There are some words that always carry negative connotations for me.
For example, ‘discipline’ reminds me of a strict boy scout leader I knew many decades ago who seemed to have lost the word ‘fun’ from his dictionary. When I think of the word ‘discipline’ I think of standing to attention, saluting and shiny shoes.
The writer of the Book of Hebrews doesn’t shirk from the unpleasantness of discipline but he has an interesting spin on it.
For example, when we go through tough times, the Lord allows it, but He allows it because we are His children: ‘Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons’ (Heb 12: 7). Why would He do that?
Verses 10 and 11 go on to describe some of the good that might result from such times – peace, a harvest of righteousness and a sharing in God’s holiness.
Certainly, many of us can testify to circumstances that God used to change something in us. I know for me, that when I am facing something hard, my inability to control the situation can be enough to drive me to the place of prayer and ask again for help. That challenges me to contemplate my frailty and His sovereignty. I know I am different today because of times God has formed something good in me through a season of prayer during a difficult season.
That’s not all though: Verse 11 speaks of a harvest of righteousness. God is allowing hardship to occur in order to produce a harvest. What does that mean?
Some commentators suggest it refers to changes in our character. Certainly, the Scriptures promise us the miracle of transformation into the likeness of Christ as we meditate on God and His glory (2 Cor 3: 18). Others suggest an increase of self-control or a new devotion to God.
It is probably different for each person and a mixture of all three, but remember this: God does not discipline us because he is a harsh taskmaster, he disciplines us because we are his children and he sees what we might become.
There is one more thing. The writer of the book of Hebrews compares human fathers with God: human fathers will discipline their children for their good, so how much more will God? Human fathers love their children so how much more does God? In other words, ‘The Lord disciplines those he loves’ (Heb 12: 6).
The writer has borrowed the phrase from the book of Proverbs, quoting chapter 3: 11 – 12, but there is one word in Proverbs not present in the book of Hebrews, the word, ‘delight’. ‘The Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in’. ‘Delight’ adds yet another layer to the picture God is painting here.
When we go through tough times, God uses the painful season for our good. There is a harvest to come. As we meditate on Him, trust and obey His Word, we give Him permission to form our character to be more like His Son, Jesus.
It may be painful, but He does this because we are His children, those He loves – those He delights in.
Think about that: The Lord delights in us. While He is disciplining us, He is delighting in us.
God made us, and He loves to see us transformed into the image of His Son. Tough situations may come our way, but God uses them for our good, and He is personally present – delighting in each son and daughter every step of the way.