Summary: Discipline is an expression of love. Parents – why do we discipline our children? Because we love them. Why did our parents discipline us? Because they loved us. Why does God discipline us? Because He loves us.
Discipline Is Love Expressed: Hearing God’s Heart From Hebrews 12
Lent #5: Mar 25, 2007
Our children are joining us for the service this morning, and our topic is something that you kids know a little bit more about than most of us adults, because our topic is something that you experience more that adults do. So I want to ask you guys a few questions to start, and maybe you can help us understand this a little more.
1. How many of you have ever been disciplined?
2. How many of you been disciplined in the past week?
3. What did you do? – no, I’m just kidding…
4. Do you think that your life would be better if there was no discipline?
5. How do you honestly feel about being disciplined?
Today’s passage of Scripture is about God disciplining us.
5 And have you forgotten the encouraging words God spoke to you as his children? He said,
“My child, don’t make light of the Lord’s discipline,
and don’t give up when he corrects you.
6 For the Lord disciplines those he loves,
and he punishes each one he accepts as his child.”
7 As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Who ever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its parents? 8 If God doesn’t discipline you as he does all of his children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really his children at all. 9 Since we respected our earthly parents who disciplined us, shouldn’t we submit even more to the discipline of the Father of our spirits, and live forever?
10 For our earthly parents disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness. 11 No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.
(Heb 12:5-11 NLT – note original Greek is “son” and “father” instead of “child” and “parent”)
Discipline is an expression of love. Parents – why do we discipline our children? Because we love them. Why did our parents discipline us? Because they loved us. Why does God discipline us? Because He loves us.
How do we get disciplined by God? It’s pretty obvious when we are being disciplined by our parents, isn’t it? We know it, right? The incident, the “conversation”, the consequences – the linkage is pretty clear. But what does being disciplined by God look like?
I’m not very happy with the answers I found in sermons and other resources I checked. They were way too simplistic – almost all of them boiled down to this: well, if something is going wrong in your life, treat it as God’s discipline. Maybe you are sick – could be God’s discipline. Struggling in your relationships – could be God’s discipline. Out of work? Out of peace? Out of money? Maybe you should consider whether these things are God’s discipline, and respond accordingly.
Something about those really, really bothers me – and I think it is this: there is no clear link. It is all up to guesswork. It is ambiguous. In our human relationships, we know when we are being disciplined. But in these examples, well… perhaps… at best maybe.
Let me clarify. All of those could be God’s discipline. They are possibilities. The Bible has lots of stories about people who faced difficulties in their lives which were concrete examples of God’s discipline. James writes, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds”, and goes on to demonstrate how God uses those to mold our character. So it is possible. Those hardships in life could be a method of God disciplining us, but how do we know? Discipline is only effective when we recognize the problem, or fault, and can make the link between that problem, the consequence, and the better alternative.
I think the answer is found in the assumption of the passage: this is an exchange between parent and child. God the parent, you and I the child. It is in the context of relationship – of interaction, communication, closeness, intimacy.
Here is what I mean: if you and I are living our own lives, making our own decisions, acting on our own, then we won’t have the first clue whether a hardship or difficulty is God disciplining us because He loves us. But, on the other hand, if we are living our lives truly in active, regular, communicative relationship with God, then we will know. Then it will be obvious.
The parent-child relationship is the point. It is the context. It is the safety and intimacy in which productive discipline takes place. If you and I are not reading our Bibles, are not spending time talking to God in prayer, are not putting our hearts and minds and souls and strength into loving God through worship, are not using our gifts to serve God in His Kingdom, then we are not going to have a clue what is going on when hard times come into our lives. The point of this passage of Scripture is that we would experience discipline as an expression of the love of God, for our own benefit, and that we would have our character molded by the experience and end up with “a peaceful harvest of right living”. That only happens in the context of a relationship.