I don’t particularly enjoy discipline. In fact, I’m not sure anyone really enjoys discipline. But I’m incredibly thankful for God’s discipline in the lives of his people.
As the author of Hebrews calls his readers to endurance in the face of difficulties, he devotes a short section to the subject of discipline. He writes, “It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?” (Hebrews 12:7). His point is that the discipline of the Lord proves the legitimacy of the believer’s sonship. You know you are his because of his discipline. His discipline proves his love for you (see verses 5-6).
Initially, this idea seems odd. His discipline often appears like a surgeon’s knife. Seasons of discipline can include discomfort, brokenheartedness, loss, pain, confusion, and weeping. We naturally tend to avoid such experiences, seeing them as hindrances to our joy rather than as helps. So how can such seasons be signs of his love?
The answer, I believe, may be found in God’s purpose. The writer of Hebrews explains that “he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:10b-11). God, through discipline, sanctifies us, pruning us that we may be fruitful in his kingdom (see John 15). And because Christ has overcome the world, every trial we face may become an opportunity for rejoicing, for God causes all things to work together for our good and for his glory (see John 16:33, James 1:2-4, and Romans 8:28).
This is a beautiful truth. The LORD, the true God, is interested in the growth of his people. He who upholds the universe cares for you, dear believer (1 Peter 5:7). And while we may clearly see his love in the death of Christ for sinners (Romans 5:8), we must not forget that his discipline, according to Hebrews, reveals his love as well. He will not let you return to your old sinful ways, those paths of the dead, but will discipline you, purging you of what once held you captive that you may walk in freedom and life and light. When he takes what you would keep, when he breaks your heart, when he appears not to save you from the trial, you may rest assured that he is still working all things together for good and that nothing will separate you from his love (Romans 8:28-39). His discipline, though painful, will produce fruit.
This month, I want to make a point to thank God for his discipline. Although I very much dislike the pain of his work, I know I need him to sanctify and to reform this wayward heart. So I’m thankful that he works even when I don’t want him to work. I’m thankful he does what is best even when I can’t see or understand his ways. I’m thankful that his love and his purposes remain true in my doubts and my fears. And I’m thankful that he will finish the work he began to accomplish (Philippians 1:6).