“Endure hardship as discipline…” – Hebrews 12:7
I never liked the word discipline. It always made me think of punishment — and I didn’t care for punishment. Losing privileges, being sent to my room, having my allowance docked — I never liked any of it. The worst, however, was corporal punishment — the dreaded spanking.
The generally unfavorable media messages regarding spanking — not abuse, mind you, spanking — are somewhat baffling. Maybe we are all more highly evolved now, but a great number of Builders, Boomers and Gen X’ers — including your host — received spankings as punishment when they were children. Perhaps the powers that be are still rubbing their burning backsides over their childhood corrections.
A switch was never in my parents’ repertoire, but I got the hand, Dad’s belt, the wooden spoon, the yardstick, the flyswatter, a ruler (at school. Once.) and a paddle ball paddle, among other similar utensils. Other friends of mine got the switch, the razor strop and a full-on wooden paddle with holes drilled in it. The latter was used by our middle school gym teacher. He referred to it as the ‘Board of Education” and applied it to the “seat of learning.”
As I said, I didn’t like the word — or the idea — of discipline, so when I encountered the passage of scripture quoted above, I tended to chafe at it. But here’s the passage in a larger context:
“ 4In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says,
“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
6 because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”[a]
7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? 8 If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. 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 spirits and live! 10 They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order 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 12:4-11 (NIV)
Did you get that? God disciplines sons he loves — the fact that He’s doing so proves you’re His. That’s critical. If he didn’t care, he wouldn’t bother.
If that’s still not enough, consider this: The words discipline and disciple come from the same root. Seen this way, discipline is instruction, teaching or training. This turned the light on for me, as the word training has a positive connotation. If I’m being trained, that means I’m acquiring new skills — and that suggests new opportunities.
I also associate training with working out. I enjoy exercise for the health benefits, for the way it crushes stress and elevates my mood. Enduring hardship as training under the hand of God, means God is my coach and he’s getting me ready for the next challenge.
If you’re going through a rough patch in your life, I hope this will help you. If your difficulties are the result of some choice you made or something you failed to do, understand that God is teaching you how to avoid this next time. If you’ve audited your behavior and your motives and you’re sure you’re in the right and you’re still going through a tough time, trust that your Father in Heaven is preparing you for a future challenge.
Don’t get discouraged. The fact that you’re having a hard time is evidence that God loves you and is training you. Punishment is always about the past. Training is always about the future.