Discipline, when I was a child, had quite a bad press. There was an acknowledgement that it was a necessary evil. A teacher for example needed to have ‘good discipline’ in order to teach a classroom full of children who did not always see the point of learning. Being known as ‘a disciplinarian’, however, was not always a compliment. It had broad associations with staying in control, and worse, of being ‘controlling’.
The idea of being ‘controlling’ always carries with it the notion that negative emotions, like guilt and fear, will be used to achieve the goal and keep people ‘in line’ – which is in itself a military concept. How different then from our Heavenly Father’s heart, who ‘disciplines those He loves’, Hebrews 12:6.
Somehow in our warped world, discipline and love have been separated. Teaching a child ‘’no you can’t do that’ has somehow become a negative that shouldn’t be part of the parenting vocabulary. The love and kindness involved in setting good boundaries has been confused with being controlling, and so often children grow up all at sea, unable to understand why they are not allowed all the freedom they want, even if it is at their own or someone else’s’ expense.
True discipline, (the word coming from the same root as disciple), is about learning, growing and maturing. And so if we are Jesus’ disciples then we can reckon on there being some discipline involved from the Almighty, who is also our loving Heavenly Father. The point is that even though we are totally accepted by Him, and adopted into His family by grace, (see blogs 225,226,228) He loves us too much to leave us as we are, and He will work through every possible means to change us to be more like his Son Jesus.
Our Heavenly Father has purposed that we will be changed into Jesus’ likeness, Jesus is ever living to intercede for us, Hebrews 7:25, and the Holy Spirit is constantly working in our lives to help, teach, train and guide us. So being disciplined by God is not like being sent to the headmaster’s office. It is part of walking with the Trinity and accepting His wisdom, training and correction as we go, as the disciples did with Jesus
We can see this in how Jesus was with the disciples. Quite often when they had overstepped the mark in some way He just sat them down, or took them aside, and taught them a better way. We can read a couple of examples of this in Luke 10:46-55 and also John 12:4-7. He was constantly correcting and training them as they walked with Him daily, and He will do the same for us. Sometimes it’s about taking those moments and turning to Him with honesty in our hearts saying, ‘I didn’t do that very well Lord, how could I have done that differently?’ Staying in an attitude of gratefulness for His correction keeps us open and sensitive to His prompting and leading.
If that sounds a little too idealistic, then the writer to the Hebrews paints a more realistic picture about how difficult it can be to receive discipline or correction. I don’t think any of us like having our faults and failings pointed out to us, and he goes further saying that, ‘no discipline feels pleasant at the time but painful’, but he adds ‘Later on however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it’, Hebrews 12:11.
Now this passage is written to the Hebrew Christians who were having a hard time and so he is encouraging them to let God use those hardships in order to discipline them. We all know that when life is hard some of our weaknesses surface quite uncomfortably, and they are on display for all to see. It’s at those times that, as James suggests, we should consider facing these trials as ‘pure joy’, James 1:3 because God is going to work some very good things into our character through them.
If we can keep a heart of thanksgiving that our God always disciplines us for our good, then I believe we will find that ‘being corrected’ can even be a source of joy. God does not always have to use hardship, to teach and train. There is the joy of reading God’s word and letting it ‘train us’, see 2 Timothy 3:16. There is the joy of letting the Holy Spirit speak to us about better ways to handle different situations and our own attitudes. And then there is the joy of finding the Lord’s presence in our times of hardship and challenge, loving us and maturing us, so that we become more and more like Jesus in word and deed.
We can just be so thankful that we have a good and wise Heavenly Father who will do all this for us out of His great love.