Grace and Father’s Discipline

A question I was asked this morning in my email, is one I think many believers have. If you want to look over my shoulder, here it is.

I’ve been struggling with how God’s discipline fits into the grace based relationship we have with Him. I know His discipline is a sign of His favor and love towards His children and I know all that God allows into our lives will be for our good whether it’s painful or pleasant. But I still find myself afraid of His discipline. Also, I was wondering since we are “justified in His sight” how can God then still convict us of sin? And if Jesus took our punishment for us why do we still get “scourged and disciplined?” About a year ago I got into a debate with someone because I was telling them that God isn’t scary and they said “Well, what about His discipline?” I gave them an answer and yet I have been struggling with the question ever since.

This would take a few thousand words to answer completely, and I don’t think I can pull that off just now….

Suffice it to say that Father’s discipline for his children is not retribution or punishment like we often think of it. Father’s discipline is training. He doesn’t add to our pain to make a point, he tries to help us learn how to bend to his ways. I think of it like the vines I used to tie in my father’s vineyard. We’d have to bring them up to the wire and gently wrap them. But you could hear the canes struggle to get there against their desire to be unrestricted. Now, I know they don’t feel pain, but training them to bear fruit does stress them, especially where they are unyielding. So his discipline is usually unpleasant for us, but it is in hopes of transforming us more into his image, not in punishing us for our failures. There’s a huge difference there.

I used to fear God’s discipline too, but I don’t any more. The only reason I was afraid of his discipline is because I was afraid of him. I thought of God in religious ways that were unworthy of him. As God has shaken those out of my life, I find myself with joy yielding to his training. I want to be more like him. And I know that he knows how weak I am, how easily I am lured by the flesh, and he doesn’t hate me for it, but wants to work in me to displace the power of sin. Just because I stand fully justified before him, doesn’t mean both of us aren’t aware of those things in my life that serve Wayne instead of the Father I love. We are justified so that the relationship is not impaired by those failures and he can come alongside us in our struggle against our own selfishness and teach us day by day how to live more freely in him. This is one of the greatest joys of redemption. We actually get to live in him as he transform us into his image.

Father’s discipline is not something we need to fear, but something we can embrace because we’re confident in who he is and what he wants to do in us. I love when Hebrews tells us to endure all hardship as discipline. He’s not saying it all is, or that God is creating difficult times for us, but that if we treat it like discipline we will know how to respond to him in it. Then our difficulties will actually work to transform us (Seep Romans 5 here) to be more like him and this freer to live in the world with his joy. There’s more about this in my book, In My Father’s Vineyard , especially the sections on summer and winter if you have it.

Ask God to show you how much he loves you and then you won’t fear his discipline but be blessed by it. That is the point of the Hebrews 12 passage, isn’t it?

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6 Comments
  1. angi August 31, 2004 at 12:19 pm

    I am glad this was posted. I too struggle with God’s discipline and am also very afraid. Mostly, I fear that whenever anyone I love goes through hard times, it is somehow God disciplining not only them, but me as well. For example, my husband has had chronic health issues and is also starting to display signs of short term memory loss. I love him so much. He is a number of years older than me and we’ve been married 22 years. I don’t know if it is the stress I feel or if I am trying to control things, but I’ve been obsessing that his medical issues are somehow God’s judgment and/or discipline for my sins. I keep thinking if i were more committed or more spiritual that these things would not be happening. I keep thinking I am, perhaps, too "secular" because I like things like secular music, movies, TV programs that some Christians may consider inappropriate, fashion and collecting fashion magazines. In my mind I feel "if only" I could "give up" these things, that life would be better. In the past when I’ve tried, it was hard and I even felt anger toward God.

    Anyway, this probably doesn’t make sense but I had to post it anyway. I should also add that for many years as a Christian I listened to a lot of legalistic preaching. Websites like this and several others have helped much, but I still struggle.

