What do you think of when you hear the word, “discipline”? Some people read it with a negative connotation. Others read it with a positive connotation. The Oxford Dictionary defines it as, “the practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behavior, using punishment to correct disobedience“. Discipline has it’s roots in Latin and is defined as, “instruction given, teaching, learning, knowledge“. Used as a verb, it means, “to correct, chastise, punish“. Based on the definition and etymology of the word, discipline is portrayed as positive. It is necessary. God deals with the subject of discipline all throughout His Holy Word. In this article, we are going to focus on one passage, Hebrews 12.
I. God’s Discipline
God disciplines His people for their own good. God uses His own example of dealing with discipline to encourage His followers.
For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:3)
Jesus, when He experienced difficult times, He endured them for our sake. He set the example for us to follow.
5 and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, “MY SON, DO NOT REGARD LIGHTLY THE DISCIPLINE OF THE LORD, NOR FAINT WHEN YOU ARE REPROVED BY HIM.
6 FOR THOSE WHOM THE LORD LOVES HE DISCIPLINES, AND HE SCOURGES EVERY SON WHOM HE RECEIVES.” (Hebrews 12)
God disciplines His followers because He loves them. Discipline is for our own good. His first goal in disciplining us is to exhort us. The word exhortation has a three-fold meaning. It means to rebuke. The word rebuke is not a word that we use in our daily conversation. It means to show a person where he or she is wrong. God uses discipline to show us where we are wrong in our attitude, actions, and words. To exhort also means to correct. God does not simply show us where we are wrong and then leave us on our own to correct the problem. He is involved in the correction process. Finally, to exhort means to encourage now that correction has taken place. All three of these are necessary. If He only rebuked, we would be demoralized. If He only encouraged then we would continue on in the wrong direction. We need to be shown where we are wrong, corrected, and then encouraged as we walk the right path. Part of the process of discipline is to scourge. Again, this is a word that creates negative connotations in our minds. In the original Koine (common) Greek language, the word that is translated as “scourge” actually means, “to shape, to form, or to mold“. God uses discipline to shape our character, our attitude, actions, and words, to the character of Jesus Christ. (see Romans 8:28-29) Discipline is good for us. It is a necessity for a follower of Jesus Christ. It is a process that continues all the days of our life from the moment that we surrender to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. (Hebrews 12:11)
Discipline is not necessarily fun or enjoyable, but, it is very much needed because it is God’s training process to make us more like Jesus Christ. If you have ever gone to the gym to exercise, you understand discipline. When you start, your resistance is low and the next day, everything hurts. The solution is to continue exercising through the soreness and it eventually goes away. As you continue, your resistance grows little by little. This is the same process that God uses in our spiritual lives. It becomes a habit and then we don’t feel right without it. God has an end goal in mind when disciplining us. He wants to shape our character to the character of Jesus Christ. Have you surrendered to this process? What keeps you from surrendering?
II. My Response
How you respond to discipline makes all the difference.
5 and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, “MY SON, DO NOT REGARD LIGHTLY THE DISCIPLINE OF THE LORD, NOR FAINT WHEN YOU ARE REPROVED BY HIM. (Hebrews 12)
7 It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline?
The first response that God addresses is our natural tendency to ignore God’s discipline. When God shows you where you are wrong, you can either listen to Him and surrender to His diagnosis or, you can listen to Him and then ignore what He says. Many people respond this way because it is our natural tendency. That is why God has to command us not to regard lightly His discipline. That literally means do not ignore His discipline. When you surrender to God’s diagnosis, the next step is the correction stage. If you ignore His discipline, then correction will not take place and you will continue going the wrong way. The second natural response to God’s discipline is to faint. In our modern vernacular, this means do not become a drama queen. Have you ever seen someone become a drama queen when corrected? “Oh, you are so mean, why are you pointing out my faults?” Drama queens get upset and angry, even though discipline is done to help. God has to command us not to be drama queens because that is our natural response. Instead, like Jesus, surrender to the process and endure it. The result will be very, very positive.
Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? (Hebrews 12:9)
The final response that we encounter in this passage is respect. When we understand the goal of spiritual discipline, it makes it much easier for us to respect the Lord in what He is doing. The answer is surrender because that surrender will produce obedience. How do you respond to God’s discipline? Do you ignore it? Do you become a drama queen? Or, do you surrender?
The results of the Lord’s discipline are beautiful.
10 For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness.
11 All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. (Hebrews 12)
When viewed correctly, the Lord’s discipline leads us to holiness. Holiness means to be different. God wants us to be different from the world around us. The world around us is running away from Him. Holiness is us running toward God. The second result is peace. We have peace with God and peace with the people around us, even if the circumstances around us are bad. The third result is righteousness. The root of the word righteousness is right, or straight. It is the opposite of the word sin. Sin means be crooked or bent in the wrong direction. That is our natural state because of our sin nature. When we surrender to the Lord’s discipline, He uses it to straighten us out.
28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; (Romans 8)
God uses discipline to conform us to the image of Jesus Christ. That means that our attitude, actions, and words conform to the attitude, actions, and words of Jesus Christ. It’s a life-long process. Are you on this journey?