THE LOVING DISCIPLINE OF THE LORD
11 My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline and do not resent his rebuke, 12 because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in. Proverbs 3:11-12
One of the most important lessons I have learned as a follower of Jesus Christ, is that the Lord does discipline those He loves, just as any loving earthly Father would. His goals are not for us to be happy and prosperous on this earth. His ways and His thoughts, which are far superior to our ways and our thoughts, are set firmly on eternity. And He knows that the only way for us to truly remain in Him – and to have true joy while on this planet – is for us to keep our eyes fixed on Him at all times, lest we be deceived by the lies of this world, and as a few of the verses I will cite state, perhaps gain the short term pleasures of this world but forfeit our very souls.
Job, who experienced extreme material and familial destruction at the hands of God, not as discipline, but to test his heart, had great insight and understanding when it came to the chastening of the Lord. Even in the midst of what appeared to be a total and inexplicable rejection from God, Job, in great wisdom, said:
17 “Blessed is the man whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty. 18 For he wounds, but he also binds up; he injures, but his hands also heal.”
Job understood that the Lord does discipline those He loves, and that all such discipline, if heeded, ultimately leads to great healing and restoration…from the hand of God Himself. Job finds out first hand, exactly how great and mighty the restoring power of the Lord is only a few weeks later, due, in great part to his unwavering trust in God, even in the most horrific of circumstances.
In Psalm 39:10-11, David asks the Lord to remove the mighty blow of His hand from him, for by it he was overcome. He then acknowledged how God deals with His precious children by stating that it is with rebukes that God corrects a man’s iniquity.
In Psalm 94:12-13, the author states that a man whom the Lord chastens and teaches is blessed, because through those things he receives rest from adversity.
Psalm 118 is one of my absolute favorite Psalms because it sets forth, with great clarity, the mighty attributes of our God. In it, the author praises the Lord for His mercy and power, and apparently, after turning away from serious sin says:
18 “The LORD has chastened me severely, but he has not given me over to death.”
And despite this severe chastening, in verse 29, he writes:
29 “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.”
What resonates with me so deeply about these two verses is that, not only does the writer understand that he needs the discipline of God to avoid what he describes as death, but he also understood that the Lord chastened him out of love and mercy…not out of anger and wrath. May I always see the Lord’s strong, reproving hand the same way!
Psalm 119 also speaks to me in a very personal way about the Lord’s discipline, perhaps more than some of the other passages, because many of the statements by the author seem to match how the Lord has dealt with me on many occasions. In verse 67, the psalmist writes that, before I was afflicted I went astray…but now I obey your law; while in verse 71, he writes that it was “good to be afflicted” that I might learn your statutes.
These two deeply profound statements speak directly to me, loudly and clearly. Often I don’t really seek the Lord with all of my heart unless I am suffering some type of failure due to pursuing sin or striving in the flesh. I have come to truly understand that it is a great blessing to suffer, even deep affliction…that I might turn to the Living God, receive His mercy, and be healed. Great intimacy with God has sprung up like a flower in the desert of my selfish heart from my acceptance of His loving discipline.
In Psalm 119:75-76, the psalmist states that he understands that the Lord’s judgments are right, and that “in faithfulness” the Lord has afflicted him. He then asks the Lord for His unfailing love to be his comfort.These are powerful and beautiful statements, illustrating a very different side to the love and faithfulness of God than the one the world is used to hearing. For, like Job, the author knows that whatever God does, it is good, right and true…and in faithfulness God afflicted him. Why? As verse 67 stated, he was suffering under the strong and loving hand of God because he was straying from the truth…living in the flesh…and God was jealous for him. He was weak, and he knew it, and God, like any loving father, turned him back to the way of truth through the only method that would work…discipline.
The author then goes on declare that he will meditate on God’s precepts (verse 78b) for, as verse 72 says, the law of the Lord is better to him than thousands of gold and silver coins. May we all view the riches of the everlasting word of God the same way! I
n 1 Corinthians 5, Paul confronts the church about the extreme sexual immorality going on amongst the brethren, which was beyond even what was typical amongst the unsaved. Apparently, one of the brothers was sleeping with his father’s wife and that sin wasn’t being dealt with as Paul expected. So…Paul instructs the church to…”deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit might be saved on the last day.”
Paul, like Jesus, was concerned about one thing…our souls making it to heaven to be with God forever. If we need to suffer – even great pain – on this earth to avoid the unquenchable fires of hell, then so be it. God (with Paul as His ambassador) truly is a loving father, who understands the unceasing horrors of an eternity in hell. Therefore, He is willing, and even eager for us to experience earthly affliction under His loving hand…because He knows that it will lead to the destruction of our flesh and a more perfect union with Him in spirit and truth, via repentance.
Even Paul, who lived a life of unrelenting intimacy with and dedication to Jesus Christ, suffered severe preemptive discipline at the hand of the Lord. In 2 Corinthians 12:1-10, Paul describes his journey up into the third heaven, where he heard and saw great and unspeakable things. Because of these great revelations, he received from the Lord a thorn in the flesh…a messenger from Satan to torment him lest he become proud. He begged the Lord to remove it, but God declined, telling him that His grace was sufficient for Paul and would carry him through his pain. And Paul, like Job before him (Job 1:21-22), embraced God’s decision to destroy his flesh, and accepted the fact that in his weakness, the power of God would be more fully evident…for where Paul was weak, God was strong.
In Revelation 3:14-21, Jesus rebukes the church of Laodicea for being lukewarm. Instead of pursuing Him, they were seeking the wealth and comforts of this world, and Jesus was just about ready to spit them out of His mouth. Instead of seeking temporal riches Jesus counsels them to buy from Him, gold refined in the fire to cover the shame of their spiritual nakedness. He then, as He always does, reminds them of His great love and mercy, and says that He rebukes and disciplines those He loves, so that they might repent, overcome and sit with Him on His throne in heaven.
The deep truth of the above passages is that eternity matters infinitely more to God than this short life does, and God is willing to allow…and even cause…suffering to come upon those He loves if it will turn their hearts away from the short term pleasures of sin and towards Him. I often reflect on my own journey and how I, even when I truly thought I was walking in His will, suffered great afflictions, only to discover through the truth of His word, that I was straying from Him in the deepest places of my heart. Be it wealth or earthly distractions, my heart has often wondered from the eternal riches of the Living God, and He, in His great love and mercy, has used pain and failure to bring me back to a place of humility and repentance, turning my eyes, my mind, and my heart back to Him. May they remain fixed on His glorious face all the days of my life…..