“All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.” Hebrews 12:11
Discipline is another aspect of our journey that can feel and look “bad.” I would like to take a quick look at it in two ways—discipline that we receive from God when our behavior needs tweaking and self-discipline that we practice in order to grow. Let’s begin with God’s discipline.
In more than one place we have looked at the truth that, when our behavior needs addressing, God convicts us but He does not condemn us. We saw those differences on our chart of how to distinguish His voice from the enemy’s. When God disciplines us for something we have done that He wants to change, we usually have negative feelings about how it feels. Consequences seldom ever feel good at all. We feel sorrowful. But I like this verse here in Hebrews that gives us hope for those times when discipline comes our way. If we allow God to do His work in us over this thing that needs discipline, we will grow in our intimacy with Him. The training will yield the peaceful fruit of righteousness. In other words, our walk will match our talk. We are already righteous in our spirits, in union with Christ—loving discipline from our heavenly Father makes that righteousness show up in our outward behavior. We do not have to be ashamed of discipline; it’s a good thing.
As I was thinking about an example I could use here, I was going over the verse in my mind and thinking about the part that talks about training, the other form of discipline—self-discipline. I realized that God trained me to walk by faith, so I began to look back at how He did that. He did it much the same way an athlete trains for a sport. Practice! Practice! Practice! He gave me lots and lots of opportunities to believe His word against the appearances and feelings that I could see and touch.
All the years our family was in the ministry, not knowing how much money we would have each month, slowly but surely taught me to trust God. Trials such as my divorce and having to move out of my home brought emotional pain that were opportunities to turn to Jesus and cling to Him. When I heard God’s words in my spirit, I chose to obey Him, such as the time when He told me to say I have a gentle and quiet spirit. (Devotion on I Peter 3:4 in the chapter on Grace and Union.) These are examples of trusting Him in spite of feelings and appearances.
Practice. Obedience. Faith. All are part of discipline. Like every good athlete, we have to follow all that our Coach has for us. I laugh inside when God reminds me that I have to do something that might feel embarrassing or I have to share a story about my failures. I laugh because I want to “walk what I talk,” and “practice what I preach” (write and teach) and that helps me obey. Being humbled is one of the exercises that our Coach uses to teach us. It may not feel good, but I am grateful for both kinds of discipline that cause me to enjoy the peaceful fruit of righteousness.
Application: When you feel the sting of discipline—you have to humbly seek forgiveness from someone—you have to trust God to pay a bill, or you have to say the truth about yourself—remember the reward is intimacy and the peaceful fruit of righteousness. Think on this quote from Hinds’ Feet on High Places: “Love is beautiful, but it is also terrible—terrible in its determination to allow nothing blemished or unworthy to remain in the beloved.”
This excerpt is from the chapter–Feelings and Appearances–Barriers to Intimacy (Book published now. click here )
Hannah Hurnard, Hinds’ Feet on High Places, page 179.