4 Reasons Why God Disciplines Us
- Dr. Roger Barrier Preach It, Teach It
- 2015 26 Mar
Editor's Note: Pastor Roger Barrier's "Ask Roger" column regularly appears at Preach It, Teach It. Every week at Crosswalk, Dr. Barrier puts nearly 40 years of experience in the pastorate to work answering questions of doctrine or practice for laypeople, or giving advice on church leadership issues. Email him your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
My friend and I got into a deep discussion about whether or not God actually, and intentionally, would hurt a Christian. It really wasn’t much of a discussion because I could show him in the Bible where God disciplines his children when they misbehave. Some of that discipline can be quite painful. We decided to delve deeper into the subject and would appreciate your comments.
The Bible has a lot to say about the importance of disciplining children.
Proverb 19:18: “Discipline your son while there is hope; do not be a willing party to his death.”
Proverb 22:15: “Folly is bound up in the heart of the child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him.”
Proverb 29:15: “The rod of correction imparts wisdom; but a child left to himself disgraces his mother.”
Don’t get hung up by the term, “rod of correction.” We are having culture wars deciding whether or not it is okay to spank children. I’m not talking about spanking. I’m talking about the behavior modification that occurs when proper discipline is exercised.
I think that most everyone agrees that children who experience little or no discipline often grow up to be stubborn, unmanageable, misguided, rebellious teenagers and adults.
Therefore, it should come as no surprise that because we are spiritual children, our father in heaven has every intention of disciplining us so that we grow up to be someone special in the kingdom.
I watch a lot of families when Julie and I go out to eat. Whenever I see well-behaved children sitting with mom or dad or both, I always walk over, say, “Excuse me, you must be great parents. Your children are so sweet and well behaved.” Mom and dad grin from ear to ear. It’s quite clear that the children have been carefully disciplined to be special.
I’ll never forget the morning my mother was playing bridge with some friends. One of the women said to me as I passed through the room, “You are such a nice young man. It’s a pleasure to have you around.” Then a quizzical look came over her face and she said to me, “Well, I guess I should thank your mother and father. They’re the ones who made you that way.” Looking back I could easily have said, “They disciplined me well because they loved me a lot.
Before we go further we need to nail down the primary reasons for God’s discipline. Most all Christians love Romans 8:28: “For all things work together for good to those who love God.”
I find that many Christians miss entirely the meaning of this verse. They say things like, “I’m sorry you’re struggling with cancer. But you’re a Christian, and you love God! Paul said all things work together for good to those who love God. You love God, don’t you? So don’t worry, everything will turn out well.” But then it doesn’t.
The key here is, “all things.” Many things are good things; but some things are bad things. Will never understand Romans 8:28 without reading verse 29: “For those whom he foreknew, he predestined to look just like Jesus.”
The purpose for everything that comes our way— good or bad— is God engineered, allowed or desired, for the purpose of maturing us to look like Jesus.
Let’s consider a few things.
FIRST, DISCIPLINE IS A REQUIRED COURSE.
Hebrews 12:6: “The Lord disciplines the ones he loves,and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son”.
Hebrews 6:8: “If you are not disciplined-and everyone undergoes discipline--then you are Illegitimate— and not true sons or daughters.”
In the Christian life, we discover that our teachers are named “Pain” and “Suffering.” These teachers teach us some deeper things concerning God and us.
Let’s be honest. We all have sat under the teaching of some difficult teachers. These teachers have names like, Loss of Job, Broken Romance, Broken Bone, Disease, Loss of a Child, Being Misunderstood, Financial Difficulties, Wayward Teenagers, and on and on.
Remember this course is not an elective. It’s required and, and by the way, we are in it for a lifetime.
One of my favorite poems sums this truth up well:
“I walked a mile with Pleasure,
She chatted all the way,
And left me none the wiser,
For all she had to say.
I walked a mile with Sorrow,
And ne’re a word said she,
But Oh the things I learned that day,
When Sorrow walked with me.
SECOND: DISCIPLINE PROVES THAT THE FATHER LOVES US.
Hebrews 12:5-6: “And have you completely forgotten this 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 lose heart when he rebukes you,
because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”
When troubles set in and trials arrive most of us react: “Am I really saved? If I were really saved why would I be having all these problems? Has God forsaken me? I’m a Christian; I’m not supposed to have so many problems. If God really loved me he wouldn’t let these things happen to me.”
Certainly he would! The troubles prove that he loves us
C. S. Lewis observed, “We want not so much a father in heaven as a grandfather in heaven whose plan for the universe is such that it might be said at the end of each day, ‘and a good time was had by all.’”
There are voices in society that say that if a child is into something, we ought to switch his attention to something else. Well, in the culture in which I grew up it wasn’t my attention that got switched. In Bible times and in most cultures today, “spare the rod and spoil the child” was literally carried out. We live in a culture with a different set of values. We shouldn’t be hitting children.
However there are many other ways to discipline. My mother and father tried most all of them. Before discipline began my mom or dad looked straight in my eyes and said, “The reason I’m punishing you is because I love you. I don’t want you to ever do that again. I want you to grow up and become someone special.” I didn’t believe it then; but I certainly believe it now.
It takes a lot of love to carry out consistent discipline for a child. Pity the poor child whose parents don’t love him enough to discipline him or her consistently.
THIRD: DISCIPLINE PROVES THAT WE BELONG TO GOD.
