Nobody told me my metabolism changed, but it did.
Back in the old days, I could eat all the gorditas from Taco Bell I wanted without suffering side effects. But at some point during college (after a few belt size adjustments), I had to start accounting for all that cheese and sour cream. I realized that as you age, you have to have an increasing amount of personal discipline in order to do things like maintain your weight.
The realization was not pleasant. Neither have been the attempts at discipline.
That’s a no-brainer though. I know it. You know it. The Bible knows it:
No discipline seems enjoyable at the time, but painful (Heb. 7:11).
The context of this acknowledgment in Scripture deals not with our willingness to discipline ourselves, but rather God’s ongoing discipline of us. But just as it’s not necessarily fun to impose discipline on yourself, it’s neither particularly pleasant to experience the discipline of the Lord.
Enjoyable? No. Good? Yes. Very good, in fact:
Endure suffering as discipline: God is dealing with you as sons. For what son is there that a father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline—which all receive—then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had human fathers discipline us, and we respected them. Shouldn’t we submit even more to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time based on what seemed good to them, but he does it for our benefit, so that we can share his holiness. No discipline seems enjoyable at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
Therefore, strengthen your tired hands and weakened knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated but healed instead (Hebrews 12:7-13).
These verses give us three reasons why, though not enjoyable at the time, God’s discipline is very, very good news for you.
1. God’s discipline means He is an involved parent.
What kind of parent exercises discipline on their children? The involved parents – it’s those who know, and care, what their children are up to and who they are becoming. God’s discipline is evidence of the fact that He is intimately involved in our lives. He knows when we get up and when we lie down; when we come and when we go. He even knows the inner parts of our hearts that we ourselves might be blind to. So even though His discipline might not be pleasant, it is a sure and certain reminder that God is not some absentee Father who just shows up around Christmas to throw a gift or two your way. No – God is an active and engaged Father who actually cares enough about our lives to play an active role in shaping them.
2. God’s discipline means you are a legitimate child.
Not only does God’s discipline say something about Him and His divine parenting, it also speaks about our identity as His children. I think about this fact in light of my own children. When they have friends over to our house, I might give some general direction, but it’s not my role to discipline them. At least, it’s not my role to discipline them as I would my own kids. Why? Because they’re someone else’s children.
If God is willing to discipline us, it means that we belong to Him. We are in His family. And our place there is as legitimate as legitimate can be.
3. God’s discipline means He is shaping your character.
Finally, God’s discipline is good news because He cares about who we are becoming. He cares enough to take an active role in shaping our character into the image of Jesus. That’s really what discipline is about – it’s not about punishment; it’s much more forward-thinking than that. God disciplines us so that we might continue to grow in holiness in the future – to be the people He created us to be and enjoy Him in the way we were created to enjoy Him.
Yes, Christian, you will be disciplined by God. And yes, it probably won’t be pleasant when it happens. But in the midst of the unpleasantness is an opportunity to remind yourself that this discipline is not evidence of God’s anger, but His love. It’s not evidence of His abandonment, but His presence.