A minister friend has been troubled by how some people interpret Proverbs 3:12 when it says, “God disciplines those He loves.” He has heard people say that when someone loses their wealth and position, they are being punished by God for what they have done or not done, or when someone loses a loved one they are being punished by God, or when someone loses their own health and wellbeing they are being punished by God.
Most recently he has heard people “explaining” why we have been invaded by an insidious virus. He has asked me on a couple of occasions how I interpret these words about God disciplining those He loves. In fact, we talked about his questions today.
Let’s prayerfully and cautiously answer two questions: First, why does God discipline us? Second, how does God discipline us?
The first question is easy to answer for it is spelled out in Proverbs 3:12: “God disciplines those He loves, just as a father, the son he delights in.”He knows that we, like children, need to be disciplined by God our Father. Hebrews 12:3-11 quotes Prov. 3:11-12and explains why God disciplines us.
Before we read Hebrews 12:3-11let’s set the scene. The Book of Hebrewswas written to Jewish Christians who were going through some tough times. Although none of them had been killed, they were wondering why God allowed them to go through such tough times. Let’s read:
For consider Him (Christ) Who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, so that you won’t grow weary and lose heart. In struggling against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And you have forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons (And here he quotes Prov. 3:11-12:
Do not despise the Lord’s instruction, my son,
And do not loathe His discipline;
For the Lord disciplines the one He loves,
Just as a father, the son he delights in.
Endure suffering as discipline: God is dealing with you as sons (My friend points out how Paul is saying, “Look at this hardship as an opportunity to grow and mature.)
For what son is there that a father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline – which all receive – then you are illegitimate children not sons. Furthermore, we had natural fathers discipline us, and we respected them. Shouldn’t we submit even more to the Father of spirits and live? For they discipline us for a short time based on what seemed good to them, but He does it for our benefit, so that we can share His holiness. No discipline seems enjoyable at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it yields the fruit of peace and righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”
The more I think about what is said here, the more I realize how …
- Children need to be disciplined in their homes so they can be prepared for mature adulthood that involves getting an education and a profession, getting married, and raising a family.
- Students need to be disciplined in their schools so they can learn what to know and do.
- Soldiers and Aathletes need to be disciplined in their training so they can work together as a team.
Each and every one of us need to look upon this limited life with its sin and suffering as a training ground for God’s New Heaven and New Earth which preserves and improves all the good of this world and leaves out all sin and suffering. As our Father and Teacher, Coach and Trainer, God wants to do three things for us:
- God wants to Protect us – not so much from the bad things that can happen to us, but the bad attitudes and habits we can develop within our own heart, soul, and mind! God knows how we can get swept up into an ungodly and unhealthy culture characterized by anger, bitterness, cravings and desires, envy, fear, greed, and hatred.
- God wants to Correct us – before we start sinking in a quicksand of bad attitudes and habits that get worse and worse. We read in Proverbs 29:15: “A rod of correction imparts wisdom, but a youth led to himself is a disgrace to his mother.”In other words, someone who is spoiled rotten gets into rotten mischief that disgraces his family.
- God wants to Instruct us in how to cultivate good and godly attitudes and habits. This leads us to the Second Question, which we will answer next time: How does God discipline us?