Summary: The greatest spiritual discipline is to continually be focused on God, and His blessings are what make it difficult
Golf immortal Arnold Palmer recalls a lesson about overconfidence: It was the final hole of the 1961 Masters tournament, and I had a one-stroke lead and had just hit a very satisfying tee shot. I felt I was in pretty good shape. As I approached my ball, I saw an old friend standing at the edge of the gallery. He motioned me over, stuck out his hand and said, "Congratulations." I took his hand and shook it, but as soon as I did, I knew I had lost my focus. On my next two shots, I hit the ball into a sand trop, then put it over the edge of the green. I missed a putt and lost the Masters. You don’t forget a mistake like that; you just learn from it and become determined that you will never do that again. I haven’t in the 30 years since. Carol Mann, The 19th Hole, (Longmeadow), quoted in Reader’s Digest.
The greatest spiritual discipline is to continually be focused on God, and His blessings are what make it difficult. Hardships almost always make us look to God, but His blessings tend to divert attention elsewhere. Are blessing always "good things"? Did Jesus say we were blessed only when things where going our way?
3"Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
10Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11"Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.
Does the world view poverty, mourning, persecution, and mistreatment as beneficial? NO! The world shuns such things. But Jesus teaches us that to the Christian they can be instruments of God’s work in our life. Jesus reefers to these things not only as beneficial but as BLESSINGS.
A terrible misconception among believers is that all hardship is a form of Divine discipline, and all "good things" are a result of Divine reward. The book of Job is a narrative of a man who "was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil (Job 1:1-2)." God allowed the devil to punish him with the worse kind of suffering imaginable by killing Job’s children and taking all of material possessions away then afflicting him with painful boils all over his body. Even through the worst of life’s sufferings Job didn’t have any misconception of God’s goodness. When Job’s wife approached him and said: "Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die! (Job 2:9)". Job replied with powerful words of faith: "You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?" (Job 2:10).
BODY: Genesis 28:10-22
1. THE EVENTS GOD DIRECTS IN OUR LIVES AREN’T ALWAYS ABOUT DISCIPLINE AND REWARD, MORE TIMES THAN NOT THEY’RE ABOUT OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH HIM.
In this text we find Jacob on the run from Esau, because under his mothers advice he tricked his elderly father Isaac and stole Esau’s blessing. Up until this point in Jacob’s life everything went good, he enjoyed the comfort of living under his mother’s watchful eyes and his fathers patriarchal blessings. Before Jacob left home what did he know of God? Simply what he had learned form his parents. But due to the blessings he had little reason to exercise any faith in the God of his parents.
JACOB WAS TOO BLESSED TO SEE GOD.
But now things are drastically changing in the life of Jacob. Now he becomes a fugitive, his mother is no were in sight to give him advice, far away from the securities of home and family.
Gen 28:11 When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep.
"WHEN HE REACHED A CERTAIN PLACE" - a place he had never been before this night. This is a place of hardship were he exchanges the soft comfortable pillows he had always known for a ROCK. A pillow is a cushion for the head used to rest on, but in this CERTAIN PLACE there wasn’t any comfort available.
ILLUSTRATION: Though many of us have seen pictures of a huge eagle’s nest high in the branches of a tree or in the crag of a cliff, few of us have gotten a glimpse inside. When a mother eagle builds her nest she starts with thorns, broken branches, sharp rocks, and a number of other items that seem entirely unsuitable for the project. But then she lines the nest with a thick padding of wool, feathers, and fur from animals she has killed, making it soft and comfortable for the eggs. By the time the growing birds reach flying age, the comfort of the nest and the luxury of free meals make them quite reluctant to leave. That’s when the mother eagle begins "stirring up the nest." With her strong talons she begins pulling up the thick carpet of fur and feathers, bringing the sharp rocks and branches to the surface. As more of the bedding gets plucked up, the nest becomes more uncomfortable for the young eagles. Eventually, this and other urgings prompt the growing eagles to leave their once-comfortable abode and move on to more mature behavior.