What does the Bible say about Discipline?
~ 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: 11
Discipline is a word that continues to surface in every aspect of my life. Part of the work that I do as a vice-principal involves discipline: helping staff and students to follow rules and procedures, encouraging good character building and demonstrating proper behavior in the way that I conduct myself at school. When I decided to take up road biking and backpacking, I had to discipline and train my body in order to achieve my fitness goals. As a father, I regularly discipline my children, encouraging them to make positive choices and giving them consequences for poor decisions. One thing that is common to each of these areas is that discipline was not pleasant. Disciplining a student at school for making a poor choice is never a pleasant experience for the student, parent or myself. When I began working out, my body ached from lack of exercise and my stomach growled at me for weeks for denying it the quantity of food it was used to. Giving my children a consequence is never a pleasant task either. It also pains me when I have to deny them an experience or an activity that I know that they would enjoy because they made poor choices. Yet discipline is vital to our lives and our growth in our Christian walk. Discipline, when wisely accepted, brings about true change.
Hebrews 12:11 illustrates this concept perfectly. “No discipline seem pleasant at the time, but painful.” Can you recall a time when you experienced some form of discipline or change in your life that wasn’t painful or caused you some major distress? Odds are that you haven’t. Over the past year both my wife and I have been increasing the number of tasks that our children need to complete around the house. These chores include making beds, cleaning rooms, helping to prepare dinner, clearing the table and doing recycling. Sophie took to these tasks quite well, while Simon resisted helping because it interfered with what he wanted to do. One night while I was preparing dinner, I asked Simon to carry out two things to the recycling box in the garage. He flatly refused; actually he threw a temper tantrum. Remaining calm I stated that if he continued to refuse, he would receive a consequence. He demanded to know that the “consequence” would be; I informed him that his next request would be denied as he had denied mine. The reality of Simon’s consequence became apparent to him when, after dinner, Sophie asked if she could go and play at the park. Simon quickly asked if he could go too; I took Sophie to the park and told Simon that he had to remain at home with his mom as a consequence for not doing what I asked him to do. The screaming and crying that took place was unreal; he had carried on like this for 30 minutes before finally settling down. When I returned from the park, I talked to Simon about what had happened, why it happened and how we could make sure he never had to experience that again. Simon said, “I am sorry, dad” and then I gave him a hug and let the matter rest.
The second part of Hebrews 12:11 discusses results of heeding and accepting the discipline that we experience in our lives — “… it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” A couple of days after the kitchen incident, Simon found himself faced with the same request to do the recycling. His response was not exactly perfect — “Do I have to take the recycling down or is it optional?” I said that it was not optional. Quietly, he picked up the recycling and completed the task. Upon returning to the kitchen he asked if we could go to the park to kick the soccer ball round. With a smile on my face, I said that we would after supper was finished. By accepting the discipline, Simon experienced the benefit of his training. He still questions and resists doing his assigned chores from time to time, but once reminded of his past experience, Simon complies more often.
God, our heavenly Father, also disciplines us. If we look at Hebrews 12: 7-11, the author draws a parallel to the discipline of our parents and our heavenly Father. Yet there is a fundamental difference in the intended outcome. As parents, we discipline our children to direct them in the ways that they should behave, treat others and to become responsible adults and live productive lives. Yet, my motivations, intentions and actions are far from perfect. Our heavenly Father also disciplines us so that we may become more Christ-like. God wants us to change the very nature of who we are. His discipline comes from love and a desire for us to grow in relationship with Him. Can you think of a time that you have received correction from God requiring change? For me this correction has come when I am convicted about something I have done or am doing that is in conflict with the way that God wants me to life my life. I often experience this in the form of a nagging guilt or the inability to let a situation go, causing me to reflect on my actions. The change often is painful as I find myself having to swallow my pride and apologize to someone or making a change in how I conduct myself or a pattern of behavior I’ve fallen into. Yet the liberation I experienced having been disciplined has been worth it, allowing me to avoid these same pitfalls more often and benefiting from the peace that comes from accepting God’s correction and training in my life.