STUDIES IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
“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? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 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? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness. 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 12:7-11 NASB)
If you had the choice of having a father who disciplined you in a firm and loving way or a father who didn’t discipline you at all, which would you choose? For those who have had the former kind of disciplinarian, the answer is easy. When we look back upon our early lives and see how our fathers helped us grow up as children of God through their training, we respect them and thank the Lord for them.
As believers, we recognize that we needed discipline because of our inherently rebellious nature. Without caring discipline, we would be like an un-weeded garden. If you have ever tried raising vegetables in that neglectful manner, you know that such gardens are not very productive.
While we were going through those “weeding” years, we weren’t very happy when discipline was meted out. But over time, the careful rearing we received from our parents bore the fruit of Christian maturity in our lives.
We understand that our fathers’ discipline wasn’t always perfect. This is due to the simple fact that they were sinners like us. But we forgave them, just as we forgive others who have wronged us.
While we had imperfect fathers who tried their best to raise us, thankfully we all have a heavenly Father Who is perfectly loving, patient, merciful, gracious, wise, and good in disciplining us. Above all, He is a forgiving Father Who does not disown us for our waywardness, but pardons us for all our transgressions through our Savior Jesus Christ.
In His governance of our lives, He has used various afflictions and hardships to bless us with His correction and training. His disciplinary measures may have included problems with our health, interpersonal troubles, subjection to economic challenges or natural disasters, or similar trials.
None of God’s discipline is easy to undergo or pleasant to experience. Instead, it can be very painful and grievous.
However, we have learned from God’s Word that everything works together for our good (Romans 8:28). And the great good that comes from God’s discipline is the blessed fruit of growth in Christian faith, hope, and love. Through His gracious Word of life and salvation in Christ Jesus, our Father in heaven helps us to be transformed in the spirit of our minds so that we become more Christ-like, growing in righteousness and true holiness (see Ephesians 4:22-24 and Romans 12:2).
Knowing all this about God’s loving discipline, with His help we submit to and patiently endure it.
Praise be to God for making us part of His eternal family, and for His loving discipline!
Mark Gullerud is pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Bowdle, South Dakota, and Zion Lutheran Church in Ipswich, South Dakota.