Vol. 7, No. 4
Priscilla's Page *Editor's Note*
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What comes to your mind when you hear the word "discipline"? There is a major difference between discipline and punishment. Discipline, according to Vine's Dictionary is "saving the mind," primarily, "an admonishing or calling to soundness of mind, or to self-control." Punishment denotes vengeance, penalty and God's reprobation or condemnation.
God will punish all the disobedient in the Day of Judgment. In the parable of the judgment of the nations in Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus draws us a picture of the sheep on the right, signifying the obedient, and the goats on the left, signifying the disobedient. The second half of this judgment scene describes the disobedience of the goats. The question is asked why they are being condemned. His response is, "Then He will answer them, saying, 'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.' And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life" (Matthew 25:45-46). Peter states it this way: "The Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment" (2 Peter 2:9).
God disciplines those of us whom he loves "in the here and now." The writer of the Book of Hebrews says, "My son, do not despise the discipline of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; for whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives" (Hebrews 12:5-6).
The discipline of God is evident in 2 Samuel 24 when David directs Joab to go and number the children of Israel. Joab tried to tell David this was totally unnecessary and not a good idea at all. However, David's word prevailed, so Joab and the captains of the army went out to count the people of Israel. It took them 9 months and 20 days to accomplish this useless task!
After Joab had given David the sum of the number of the people, David's heart condemns him, and he told the Lord he had sinned greatly. The next day Gad the prophet came to David and stated the Lord had said, "Go and tell David, 'Thus says the Lord: I offer you three things; choose one of them for yourself, that I may do it to you" (2 Samuel 24:12). David's choices were:
Three years of famine,
Three months of fleeing from his enemies, or
Three days of plague.
David chose the three days of plague. After he has made his choice and God's discipline begins to be rendered, David pleaded with God to let his sin be upon him and his father's house. He then made a sacrifice to God, prayed for the land and the plague was withdrawn from Israel.
God's discipline regulates Christian behavior. Discipline causes us to impose the will of God on our lives. Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, "But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified" (2 Corinthians 9:27).
God allows us to be tested through trials in order to get us into the way of his choosing. These trials are designed to discipline us in order that we might become partakers of his divine holiness. There is always advantage in adversity. James 1:2-3 says, "My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience."
God uses us to accomplish his purpose and perfects us through the experiences in our lives. This dimension of God's discipline requires a faith rooted in the knowledge of the plan and purpose of God. We understand he is fulfilling his purpose for creating us. "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28).
In the Book of Hebrews, we are given a very pointed and direct revelation as to why it is vital to receive the discipline of God. Hebrews 12:7-8, "If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons, for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons." Verse 11 further validates the reason for God's discipline: "Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but grievous; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it."
Discipline is an expression of God's love. God says "No" to any request that is less than his best for us.