obey had died.
But God’s deadlines don’t refer just to chastening. Earlier this year it was on my heart to write to a woman who was like a second mother to me. But I put it off. I would be sending her a Mother’s Day card in a few weeks, and I planned to write a letter to send with it. But then I received word that she’d had a series of medical issues, was unresponsive, and was in her last days. I know with all the joys of heaven, she’s not thinking of not receiving a letter from me. But I have the regret that I didn’t respond to that prompting and share some words of encouragement. When my grandmother and aunt died, I also regretted that I had not kept in touch better in the last few years. A pastor’s wife told of the regret she felt when she leaned that a lady she saw regularly at some place of business had died suddenly. She realized that she had never spoken to her about the Lord. We only have so much time to do good.
Proverbs 27:1 (NASB) says, “Do not boast about tomorrow, For you do not know what a day may bring forth.”
Sometimes when we think about the limitations of time and the shortness of our days, we can get into a frenzy. But that’s not what God wants, either. Jesus only had 33 years on this earth, with only three and a half of those years involved in official ministry. Yet He was not frenzied. He didn’t heal or preach to everyone on earth at the time. He rested sometimes. But He did everything God wanted Him to do. We need to seek Him for wisdom, guidance, and the right priorities for each day.
Eventually, we are all going to face a final deadline. The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 6:2: “Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”
It’s wise not to put off repentance and believing on Jesus as Lord and Savior, because we never know when our time will be up and we’ll hear God’s final call.
It’s wise not to put off obedience, because the consequences have to come at some point.
It’s wise not to put off doing good, because someday we’ll no longer have the opportunity.
The older I get, the more I’m aware that I have more days behind me than before me. I want to follow God wholeheartedly until that final deadline comes.
How about you?
(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Global Blogging, Senior Salon, Literary Musing Monday, Hearth and Soul, Purposeful Faith, Happy Now, Tell His Story, InstaEncouragement, Anchored Abode, Recharge Wednesday, Worth Beyond Rubies, Share a Link Wednesday,
Wise Woman, Let’s Have Coffee, Heart Encouragement, Faith ‘n Friends,
Grace and Truth, Faith on Fire, Blogger Voices Network)
excellent post! i really enjoyed this. As a special education preK teacher and former SAHM (my girls are now 20 and 26) I’ve had to use natural consequences as well as consequences I’ve set up as guidelines in the classroom and in the home when the girls were younger. Sometimes, all I needed to say was a gentle reminder “if you do ____, then ____ will happen”. How quickly (sometimes!!) they learned this. Sometimes I had to teach direct obedience and sometimes i had to teach the difference between direct obedience and cooperation. Cooperation is much easier to teach to our children I think! that direct obedience is tough with a strong willed child (my youngest). Sometimes I screwed up, other times I was successful. I’m so glad God doesn’t screw up with us!! His mercies are new every morning and yes the consequences of sin are hard but so necessary for our growth. Great post, Barbara.
Thank you, Faith. I heard one speaker say that it’s important to teach our children to obey, because if they don’t obey earthly authorities, they won’t obey God. Plus it’s better and safer for them. It’s hard though. So often as I was instructing my children, it was almost as if God was tapping me on the shoulder to remind me to apply what I was saying to myself as well.
Thanks so much for your sharing these insights. This read through of the Old Testament, it’s like I am seeing it with brand new eyes. Familiar books of the Bible coming to life in a different way, a good way. I see a God who loves His children and although to some may seem harsh, I see a God who provides everything we need to accomplish all that He asks us to do.
He sent His Son to die for us, that should be the greatest motivator to a life of obedience and redeeming our time here on earth.
That’s so true, Karen–He has been so merciful and done so much, and promises grace to help us do His will.
Wonderful post! I used to be a teacher and I always wanted my students to trust me. Part of developing that trust was following through with consequences after a warning. Even though I may not have wanted to follow through, I wanted students to believe what I said. “He disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness.” We have to remember that God is not punishing to be cruel, but so that we believe His word.
Thank you, Laurie, and I agree. I can remember not wanting to follow through with consequences, either, but knew it was for their good. And that’s such an important point you made that God punishes us for our good. I have seen adults who were rarely reigned in as children, and they are pretty much slaves to their desires.
