Several months ago, one of my friends shared with me one of the best parenting lessons they had ever learned. The lesson was this – children need to be taught to mind the first time. This may seem obvious (and may be every parent’s dream) but the point was that there should be no “counting to three” or repeating the instructions until the child did what you asked. The child obeys the first time, or they are subject to discipline. The point wasn’t to be mean; the point was to teach the child that “delayed obedience is disobedience.” Additionally, if children think that they will be told multiple times to do something before obedience is expected, eventuality they will grow weary of hearing the instructions. Because immediate obedience isn’t expected, they will have to be told the same thing time and time again and in their immaturity, they grow tired of the repetition until it stifles any attempt at obedience at all.
Unfortunately, this weariness isn’t limited to children. Adults as well often get tired of hearing the same instructions repeated to them. Whether it’s to exercise more or to eat better – after awhile their justifications and their ambivalence tunes out the well-intended advice. They no longer listen to it, or they get frustrated with the person they hear it from; not because the instructions are bad but because they have delayed in keeping them. That delay has built up a hardness in their heart so that the next time they hear the same thing, they glaze over it with an “I already know that” attitude, reinforcing their commitment to ignore the instruction given.
And this isn’t limited to advice on how to live a healthier life. The same thing happens in church. People will complain that they keep hearing the same thing from a pastor, and they are tired of it. Yet at least sometimes the reason that this has happened isn’t because what the pastor is saying isn’t biblical or because he is unnecessarily repetitious, it’s because the hearers have delayed putting the biblical command into action in their lives. They grow tired of hearing the same thing because they have yet to experience the blessings in obeying the directives of God. Their heart becomes hardened to the biblical instruction because they have made a decision to ignore it.
Proverbs 3:11-12 warns agains this. Solomon writes to his son:
My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline or be weary of his reproof,
for the LORD reproves him whom he loves,as a father the son in whom he delights. (ESV)
While it may be tempting to roll our eyes at biblical instructions, they are a product of His love. By giving them to us, God helps us know what it means to live a life that pleases Him. By holding us accountable to them, He further exhibits His affection. When we fail to see it this way, it is often because we aren’t doing what He’s commanded. Our disobedience prompts a weariness because instead of submitting to His authority, we are fighting against it.
Perhaps the next time we are tempted to sit in church and think “I’ve heard that before,” we would be wise to ask ourselves whether we are doing what Scripture says. If we are, perhaps the instructions would cease to weary us, and instead we would find delight in doing what our Father says.