The Discipline of God

By Mike Ratliff

May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. (2 Peter 1:2-4 ESV)

When I was a new Christian I heard a sermon by Chuck Swindoll in which he stated that before God can use a man for His purposes He must hurt him and sometimes rather severely. That was a quite startling to me at that time since that was so alien to the ‘doctrine’ I was exposed to in the church I belonged to. The focus there was that God was love and that He loved each of just the way we were. If that was so then what Swindoll was teaching wrong. However, as I studied my Bible I found that he was right and what I was hearing in church was wrong.

Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:3-11 ESV)

I pray that you carefully read the passage above. The writer of Hebrews compares our struggle against sin as tough, but not as tough as what our Lord had to endure to purchase the Body of Christ with His blood. He then made the following quote from Proverbs 3:11,12, “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” Never forget my brethren, earthly trials actually testify to God’s fatherly discipline. This scourging by God is for discipline that we have to endure. It is a call to respond in endurance. God is actually treating us as His sons in this discipline. The writer of Hebrews goes on to boldly state that a lack of discipline like this is a marker that we are illegitimate children. In other words, all who are truly His will be scourged and disciplined.

What is the purpose of this scourging? It is for our good, that we may share His holiness. Yes, the discipline seems painful and not pleasant at all, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. This is how God grows us up from being fleshly and self-focused with little or no self-control to humble, self-denying,  God-focused believers who walk before Him controlled by the Holy Spirit. It is through this discipline that God matures us. This, combined with immersion into God’s Word to undergo its scalpel-like surgery in exposing what is inside us, we repent and fight the good fight in mortifying our sin. Do not listen to any supposed Christian preacher, teacher, or prophet who does not stress our utter and desperate need to walk in repentance. We are called to be holy, to literally partake in the divine nature my brethren.

I used to believe that  judgment was coming upon the world because of those who reject Christ and live evil and depraved lives. However, over the last several years it has become clear that the greatest need of revival is within the visible Church. The Gospel is watered down and made seeker sensitive. The veracity of the Bible is called into question. Youth pastors teach our young people that sin is okay because, after all, all you have to do is repent later. If we are not far from the judgment of God on what passes for the Church in our time then I will be greatly surprised.

Let us examine ourselves my brethren asking God to reveal to us where we are resisting His discipline. Let us pray for revival and holiness within the Body of Christ. Let us pray for wisdom and discernment in these last dark and evil days.

Soli Deo Gloria!

20 thoughts on “The Discipline of God

  1. Pingback: The Discipline of God - Reformata

  2. ‘Let us examine ourselves my brethren asking God to reveal to us where we are resisting His discipline. Let us pray for revival and holiness within the Body of Christ. Let us pray for wisdom and discernment in these last dark and evil days’.

    AMEN MIKE! Very wise 3 sentences. We want to please Him with everything in us.

  3. Hi brother
    This is a subject so close to my heart and one the Lord has dealt very seriously with in my life. It is something each of us has to endure and it goes hand-in-hand with the Lord teaching us how to die to self – the two are utterly inseperable. Thank you for sharing the WHOLE truth in what you have written.

  4. And that chastening can last years or months.

    We have no idea about how much dross we inherit from the world. When God presses on us, everything that we assumed (wisdom of the world) about God’s goodness comes in to question at first. One of the first traits that we learn about God is his severity. I don’t anyone who truly knows him that he has not set his face against them for some time. We have heard the nonsense coming from the prosperity preachers saying, “NO! God is not angry. He is just waiting to bless you. God is not angry.”

    What father has never been angry with their sons disobedience? That is called righteous indignation. God does not always forgive without some kind of scourge. Sometimes he does, but not always. There is a big difference between a stumble, and taking pleasure in unrighteousness. If God sees a man taking pleasure in sin, he can and will deal with him in a severe manner. It will be an unforgettable experience. God is angry with the unrepentant sinner everyday.

  5. Mike,
    I am not sure what Swindoll meant by stating that God hurts people before using them. On the surface that seems contrary to what the Word of God speaks to my heart. However, you heard the whole sermon and thus know better what his intent was. The discipline you reference from Hebrews 12 is dealing with sin. But it must be understood that difficulties in life (tests & trials) are not always for the purpose of dealing with sin. It can be for the perfecting of faith and endurance, thereby bringing the saint of God to perfection (full maturity). “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” (James 1:2-4) It is important to know the difference when going through difficult circumstances.

    As regarding discipline I believe Paul in his dealings with the Corinthians expresses the very heart of our Heavenly Father when it comes to correcting His children. Paul saw himself as their spiritual father, “Even though you have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel.” (1 Corinth 4:15) As their spiritual father Paul had to correct the sin that was pervasive in the Corinthian Church. So a few sentences later Paul asks them to decide how he should come to them. “What do you prefer? Shall I come to you with a rod of discipline, or shall I come in love and with a gentle spirit?” (1 Corinth 4:21) I believe this question from Paul’s heart reveals the very heart of our Heavenly Father. He prefers to come to His Children in love and with a gentle spirit. And so He will to the heart that is broken and contrite. A heart that is open and teachable. Through His Word He will deal with the sin in our hearts and bring us to repentance and life from a spirit of love and gentleness. “Every Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for instruction, for reproof and conviction of sin, for correction of error and discipline in obedience, and for training in righteousness.” But if we turn away from His Word, neglect it or ignore it, and in so doing turn away from our Heavenly Father, then He will come to us with the rod of discipline and that may well be very painful. Our Heavenly Father desires to come to us in love and gentleness but one way or the other He will discipline us so that we may be sharers in His holiness.

