Yesterday was the 9th anniversary of the passing of my Dad. He was a great father, and I could tell he always “had my back”. As a sergeant in the army during World War II, he was a disciplined man and expected his children to be disciplined as well.
Although I do remember getting “belted” once or twice, my dad’s primary form of discipline was a lecture, ever so often a tirade, sometimes a restriction, and even an occasional confiscation. I still remember the time he threw out all of my “Superman” comic books because I had neglected to pick them up out of the car as he had asked. I was broken -hearted and so upset I even threatened to sue him (which didn’t work as it was 1962 and I was only 9 – stuff like that just didn’t fly back then).
Whatever method he used, he used it for one reason – he wanted me to grow up. He wanted me to break out of the skin of my self-centered world and begin to think about others. Dad wanted me to realize there was evil in the world and I had to wise up before I became its victim. He wanted me to learn to control my desires, curb my passions, and comprehend life’s higher purposes.
It is not a wonder that, when a very wise man named Solomon was trying to describe how God deals with His children, he said this:
My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor detest Hos correction; for who, the Lord loves He corrects, just as a Father the son in whom he delights. Proverbs 3:11,12
Receiving correction, especially if it is accompanied by some kind of sanction (a ticket, a “letter of discussion”, a fine, losing comic books, etc.), can really be discouraging. It is especially discouraging when you felt like you had already done your best. When God, who is loving and kind, sends His “spankings” it can really be distressing. After all, we have been “good”. We did our best. We have kept our nose clean, paid our tithes and went to church yet bad things – sometimes really horrible things – come charging into our lives.
Around nine hundred years after Solomon another man, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, took this same proverb and opened it up when he was writing to a group of people who had lost a lot (some had lost everything) because they had decided to follow Jesus. He did not want them to be discouraged. He did not want them to quit. So he penned these words:
For consider Him [Jesus] who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin. And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: “My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; for whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.”
If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Hebrews 12:3 – 11
When God allows evil things to enter our world, there are some things we need to remember. First – He allows this because we are His children. It is an evidence of son-ship. In some ways our suffering is our birth certificate….a proof of His paternity.
Second, God always has a purpose for allowing that suffering to enter our lives. One purpose is to help us to “come into subjection” to His will. Just like my dad wanted me to learn obedience God wants me to learn to obey Him, to stay within His boundaries, and to follow closely in his steps. In fact the Bible tells us that even Jesus learned obedience through the things He suffered ( Hebrews 5:8)!
Third, the overall purpose of God’s discipline is to build His holiness into us. You see, God doesn’t just discipline us to teach us obedience. He also disciplines us so we can run to Him in our weak, flawed estate. Finally liberated from our arrogant self-righteousness we are free to drink from the well of HIS holiness instead of the muddied spring of our own “goodness”. This produces the calm, peaceful fruit of real righteousness in our life.
Like a good father, our Heavenly Father sends His divine disciplines to break us out of our selfishness, to wake us up to the evil around us, to motivate us to control our desires, curb our passions and to become wise, “understanding what the will of the Lord is”. Although painful, even traumatic, at the time of their arrival, they eventually produce in us a deeper peace, a stronger faith, and a stronger confidence in His providence if we receive them as from His hands.