God’s discipline at work
When was the last time you asked God to discipline you? As human beings, we are by nature “pain averse”. We quickly ask God to remove anything we feel is uncomfortable or unpleasant. This includes times when He chooses to discipline us. This week we conclude our study in Bible Basics with the letter D: God’s Discipline. The writer of Hebrews shares how God uses discipline to strengthen us and to facilitate our spiritual growth and development.
God’s correction through our experiences
At the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, I shared with you a chart of potential responses and the challenges COVID-19 presented. Since that time we have new hills to climb. Tension erupts as racial tension explodes into both peaceful demonstrations and destructive rioting.
People have asked me if these events are God’s way of getting our attention. They ask, “Is God disciplining us as a nation?” While I don’t know the mind of God (1 Cor. 2:16), I do know that there is a natural consequence for sin (Rom. 6:23). Could that be what we are currently experiencing?
What I do know is that the biblical record shows that God will use events and circumstance to help accomplish His will. God also allows circumstances in our life that conform us to the image of Christ. Problems and difficulties tend to bring us closer to God and in position to hear His voice. That’s why it is important to be intentional in prayer and reading God’s Word (Gal. 3:24) especially during difficult and challenging times (Phil. 4:6-13).
Selfishness and social injustice has existed since the beginning of mankind (Leviticus 19:15; Prov. 17:15). These are not God’s doing. However, God will use every opportunity to help us understand that He is still God and the Sustainer of life—even life lived disobediently.
What is biblical discipline?
In the New Testament, discipline (chastisement) is defined as training in proper conduct for the purpose of better behavior. In the Old Testament, the word carries a similar meaning with greater emphasis on correction and is viewed as a “blessing from God” (Ps. 94:12-13; Deut. 8:5).
How do we feel about discipline?
Our opinion of discipline, either positive or negative, has been greatly influenced by how we received discipline as a child. It began with our relationship with our parents and then transitioned into our school experiences. Even today, our early encounters with discipline can impact our receptivity to (or rejection of) feedback from our employer. However, God’s discipline is very different.
In Hebrews 12:11, the author shares our general feeling about discipline: No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. However, when viewed from a spiritual perspective (with God as our Disciplinarian) we can consider a different viewpoint: Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
So why do we need God’s discipline?
- It is a sign of God’s love and the believer’s sonship. As believers, we need to understand that we are children and heirs of God (Rom. 8:16-17). While we quickly embrace this relationship when asking for God’s blessings and protection, we must also be respectful and accepting when God administers spiritual discipline. We protect and correct those we love—so does God! “For the LORD corrects those he loves, just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights” (Prov. 3:12).
- It is designed to both correct and prevent sin in the life of the believer. Just as an earthly father corrects his child, our omniscient Father sees influences or behaviors in our lives that may cause physical and/or spiritual harm. Therefore, He will exercise spiritual discipline (Jer. 24:5-7; 2 Cor. 12:7-9) to protect us. To reap the full benefit of His chastisement, we must be willing to be “exercised by it” (gymnazo)—to learn from the discipline experience. This will prepare us for future trials and temptations (James 1:2-4).
- It will result in repentance and submission by the believer. Spiritual discipline is not designed to harm or destroy us. It is to solicit repentance—turn away from—our sinful behavior and return us to Him (2 Cor. 7:10). During spiritual disciplining, we turn to Father God for direction and guidance who then “redirects” us in paths of righteousness (Psa. 23:3; Prov. 2:20).
What’s the spiritual benefit of discipline?
Although spiritual discipline may not be “joyous”, it is not intended as punishment for sin. Jesus Christ, as our Substitute, received on the Cross the full penalty and punishment that should have been given to each of us (Isaiah 53:5).
The aforementioned factors collectively result in “spiritual benefit” to the believer described as the “peaceable fruit of righteousness”, in other words, goodness in character.
As we move forward through COVID-19 and reconcile our differences as people, ask God to show you where He is disciplining you? What areas in your life is He melting, molding, and reshaping? How can you be “exercised” by the events of this disciplining experience?
Remember God’s discipline is a reflection of His love. Then meditate on this teaching penned by King Solomon: My child, do not despise the LORD’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the LORD reproves the one he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights. Proverbs 3:11-12 (NRS)