No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
Hebrews 12:11 (NIV)
Read: Hebrews 12:4-13
Consider: What does today’s reading from Hebrews 12 conjure up in your mind? When it talks about discipline, does it take you back to your childhood when a parent would discipline you when you were naughty? Perhaps it takes you back to school when you were disciplined by a teacher (or headteacher) for doing something you shouldn’t. You may even have been disciplined unjustly by a frustrated parent or teacher. Whatever your memories, we would all agree with the writer of Hebrews when he says: No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful (Hebrews 12:11a). Growing up, the expectation is that we would be less subject to the discipline of others. However, when working there could be times when we have received discipline from an employer, particularly if we weren’t working as conscientiously as we should have been.
Discipline in the Christian life is unlike the discipline meted out by people, principally as it comes from God. Is it any less painful? Of course not! It might not involve physical discomfort, but it certainly can make you very uncomfortable in your spirit. Most of us do not associate discipline with encouragement, but that is exactly God’s purpose in disciplining us. This is what is said in Hebrews 12:5-6 – And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says, ‘My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.’ It is because we are God’s children that he disciplines us.
Later in today’s reading it says this: ‘… God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness (12:10b). God’s discipline is never out of frustration or spite, it is always because he love us. As his children he wants the best for us and he will discipline us when he sees us going astray. As God wants us to share in his holiness (to become more like him and more Christlike) his discipline is designed to increase desirable traits in our character and to lessen undesirable ones.
This brings us to our reaction to discipline. If, as a child, you reacted badly and resentfully to discipline, it could be that you have taken those traits into adulthood. It might even be that as an adult you have developed a ‘no-one can tell me what to do’ attitude. If so, you can be sure that God would not want you to display these feelings when he disciplines you. Each of us needs to remember that when God disciplines us he is not seeking to hurt us, but is seeking to develop righteousness and holiness in us.
God’s discipline can seem to be very unpleasant and painful. However, Hebrews 12:11 reminds us of two things. Firstly, that the discipline is a training to produce something in us that God desires. Secondly, that the purpose of the discipline from God’s perspective is not the unpleasantness and the pain, but the ‘… harvest of righteousness …’ and ‘… peace …’
Pray: Father, may we never resent it when you discipline us, but rather to praise you for doing something in our lives to develop desirable traits and attitudes. Forgive us if we ever react badly to your discipline. Mould our character and develop righteousness and holiness in us, so that we become more Christlike.
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