“Lord, how would you have me grow through this painful circumstance in order that I would bear your image more fully?”
One important truth we should note is that God’s discipline is not the same as his judgment. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). The resurrection and ascension of the Son is God’s final stamp of approval over his sacrifice for our sin, and this acceptance stands for all those who put their faith in Christ as their sin-bearing Savior and Lord. The cross of Christ is our assurance that there is no longer any judgment for sin for those who have been covered by the righteousness of Jesus. It is our assurance that all discipline is a carefully ordained measure of God’s love being poured out for us.
Let’s regard the Lord’s discipline, not lightly, but with humbly submissive attitudes and searching thoughts, with the desire to bear the peaceful fruit of righteousness as we are conformed to the image of Christ. Train yourself to ask the following questions:
“What is God teaching me about himself?”
Often, when God disciplines his children, he is training us to take our eyes off ourselves — our own strength, plans, and desires — and to fix them on his character.
What is God teaching me about myself?”
God’s loving discipline often intends to wake us up from the sleep of selfishness and independence that comes so naturally to our flesh. Our attitude of submission can easily turn into presumptions when we take our eyes off the character of God and assume that his agenda should be the same as ours.
But, when we are faced with trials and testing, the desires of our hearts are exposed. God uses discipline to weed out that which is earthly within us — our pride, fears, idolatry, and presumptions — in order that we might confess sin, repent of it, and share in his holiness. God in Christ is faithful to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Through discipline, our loving Father might be teaching us that our trust has been misplaced and that he is the only One who can truly satisfy us. The significance of the cross is magnified, as we realize anew that Christ bore all of our sins in his body on the tree, that we might be free of them and conform to his image.
“How might God be using discipline to conform me to his image?”
If God’s purpose in discipline is that we might share in his holiness, then we can trust that everything coming from the Lord’s hand is for our good. We can rest in his promise that, in Christ, he is for us, and not against us (Romans 8:32) and, therefore, that even the most severe discipline is rooted in God’s great and steadfast love for his children.
“How might God use this as a testimony to other people?”
The way that we respond to the Lord’s discipline is a chance to give a reason for the hope that we have in Christ our Lord. Our natural inclination towards discipline is to grumble and complain, grow bitter and angry, and rely on our own strength. But when the children of God trust that his discipline is loving and for our good, we will respond in trust, peace, and with a deeper hunger to know God through his Word.
Thank God for his grace shown in Christ, for even when our faith fails, God is greater than our hearts! We can confess our sins and weakness and ask him for the faith to submit to whatever discipline he brings for our good. And that is one prayer he loves to answer.
The Lord may discipline us severely, but it will not end in death. It will yield the peaceful fruit of righteousness for those who have not regarded it lightly but have been trained by it.
A note on Proverbs 3:11-12 in the Christian Standard Study Bible states: “To ask God to refrain from giving us discipline would be to ask him to love us less.” Discipline is an expression of love. Therefore, don’t be discouraged when God’s discipline falls on you. The very presence of the Lord’s discipline in your life is evidence that you are loved by God!
Jerry Bridges put it this way “The purpose of God’s discipline is not to punish us but to transform us.” Billy Graham once said: “God does not discipline us to subdue us, but to condition us for a life of usefulness and blessedness.”
Here’s a final thought. This question was raised recently in a Bible study group I lead: How can I know whether the adversity I’m going through is God’s hand of discipline, or something else? (The “something else” may be the result of living in a fallen world or an attack from Satan.) I believe it would be a mistake to attribute every pain and affliction directly to God’s chastisement of particular sins in our lives. (Consider Job.) It would also be a mistake to ignore the possibility that our affliction may indeed be God’s chastening. In any instance of suffering, we do well to ask two questions: What is God wanting to do in me through this? How can God get the glory in this?
Discipline is not the same as condemnation. God disciplines His children, but He does not condemn them. Romans 8:1 makes this clear: “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (cf. Romans 8:33–34). Discipline has to do with training and growth; condemnation has to do with punishment and guilt.
When does God discipline us? Discipline is training, and that training involves both positive and negative aspects. Part of discipline is simply guiding someone to follow certain rules or to observe certain behaviors. Another part of discipline involves reproof to correct disobedience. Both aspects of discipline can be tough. The trials Job endured were not a punishment for sin (see Job 1:8), but they were training in righteousness (see Job 42:3, 6), and Job emerged from his trial a better man.
Often, people ask if God is “punishing” them for wrong choices in the past. All our punishment for sin was exhausted upon Jesus on the cross (Romans 5:9). The wrath of God was poured out on Him so that for those who are “in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1) no wrath remains. When we give our lives to Christ, our Substitute for sin, our sin is forgiven and God remembers it no more (Hebrews 8:12; 10:15-18). However, often, our wrong choices in the past have brought about unpleasant consequences now. God does not necessarily remove the natural consequences of sin when we repent. Those consequences are tools God can use to teach us, to prevent us from repeating the same mistakes, and to remind us of God’s grace.
Here’s a great article from crossway.org
10 Disciplines of a Godly Man
by: R. Kent Hughes