Lord, Is That You?

To benefit from God’s discipline, we must first learn to recognize it as such.

Trouble is an unavoidable part of human existence. It’s so common, in fact, that we have come to accept it as normal. Consequently, we rarely look any deeper or stop to consider whether the Lord might be trying to get our attention. From our nearsighted perspective, each incident is an isolated event, and the goal is to relieve the pain, solve the problem, and get back to normal. But what if the situation is God’s discipline? He uses a variety of methods to teach and correct us, but if we don’t recognize what He’s doing, we’ll miss out on His valuable training.

So how can we discern whether our troubles are divine discipline or merely the result of living in a fallen world? There’s no reason to see every problem or pain as punishment for sin; but on the other hand, we don’t want to miss the correction our loving heavenly Father sends our way.

Read Hebrews 12:1-13

Before opening your Bible, ask the Holy Spirit to reveal what He wants you to take away from this passage. Then read the section, jotting down your first impressions: What questions do you have? Is anything confusing? Which verses speak into your present situation, and how?

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Beach at Bas Butin, Honfleur, 1886, by Georges Pierre Seurat
 

Before we can perceive it in our life, we must understand what God’s discipline is and what He intends to accomplish through it. The Greek term—paideia—encompasses the entirety of a child’s training and education: tutoring and commands, along with admonition, reproof, and punishment. When the word is used of adults, it refers to whatever cultivates the soul and increases virtue, especially by means of correcting mistakes and curbing passions.

Too often we equate discipline only with punishment, but the Lord disciplines us in positive ways as well. For instance, that same Greek word is translated as “training” in 2 Timothy 3:16: “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness” (emphasis added). This means the Bible is one of God’s instruments of discipline in the believer’s life. When we heed His instructions, we are trained to live righteously, thereby avoiding the pain of chastisement, which comes to those who ignore His Word.

With this expanded definition, every area of life is an opportunity for God’s training. Sometimes we experience affliction because we’ve sinned and the Lord wants to draw us back to obedience. But on other occasions, our trials may actually come while we are walking obediently with Him. This is what happened to Paul. (See 2 Cor. 12:7-10.) The “thorn in the flesh” was a tool to protect the apostle from pride. God also used it to teach Paul—and us—that divine power is perfected in human weakness. Both of these situations can be defined as God’s discipline because they accomplish His purpose: “that we may share His holiness” (Heb. 12:10).

Because God knows each of us and our responses perfectly, He understands how to tailor our training in the most effective way.

Reflect

Write your thoughts in the space provided for notes or in a journal.

• Hebrews 12 compares our life to a race and encourages us to lay aside every encumbrance or sin that entangles or weighs us down. One way we strive against sin is by learning from God’s discipline (Heb. 12:4). In the next verse, we’re told not to regard His discipline lightly or lose heart because of it. According to Proverbs 3:11-12, what else should we avoid doing? Have you responded in any of these ways? Why would these responses hinder what the Lord is trying to do in your life?

• The Lord’s discipline is proof that we are His dearly loved children (Heb. 12:6-10). Yet in the midst of our pain, we may feel that He’s angry with us. What do you think keeps us from perceiving His love? 

• Discipline is often painful, but it has a good outcome if we are trained by it. According to verses 10 and 11, what does the Lord want to produce in our lives?

Respond

• God’s discipline is not the same for all of His children. Because He knows each of us and our responses perfectly, He understands how to tailor our training in the most effective way. Are you the compliant type who quickly learns through instruction and promptly obeys? Or does your heavenly Father have to “raise His voice” with pain and trouble to encourage obedience?

• Sometimes the Lord will work in our life to correct patterns of behavior. We may not even be aware of them until we experience His discipline. Do you repeatedly struggle with the same issues? What can you do to strengthen these weak areas (Heb. 12:12-13)?

• Scripture tells us that sickness is one of the Lord’s methods of discipline (1 Cor. 11:28-32). But since this isn’t always the reason for illness, we could easily dismiss all our ailments as just part of life. How can you discern whether an illness is a form of divine discipline? What does James 5:14-16 advise us to do?

Revisit

• Have you ever observed a child who seems oblivious to his parent’s voice? Even though Mom or Dad tells him repeatedly—and with increasing volume—to stop playing and get ready for bed, his attention remains focused exclusively on his activities. That’s the way some of us are with our heavenly Father. We’re so absorbed in this life that we can’t perceive His attempts to get our attention. How will we ever heed His discipline if we don’t have ears to hear?

Ask the Lord to attune your ears to the sound of His voice. Then begin your day by reading His Word and noting any instructions or corrections He gives. Next, consider whether you might be carrying around any extra baggage or entangling sins that repeatedly trip you up and hinder your sanctification. Can you discern any consequences? If so, could that be the discipline of God? What steps can you take to correct your course and cooperate as He makes your path straight (Prov. 3:6)?

Related Topics:  Growth of a Believer

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What happens to my notes

1 Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,

2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

3 For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

4 You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin;

5 and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, MY SON, DO NOT REGARD LIGHTLY THE DISCIPLINE OF THE LORD, NOR FAINT WHEN YOU ARE REPROVED BY HIM;

6 FOR THOSE WHOM THE LORD LOVES HE DISCIPLINES, AND HE SCOURGES EVERY SON WHOM HE RECEIVES."

7 It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline?

8 But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.

9 Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live?

10 For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness.

11 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.

12 Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble,

13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.

16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;

7 Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me--to keep me from exalting myself!

8 Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me.

9 And He has said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.

10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

10 For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness.

4 You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin;

11 My son, do not reject the discipline of the LORD Or loathe His reproof,

12 For whom the LORD loves He reproves, Even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights.

6 FOR THOSE WHOM THE LORD LOVES HE DISCIPLINES, AND HE SCOURGES EVERY SON WHOM HE RECEIVES."

7 It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline?

8 But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.

9 Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live?

10 For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness.

12 Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble,

13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.

28 But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup.

29 For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly.

30 For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep.

31 But if we judged ourselves rightly, we would not be judged.

32 But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord so that we will not be condemned along with the world.

14 Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord;

15 and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him.

16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.

6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.

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