Those of you have been blessed to raise teenagers, did you ever have them come to you and say, “Thank you for grounding me for the week and not letting me use the car or hang out with my friends and make me be in by 7pm on weekends. I really appreciate it Mom and Dad, it really helped me to learn something about life and about myself.” No? Never happened? Discipline is often not very well accepted by our children, is it?
The word “discipline” often has a negative connotation, doesn’t it? It’s often equated with punishment that can be cold and harsh. But the biblical meaning of discipline really is to provide guidance for responsible living, to offer correction and training for good. You can see the word “disciple” in the word discipline, can’t you? There is an obvious correlation between these two words. Christian parents discipline in order to make disciples of Christ, who walk in his ways, who want to obey him and honor him in their life. And God disciplines us too for the same reasons.
The writer to the Hebrews speaks positively of the discipline that the Lord allows, that it’s really in his love that he does so. He encourages us: 7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? 8 If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. 9 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 our spirits and live! 10 Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. 11 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 12:7-11)
This Thanksgiving you have many things to be thankful for. But what about discipline? Are you thankful for the trouble, the suffering, the pain that you have to endure in this life? We all have them, don’t we? What is it for you? Maybe a struggle with depression. Parenting a child with emotional, physical or mental challenges. Chronic illness. Continual financial struggles. The loss of a spouse or parent or child. You can probably identify a number of struggles, hardships, and pain that God allows in your life that are meant to humble you and test you. And no one really enjoys the discipline, right? We live in a world that is all about quick fixes: losing 30 pounds in 30 days, quick relief from pain with a pill, muscles of steel by exercising five minutes a day. We like quick and easy. But often that’s not the way God works. Very often we don’t see the results of these trials in our life until a long time afterwards, and maybe never this side of heaven. And these experiences, that at least while we are enduring them, are experiences that we’re not necessarily always grateful and appreciative of, are we?
But the truth is, in his grace and wisdom, God disciplines us for our good, because he loves us. Through that discipline he trains us and through it brings us closer to him and leads us to rely on him rather than on ourselves. He disciplines us because he wants us to let go of everything else an look to him and know through it he desires to produce a harvest of righteousness.
This Thanksgiving holiday, I pray that you are truly thankful for everything – even for all the difficulties and struggles he allows in your life. Thank and praise your God who uses everything in this life to bring you closer to him and to keep you focused on your heavenly home.
Pastor Aaron Bublitz