Amen! I’ve recently been convicted of my sorry attitude towards my mother-in-law and that I need to do something to show her I care. I’m praying that God gives me his eyes to see her as one of his beloved children. Her health is failing, and I might not have a lot of time left.
That helps me with “difficult” people as well–to remember that God made them and loves them just as much as He does me or any of the people I gravitate to more easily.
This is a very thought-provoking and wise piece, Barbara. Thank you for sharing it with the Hearth and Soul Link Party. I hope you find many blessings in the week ahead.
Thanks so much, April!
Your post today was a blessing to me. Thank you for being so faithful in sharing.
Sent from my iPhone
Thank you, Kathie! Good to hear from you!
It’s hard to watch when people threaten consequences again and again and again with children but never follow through, whatever the consequences are. We should be grateful that God does allow us to learn from our mistakes instead of letting us slide by and never improve. Even his consequences for us are seasoned with his grace, thanks to his Son.
Yes–I have seen that happen, too, especially in public. That’s such a good point that correction is a mercy to us. And seasoned with grace–love that phrase!
Very motivational! I love all your items at the end that it’s wise not to put off — good advice. I like your point too about not to become too anxiety-filled over this as we contemplate that Jesus had 3 years of ministry and didn’t seemed frazzled over a lack of time.
Thank you, Susan! I have a tendency to put off communication, even though it’s so much easier these days. But I have had too many instances of losing opportunities, so I need to take them when God lays them on my heart.
I honestly do not know how Jeremiah endured throughout his tough assignment.
Have you read Eugene Petersons’s Run with the Horses? It’s a great accompaniment to a journey through Jeremiah.
I have wondered that about Jeremiah, too–such a hard and often lonely road. Yet so instructional for us. I trust his reward in heaven will be great. I have not heard of that book–thanks for telling me about it.
Consistency is so important, I see so many struggle with this. I struggle with it too, but over time they change their behavior and learn that you are serious when you say they will have a consequence!
Yes–it’s a long process sometimes, but ultimately pays off. Thanks for sharing!
Barbara, such a thought-provoking post. I’ve been thinking about doing things in the moment, rather than putting them off too. You’re so right. We’re only given so many opportunities, and then there are no more. Thanks for sharing this perspective. I’m pondering . . .
Thank you, Jeanne. I’m trying to remember to respond soon when God puts someone on my heart.
So grateful for God’s longsuffering with us His children. Especially with me. But it is also a blessing to know that He loves us enough to follow through with consequences. “Parenting” that does not follow through is not reliable, trustworthy or even loving.
So true, Jennifer. I think sometimes parents feel bad about following through, but we need to remember it’s for a child’s ultimate good. I’ve known adults who pretty much grew up without consequences (except yelling, which they learned to tune out), and had no self-control as adults.
Parenting is HARD WORK, and consistency is key! Knowing when to be firm and when to show mercy and grace is a vital part of it. I’m glad we’ve got the Bible to look to and see how Jesus dealt out mercy and grace. His example is priceless when it comes to being a wise parent.
Thanks for linking up at InstaEncouragements!
Thank you, Patsy! God’s balance of discipline and grace was a great example to me as a parent.
The follow-through can be so difficult, but it is so important. So grateful for God’s wisdom in when to follow through with the consequences I deserve and when to give abundant grace!
Me, too, Rebecca. I’m thankful for His example and wisdom in dealing with others, too.
I want to have instantaneous obedience.
One part of me wants that, but too often I drag my feet. I want to have a heart that wants to obey instantly.
Wonderful truth and reflections on God’s deadlines for repentance, obedience, and doing good. We don’t know the number of our days. Thank you for your nudging here to not put off until tomorrow what I can and should do today. The title of your post drew me in 🙂
Thank you so much, Bev. I’m trying to remind myself as well to act when God puts something on my heart.
Opportunities missed are often regretted later, well said. When something pricks our heart I pray we would follow that urging as I do feel it is the ministering of the Holy Spirit. God’s deadlines cannot be escaped, but we can be prepared.
Great post, full of wisdom. Children do need discipline, especially some coming through foster care. I like your line. It’s wise not to put off obedience, because the consequences have to come at some point.
Thank you for joining us on #GlobalBlogging this week!
Pingback: End-of-November Musings | Stray Thoughts