Discipline is a tough word to discuss. It brings to mind punishment, unhappy parents, screaming children, and timeouts. Its negative connotation leaves a bad taste in many mouths, particularly children. But once we understand the Biblical importance of discipline in our lives, we can use it in our homes with our children to better not only their behavior, but their spiritual well-being also.
I find the word “discipline” one of the most important words and practices in our lives. So important, that this post is only one of three parts.
Discipline comes from the word disciple. A disciple is one who follows. Therefore, discipline is basically learning the teachings and practices of the one followed. As Christians, we follow Christ. We are his disciples, and we use discipline to train our children to follow him as well.
Notice I said discipline, not punishment.
I loath the word punishment about as much as I love discipline. It drives me crazy when I hear parents or teachers scold a child or student and say he/she will be “punished.” Because punishment is nothing more that swift retribution or revenge, usually brought upon by anger.
From a Biblical perspective, yes, God does punish; his punishment is hell. He hates sins and in his righteous and holy anger punishes those who reject him and his love. It is a final and devastating punishment. And as wretched sinners who turn our backs on our Heavenly Father time and time again, it is exactly what we deserve.
The wages of sin is death…
But in his amazing, unending mercy and grace, he spares us from that devastating punishment thanks to the blood of his Son. Not because of anything we have done; only because of Christ’s perfect life and death in our place. God will not punish those who are his children through Christ, and time and time again we can marvel at just how wide and vast the Father’s love for us is.
…But the gift of God is eternal life (Romans 6:23)
God does not and will not punish us, but he does discipline us.
The Lord disciplines those he loves. (Proverbs 3:12)
We live in a sinful world, and the affects of sin are a constant presence in our lives. Our loved ones fall ill. We lose a job, or a friendship, or a house. People die, and natural disasters ravage our homes and countries. The fact is, pain, sorrow, and discomfort are a part of our every day lives.
There is a misunderstanding in our world that the terrible things that happen to us our those around us are a punishment sent from God. Think of hurricane Katrina. I heard and read many an opinion that God was punishing the city of New Orleans for its wild and sinful behavior. It was very much an attitude of, “Look what happens when you sin. God’s going to punish you. See?”
Well yes, God does punish sin. As I stated before, the punishment of sin is eternity in hell. But to view the sinful things that happen in this world as direct act of a punishing and terrifying God isn’t correct. God does not send sin to us to punish us. That would imply that God has a close relationship with sin, or that he is the originator of sin. Nothing could be further from the truth! Natural disasters, sickness, and death happen as a result of sin, not as an intention from our perfect, almighty God.
But God sometimes does allow things to happen as a means of disciplining us. Remember, discipline is completely different from punishment. The goal of punishment is to exact retribution. The goal of discipline is to train and educate out of love. When God allows things like sickness or disaster into our lives, it not because we did something bad, rather it’s because he loves us and wants to draw us closer to him. Getting sick is a reminder that our bodies are frail and to turn to our ultimate Healer for comfort. Losing a house reminds us that material possessions, although wonderful blessings, cannot save us and we cannot put our trust in them. Losing a job is a reminder to trust our Provider for all things.
But God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. (Hebrews 12:10)
I cannot begin to understand and explain why God allows certain and very painful things, like losing a child, to happen. I cannot fully comprehend the perfect will of God. What I can say is that nothing that happens in the world is outside of the sovereignty of the Almighty. And I can promise that all things work for our good, even if we don’t know what that is yet.
And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love him; who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
Discipline is not unloving. In fact, discipline is a very strong example of love. It is not loving to allow someone to continue in a very damning sin. Our Heavenly Father loves us and wants us with him in heaven. It’s not always very pleasant, nor enjoyable, but it reaps a benefit far greater than anything we can experience here on earth.
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. (Hebrew 21:11)