Loving Discipline

"And have you entirely forgotten the encouraging words 
God spoke to you, His children? He said:  My child, 
don't ignore it when the Lord disciplines you, 
and don't be discouraged when He corrects you. 
For the Lord disciplines those He loves...."

Hebrews 12: 5-6

It’s not a popular thing to suggest God might discipline us. Vehement protestations question how a loving God could possibly allow bad things to happen to good people. But bad things happen to good people all the time and if God is sovereign and omnipotent, as of course He is, the question then becomes why. This is a question people have been asking since the beginning of time and one we’d all wish to have answered fully.

There are many aspects of suffering in this world. With only a mouse click on any news website we learn of the horrors of famines, earthquakes, floods, crimes and cancers constantly present in this world. However, with this post I am referring only to the type of difficulty that occurs when our heavenly Father lovingly corrects us.

He does you know.

When we’re drifting away from a close relationship with God, usually typified by waning prayer and Bible reading/study, He will send along warnings in order to get our attention. Initially, He will speak to us most often through our conscience. It is at this point we are very wise indeed if we immediately turn from a behaviour or attitude that God would consider sin. Yet many times we ignore the voice of conscience and carry on with our own will which takes us step-by-precarious-step from the centre of God’s will.

Increasingly, there will be warnings and they come in many forms. Some come from sermons, others may come from friends who see that we’re losing some of the graces of love, joy, peace, kindness, self-control and so on. Still other warnings may come in the form of a movie that makes a sharp point right in the bulls-eye of our conscience. Perhaps it’s a daily email that comes with a Scripture verse or a card from a relative. Whatever way a warning 'speaks' the discerning heart will know it’s the Lord’s voice.

At this point we often find ourselves making excuses to justify our behaviour or we whine that 'it’s too hard to obey'. The Lord’s patience is an absolutely remarkable thing though. He will continue to give us time to turn from those behaviours He refers to as sin, always waiting for us to come to Him in repentance. When we do He rewards us with forgiveness and blessing.

However, if we continue to persist in our sin the warnings will become increasingly louder and more obvious until finally the Lord has to “get out of His chair’.

This is a reference to my son-in-law’s father. Pierre tells the story of how his father, Phil, would warn he and his brothers and sister when playtime turned rough. After several admonitions Phil would finally say, “If I have to get out of this chair….” With this the children knew Dad was threatening to take the situation in hand!

It’s not so very different with the Lord. When we continue to sin the Lord will correct us. He doesn’t do it because He’s ‘mad at us’ which has often been the stick people have held over others to manipulate them. Rather, He will allow or design a circumstance that will instantly stop us in our tracks and always because in His boundless love for us is protecting us from wandering down a destructive path. The pain experienced in the correction is far less than the one we would feel if allowed to continue on a destructive path.

The apostle Paul had been imprisoned and was being taken to Rome. Before the voyage Paul heard the voice of the Lord and warned the ship’s officers that it was too dangerous to sail. In spite of the warning, the ship put out to sea and sailed right into a massive storm. The ship’s officers didn’t listen to the voice of the Lord and came close to losing their lives as well as the lives of their entire crew. However, they did listen during the storm when Paul told them the Lord would preserve their lives even though they were going to be shipwrecked and then told them what they needed to do. (Read the full account of this story in Acts 27)

The point, of course, is that they could have avoided the shipwreck altogether had they listened to the voice of the Lord before sailing.

Pay attention to the early warnings and act on them.

But consider the joy of those corrected by God! 
Do not despise the chastening of the Almighty when you sin.
 For though He wounds, He also bandages. 
He strikes, but His hands also heal.

Job 5: 17-18