If you have embraced the gospel message of Jesus Christ, you have a brand new connection to God Himself. He is now your Father. He identifies Himself as your Father. He calls you His child. As we have explored our new Father-child relationship over the past few weeks, we have come to learn that God is a good Father. He is the giver of good gifts. He loves you with an everlasting love. He provides for your needs. He truly is a good, good Father.
But God is not an indulgent father. In fact, as one of His children, we will experience discipline, training, and even pain at the hands of our good Father. “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor faint when you are reproved by Him. For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives” (Heb 12:5-6).
The Greek word translated “discipline” in this passage refers to a training regimen. God has you on a training program. He is training you in righteousness; in righteous living. And this training program may involve pain. But the beauty of God’s training program, and the most important thing to take away from this passage is that the pain is never random, cruel, capricious, or evil. God’s training program is always fueled by His love for us and for our good.
The author of the book of Hebrews goes on to explain, “God deals with you as with sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them. Shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness” (Heb 12:7-10).
If we are true children of God, we will all experience His training program. Just as we respected our fathers who disciplined us for earthly goals, should we not more so worship and respect our heavenly Father who disciplines us for “our good and to share in His holiness”? Our good and our holiness are the desired outcome of the training program of God. And that training program may include the pain of discipline on our way to the joy and peace of righteousness that it produces.
“All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (Heb 12:11). The goal of God’s training program is not only our good and our holiness, but also joy and a peaceful fruit of righteousness.
Now the beauty of this journey and what may set this apart from what you have heard in the past about God’s discipline is that God’s training program does not take place in a mysterious and unknown vacuum. It is not meant to be painful in a way that keeps us in the dark. It happens in the framework of God being the good Father and loving us with an everlasting love. God’s overarching attribute in His dealings with His children is love. Even God’s discipline is motivated by His love, “For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines” (Heb 12:6).
The upshot of this is that the discipline of God should always be understood through the lens of the good Father. Because God Himself is using that analogy in the Hebrews 12 passage. He is telling us what to expect of Him based on what we experience at the hands of a good earthly father. Based on that comparison, we know that His discipline will never be capricious, never be random, never be mean, never be beyond understanding. Even if the reason is delayed, our knowing that the Father is good informs our faith to trust His timing. Again, think about this comparison with our earthly fathers.
Every good father disciplines with the goal clearly explained to the child. In fact, before we discipline or correct our youngsters, we go out of our way to make sure they understand what behavior is expected. We go out of our way to make sure they understand why they are being disciplined. We make clear to the child what they did wrong. They know what behavior needs to change. A good parent never disciplines in a random, unexpected, surprising, or capricious manner. And based on today’s Scripture, we would not expect our heavenly Father to do so either. His discipline is always fueled by His love.