17 December 2017

Time for training

Back in the 70’s a small unassuming lady with plaid skirts had a show on TV in which she endeavoured to sort out naughty canines. She was called Barbara Woodhouse (google it to watch her method). Although her work came long before the creation of DVDs there are no doubt dusty video cassettes sitting around attics across the UK revealing her brilliance.

This lady would work with dog owners who were unaware of the best way to train their pets. She helped them get back the control they so desperately needed. One resounding word – “Walkies” summed up her style and authority as pooch and parent alike listened to her every word.

In recent years, with the invention of satellite television, another celebrity dog handler has graced the screens of millions of homes across the globe.

‘The Dog Whisperer’ has amazed many with his ability to tame the wildest of creatures, while the owners marvel at how he got their dog to stop snarling and snapping at every breathing thing.

‘The Dog Whisperer’ has a very clear technique for bringing these difficult canine cases into order. He teaches the owners to give their pets what they need – affection, discipline and exercise.

How do you teach a creature with a dominant personality, sharp teeth, and a sharp tongue to be submissive and obedient? That’s something the Lord has been dealing with for years. True, we may not be chained in a kennel or guilty of biting guests we don’t like, but there is still a power struggle at play.

God knows what we need. Similar to our canine companions, we yearn for affection, discipline and exercise. God has provided the most wonderful affection already. We can’t really argue that point as we’re faced with Christ’s death on the cross. He came and died to deal with our rebellion.

Of course He then went to the next level and overcame death itself before returning to Heaven. Yes, God is allpowerful and loves us to such an extent that He sent His son to die for us.

So let’s look at the interesting idea that we need discipline. This isn’t the most popular of topics. Yet, Jesus modelled perfect discipline when He left all the comfort of Heaven to live among the sinners, the smug, and the sick. That’s the discipline that comes with affection. The cross itself is the epitome of discipline.

As Jesus sweated blood at the prospect of what He knew He was facing – not just the awful physical torture of crucifixion, but, worse still, His Father turning His face away from Him as He shoulders the full filth of all our sins – He speaks directly to God and says, “Take this cup from me. But not my will but yours be done.”

Jesus is saying to His Father, ‘I don’t want this to happen, but I am submitted to your will.’ In the perfect act of discipline, Jesus bore the cross to free us from sin once and for all. If we want to follow in Jesus’ footsteps and claim to love Him like He clearly loves us, then we need to return that affection and demonstrate our willingness to practice discipline, regardless of what it costs us. Jesus pursued lepers and swindlers. He visited mad men and mariners. He asks us to follow in His ways and to seek to obey His commands out of love.

Now, what do we mean when we talk about needing exercise? Are we meant to join a gym and wear Christian T-Shirts or just start playing for the church football squad? Well, the Bible makes it clear that God has given us gifts. He has granted each of us an opportunity to use our God-given talent, and He expects to see us practise. No athlete ever breaks a new record without breaking a lot of sweat on the way and no servant of the Lord will ever get very far without putting time, energy and effort into practising using his own unique gift. So, we must be disciplined enough to exercise our spiritual gifts at every opportunity to share the affection and deep joy of the Lord with those who have not yet met Him.

Our Heavenly Father knows precisely how much we can do, and the skills that we’re able to use. It’s now time for us to ask for His help to love the life that He’s calling us to. Are we willing to obey Jesus – the one who faced death for our sake and gave up all He had to reach us?

Are we still prepared to snarl at our Master or are can we finally let Him take the lead?

Paul McKay