    Angi

  2. Matt August 31, 2004 at 2:20 pm

    I have been realizing that much of the impatience and frustration I often feel about dreams or plans for my life are related to the fact that I don’t see my Father as He really is. I’m afraid to trust Him because I too often believe the lie that He is primarily my judge rather than my Father. I have been constantly coming back to the good news of what Jesus did for us and how God sees us to counteract this lie. When I remember He is good, my fear that His plan will be something I hate goes away; and I realize that, even if it is hard, His way will be far better than mine.

  3. angi August 31, 2004 at 3:19 pm

    I am glad this was posted. I too struggle with God’s discipline and am also very afraid. Mostly, I fear that whenever anyone I love goes through hard times, it is somehow God disciplining not only them, but me as well. For example, my husband has had chronic health issues and is also starting to display signs of short term memory loss. I love him so much. He is a number of years older than me and we’ve been married 22 years. I don’t know if it is the stress I feel or if I am trying to control things, but I’ve been obsessing that his medical issues are somehow God’s judgment and/or discipline for my sins. I keep thinking if i were more committed or more spiritual that these things would not be happening. I keep thinking I am, perhaps, too "secular" because I like things like secular music, movies, TV programs that some Christians may consider inappropriate, fashion and collecting fashion magazines. In my mind I feel "if only" I could "give up" these things, that life would be better. In the past when I’ve tried, it was hard and I even felt anger toward God.

    Anyway, this probably doesn’t make sense but I had to post it anyway. I should also add that for many years as a Christian I listened to a lot of legalistic preaching. Websites like this and several others have helped much, but I still struggle.

    Angi

  4. Matt August 31, 2004 at 5:20 pm

    I have been realizing that much of the impatience and frustration I often feel about dreams or plans for my life are related to the fact that I don’t see my Father as He really is. I’m afraid to trust Him because I too often believe the lie that He is primarily my judge rather than my Father. I have been constantly coming back to the good news of what Jesus did for us and how God sees us to counteract this lie. When I remember He is good, my fear that His plan will be something I hate goes away; and I realize that, even if it is hard, His way will be far better than mine.

  5. Steve September 1, 2004 at 9:27 am

    Matt & Angi,

    You guys are not alone in these struggles because we all struggle with these exact same issues. I believe a lot of it is because our mind perceives Father as being like us when in truth He is heavens above us in attributes such as love, mercy and forgiveness. We keep trying to shape Him after us, in our minds, when in fact we all need to be shaped after Him. I am a vengeful person so my mind says that he must be also. I require justice, but the Spirit shows me that mercy always wins out over judgment. I must often lay aside what my mind logically tries to tell me and listen to what The Spirit is revealing to me. The Spirit always reveals the nature of Jesus to me and reminds me that He is the exact image of Father.

    The truth is that I can say this to you guys and turn right around fifteen minutes from now and catch myself thinking the same old misconceptions. It is a constant battle in our minds to keep beholding Him as he really is.

    Oh God how I yearn to be free of this fleshly body with it’s soulish ways so that I can soar with Him in Spirit and I pray the same for you.

  6. Steve September 1, 2004 at 12:27 pm

    Matt & Angi,

    You guys are not alone in these struggles because we all struggle with these exact same issues. I believe a lot of it is because our mind perceives Father as being like us when in truth He is heavens above us in attributes such as love, mercy and forgiveness. We keep trying to shape Him after us, in our minds, when in fact we all need to be shaped after Him. I am a vengeful person so my mind says that he must be also. I require justice, but the Spirit shows me that mercy always wins out over judgment. I must often lay aside what my mind logically tries to tell me and listen to what The Spirit is revealing to me. The Spirit always reveals the nature of Jesus to me and reminds me that He is the exact image of Father.

    The truth is that I can say this to you guys and turn right around fifteen minutes from now and catch myself thinking the same old misconceptions. It is a constant battle in our minds to keep beholding Him as he really is.

    Oh God how I yearn to be free of this fleshly body with it’s soulish ways so that I can soar with Him in Spirit and I pray the same for you.

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