You are struggling against sin, but your struggles have not yet caused you to be killed. You have forgotten the encouraging words that call you his children: “My child, don’t think the Lord’s discipline is worth nothing, and don’t stop trying when he corrects you. The Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as his child.” So hold on through your sufferings, because they are like a father’s discipline. God is treating you as children. All children are disciplined by their fathers. If you are never disciplined (and every child must be disciplined), you are not true children. We have all had fathers here on earth who disciplined us, and we respected them. So it is even more important that we accept discipline from the Father of our spirits so we will have life. Our fathers on earth disciplined us for a short time in the way they thought was best. But God disciplines us to help us, so we can become holy as he is. We do not enjoy being disciplined. It is painful at the time, but later, after we have learned from it, we have peace, because we start living in the right way. (Hebrews 11:4-11)
Discipline is paramount in faith. In order for discipline to have maximize effect, there must be a relationship.
How is the discipline you experience from God dependent on your relationship with him?
How is the discipline you’ve experienced with people in your life, whether on the giving or receiving end, dependent on your relationships?
We had our dog Jip for 17 years and missed him when he was gone. We knew we wanted another dog at some point, but we wanted to think through the best timing. We weren’t ready the spring after Jip died, but we thought spring would be the best time, since it would give us many months outside before the harsh months of winter. Our next dog would be an outside dog, like Jip was, and we wanted as much time as possible to teach and train him and build a relationship with him. The two go hand-in-hand. If I walk up to a dog at the park, he will likely not respond to me as promptly as to his owner. I could also build a relationship with a dog and not teach or train him. He wouldn’t be disciplined, and in the process, would frustrate me at times and be frustrated about expectations and boundaries. In many ways, Jip was undisciplined. He was a good dog, but it was a good thing he was low maintenance. Because the girls were young when we got Jip, I didn’t have the time or energy to train a dog. I had my hands full with two daughters. Truth be told, I could have trained Jip, but it wasn’t a priority for me at the time. I loved him with care, but I didn’t love him with discipline.
We picked up Della in the spring when she was only eight weeks old. We had the entire summer ahead of us. She settled into her new home quickly. She seemed comfortable with us, and we loved spending time with her. We began the discipline process right away. In fact, her previous owners had already started teaching her a few things, so Della had a head start with us. We wove establishing a relationship and discipline tightly together, so she knew what to expect from us, and we could depend on her to respond. Of course, the discipline process isn’t without speed bumps along the way. If I relax a boundary, she quickly begins to develop a bad habit. Sometimes I have to take a step back and repeat a lesson in order to move forward and learn more.
God teaches us in the same way. Our relationship with him and the discipline we experience are intricately tied.
What if we only experienced God’s discipline without an established relationship?
What if our relationship with God was void of discipline?
We are blessed to not have to experience either of these situations. God wants a relationship with us. As Creator, he already has a relationship with us. When we accept him as Lord and Savior, the relationship deepens. Not only do we have a relationship with God, but God is love (1 John 4:8). He cannot separate himself from love, because it’s who he is. And God’s love isn’t the touchy-feeling middle school love kind of love. It’s more than we can imagine.
What does Ephesians 3 reveal to you about God’s love?
I pray that Christ will live in your hearts by faith and that your life will be strong in love and be built on love. And I pray that you and all God’s holy people will have the power to understand the greatness of Christ’s love—how wide and how long and how high and how deep that love is. Christ’s love is greater than anyone can ever know, but I pray that you will be able to know that love. Then you can be filled with the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:17-19)
God wants us to be filled with his love. He wants us to live out the love he gives us. He wants us to be vessels of his love. Living by faith means living in community with others, loving one another with God’s love, which means we need to (1) establish and invest in relationships and (2) love with truth and correction. We need to live in discipline with each other.
Who is currently in your life who personally disciplines you, challenging you to grow in your relationship with God?
Who is currently in your life whom you discipline, challenging her or him to grow in relationship with God?
As iron sharpens iron, so people can improve each other. (Proverbs 27:17)