"But he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it."
Hebrews 12: 10b-11
I sat by my living room picture window enjoying the bright noon day sun, preparing my Bible study lesson for that evening and began to get frustrated. The moment turned the still sunny day to gray just reading about how Jesus' heart is gentle + lowly, and how he rejoices when we come to him for repentance, as we ought to. I found myself, as if not
knowing better, laughing, "So, what then? Come to me when you sin and then I discipline you?"
Have you ever thought something like the above? Has anyone ever said that maybe you aren't praying hard enough or believing hard enough because you're struggling? Do you think that if you commit a specific sin, and the next week are ill that God is disciplining you?
I grew up with theology that was fastidiously explained to me and I still fell into the trap of thinking that God is terribly spiteful and sadly, I think in some places, his discipline (and God) is presented that way. I ended up making a couple calls after the aforementioned moment, worked it out in my brain before my Bible study, and it was one of the best conversations I have ever had at a study. There is more to it than I'll go through here, but I want to get you started on the hopeful (and humbling) path that is God's perfect discipline.
God's discipline is not punishment.
Jesus Christ already bore our punishment! So, then, what is God's discipline?
Friend, it is a teacher. This is where you feel like you're in a class and I ask you to think about how you think you are taught by Christ?
Discipline is primarily through the reading of Scripture, the preaching of the Word and through the church. Some people include trials in there, but I'll get into thoughts on that in a minute.
This is why it is so very important that you care about where you attend church, because the full council of God needs to be preached to you every Sunday in order for you to experience God's discipline. It convicts us to want to do better, it causes us to fall on our knees, and humbles our spirit before him. The whole counsel of God includes some things that are difficult to hear.
Paul says, "I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God" (Acts 20:27 ESV). Paul reminds us that we need to know the entire revelation that is crucial for our lives and our knowledge of God’s truth, and therefore, we need preachers who will bring that to us in a powerful way.
God's discipline is not to be confused with painful circumstances.
We really like humanizing God. We love to relate to him in an understandable way, but unfortunately, that's not God. When difficult circumstances arise, we immediately go to that dark place of wondering why God is against us, or racking our brains for something we may have done wrong that he is punishing us for.
Write those thoughts down on a piece of paper, and burn the paper.
There are two responses you really don't want/need to hear when you are going through something that is challenging every fiber of your being.
It's a fallen world, we have to accept that terrible things happen because of that. While this is a true statement, it says nothing about God and everything about how terrible life can be.
God must be disciplining you for all the current or previous sin in your life. This statement is not a true one and therefore, is very damaging.
Here is the thing, God has created a universe that has responded to the fall of Adam and Eve. He has put laws of nature into play. He has purposed a flow to the way that our molecules and body chemicals form. He has allowed the earth's movement to go in whatever direction it creatively and sometimes sadly responds to the atmosphere. This, sometimes, can result in depression, hurricanes, cancer, hitler, sickness, car accidents and the list goes on... but it is not to be mistaken with the discipline of God.
John 9: 2-3 (ESV) says,
"And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him."
And sometimes... it's just not about us but rather, him.
Reverend Peter Puliatti said to me in our conversation concerning this, "It's all a bit more philosophical than people realize, and we must not begin to relate our circumstances to how God loves us because we will make God out to be someone he is not."
Many circumstances can be a cause from sin but is not God giving it to us as punishment for our sin. For example, if you struggle with a sin and commit that sin, and then experience a car accident the following week, that is not because of your specific sin. If you go to church that Sunday and are convicted in a powerful way, you could be experiencing the discipline (teaching) of Christ for you life. He will be glorified in and through you!
In the end, it is very different and for me, makes life seem a little better.
The discipline of God is for our good and for his glory.
When my daughter does something that needs direction, like telling a lie, we go to the Scripture. I show her where in the Bible God tells us not to lie, we discuss it and sometimes if it is something serious, she'll go to her room after that to think on it. This can't always be done when we are out, but we all have creative ways to help our children along. Direction is helpful to our children, and without it, they would all be little squirrels running around town scratching away at life.
Friends, when you walk into church and are uncomfortable or are convicted in your pew, that is for your good! That is God's perfect discipline!
Reaching above to where we were just a moment ago, sometimes in the midst of a trial you may be confronted in the Scripture or from a sermon that causes you to repent for a sin in the midst of the trial. But I think Reverend Puliatti is right, it's all a bit philosophical and in some cases we need to accept it as that.
God is sanctifying us every single day, and as God causes us to grow in holiness, God's grace is revealed in us and He is glorified.
If you ask me, discipline me O Lord! I love every minute of it and pray that as I grow in Christ, in my humility, I can be a better servant and witness of his perfect plan.