They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.Hebrews 12:10-11
Part of God being a good and loving Father is that God disciplines His children. God loves us so much that He is unwilling to leave us in a state of immaturity. He loves us too much to see us continue to be trapped in sin and selfishness.
This is the paradox of real, agape love. Real love unconditionally loves a person just as they are. It loves them without condition even if they never grow and change. Yet, love also wants the best for that person. And the best is maturity, growth and holiness. So real love is not just loving someone unconditionally; it’s also loving them enough to encourage them to change and grow into who they were created to be. Real love involves both of these things simultaneously.
Notice what God’s goal in discipline is: 1) it is for our good, and 2) it enables us to share in the very nature of God, His holiness. We get the profound honor and privilege of getting to share in, partake in, join in the very nature of the Godhead. What an unbelievably honoring and humbling reality! As the Father, Son and Holy Spirit dance together in perfect unity, love and holiness, we get invited into the dance. We get the absolute privilege of sharing in God’s holiness when God discipline’s us.
As for any parent, discipline is not primarily about punishing our kids. It’s about infusing discipline into their lives. It’s about training them in righteousness, so that their character has the strength–especially when we are not around–to choose right from wrong.
The same is true for God’s discipline. It is God the Father training us in holiness so that we will reap a harvest of righteousness and peace in our life. So many people today experience no peace in their lives because they reject God’s discipline, the very thing that will produce peace.
No discipline is pain-free. That’s kind of the point. The pain comes from putting to death our old self so that we can live clothed in the new self that was purchased for us by Jesus on the cross. Death can be painful. Putting to death our selfishness and sinful desires can be painful. But it’s the kind of pain that comes from working out at the gym. It’s the pain experienced when a physical therapist helps a person come back from an injury. It’s the pain involved in growing and getting whole.
Jesus describes this process as pruning. He said to His disciples and to us:
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.John 15:1-2
Either way there is a cutting that happens. If we separate ourselves from Christ, we are cut off. If we submit our lives to Him and bear good fruit we still get cut, but the cutting is a pruning that makes us even more fruitful. The parts of our life that do not bring honor to God get trimmed back so that we can live in His holiness. Our Father doesn’t want us wasting our energy on branches of our life that won’t bear good fruit. This is the discipline of a loving Father.