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“My child, don’t make light of the LORD’s discipline, and don’t give up when he corrects you.”     (Proverbs 3:11)

There would have been a day not so long ago when any grade school student would have been able to tell you, without hesitation, that the ‘father of our country’ was George Washington. Today, there are those who would find that title to not be politically correct or who would seek to undermine the credibility of the man himself. It was on June 15, 1775 that Washington accepted an appointment to lead the Continental Army as its commander-in-chief. Washington’s determination, leadership and refusal to give up made the difference between victory and defeat on more than one occasion. Indeed, so powerful was Washington’s character and reputation that the organizers of the Constitutional Convention believed that the Convention would not succeed unless Washington attended it. Due to his military fame and humble personality, Americans overwhelmingly elected Washington to be their first president in 1789. Just as a good father can provide leadership for his family, Washington provided unquestionable direction for a new country. Historian Joseph Ellis has stated that, “Washington was the glue that held the nation together.” He seemed to understand the ‘big picture’ more than many of his day, and he was at the forefront of every major event in American history from 1754 to 1799. The respect for Washington was a direct result of his personal virtue which was cultivated over his lifetime. He was keenly aware of his faults from an early age, and he worked at controlling his shortcomings. In his book, Our Sacred Honor, William Bennett states, “Washington wasn’t born good. Only practice and habit made him so.” It certainly sounds as if his own self-discipline made him worthy of the label as the father of his country.

As we prepare to celebrate Father’s Day – it could be useful for any of us to apply some of the examples that Washington displayed. He would have been the first to tell you he was an imperfect man but was trying to do better. Recently, an older friend of mine told the story of her own father who, along with her two older brothers, always seemed to find themselves in trouble at a young age.  They frequently heard the oft-used threat from their mother – “Just wait ‘till your father gets home.” My friend said that on those occasions as their father appeared after a hard day’s work – he would remove his dirty work shoes, put on his slippers, and motion the three of them to the cellar. When they arrived there, they each understood the drill. As their father removed his slipper, he began to slap it loudly against his own hand. He then proceeded to tell each of the children to yell out, one by one, as if they were being disciplined. The story of their punishment remained a secret into adulthood, with their father undoubtedly recognizing that his demonstration of love yielded better results than a sore bottom may have accomplished. The Lord is very merciful as well, and He normally gives us ample time to repent. His discipline usually comes after our recurring acts of disobedience and His repeated warnings. After all, when it comes time to show obedience to our Heavenly Father – it can only strengthen our relationship with Him. The Apostle Paul put it this way: “Nevertheless, when we are judged in this way by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be finally condemned with the world” (1 Corinthians 11:32).

The great news is that like my friend’s father – God is gracious. If we haven’t been living for Him, if we haven’t been following His commandments, if we’ve been living in and for the world – we can be transformed by the blood of Jesus Christ. We can ask God for forgiveness, and He will give it. And He will choose to forget our sin, just like it never happened. “Since we respected our earthly fathers who disciplined us, shouldn’t we submit even more to the discipline of the Father of our spirits, and live forever? For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness” (Hebrews 12:9-11). If we have ever experienced the love of an earthly father who showed discipline in his life – we have indeed been fortunate. But what is even more precious is that all of God’s children can know a Heavenly Father who they will come to embrace more and more each day. All who do so will learn to recognize and regard Him as their true Commander-in-Chief, now and for all of eternity.

REFLECTION: Reflect on some examples of ways you practice self-discipline each day. In pursuit of your own spiritual and faith development, what aspects of your life do you consider in need of tougher discipline? What is your plan for making that happen? How can you be sure to include God in the process?


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