Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The Happiness of Being Coached by God

Blessed is the man whom You instruct, O LORD,
And teach out of Your law.
(Psalm 94:12)
The Hebrew word for “instruct” here is yasar, which literally means to chastise, as with blows. The word for “teach,” lamad, means to goad. These are the same words used used in verse 10: “He who instructs the nations, shall he not correct, He that teaches man knowledge?” Figuratively, these words mean to instruct and to teach by word. We see this in verse 12, because the means God uses to teach is His torah. Torah is usually translated as “law” but may just as well be rendered as “instruction.”

This instruction may come as correction, or even rebuke. Being corrected or rebuked are generally not pleasant experiences, but they are often very needful. It is discipleship. The English word “discipleship” comes from the same word as “discipline.” To be a disciple or have a discipline means that you are in training for something. Training involves breaking old ways and habits and developing new ones, so that one’s experience may be optimized. Athletes well understand what it means to be “in training,” and though they may not enjoy the experience itself, they greatly appreciate the benefits it brings to their performance.

To continue the sports metaphor, it is good to have cheerleaders, people who will tell us how good we are doing, but it is much more important to have a coach, someone who will tell us where we need to sharpen our game. They point out the difference between where we are and where we need to be, but if we will trust them, listen carefully and follow their direction, the will turn us into champions.

That is God’s plan for you and me — to make us into champions — and He does it through His Word. He teaches and directs us through His torah, His instruction. He does not do it through His Word alone, but also through the Holy Spirit, by whom He has given His Word. The Spirit ministers the Word of God to us, causing us to understand the things of God. Paul said that faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:17. When we are receptive to the Word, the Spirit of God quickens it — makes it “come alive” to us — and faith becomes a powerful force working in us. That is the stuff that will make you a champion, no matter what adversity you may face. “This is the victory that has overcome the world — our faith” (1 John 5:4).

Oh, the deep happiness of letting God be your coach, of receiving His Word and yielding to His Spirit. It makes us champions.

(See also Let Wisdom Be Your Coach.)