    As for me I want Father to come in love and gentleness so that is why David’s words in the 139th Psalm are my constant prayer, “Search me [thoroughly], O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there is any wicked or hurtful way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

    Loddie Resnick

  6. Loddie,

    I agree and disagree with what you said. Swindoll was quoting several preachers when he said that, including Spurgeon. Again, that was a long time ago. In any case, God does take us through fiery trials. They are for our sanctification. We may want him to come only in gentleness, but he certainly didn’t do that with Job or with Peter when he allowed Satan to sift him like wheat or not taking Paul’s thorn in the flesh away.

    So, was he coming to Job and Peter and Paul in love with a gentle spirit? I am sure He did as they reached the end of themselves in repentance and submission to His will, but during the trial I am sure that they would not think so.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  7. IMHO I think we are already seeing the beginnings of judgment beginning with the house of God as we see major church leaders being exposed in their sin. I personally believe that this is just the beginnings and that there are many more still to come with God bringing judgment on whole false or heretical systems of belief and ministry.

    However it should be stressed that this is no time for us to point the finger of self-righteousness, it is a call for Christ’s church to repent and seek His mercy and grace.

  8. Didn’t David say that it was good that God had afflicted him, so that he may learn his statutes? God does afflict his own. That is part of the molding process for some. For others it may be as just a way of demonstrating that God is sovereign in both good and bad. Satan does not ‘sneak’ around God without him knowing it.

    God demonstrates his mercy and his sovereignty in ways that we do not always like. He blesses and redeems, but he also smites, bruises, and chastens. To say that all of our afflictions are always a result of sin, is a complete rejection of the book of Job. Job’s three friends invited God’s wrath for thinking this way. All three of them tried to say that Job had some unconfessed sin which caused the Lord to wrought all of that evil upon him.
    The lesson to be learned in the book of Job is that, even though we may be obedient, troubles can come on the faithful. God chastens those he loves and he can/will afflict his own. Human wisdom rejects this idea because they assume that man’s ways are the same.

  9. And then we look at the difficult journey of Paul. His ministry was very unpleasant a lot of the time. Shipwrecked, having very little clothing, hunger, beaten and tortured, viewed as scum and refuse (hated by the world), and everybody deserted him. Now that just flies in the face of human wisdom when we try to say that God is love doesn’t it? But when we weigh those sufferings on God’s scale, those sufferings have an eternal weight that no money can buy. Humility, a holy countenance, thankfulness, brokenness, patience, wisdom, prudence, and understanding.
    If God never exposed his people to heat, then how does he remove the dross? He has to break us when and how he sees fit. His people are justified by the cross, but the purification process includes some heat and some pressure. All of that worldliness has to be purged out of us through fiery trials and tribulations. Without them, we are nothing but a confused mass of unbending metal.

  10. Loddie,

    Trials create a lot of doubt and despair, but they also produce spiritual maturity. Well trained soldiers are always well-trained when they have endured hardness.
    “In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity (trouble, hardship)consider: God has made the one as well as the other, so that man may not find out anything that will be after him.” Eccles. 7:14 (ESV)

  11. Hi Josh – I have been so blessed by your responses to this posting. Bless you brother as you walk in Him with Him clearly leading the way.

  12. Loddie,

    We live in a time when men reject the wilderness experience. It is often misunderstood. Speaking from my own experience (not everybody will chastened the same), the Lord afflicted me to bring me out of apostate Christianity. Could God have made the way easy for me and given me everything this world has to offer? Absolutely, but he didn’t. Sickness and persecution are very unpleasant and frustrating. I can’t tell you how many times that I have wondered, “God, why is it so easy for others while those who care seem to get derided? Or even frowned on and ignored?” Why can’t you use your power in such a way that life will be easier?
    Here is a quote which sits near my computer. I have it as a reminder.
    “If God set out to make you an unusual Christian, he is not likely to be as gentle as he usually is pictured by the popular teachers. A sculptor does not use a manicure set to reduce the rude, unshapely marble thing to a thing of beauty. The saw, the hammer, and the chisel are cruel tools, but without them, the rough stone must remain forever formless and unbeautiful.” A.W. Tozer

    As one who if physically afflicted for the rest of my life, I will tell you that I don’t exactly jump for joy about it, but there are spiritual things that are associated with my physical weakness which cannot be explained. Physically, I was very physical, playing sports and one of the highest scoring PFT ‘ers in my unit. I was very physical and full of pride.. not to mention, a bit arrogant. As a young Marine, I always believed that God wanted everything for me that I wanted and that surely his ways were like mine. Even though I was a Christian, I still lacked humility, patience, and a basic understanding of genuine servanthood. I walked according to my flesh treating God like a condiment instead of the main course. Now, because I cannot make it through the day physically without him, it is more natural for me to not look to my flesh as my strong arm. He stripped me of that. I have also learned that all of that time and effort that I put into my flesh is all burned up in the fire. It was fruitless.
    Now because I am physically unable to do a lot of those things, it is more natural that I do things on my computer and study his word. I am literally at a point to where it is the only thing that I enjoy doing that doesn’t incur physical pain… and it is more fulfilling than running all of those miles 4 times per week. If I had not been physically afflicted, then I would be more focused on the temporal and improving my flesh as my strong arm.

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