God disciplines those he loves is an uncomfortable truth. It’s certainly not a phrase that’ll make you popular at parties!
But today’s verses have a surprisingly encouraging message for us:
“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, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.'”
Hebrews 12:–6 NIV
As a kid, I hated discipline. As a father, I don’t enjoy applying discipline. However, I correct my children because I love them and want them at their best.
God is the same way with us, his discipline flows from love.
The big question is, how do we know when God is disciplining us? If we can learn to see our circumstances in that light, Hebrews tells us we can be encouraged.
The Difference Between Discipline and Condemnation
First, discipline is not condemnation because it is not about punishment, but correction.
Condemnation, on the other hand, is about being cast out and cut off from our community.
So God disciplines those he loves to steer us from sin and toward our Savior. There is no condemnation for those in Christ—but there is correction.
The Second Kind of Discipline
We see at least two kinds of discipline emerge in Scripture:
- Discipline to steer us from sin
- Discipline to stretch us in what we’re doing well
Jesus endured the second kind of discipline. Hebrews 5:8 says, “[Jesus] learned obedience through what he suffered.”
Isn’t that provoking? Jesus had to learn obedience. Wow. If Jesus had to learn it, you and I certainly do.
Jesus’ life shows us constant obedience through difficulty. And if we broaden our scope of discipline from punishment for evil into correction toward good, we see that God’s correction led Jesus to ever-increasing heights of obedience.
In no way was Jesus ever corrected for personal sin. But he did grow in obedience by the suffering laid in his path.
How to Know if God is Disciplining You
You can know God is disciplining you in three ways.
- First, if you are a son or daughter of God who has placed your faith in Jesus Christ, God is applying his loving correction to your life!
- Second, if you are sinning, God will correct your course away from hurtling over the cliff’s edge, and back toward the joy of holiness.
- Third, if obedience to God is difficult, even to the point of suffering, Scripture shows us that God is exploding our spiritual maturity and impact.
Remember, God disciplines those he loves. So embrace his discipline with gratitude and the conviction that he loves you.