My friend and I got into a discussion about whether or not God would actually hurt or punish a Christian. I said, “No. He loves us too much.” He said, “Yes. He loves us too much not to!”
What do you think?
Your friend wins!
I think that most everyone agrees that children who experience little or no discipline often grow up to be stubborn, unmanageable, misguided, rebellious teenagers and adults.
Therefore, it should come as no surprise that because we are His spiritual children, our Father in heaven has every intention of disciplining us so that we will grow up to be effective, strong spiritual mothers and fathers.
I watch a lot of families when Julie and I go out to eat. Whenever I see well-behaved children sitting with mom or dad or both, I always walk over and say, “Excuse me, you must be great parents. Your children are so well behaved.” Mom and dad grin from ear to ear. It’s quite clear that these children have been carefully disciplined and will grow up well.
So let’s consider a few things.
FIRST: DISCIPLINE IS A REQUIREMENT FOR CHRIST FOLLOWERS.
The Lord disciplines the ones he loves,
and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son. Hebrews 12:6
When you choose to trust Jesus Christ as Savior, you will soon discover that some of our teachers are named “Pain” and “Suffering.” We have all experienced heartache, broken relationships, broken homes, disease, loss of a child, being misunderstood, financial difficulties, wayward teenagers, and on and on.
In our sin-filled, imperfect world, life hurts. And when God chooses to allow us to experience pain as discipline, we can respond in two ways: embrace and overcome the pain with His help or fall into a spirit of bitterness and anger. Your choice.
It was the Sunday night before Christmas and I was finishing my class on principles of spiritual growth. The main theme of the thirteen week class was how God uses difficulties to mature us to look like Jesus.
“Any more questions before we go,” I asked? One obviously pregnant woman said,” if I pray to be a spiritual woman at any price, would God might take my baby to help mature me in Christ.”
“What a question! I know that God uses difficulties to mature us to look like Jesus. However, I doubt that God has anything in mind for you like that.”
On January 5, I received a call. She said, “I just want you to know that I gave birth to my baby and my baby passed away. Could you come see me?”
With great consternation I walked up her sidewalk wondering, “What in the world can I say to her?”
When I arrived, her husband ushered me to one of their lounge chairs across from her in the room.
“I just wanted you know that I have no idea if God had anything to do with what happened; but, I do know this, God will use this experience to grow me to look more like Jesus.”
I walked a mile with Pleasure,
She chatted all the way,
And left me none the wiser,
For all she had to say.
I walked a mile with Sorrow,
And ne’re a word said she,
But Oh the things I learned that day,
When Sorrow walked with me.
SECOND: DISCIPLINE PROVES THAT THE FATHER LOVES 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 12:5-6
When troubles set in and trials arrive most of us react first by wondering,
“Am I really saved? If I were really saved, why am I having all these problems? Has God forsaken me? I’m a Christian; I’m not supposed to have so many problems. If God really loved me, He wouldn’t let these things happen to me.”
Certainly he would! The troubles prove that He loves us.
C. S. Lewis observed, “We want not so much a father in heaven as a grandfather in heaven whose plan for the universe is such that it might be said at the end of each day, ‘and a good time was had by all.’”
It takes a lot of love to carry out consistent discipline for a child. Pity the poor child whose parents don’t love him enough to discipline him or her consistently.
THIRD: DISCIPLINE PROVES THAT WE BELONG TO GOD.
Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? Hebrews 12:7
Think about this: God does not punish nor discipline unsaved people in this life. They are not his children. He saves their judgment for the Great White Throne Judgment when their sins will be exposed and all will be cast into the lake of fire. Revelation 20:11-13.
Unsaved people are Satan’s children, and he wreaks havoc upon them.
If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Hebrews 12:8
Simply stated, a person with no problems is illegitimate and not a Christian. Discipline is not brought to us in spite of our following Christ; it is because we are following Christ.
Dr. Harry Ironside had a student ask to pray for him to have more patience. Ironside begin to pray,
“Dear Lord, would you please give this young man some problems.
Knowing that Ironside was going deaf the student shook him and said, “No, No, not problems. I want patience.
Ironside prayed again, “Lord, would you please send this man some problems.” The student shook Ironside again.
The student said, “I want patience, not problems.”
Then Ironside replied, “Don’t you know that it is troubles and problems which produce patience?”
FOURTH: THOUGH PAINFUL, DISCIPLINE IS ULTIMATELY VALUABLE.
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! 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.
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 12:9-11
Never, ever did one of my children look at me after disciplining her and say, “Boy that was a great delight, Dad. Thanks so much. Let’s do it again soon!”
No child likes discipline; but as parents, we must never lose sight of the goal. Discipline produces a “harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”
One of my favorite Chinese proverbs perfectly illustrates the painful things that God is doing in your life…
“Once upon a time, far off in the heart of the Western Kingdom, the master came to walk day by day. In the midst of the garden, there was the most beautiful bamboo tree that ever grew in all the earth. The master would come by and look at his plants; but he had a special affinity for that old bamboo tree. He watched it as it grew. He nurtured it complete maturity.
One day, as the great master was walking through his garden, he came to that bamboo tree, and on impulse that bamboo tree bowed down in loving adoration of his master. The master said, “Bamboo, most beautiful of all the trees in my garden, I think that you're just about ready to become useful to me.”
Bamboo said, “Oh, great master, if I can do anything for you, I will. Just take me. Use me.”
The great master said, “Bamboo, Bamboo, most beautiful of all the trees in my garden, if I'm going to use you I have to cut you down.” The wind stopped blowing, and the birds stopped singing and all the butterflies were still.
Then Bamboo said, “Well, master, I'm yours. But, you yourself said that I'm the most beautiful of all the trees in the garden, must you cut me down?”
“I must, if you're going to be useful to me.” The sounds of the garden were hushed in silence as that great bamboo bent his neck, and the master cut him down.
Then the master said, “Bamboo, you’re still not useful to me. If you're going to be useful to me, I must cut off all your branches.”
Bamboo pleaded, “Oh, master, not that. You've already cut me down. Isn't that enough? Please don't cut off my branches.”
But, the great master said, “No, I must cut off your branches.” Once more the garden was silenced, and all the plants looked on with rapt attention as the great master snipped off branch after branch, and bared that great bamboo.
Then the master said, “Bamboo, you're not useful to me yet. There's one more thing. If you're going to be useful to me, then I must split you open and cut your heart out.”
Bamboo wept, “Oh, master, not that! “You've already taken away my beauty. There's nothing left now—just me. Must you scrape my heart out?”
“I must if you're to be useful to me.'” Once more the garden was hushed as the great master took that bamboo, split him down the middle and scraped his heart out.
Then the great master took that bamboo shoot, now hollowed out and scraped clean, and walked over to a spring that was bubbling with water. He laid one end of that hollowed-out bamboo shoot in the stream. He placed the other end of that bamboo shoot in the irrigation ditch that watered his garden.
Then the waters began to flow; and the fields began to grow. The wind began to blow again. The birds began to sing. The rice was planted and the harvest came. And that bamboo who—standing all alone in the garden was the most beautiful of all the master's plants—that bamboo—which meant so much to the master—when that bamboo was stripped bare and hollowed out, then and only then could he be useful in the great master's garden.
Well Alex, I hope my thoughts are helpful in giving you a little more material for you and your friend to discuss.
May God grant you and your friend many good years ahead.