Thursday, May 13, 2010
Today’s Topic: The Goal of Discipline
Today’s Text: I will turn my hand against you; I will thoroughly purge away your dross and remove all your impurities. I will restore your judges as in days of old, your counselors as at the beginning. Afterward you will be called the City of Righteousness, the Faithful City.” Zion will be redeemed with justice, her penitent ones with righteousness. But rebels and sinners will both be broken, and those who forsake the LORD will perish. (Isaiah 1:25-28)
We have probably all laughed at this. We have probably all said it to our children in one way or another. I remember the first time my dad said it to me, and it confused me. Just before the paddle came down across the padded place designed by God to absorb the pain of discipline, he said, “This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you.” Yeah, right! That made no sense to me. Couldn’t he see the tears in my eyes and hear the pain of my screams? He had no tears. He didn’t scream. But now I understand what he meant, having felt the deep emotional pain of intentionally causing temporary pain through discipline to bring about permanent change resulting in blessing.
The story of God’s relationship with His chosen people Israel is like a broken record of pain and blessing. It just keeps repeating itself. But God never gives up on His children. He never stops loving them. He never stops seeking their good. He never stops working to improve them. And in His love, He never stops disciplining them to bring about change.
There is a wonderful New Testament revelation found in the book of Hebrews about the relationship between love and discipline expressed by our heavenly Father. It says, And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.” Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human 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 have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:5-11)
Isaiah understood this relationship between love and discipline 600 years earlier when he explained to the people of Israel why God was going to discipline them for their sin. God’s discipline is ALWAYS intended for our transformation, restoration, and blessing! The discipline we may be under right now as a result of our sinful choices is proof that we are under the loving care of the Father. And when we discipline our children, it must be in the same spirit of love.
I did not always do this correctly. My kids are shouting “AMEN” as they read this. There were far too many times I disciplined my kids out of frustration. Yelling accompanied the “discipline” because things were interrupting me and my schedule, or interfering with my outcomes. Anger was expressed, not at the sinful behavior, and even when there was no sinful behavior, because my pride of what I wanted super ceded what was best for the children. Come on, admit it…you’ve done or maybe even are doing now the same things with your kids.
But God’s discipline is ALWAYS intended for our transformation, restoration, and blessing. He ALWAYS has our good in mind. That’s not always true of us, is it?
We must put aside our preferences and our pride when it comes to the discipline we receive from the Father in heaven AND when we administer discipline to others. It must never be viewed through eyes of pride or expressed through words and actions of frustration. Frustration is…dare I say ALWAYS…the result of pride. Pride keeps us from understanding what God is doing to transform and restore us so we can receive His blessings. Pride forces us to respond to others with frustration and anger because their actions are interfering with what we think we need at that moment to feel blessed.
Think about this carefully today. Don’t just glance at this devotional and move on. Meditate on it…it will change how you understand everything that is going on in your life right now.