by Jake Wise
Last summer, my wife and I had the incredible privilege of visiting Yosemite National Park with our family. We found ourselves on different pages and in a difficult season as we packed in the car to drive the 29 hours from Missouri to California. Miscommunication and my own sin and heart-idols had brought us to a point of confusion and frustration. In His infinite wisdom, God knew what the beauty of His astounding creation could do for a soul.
At that time, I’d have loved to be able to tell you he immediately fixed everything, removed every obstacle, glossed over my sin, and sent us on our way. But in fact he guided me into a season of discipline, repentance and waiting, surrounded by some of the biggest and oldest trees in the world, monuments to His faithfulness. The Lord began to change my heart—and it’s still a work in progress.
Somewhere in those first 29 hours, Hillsong United’s “Seasons” unexpectedly appeared on a shuffle playlist, and for once, I took the algorithm’s suggestion and patiently listened.
“Your promise is loyal / from seed to sequoia.”
God has promised us infinite joy in experiencing true holiness through waiting and discipline. Surrounded by those very trees that had taken over 1,000 years to reach their grandeur, I felt God slowly begin to quiet my soul and push me away from entitlement and petulance to a pursuit of holiness and peace. He was and is building us into something great as we submit to His work.
If He’s not done working, I’m not done waiting to see the result of His patient work.
As we navigate the cold months between Advent and Lent—seasons of waiting and seasons of discipline, we know that God often calls us—requires us—to wait, for our good, and to discipline us in order that we might be more like his Son.
The word “discipline” might bring up images of punishment brought on a disobedient child by an exasperated parent. But where the dictionary definition falls flat, so do our connotations with the word. Solomon tells us in Proverbs 3:12 that “the LORD reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.” God chastises us, rebukes us, corrects us, certainly, but does not punish us out of anger. As John Piper makes clear in this article, “God’s angry punishment was spent completely on Jesus—once and for all.”
If you are one of his children, God is not punishing you in his anger. Hallelujah.
So what is He doing while we’re in a season of waiting? He is making us holy, as he is holy, setting us apart for the glorious purposes for which he has chosen and is preparing us. He’s growing us from seed to sequoia so that we might be a testament of His greatness and share in His joy.
Discipline has multiple meanings in our language—it can mean the kind of correction a child needs, but can also mean the possession of a certain kind of self-control (Galations 5:23), the kind an athlete needs in order to wake up early and push his or her muscles to the limit. It’s painful at the time, but the end result—whether it’s a less selfish child or a faster sprint—is the goal.
Our Father’s goal for us, then, is ultimately our holiness, the building of our Christlike nature, our spiritual muscles. Our righteousness is entirely dependent on the finished work of Christ on the cross. If we are in Christ, we are never punished for our sins by our heavenly Father. We forever have irrevocable right-standing before him. But the author of Hebrews assures the early church that “It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons…. He disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness” (Hebrews 12:7, 10). Our character, our very heart-nature, what Paul calls “the flesh,” must die for us to be who God calls us to be.
Jesus insists, “unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” We push our muscles to the limit so the body can build them back up to be stronger and healthier than they were before. God tears down our fleshly nature through difficult seasons that though they “seem painful rather than pleasant… yield the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11).
So what do we do while enduring discipline or waiting on God to move? We’ll have some practical steps for you soon. Here you can listen to “Seasons,” and ask God to reveal to you how He is working while you wait for the completion of His promise.