“Endure hardship as discipline…God disciplines us for our good, 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 12:10b,11 (NIV)
Yikes – discipline. “I have no discipline!” How often have you heard that said, or perhaps even said it yourself? We know we need it: whether because of bad habits that have long been needing to be addressed; or perhaps because of more serious sins that we keep falling into – things that cause us great shame, regret and discouragement, things we might even feel addicted to.
What is discipline? The Latin root word is “disciplina”, meaning “instructed”, or “knowledge”. It’s not actually punishment, though it includes suffering: “No discipline seems pleasant (an understatement)… but painful.”.
Why does our good God allow this suffering, and indeed even initiate it? “… that we may share in his holiness”, for without holiness, no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14). And “see(ing) the Lord” is the aim of our whole lives, isn’t it? That’s what heaven will be: seeing Jesus’ face with our own eyes (Rev. 31:4). “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Mt. 5:8). And not just for a moment, but for an eternity, filling us with love, joy and full satisfaction.
So where does discipline, especially self-discipline come into this? Precisely because those things that bind us, that enslave us, are gumming things up inside of us. They’re impediments to our freedom, freedom to respond wholeheartedly and unreservedly to God’s merciful offer of love. And they’re stumbling blocks to our ability to love others as we should, purely and unselfishly. Jesus desires us to have freedom from the things that hinder us in our souls, as well as freedom for living out God’s love in our world (see Gal. 5:1). He suffered and died to free us from the hold these misdirected impulses and desires have had on us, often for years and years. He did battle with sin, death and hell; he won that battle and offers each of us a share in his victory.
So what can we concretely do about those things that we need to address in our lives – those places where we lack self discipline? And how, precisely, can we learn to accept willingly the “hardship” that the Scripture speaks about and that God allows in our lives for our good? How can we partner with God in growing toward greater freedom in our lives – freedom which makes way for greater love?
I’d like to explore this topic in some upcoming posts and see if I can share some of the things that have helped me in my struggles with learning discipline. I certainly haven’t arrived, but I have made some significant progress over the years. Perhaps some of the things that have helped me will help others.
To be continued…