Discipline of God

I come from a family full of military people. My father and younger brother are Marines. My older brother is in the Army. Each of them has stories about boot camp that they love to tell. These stories describe hardship and pain that they volunteered for. This borders on masochism in my eyes but each of them felt that they matured because of their experiences. I have often wondered why they went through all that pain. Why did they march several miles a day regardless of the weather? Why would they practice the same drills over and over again? Why would they allow themselves to yield to a grueling schedule that they did not come up with? There must have been some motivation. My father informed me that everything was done so that they would be prepared. You have to be trained in order to be a soldier. You cannot expect to go into battle and automatically know what to do unless you have first disciplined yourself to react in a certain way. Every drill, routine, or exercise, regardless of its difficulty, is used to discipline the recruit. The recruit does not have the right to complain about the discipline because it is necessary if he plans on being a soldier. The process of discipline is vital to the military if it wants to be successful in the combat that it engages.

The Bible discusses the topic of spiritual warfare on several occasions. Ephesians 6:12 is a reminder that “we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” This means that Christians are at war! Just like the military there is a need for preparation and discipline if we want to survive this conflict. Proverb 3:11 states that we should not “reject the Lord’s discipline.” This discipline will result in our spiritual lives being more like Christ. Hebrews 12:1-13 shows the effect this has on spiritual formation.

“…Throw off everything that hinders…”
Athletes usually train with many weights on their body in order to become stronger. On the day of the game the weights are removed so that the athlete can perform at their best. If we want spiritual formation to take place then we must examine our lives and see what is holding us back from serving God. We are given some difficulties to go through in life to strengthen us. Many people fail under pressure because they have areas of their life that are hindering them. Career, family, homes, money, attitudes and many other things can keep one from progressing spiritually because of an unwillingness to get rid of the dead weight. It will be impossible to keep up with where God is leading you if some serious self evaluation is not completed.

“…Run with perseverance…”
If you want to run in a marathon you cannot stop after 15 miles and expect success. The runner must be motivated to endure even when their body does not want to go any further. This type of drive will benefit the runner every time. Spiritual formation cannot be attained by giving up easily. The disciplines have to be approached with the mindset of long term grown. I cannot pray for wisdom tonight and wake up the next day expecting it to be there. We must cultivate a faith is “steadfast and immovable” (1 Cor. 15:58). When this is accomplished then giving up because the discipline is hard will never be an option.

God is able to make this requirement of us because He is faithful and full of perseverance. Countless times in the Bible He redeems His people and did not give up on them. This model set by God must be responded to it with the same vigor in which it was given.

“…Consider Him…”
There can be a temptation to feel that the discipline commanded by God is too difficult. It can be easy to complain when we do not feel like going through with what He has asked of us. The comfort given is to remember that Christ died for our sake. Christ took following the will of His Father so serious that He gave up His life for it. Because of His dedication I cannot look at my discomfort and think that it is unbearable. The discipline that I personally go through can never be compared to what happened on the Cross. It is because of this “consideration” that we have the hope that things can and will get better because Christ has already traveled this path ahead of us.

“…it produces a harvest of righteousness… for those who have been trained by it..”
The discipline we receive from God has a purpose. It is God’s intention that we receive the blessing of righteousness if we have received the proper training. It is through this training that God shows us how we are to respond to this world. If I am successful in being discipline by God then I will not have to worry about anything. I will live an existence of peace because I will be ready for anything that comes my way. This is the exciting adventure of spiritual formation that God has called all His believers to partake in.

So how will you respond to God’s discipline? Will you continue to carry extra weight around or discard your extra baggage? Will you give up when things get hard or persevere till the end? Will you consider what Jesus has already done sacrificially or think about your rough experience? Will you produce a harvest of righteous that leads to peace or continue to worry because that is what you are accustomed to? Your answers to these questions will determine the outcome of your spiritual formation.

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  1. Matt
    May 3, 2007 at 1:23 pm

    Just found your blog and look forward to reading more. I have also spent time in west TN – Memphis and have a background in clinical and health psychology. My wife has a masters in counseling and is working on her liscensure in MFT. God bless

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