Have you experienced the discipline of the Lord? If not, you should worry.
God's discipline is His firm fatherly hand, allowing us to experience painful consequences for our sinful actions and choices. He brings suffering, difficulty, frustration, emptiness into our lives in order to sober us up out of our sin-induced stupor. He frustrates our sinful plans, He doesn't allow us to be satisfied with our sinful substitutes, He brings pain as a teacher. CS Lewis has said of pain, "it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world." He shouts into our hard hearts, "Turn around! This is the wrong way!" drawing us to repentance and life.
But why should you worry if you're not experiencing discipline? Because God's fatherly discipline is a key evidence that you are truly born again, and a child of God. If there is no discipline in your life, if there is no restraint that God is bringing against your sin, that's an evidence that God has given you OVER to your sin. Paul speaks of this in Romans 1, about God's passive wrath; basically God allows you to live however you want, careening along the well-worn path to Hell. Hebrews 12:8 says "If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons." You should be VERY scared if you do not see God’s hand of loving fatherly discipline in your life in response to your sin against Him. If you are sinning with no consequence, no fear, no conviction of guilt, then this is a dangerous sign that you are not a son of God. He is allowing you to just wallow in your sin and let it consume you from the inside. That’s scary.
So WHY does God discipline us? What is the purpose and fruit? Hebrews 12:11 says we get a harvest of righteousness and peace. Hebrews 12:10 says God does this "for our good, that we may share his holiness." Holiness: Being set apart from the corrupted filthy sin-sick world, we become weaned off of our sin, and this is one of the best things in the world! And we desperately need this holiness, as it says a few verses later in Hebrews 12:14, "Strive...for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord." Do you want to see the Lord? Do you want to be in His presence? Do you want to go to heaven when you die? Then you MUST be holy. It is the holy ones that come to heaven (Psalm 24:3-4) and the pure in heart that see God (Matthew 5:8).
Holiness is necessary, and discipline is the means to attain it.
But discipline seems too HARD, it seems as though God hates us, has forgotten us, has abandoned us. Is this true? When Christians experience suffering and hardship, is this God forgetting us? Is He too busy? Far from it! God brings discipline because of His great LOVE for His children. Hebrews 12:5-6 quotes from Proverbs 3:11-12, "My son, do not despise the Lord's discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights." So His discipline comes from LOVE! Jesus Himself says in Revelation 3:19, "Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent." Discipline flows from God's love for us!
So how do we apply this? How does it change our mindset, our prayers, and our lives? Three applications to consider:
- Reinterpret Discipline: Be grateful, not bitter. Be glad, not sad. See the purpose behind it, don't lament how meaningless your suffering is. Use it to remind yourself of God's character and God's priorities. Holiness is vitally necessary, and He loves you. Be encouraged!
- Pray for Discipline: Ask for God to bring discipline into your life, like a child who DESIRES the boundaries and the discipline because she knows that it reflects the loving heart of her father to protect her. Pray for His discipline, press into it, ask him to grow and stretch you and chastise you for your rebellion and disobedience. Ask Him to help you see your sin, convict you of it, so that you would grow in holiness. It is worth it in the end! The peace that comes from mature righteousness is worth the pain of discipline! Scripture is replete with examples of those who have come to love discipline:
- Psalm 141:5, "Let a righteous man strike me—it is a kindness; let him rebuke me—it is oil for my head; let my head not refuse it. Yet my prayer is continually against their evil deeds."
- Ecclesiastes 7:5, "It is better for a man to hear the rebuke of the wise than to hear the song of fools."
- Proverbs 9:8, "Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you."
- Encourage Others: We all get weary in the fight against sin, especially when we're stubborn and God has to increase the heat of discipline to get our attention. That's why the author of Hebrews ends with this encouragement in verse 12, "Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed." Who do you know who is suffering and experiencing God's discipline? Give them the Hebrews 12 perspective. Encourage them. Help them to see God's love and care, His purposes of making them holy. Give them joy!
Praying for discipline,
The Relentless Fight