Summary: God disciplines us as a parent disciplines their child. Discipline is for our good so we should be joyful when disciplines, experiencing challenges in life.
If you visit the National Arboretum in Washington DC you will enter the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum where you will find around one hundred and fifty miniature trees and plants.
Here are pictures of two of them
These trees are normal trees that would grow into full sized trees if they were not shaped in certain ways. I call this the disciplining of the tree. Last week we used a sieve as the illustration of how God sifts out undesirable traits in our character and the sift he uses are the trials that come to each one of us. But in our second message in the series on Pure Joy I want to talk about how God disciplines us to become mature joyful Christians.
Trials are painful events but discipline can be painful or it can be pleasant. Here is how Wikipedia defines discipline, “In its most general sense, discipline refers to systematic instruction given to a disciple. This sense also preserves the origin of the word, which comes from the Latin disciplina, "instruction."
“To discipline thus means to instruct a person or animal to follow a particular code of conduct, or to adhere to a certain "order," or to adopt a particular pattern of behavior. So for example, to discipline a child to wash its hands before meals. Here, ’washing hands before meals’ is a particular pattern of behavior, and the child is being disciplined to adopt that pattern. ’To disciple’ also gives rise to the word disciplinarian, which denotes a person who enforces order. An ideal disciplinarian is one who can enforce order without coercion. Usually however, the phrase ’to discipline’ carries a negative connotation. This is because enforcement of order - that is, ensuring instructions are carried out - is often regulated through punishment.”
In today’s message I want to focus on the systematic instruction part not the coercion part.
In making the bonsai the gardener shapes the branches and roots in certain ways to stunt the growth of the tree and produce it in its miniature form. Wires are used to train and shape the branches. The plant is placed in a small container so that its roots cannot grow too large. You could say that it is instructed in certain ways.
I have an example on the platform here with me—a dwarf fig tree.
The writer of Hebrews contrasts how God acts and how a parent acts. Hebrews 12, beginning with very 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.
For the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes each one he accepts as his child.’
“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 father? 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. Since we respected our earthly fathers who disciplined us, shouldn’t we submit even more to the discipline of the Father of our spirits, and live forever?
“For our earthly fathers 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. 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” (Hebrews 12:5-11).
Let’s see how this disciplining process took place in the life of Joseph, the father of Jesus.
“This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
“But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins. All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’—which means, ‘God with us.’" (Matthew 1:18-23).
Joseph has found a wonderful young bride. He is madly in love with here. They are formally engaged. In Jewish culture the only way to break an engagement was to go through a divorce. Joseph felt that he could not go through with the marriage since Mary was pregnant. I am sure that Mary did everything she could to convince Joseph that she had been faithful to him. She had not seen another man. But in Joseph’s eyes the only way to get pregnant was to become intimate with a man. But he did not want to disgrace her so he planned on doing it quietly.