Hebrews 12:7: “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father?”
We do not discipline someone else’s child. We may want to clap our hand over the mouth of the screaming eight-year-old in the grocery store, but we don’t dare do it. That’s his parent’s job.
Think about this: God does not discipline unsaved people in this life. They are not his children. He saves their judgment for the Great White Throne Judgment when their sins will be exposed and all will be cast into the lake of fire. Unsaved people are Satan’s children and he wreaks havoc upon them.
Hebrews 12:8: “If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all.
Simply stated, a Christian with no problems is illegitimate and not a Christian. Discipline is not brought to us in spite of our following Christ; it is because we are following Christ.
FOURTH: THOUGH PAINFUL, DISCIPLINE IS ULTIMATELY VALUABLE.
Hebrews 12:9-11: “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 spirits and live!They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order 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.”
Parents sometimes make mistakes and are inconsistent in their disciplining.
There is not a father alive who did not sometimes say to himself, “I really ought to discipline that child right now,” but instead he turns up a television and hides behind the newspaper.
There’s not a mother anywhere who hasn’t let the youngest child off lightly while hearing one of the older children say, “You never let us get away with that.”
Nevertheless, Parents who discipline lovingly and consistently will more than likely cultivate great children. They do it as best they can but still make some mistakes. However, God never makes a mistake. Whatever he allows is for our own benefit— that we might be partakers of his holiness.
I’ve never in my life had one of my children look at me after disciplining them and say, “Boy that was a great delight, dad. Thanks so much. Let’s do it again soon!” No child likes discipline; but we never lose sight of the goal. Discipline produces a “harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”
In other words the ultimate goal of discipline is to mature us to look and act like Jesus.
Let me share with you my favorite Chinese Parables. It’s called, “Bamboo”.
Read it carefully. It will explain most everything that God is doing in your life.
Once upon a time, far off in the heart of the Western Kingdom, the master came to walk day by day. In the midst of the garden there in the Western Kingdom was the most beautiful bamboo tree that ever grew in all the earth. The master would come by and look at his plants; but he had a special affinity for that old bamboo tree. He watched it as it grew. He nurtured it almost to complete maturity.
One day, as the great master was walking through his garden, he came to that bamboo tree, and on impulse that bamboo tree bowed down in loving adoration of his master. The master said, “Bamboo, most beautiful of all the trees in my garden, I think that you're just about ready to become useful to me.”
Bamboo said, “Oh, great master, if I can do anything for you, I will. Just take me. Use me.”
The great master said, “Bamboo, Bamboo, most beautiful of all the trees in my garden, if I'm going to use you I have to cut you down.” The wind stopped blowing, and the birds stopped singing and all the butterflies were still.
Then Bamboo said, “Well, master, I'm yours. But, you yourself said that I'm the most beautiful of all the trees in the garden, must you cut me down?”
“I must, if you're going to be useful to me.” The sounds of the garden were hushed in silence as that great bamboo bent his neck, and the master cut him down.
Then the master said, “Bamboo, you’re still not useful to me. If you're going to be useful to me, I must cut off all your branches.”
Bamboo pleaded, “Oh, master, not that. You've already cut me down. Isn't that enough? Please don't cut off my branches.”
But, the great master said, “No, I must cut off your branches.” Once more the garden was silenced, and all the plants looked on with rapt attention as the great master snipped off branch after branch, and bared that great bamboo.
Then the master said, “Bamboo, you're not useful to me yet. There's one more thing. If you're going to be useful to me, then I must split you open and cut your heart out.”
Bamboo wept, “Oh, master, not that! “You've already taken away my beauty. There's nothing left now—just me. Must you scrape my heart out?”
“I must if you're to be useful to me.'” Once more the garden was hushed as the great master took that bamboo, split him down the middle and scraped his heart out.
Then the great master took that bamboo shoot, now hollowed out and scraped clean, and walked over to a spring that was bubbling with water. He laid one end of that hollowed-out bamboo shoot in the stream. He placed the other end of that bamboo shoot in the irrigation ditch that watered his garden. Then the waters began to flow; and the fields began to grow. The wind began to blow again. The birds began to sing. The rice was planted and the harvest came. And. that bamboo who, standing all alone in the garden was the most beautiful of all the master's plants, that bamboo, which meant so much to himself, when he was stripped bare, and hollowed out, was then, and only then useful in the great master's garden.
Well Alex, I hope my thoughts are helpful in giving you a little more material for you and your friend to discuss. May God grant you and your friend many good years ahead.
Dr. Roger Barrier retired as senior teaching pastor from Casas Church in Tucson, Arizona. In addition to being an author and sought-after conference speaker, Roger has mentored or taught thousands of pastors, missionaries, and Christian leaders worldwide. Casas Church, where Roger served throughout his thirty-five-year career, is a megachurch known for a well-integrated, multi-generational ministry. The value of including new generations is deeply ingrained throughout Casas to help the church move strongly right through the twenty-first century and beyond. Dr. Barrier holds degrees from Baylor University, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Golden Gate Seminary in Greek, religion, theology, and pastoral care. His popular book, Listening to the Voice of God, published by Bethany House, is in its second printing and is available in Thai and Portuguese. His latest work is, Got Guts? Get Godly! Pray the Prayer God Guarantees to Answer, from Xulon Press. Roger can be found blogging at Preach It, Teach It, the pastoral teaching site founded with his wife, Dr. Julie Barrier.