While teenagers growing up in the country, we had a neighbour who had a dog named Sally. We had no dog of our own, so this beautiful and very intelligent animal soon became our friend. We stopped and played briefly with her on our way to the school bus, but spent more time with her on our way home.
It seemed to us that Sally almost talked, and she amazed us with what she knew and understood. She had been impeccably trained. As a retired sheep dog, she soon settled to being just a companion for her family.
As children, we understood how she was trained to help the farmer. We found it harder to believe how she would now obey the new rules that had been taught her at home.
For instance, we knew that Sally had been trained to keep off the gardens. Did that stop us from tempting her by deliberately throwing a ball into the garden and demanding that she get it for us? No. We were guilty of stretching that dog’s obedience to the limit. To Sally’s credit, we could never get her to fetch the ball from the garden. She would race off to retrieve it; but, as soon as she reached the edge, she would skid to a stop, and whine as she looked at the ball in forbidden territory. We would coax her and even demand that she get it, but that ever-obedient dog stayed on the right side of the given boundary, while looking ever so beseechingly at us.
One day I saw Sally chasing a mouse, with great excitement and lots of barking. “Ha”, I thought, “NOW she will forget the rules! She will be so focussed on her target that the boundaries will cease to exist.” Amazingly, her training and obedience won through, and she stopped her chase when the smart mouse ran across the garden.
How did Sally become this obedient? Hours of training and loving discipline went into that part of her life. It was obvious that the dog and owner loved each other very much, to the point where Sally willingly did as she was told. She had an intense desire to please. When disciplined, her tail would hang between her legs, and a mournful look would appear on her face.
Oh that we would be so obedient to the Lord’s leading and training! Just as a dog learns to obey its master’s voice and is trained in its work, (be it as a sheepdog or guide-dog) so we must train ourselves to listen to the Lord’s voice for guidance and direction.
Discipline and training need a lot of effort and perseverance. Am I up to it? Do I love my Master enough to always want to obey Him in all that I say and do, no matter what the temptations are?
In The Message version of the Bible, 1 Timothy 4, verses 7 and 8 say, “Exercise daily in God – no spiritual flabbiness, please! Workouts in the gymnasium are useful, but a disciplined life in God is far more so, making you fit both today and forever. You can count on this.”