January 31: Discipline
Genesis 49–50; Hebrews 12–13; Ecclesiastes 12:9–14
I was a stubborn child. When disciplined by my parents, I would sulk for hours afterward. I didn’t see discipline from my parents’ perspective—as something that would mold me into a mature, loving person.
Hebrews 12 has a lesson for people like me with a history of wallowing in self-pity when disciplined. Here, the writer of Hebrews tells us that God, a Father to us through the work of Jesus, disciplines us for our good. To emphasize this, the writer of Hebrews draws on the book of Proverbs, where the Father instructs His own Son. “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, or give up when you are corrected by him. For the Lord disciplines the one who he loves, and punishes every son whom he accepts” (Heb 12:6; compare Prov 3:11–12).
The author tells us that being disciplined is a sign of God’s love. It means He is working and active in our lives (Heb 12:8). Like a chastised child, we might not always recognize God’s discipline this way. When challenged by our circumstances, we might struggle against events that are meant to shape us for holiness and eternity. We might even avoid subjecting ourselves to them because we don’t see God as the author of the event.
Sometimes our parents’ form of discipline gives us a tainted view of its purpose. Imperfect, like us, they disciplined us “for a few days according to what seemed appropriate to them.” It may have been harmful and destructive. But God disciplines us “for our benefit, in order that we can have a share in his holiness” (Heb 12:10). Because His intentions are perfect, we know that He has our ultimate good in mind. And we can approach discipline like a student, ready to learn how to better serve Him—and others—for His kingdom.
How do you respond to God’s discipline in your life? How can you change your attitude so that you view them as teachable moments and not a means to inflict harm?
Rebecca Van Noord
Barry, J. D. – Kruyswijk, R., Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan (Bellingham, WA 2012).