My dog has been trained to always come back to me the instant I call or whistle. It’s taken a lot of work to get this response. And now he consistently listens for me and responds immediately—no matter what distraction is vying for his attention. Since I can trust him, I’m able to take him off his leash and let him run around and explore the fields and woodlands. In short, because he’s been properly trained and can be trusted even when facing temptation, he can enjoy his freedom.

Most people don’t train their dogs like this. They believe that training puts too much pressure on their pets and is somehow unkind. But their dogs never gain true freedom—remaining leashed their entire lives.

Believers in Jesus almost invariably want to progress in their spiritual walk. And yet, when encountering the trials of life, do we see difficult times as training and preparation, or do we ask God, “Why is this happening?” or cry out, “Please take this away”? The writer of Hebrews expressed that “No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way” (Hebrews 12:11). Such trials prove the father heart of God and make for right living by His work in us (Hebrews 12:5-7,11).

It’s those who have spent time experiencing God’s discipline who are uniquely prepared to live out His ways before others. Only when we’ve been tested and refined are we then free to be let off our “leashes” and walk as mature believers.

How have we been reacting to God’s recent discipline? Freedom comes as we learn and grow in His loving, refining hands.

NLT 365-day reading plan passage for today: Exodus 40:1-38