The love of God is often talked about and preached about (especially on Valentine’s Day!) and it’s important that we do so, because as a rule, we find it immensely difficult to believe that God could possibly love us! We find it difficult to grasp His goodness and love, especially when we face difficulties and suffering, but Hebrews 12:4-13 reminds us of the important role of discipline in God’s love and in being a part of His family.
Most of us associate discipline simply with punishment, but discipline means sticking to the right paths. We speak of the discipline needed to succeed in sports or jobs such as the army, and discipline can certainly be a positive thing. Even when we are punished, we need to remember that God does this out of love, not to cast us out of His family or by withdrawing His love from us. God’s aim of discipline is to get us back on course, correcting us so that we learn the best way. (1 Cor 11:32) Discipline also has the aim of training us, educating us, developing and nurturing us (see Acts 7:22, Acts 22:23). God’s word is given to us to train and correct us. (2 Tim 3:16)
Our reactions to God’s discipline can vary. We can make light of it, treating it as inconsequential. We need to know that God is interested in the mundane and the everyday and that suffering for our faith is inevitable (John 15:18-19). Even Jesus learned obedience through what He suffered (Heb 5:8-9) and suffered temptation as we do (Heb 4:14-16). God can use everything He allows into our lives for good.
Our other reaction to God’s discipline is often to lose heart and to give up. God promises that trouble and suffering can refine us, knocking off our sharp edges and refining us like silver. (Ps 66:10-12) Whether we face the fire or the flood, God promises to be with us (Isaiah 43:1-2); we are shielded by God’s power, even as we suffer grief in all kinds of ways at present. (1 Pet 1:3-7) God is still in charge, no matter what we face, and His discipline has the goal of our wholeness, completeness and ultimately His glory!
Discipline is intended to help us grow and develop as God works with us and walks with us. It may not seem pleasant to us, but it’s a necessary part of being a child of God, and as such, we need to welcome it as a friend instead of treating it as an enemy.