Text: Hebrews 12.11 “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”
Icebreaker: Have you ever ignored a problem until it became a giant snowball that you didn’t know how to deal with?
Here is a story of someone who did that from a book called The way of the Master by Ray Comfort.
“Let me share a story that happened to a friend of mine. His name is Danny. When he told me that he was once arrested for failing to pay parking tickets, I asked, “Why didn’t you just pay them?” He answered, “They were just parking tickets, it was no big deal.”
Then he told me that the police arrived at his home at 4:00a.m, put him in a big black bus, and took him to Los Angeles County Courts. As he stood before the judge he said, “Your Honour, I brought $700 with me to pay the tickets and cover the court costs.” The judge said, “Mr. Goodall. I’m going to save you all that money. You are going to jail!” Danny was terrified.
His big mistake was that he trivialized his crimes by thinking that they were ‘just’ parking tickets, and so he deceived himself. Had he known what the Judge’s ruling would be (that he would go to prison), he would have immediately made things right between himself and the law instead of ignoring it for all that time. Most of the world realizes that they have broken God’s law – the Ten Commandments, but many also think that it isn’t a big deal to have done that. If you don’t believe it, ask around a little and listen closely to how people trivialize sin. Here’s a typical witnessing scenario (I have seen this hundreds of times).”
From the Bible text and the story of Danny we can reflect on a few points about dealing with our own ‘parking tickets’:
1) Ignoring the situation doesn’t make it go away.
I had a friend who started getting a headache that wouldn’t go away. At first, it wasn’t really bad enough to make him go to the Doctor, but every now and then he would have a headache. Things got progressively worse but it was only a headache so he didn’t pay much attention to it and just took another paracetamol instead. After a couple of years he collapsed at work, and when he was taken to hospital, a tumour was discovered. If he had gone to the Doctor a year before, the tumour would have been treatable, but by the time it was found it was too late and he was sent home to put his affairs in order.
Let me tell you about another friend where the same principle was at work. He noticed that he was becoming more distant from his wife and family. He was finding more and more things to do away home and with other people. Eventually, he began to think that his family were preventing his happiness. One day, after a big disappointment, he tried to return to his family and rescue the relationships; unfortunately, it was too late and his marriage dissolved because of the many years that had passed and that had lacked friendship, love and time together.
There are so many similar stories out there; people who spent too much, and never really paid attention to the snowball of debt that was forming, until they were bankrupt. Others who took their jobs for granted, always complaining and not doing what they should, with the consequence that they didn’t pay attention to what was important and so got fired.
What about you? Which ‘parking tickets’ are you ignoring and not paying attention to? What things are in danger of snowballing in your life?
2) Dealing with things a step at a time is easier than dealing with a marathon.
The fact is that in the vast majority of cases it is easier to deal with the situation before it gets too far and snowballs into a court case, a life-threatening illness, bankruptcy, divorce, or worse - dying without a relationship with Jesus.
Don’t procrastinate, don’t put it off until tomorrow, don’t ignore the pain, the struggle, the sorrow, the bills, the addiction, the lack of fellowship or the lack of intimacy with God – ask Jesus to help you take the first step today and reach out for help.
There is a lie from hell that says that time will heal everything. It’s not true – it didn’t heal my friend, it didn’t remove the parking tickets and it didn’t save the relationship of that couple. I don’t see people getting better from a chronic disease just because they give it time – treatment is necessary.
Remember that the time that God gives you is TODAY! Today is the present, the gift from God. Plan for tomorrow - but start today. Don’t leave until tomorrow the good that you can do today.
3) Don’t allow any ‘parking tickets’ to keep you away from God.
The biggest problem in all this is that our ‘parking tickets’ are keeping us from God. The Bible calls these ‘sins’ because they cause us to miss the target that is God’s good and perfect will for our lives, and hide from us the purpose and plan that He has for us. His way is better than anything that we can think of or imagine.
Sin also doesn’t get better with time - in fact it is quite the opposite. One abyss will bring another abyss, a crashing waterfall of sin that threatens to drown us. And the problem just gets worse and worse; ultimately sin causes death, a total separation from God, not because God moves away, but because we do.
If you don’t believe that sin leads you away from God, just look around you. Sin divides families, separates good friends, isolates people and destroys everything in its path.
Conclusion: Hebrews 12.11 says “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”
But the opposite is also the truth - if we don’t deal with the parking tickets now it will produce a complicated future full of struggles. Today we can decide to deal with what we are facing, confess our sins and allow God to change us. That is the best we can do. Would you like to start doing that more often? So let’s pray and act.
 Ray Comfort, The way of the Master (Alachua: Bridge Logos, 2006), p. 59.