When it comes to God’s character and qualities, it is this subject that I probably fall short in my ability to put into words to explain to others and that is the subject of God’s discipline.
Let’s establish that we all have our own idea of what the word discipline means. For some, immediately you are taken back to your childhood when a switch would be cut off of the crab apple tree to be used by a parent or grandparent to administer punishment for your disobedience. Perhaps some of you equate discipline with harsh words, the withholding of compassion and love by the person administering the discipline. Our experiences in this world have a lot to do with how we view discipline and how we receive it and respond to it today.
With that in mind, let’s examine three categories of discipline and why the discipline of God comes to us.
First, God disciplines to correct me. The idea of God’s correction has led to many viewing God as a wrathful God, who watches our every move just waiting to punish us for our sin. Others can’t see this side of God at all, that He would willfully allow us to suffer the consequences of our choices or the choices of others.
When it comes to God’s discipline for the believer, Old Testament Scholar Theodore Laetsch put it this way: God’s plans concerning His people are always thoughts of good, of blessing, When he is obliged to use the rod, it is the rod not of wrath, but the Father’s rod of chastisement for their temporal and eternal welfare. There is not a single item of evil in His plans for his people.
A great example of this is found is Psalm 89:33-34. God is speaking of his love for David, King David: “If his sons forsake my law and do not follow my statutes, if they violate my decrees and fail to keep my commands, I will punish their sin with the rod, their iniquity with flogging. (Psalm 89:30-32)(NIV) Sounds pretty wrathful if you stop there. But Vs 33 completes God’s statement: “But I will not take my love from him, nor will I ever betray my faithfulness. I will not violate my covenant or alter what my lips have uttered.” (Psalm 89:33-34)(NIV)
Second, God disciplines to protect me. Many times God’s discipline isn’t in response to sin, but to protect us from it. Remember, the consequence of sin is death. The consequence of discomfort, even pain isn’t.
It’s taken me many years to accept the reality that I am never going to be completely comfortable in my own skin as a leader. I’m always going to feel as though I fall short, that there is someone better suited for the job, and that I could be replaced at a moment’s notice. Now, you may see that as low self-esteem, or a weakness that shouldn’t exist in a leader, but I have come to realize that this puts me right along-side of every successful man that God has chosen to lead. Moses, Joshua, Gideon, Even the apostle Paul.
In 2 Corinthians Chapter 12, Paul was given the opportunity to stand before people of every social standing. From Kings and governors to every-day people like you and me. But in verse 7 he reveals this about himself and God’s discipline to protect him. “To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surprisingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. That is why for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians Chapter 12:7-10)(NIV)
Third, God disciplines to grow me. The goal of discipline is to help us grow into a mature adult. Discipline is necessary for us to realize that sin is not only dishonoring to God, but it is harmful to us.
Discipline is necessary to prepare us for the complicated decisions that come as we mature. Any parent who chooses to not discipline his child is saying that they love that child less. And to ask God to do anything less in disciplining us is to ask Him to love us less, to leave us infected with sin that will not only defile our earthly lives, but destroy us eternally.
Three ways, three reasons, God chooses in love to discipline us. It is to correct, protect and grow us.
Perhaps the question we should be asking instead of “why does God discipline me?”, should be “why isn’t he disciplining me?”. The writer of Hebrews makes it clear that Discipline is a sign of God’s love and that the lack of discipline means that God does not count you as His.
Job, in the old testament, who suffered more than any human being can ever suffer said “Happy, Blessed, is the man whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty.” Why is he happy, why is he blessed? Because he recognizes that He is God’s child. Hebrews 12:7 “God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his Father?” God’s correction, his protection, is something we should embrace and want to find in our lives because it is God’s way of saying “You belong to Me and I love you!” The willingness to administer pain to prevent a greater harm is a mark of true love.
One last thing, and perhaps the most important in our study today of God’s Character and his love for us in the form of discipline is our response, our reaction to this aspect of God.
Hebrews chapter 12 verse 5 says: “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you….”
The writer of Hebrews uses an analogy from everyday life to illustrate how we should respond to God’s discipline. He draws our attention to our earthly fathers and he says in verse 9-10: that even with all the best intentions, good human father’s make mistakes. They under-discipline, they over discipline, they fail to discipline at all, or discipline from the wrong motives, in the wrong way at the wrong times. But the discipline of God never misses the mark. It is perfect in its timing, its application, and its intensity. He always disciplines in fairness and firmness to achieve His perfect purposes. And what is that purpose? He knows that our time on earth is but a drop in the vast sea of eternity. So, eternity is where he directs His attention. God designed us for heaven and eternal fellowship with Him and He is determined for us to experience eternity with Him. Verse 10 “that we may share in his Holiness”.
I hope you take to heart what we’ve shared today and be present this Saturday at 5:30 or Sunday at 10:30 as we explore deeper our response to God’s discipline and love. You will be encouraged!