I don't know about you, but I have some experience with discipline. I've experienced it as a child. I've doled it out as a parent. I've had it administered to me in correct ways and in incorrect ways and must admit that I've dished it out both properly and improperly. I've been on the receiving end of it from family, friends and from administrations of higher learning. I've been a part of churches that have used it to restore straying sheep to the fold. Discipline is not an unfamiliar thing to me.
These verses talk to us about the discipline that God pours out upon His precious and prized children. His discipline is perfect - it is without sin or selfishness, without angst or anger, and without retribution or revenge. God disciplines His children with a purpose and that purpose is "that we might share in His holiness."
Several important things regarding God's discipline are pointed out in these 8 verses.
Certainly, many of us have suffered much but we most certainly could have and honestly deserve to suffer more! Christ deserved NONE of what he endured and yet He took it upon Himself for our sakes. Christ took our spanking! In the garden his sweat turned to drops of blood from the sheer weight of the trial He was facing for us. There was nothing pleasant about what He bore for us and His prayer at Gethsemene illustrates that truth clearly.
Now, I'm not suggesting a false smile nor a "oh it's no big deal" attitude regarding our sufferings. However, while we should be honest about our circumstances we also need to keep them in an eternal perspective and fix our eyes on the Author and Perfector of our faith that we might not grumble and complain under His rod. We need not "magnify our afflictions but note the mercy of God in them" (Henry). The next few verses will begin to amplify just how great the mercy of God's discpline is.
2. God's discipine is not to be despised. "My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the LORD, nor faint when you are reproved by Him; for those whom the LORD loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives."
Our natural tendancy is to wiggle and squirm and attempt to wrestle our way out of the disciplining arms of our Father. We don't like to be corrected. No one likes a reproof much less the rod that often accompanies it. Yet, we are told not to despise the discipline of our Lord.
Matthew Henry reminds us that "they are divine chastisements from our heavenly Father. He has His hand in them all; of this He has given us due notice, and we should not forget it." Henry goes on to say, "Those afflictions which may be truly persecution as far as men are concerned are actually Fatherly rebukes and chastisements as far as God is concerened. Men persecute us because we are religious; God chastises us because we are not more so." Wow!!
He continues, "God has directed His people how they ought to behave themselves under all their afflictions. they must not despise the chastening of the Lord. Those who make light of affliction make light of God and make light of sin. They must not faint when they are rebuked."
I suppose the question is am I wiggling like a 2 year old trying to escape the chastising grip of God or am I resting in His divine sovereignty, great compassion, and perfect wisdom to dole out to me what He deems best for me?
3. God's discipline is a mark of sonship! "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 discpline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitmate 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?"
Verses 5-9 go into great detail regarding the fact that fathers who truly love their children discipline them in order to see them grow into mature, wise, and righteous adults. The book of Proverbs tells us "He who spares the rod hates his son." A child left to himself will digress, daily, into more and more of a sinful creature. I don't have to teach my children to be selfish but I must train and teach them to be selfless. I don't have to schedule lessons to teach them how to lie but must work diligently to see them formed into truth tellers. There is no need for me to sign them up for a class on "how to grumble and complain" but there is much need to direct their little hearts and minds toward the biblical principles of contentment and thankfulness. I love my kids, therefore I discipline them - with purpose - to see them conformed more and more to the image of our heavenly Father.
So it is with God.
Mr. Henry's words are poignant. "Afflictions, though they may be the fruits of God's displeasure, are yet the proofs of His paternal love to His people and of His care for them. The best of God's children have their faults and follies, which need to be corrected. He will correct sin in His own children; they are of His family. In this He acts as becomes a father; no wise and good father will wink at faults in his own children as he would in others. to be suffered to go on in sin without a rebuke is a sad sign of allienation from God; such are bastards, not sons. They are the spurious offspring of another father, not of God."
The next time you find yourself facing God's discipline remind yourself that it is a precious privilege reserved for His adopted children. It is a sign of your sonship and it comes to you in holy love!
4. God's Fatherly discipline comes to us with the purpose of making us holy! "But He disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness."
God is not frivolous in his dealings with his children. He uses His rod to drive the folly and sin out of our hearts and lives. It is as the refiner's fire which is used to burn off the worthless and degrading dross. Discipline heeded makes us even more precious because it makes us more like our Father. In your experiences with heavenly discipline have you submitted to and learned from your Father? Are you reflecting His holiness or your bitterness? Are you more beautiful because you look more like Him or are you stained and scarred because you've loved your sin more than your Savior? Child of God, if you've not learned your lesson yet then know that He will not cease in His holy and loving discipline of you until you do.
5. God's Fatherly discipline hurts. "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."
I'm not going to candy coat it - there's nothing pleasant about the rod! It hurts! It's painful! It is distressing! The apostle doesn't pretend that it isn't. He shoots straight with us and that's important. "Afflictions are not grateful to the senses, but grievous." We need to recognize that and acknowledge the truth of the fact, otherwise we'll be caught off guard and "tank" in the midst of the pain!
We need to know that discipline is uncomfortable. We also need to know that the discomfort will bring forth a peaceful fruit. I've birthed 2 children. My labor with Joshua was 63 hours long. (That is not a typo - yes, I said 63 hours.) It was painful, it hurt, it wore me out - but the fruit was a beautiful baby boy whom I love with all my heart. In the same sense, the sorrow of discipline - if we will by grace be trained by it - will yield the "peaceful fruit of righteousness."
Friends, how do you view discipline? Do you have your eyes fixed on your own sufferings rather than on the suffering Christ endured for you? Do you despise it or are you willing to embrace it for what it is - a sign of your sonship, a means to partaking of God's holiness, the seed of the fruit of peaceful righteousness? Do you trust your Daddy? That really is the bottom line - do I trust my heavenly Father to know best what I need most?