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.
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?