Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Growing Through Discipline

"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 12:11 (NIV)

Discipline - no one likes it but we all need it. I tend to equate it with punishment but they are two different things. Punishment is being made to suffer for our mistakes. Discipline is being made to learn from our mistakes. Punishment comes from anger. Discipline comes from love. And, before you think this insight is coming from me, let me just say that this verse was part of the message presented at church about 3 weeks ago. It was definitely eye-opening to me because, as I wrote at the beginning, discipline and punishment were one and the same to me. I know better now.

What I came to understand is that God doesn't punish us for our sins, our mistakes. He punished Jesus for those. Jesus took on our sin even though He was sinless. He was beaten, He was bloodied, He was stripped, He was despised, He was spit on. He was perfect yet took on my imperfection. He committed no crime but was punished for mine. God turned His back on His Beloved Son instead of turning His back on me. That's punishment.

I also came to understand that God does, however, discipline us. His discipline is an expression of His love for us. For those of us with children...think about that. We discipline our kids to teach them right from wrong, to correct their mistakes, to show them how to act, to build their character, - and we do it out of love. You might be wondering what God's discipline might look like in our lives. Troubles, adversity, trials - that's what it looks like. Sometimes God places them in our lives and sometimes He just uses what Satan has already placed there. But, either way, he wants us to learn from them. His discipline is about maturing us. It's about building our character for Him. Those are the benefits of being disciplined. If we aren't learning the lessons He's teaching, He may allow our difficulties to linger, He may not answer our prayers, He may withhold His blessings. He may use another Christian, our conscience or the Bible to speak to us. Those are the consequences of refusing His discipline. He won't force us to learn our lessons. He still leaves that choice up to us. But, if we refuse to be corrected, to be trained, God says we're stupid. WHAT?!! STUPID?!! WHERE DOES HE SAY THAT?!! "Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid." (Proverbs 12:1 NIV).  Right there, that's where He says it. My devotional has this to say: The trouble with trouble isn't just the trouble it causes; it's also the trouble we cause ourselves if we ignore the things that trouble has to teach. Just a nicer way of saying we're stupid if we refuse to learn from God's discipline.

My stupidity definitely lies in my reaction to His discipline. First I'm resistant to it and resentful of it. Then I resign myself to it. And finally, FINALLY, I realize that it was exactly what I needed. If I would only skip the resistance, resentfulness and resignation and go directly to the realization...what would my life look like? I'd still need discipline...I am a sinner after all. But I'd sure learn my lesson sooner, I'd mature quicker, my character would grow faster, my troubles wouldn't hang around as long. I have been praying about and working on seeing God's love for me during this time of discipline in my life. I am in the realization stage but it's taken me awhile to get here. Growing through discipline - not fun, but worth it!!

"When faced with adversity the Christian [person] comforts [themself] with the knowledge that all of life's events are in the hands of God." - Vonette Bright

Heavenly Father, I don't like to be disciplined but I know I need it to grow in my faith and my walk with You. Open my eyes to the lessons I need to learn. Help me to skip the resistance, resentfulness and resignation and go directly to the realization of what my discipline is about. Help me to feel Your Presence and Your love through my adversities. In Jesus' name, Amen.

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