January seems like an appropriate time to talk about discipline. That dirty little D-word. None of us like it. It sounds so harsh. But, since we’re all making New Year’s resolutions, we’re all going to need some of it.
Let me start by sharing that I’ve been through a season of discipline by the Lord lately. I can hear the sharp breath intake, “Oooohhh, what did Sarah dooooo???” (That little 5th grader still lives in all of us!) And honestly, when the Lord revealed to me that discipline was indeed what I was experiencing, that was my first response too! Lord, what have I done!?! Let me apologize, grovel, beg, plead for forgiveness. Then maybe all the hard things would go away. Maybe life would get easier!
I got no answer. No pointing finger. No guilt or conviction. I’m not saying I’m pure and free from sin. By no means. But I didn’t get any sense that I had done some major thing that displeased the Lord and now He was punishing me for it. But it was clear, the Lord was disciplining me. The understanding of this fact came after about a year of really hard things. My word for that previous year was loss. And man was it a year of loss. We lost finances, pets, family and friends. Through some life changes, I felt like I lost my identity too (not the online kind!). We aren’t talking slap on the wrist kind of discipline. It was rough.
Well, that was a year and a half ago.
And the season truly had only just begun.
That explains why Hebrews 12:1-11 is the passage I chose to memorize this past year.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinners, so you will not grow weary and loose heart.
In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you completely forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says:
“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
and do not loose heart when He rebukes you.
For the Lord disciplines those He loves,
and he chastens everyone He calls his children.”
Endure hardship as discipline, for the Lord is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined, and everyone undergoes discipline, then you are illegitimate children, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best, but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in His holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who are trained by it.
Most often when we think of discipline, we think of punishment. But the two are quite different. I would not say that God does not punish. He certainly does. The exile of the Israelites is one good example. God is a good father though. He would never punish without letting us know why. Imagine, you as a parent setting your child in time out and not telling them why. It would be just plain cruel, and not productive at all! God does not do that to us. He didn’t do it to the Israelites. Before their exile, God gave them very specific things He wanted them to change about the way they were living. And He gave them time to change. He sent His messengers, the prophets, to warn them. But they didn’t change their ways, and thus they needed punishment.
But discipline is different. Discipline is training. It’s what it takes to run a marathon. It’s what it takes to finish a degree. It’s what it takes to lose that holiday weight!
So tell me, now that we are a few days into January, have you been disciplined? I’ll be sharing more on the subject as the month wears on.