“People who accept discipline are on the pathway to life, but those who ignore correction will go astray.”
– Proverbs 10:17
What comes to your mind when you hear the word?
Maybe it’s the snap of a smelting stick of the sort used on Harry Potter by his cousin Dudley in the eponymous book series . Maybe it’s the time-out corner you spent way too many minutes in as a five-year-old; or perhaps you’re thinking of that time when you were banned from field trips for the rest of high school because you trespassed on private lakefront property during a school walk-a-thon (ask me about it).
Or maybe, you’re thinking of the word’s second meaning: “activity, exercise, or a regimen that develops or improves a skill; training.” –Dictionary.com The discipline of exercising, for instance (Jesus give me the strength to go on a run today), the discipline of getting out of bed on time, or one of the many spiritual disciplines that help Christ followers in our relationship with God.
But what if the two definitions are not as separated from each other as they appear? No one likes punishment; which is the thing suggested by the first examples of “discipline.” However most people will agree that exercise, timeliness, and reading one’s Bible or praying, the things suggested by it’s second meaning, are all beneficial, positive things, even if they are hard.
I want to suggest to you that the first meaning of discipline, doesn’t mean punishment as we tend to think of it. Punishment suggests “payback” or a “penalty.”
God has no intention of “paying you back” you for your sin if you have received the person of Jesus and His sacrifice into your heart. All His punishment for you has already been poured out on His very own son on the cross.
For those of us who are in Christ, however, He has every intention of disciplining us. Hebrews 12:6 and 11 says, “For the Lord disciplines those He loves and He punishes each one He accepts as His child…11 No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.”
As children of God, we should expect discipline from Him. Why? Because He loves us. What if the things that we looked at as “punishment” in the past are actually a “privilege” in Christ to prepare us for our future? Just as we do hard things like go to the gym or memorize scripture to make us healthier and happier in our bodies and minds, what if discipline that comes from The Lord is also intended for our benefit and blessing?
As children, we receive discipline from our parents. Their discipline is imperfect but still, when done with good intentions, it is for our benefit.
When we receive Christ, as children or as adults, God becomes our Father and we become subject to perfect discipline from Him.
What does this look like in the life of a believer? After you give your life to Christ, it will not take long to recognize. Often times, in fact, God’s discipline comes to us in the natural consequences of our own sin.
For instance, this week I am in Seattle for a friend’s wedding and to spend time with family. With all my friends in town for the wedding, I spent excess money I knew I shouldn’t have on new clothes, eating out, and entertainment. I was planning on taking a trip down to Portland to see another friend this week, but when I woke up this morning and got my bank statement, I realized that would probably not be possible.
In that moment I heard The Lord whisper to me, “You have a choice here, Molly, you can either keep spending and go even though you will put yourself in a worse financial situation, or you can receive my discipline and accept missing this trip as a consequence. Those who accept my discipline are wise.”
Believe me, the last thing I wanted to do was text my friend Holly and tell her that because of my own poor choices, I couldn’t come see her in Portland. But I knew that it would take that sort of disappointment and blow to my ego for me to really take seriously the area of my finances and submit to the Lord’s plan for me there. So I humbled myself and texted her. I received The Lord’s discipline.
Yes, it’s really painful right now. Yes, I wish I were going to Portland, and even beyond that, I wish I didn’t have to admit to all of you for the sake of this blog post my own shortcomings. But I know that the only way to freedom is humility and surrender. The Lord cannot lead you where you are unwilling to humble yourself and go.
If you are in Christ today, friend–I challenge you to look for and receive the Lord’s discipline. He loves you and it is always for your best.
If you feel that you haven’t received Christ, or haven’t received discipline from The Lord, I challenge you to read Pastor Steven’s blog post on discipline, and if you want to give your life to Christ, follow Pastor Steven’s prayer here.