DISCIPLINE GOD’S WAY
“My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.” NIV
The concept of discipline conjures up all kinds of images—punishment, asceticism, regulation, authority, control. For many people, discipline is to be avoided at all costs. However, Solomon teaches us to welcome discipline, especially when it comes from God. Solomon’s terse statements are rich with meaning, and are intended to provide us with counsel that will enrich our lives. Accepting rebuke from the Lord and seeing God’s love in His discipline when we stray is a sign of spiritual maturity. Receiving God’s correction implies that the disciplined one is confident of God’s love and wisdom, and is willing to respond to His direction.
The Hebrew term for discipline, in this context, is sophronismos, derived from the root sophron, which means “saving the mind.” Discipline would then include the connotation of setting the mind straight, or changing one’s thinking and perspective. The word used for rebuke is elencho, meaning “to convict, refute, or reprove.” The Holy Spirit of God convicts us of our sinfulness and God’s holiness.
Mathew Henry, in his Bible commentary, refers to God’s correction and discipline as an irresistible, powerful force, giving us the capability to know how to live our lives as God intended.
The unregenerate man wants to be his own sovereign being, but without God’s guidance, which includes rebuke and discipline, he will ultimately fail. As God’s children, we need to submit to God and be willing to allow Him to guide. If we resist, then we become our own god and defy Him.
Jeremiah, the young Israeli prophet, painted a lovely picture of God’s grace in re-making Israel from a rebellious, decadent nation to a people after His own heart. The prophet described God’s sanctifying process as careful artistry in Jeremiah 18:1-7:
“This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD: ‘Go down to the potter’s house, and there I will give you my message.’ So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him. Then the word of the LORD came to me: ‘O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter does?’ declares the LORD. ‘Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.” NIV
What will the Heavenly Father’s finished product look like? Paul unveils the masterpiece that God has designed in Romans 8:28-30:
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called
according to His purpose. For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness
of His Son…” NIV
Every circumstances of life-every difficulty, every challenge, every life event is used by God to conform us to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ. If we keep our eyes upon Jesus, we can see God’s hand in discipline as loving and wise. Solomon enjoined us to not despise God’s discipline, because God delights in us. He sets His affection on us and enjoys us. Discipline is simply a means to an end—preparing us for our heavenly home.
• Can you remember a time when you were disciplined by God? What did you feel and think as you went through that process? Were you frightened, angry, confused, confident, peaceful, or trusting?
• What is your view of God? Do you see Him as a Father who loves you? Do you see Him as distant and harsh? Spend some time in prayer thanking God for His love for you. Pray through Psalm 25. Ask Him to reveal His plan for your life in specific ways.
• How will Solomon’s words help you to respond to God’s discipline in the future? Do you fear the future? Do you anticipate the future with excitement?
• If you have children, how would you describe your feelings about disciplining them? Don’t you seek to develop good character by choosing to train them and set boundaries for their lives? How do they respond? What can you learn about God as a loving Father from your own love for your children?
GOD’S PERFECT WORK
We must further examine the two verbs “despise” and “resent” in connection with our response to God’s chastening. “Despise” or “disappear” means to spurn, to throw off in contempt and “to be weary” implies to cut off or to cut short. Paul, in his letter to the Romans, outlined the process whereby God’s discipline should not be cut off or short-circuited because there is great blessing for the Christian who patiently endures God’s training:
“ We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us — they help us learn to endure. And endurance develops strength of character in us, and character strengthens our confident expectation of salvation. And this expectation will not disappoint us. For we know how dearly God loves us, because He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with His love.” Romans 5:3-5 NLT
Paul’s words give us clear-cut insights into the whole process of God’s discipline. The benefits include strength of character, hope, and God’s love filling our hearts. However, Paul goes even further. He tells us to welcome discipline. James, in his New Testament letter, tells us we do not have to face our difficulties blindly. (James 1:5) We can truly ask God to give us understanding regarding the trials we have. But the most definitive discussion of God’s discipline occurs in Hebrews 12. The writer to the Hebrews tells us we have all God’s heavenly saints encouraging us to follow God. We can endure our suffering by watching Christ’s model. God’s discipline is a sure sign that we belong to Him. God is a wise Father and never disciplines us unjustly or inappropriately. Finally, we are prepared for heaven by God’s child-training.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily hinders our progress. And let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from start to finish. He was willing to die a shameful death on the cross because of the joy He knew would be His afterward. Now He is seated in the place of highest honor beside God’s throne in heaven. Think about all He endured when sinful people did such terrible things to Him, so that you don’t become weary and give up. After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin. And have you entirely forgotten the encouraging words God spoke to you, His children? He said, ‘My child, don’t ignore it when the Lord disciplines you, and don’t be discouraged when He corrects you. For the Lord disciplines those He loves, and he punishes those He accepts as His children.” As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as His own children. Whoever heard of a child who was never disciplined? If God doesn’t discipline you as He does all of His children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really His children after all. Since we respect our earthly fathers who disciplined us, should we not all the more cheerfully submit to the discipline of our Heavenly Father and live forever? Hebrews 12:1-9 NLT
• Examine the Hebrews chapter thoroughly. How is sin described? How is our response to God described? What are some sins you need to lay aside? What are the benefits of doing so?
• What are the rewards we receive for our perseverance? How does our child-training from God bind us to His heart as our Father?
• Take a look at Jesus in this passage. What do we learn here about our Savior? List His attributes and His acts. Spend some time thanking Him for “trail-blazing” this life for us.