Love Makes the Difference in Discipline (Proverbs 3:11-12)
My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, 12 for the LORD reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights. —Proverbs 3:11-12
We should embrace God’s discipline as His loving care for us.
Our natural posture toward discipline is dislike, avoidance, or worse. Solomon calls us out saying, “don’t despise God’s discipline,” because sin makes us not just dislike, but hate the Lord’s discipline, and if we hate it, we can’t reap the benefits that flow from it.
The first benefit is his love-in-action in our lives. We’re surrounded by messages that say love means letting us be who we are without criticism, and letting us do what we want without condemnation. But when God’s children sin against Him and one another, He disciplines us. It would be unloving not to—to let us go our own way in the path of destruction without correction, without setting us back on the path of life.
How are we not to despise the Lord’s discipline, even when it is painful (Hebrews 12:11)? The key comes in the second part of the verse where Solomon reveals that the source of the Lord’s discipline is love. We tend to see the momentary ouch of discipline as unloving because we do not see the horrors of sin and the far more painful and lasting consequences it brings to us and to others in this life and the next. God instructs us here and elsewhere in Scripture that consequences for sin are necessary to point us to repentance. It is in repenting and turning from sin to Christ that we are restored to right relationship with God. This is possible because God poured out his righteous wrath for our sin on Jesus at the cross. Such unequaled grace was made possible by the ultimate punishment.
The alternative to His loving discipline is suffering His wrath. The Lord destroys his enemies (Jude 1:5-7, 11). Revelation 19:15 says he will “strike down the nations”—He will smite them, to borrow from the King James Version. Discipline or destruction. This is the choice before us.
The second benefit of discipline is the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who are trained by it (Hebrews 12:11). You can’t be trained by something you’re despising. We have to embrace God’s discipline if we are to reap the benefits it promises. Marvel at God’s love for us. The hardest thing has been done—He has paid our penalty. What remains for us is to receive His discipline and reproof as the loving means God uses to make us into the image of Christ: "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 12:11).
Receiving discipline is a painful necessity in this fallen world. But God’s Word shows us that the pain is not pointless. When we embrace the Lord’s discipline, it bears life-giving fruit in our lives.
Consider the last time you felt the Lord’s discipline in your life. Did you embrace it or resist it? Pray and ask Him to help you receive his discipline and be trained by it. Ask Him to help you trust His loving care.
Is it a new concept that godly discipline flows from love and delight? Ask the Lord to teach you how to discipline your children faithfully, the way He disciplines you.