1. The necessity for discipline
We can be absolutely certain of one thing: unless it were necessary God would never permit it. We have all been made painfully aware of those children whose foolish and over indulgent parents have allowed them to do exactly as they wished, say what they liked, and go where they chose with no restraint whatever, and no punishment ever administered for their wrong doing. People refer to them contemptuously as “spoiled brats,” and give them as wide a berth as possible. God, as the Father of the largest family on earth, is not interested in raising “spoiled brats;” but sees to it that all His regenerated children experience a good measure of His discipline which will fit them to live the Christian life in a way that will bring glory, honor and praise to His name.
(1) Discipline is needed because it is a scriptural thing. The Scripture puts it thus: “The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame … Correct thy son, and he shall give thee rest; yea, he shall give delight unto thy soul” …he that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes” (Prov. 29:15, 17; 13:24). Inasmuch as every Christian is viewed as being a member of the family of God, the force of these Scriptures should be obvious. If an earthly father is thus exhorted to exercise proper discipline in his family, so that his children shall be a credit to him, how much more shall our Father in Heaven?
No child naturally desires or appreciates parental discipline at the time; yet, instinctively, each child recognizes its necessity and actually respects the one who can maintain it in love and administer it with impartiality. Most children will also recognize the necessity for an occasional spanking for some act of disobedience to a known command, and bear no ill will if their disobedience has merited such a form of discipline, particularly if it is given after due consideration and not in the moment of hot anger. The appreciation, needless to say, comes afterward and not at the time!
(2) Discipline is needed because of our weakness and immaturity in knowledge, growth and proper behaviour. A new born baby is given immediate attention when it begins to cry but, as it grows older its cries are not answered so quickly. It thus learns a measure of self control. The time of weaning is usually quite a test, as the child is taught to be less dependent on its mother and to relinquish the bottle for a spoon with which to feed itself. Each lesson properly taught and learned aids in the normal development of the child from helpless babyhood to active, self reliant boyhood, youth and manhood. So also is this true in the spiritual realm. There is the need for constant discipline from our Father, so that we shall learn the necessary lessons for each stage of life, and be enabled to thus grow in grace, knowledge and spiritual stature.
It has been well expressed, in the secular realm, by this poem entitled “Good Timber.”
“The tree that never had to fight
For sun and air and sky and light,
That stood out in the open plain,
And always got its share of rain,
Never became a forest king,
But lived and died a scrubby thing.
The man who never had to toil,
To rise above the common soil,
Who never had to win his share
Of sun and sky and light and air,
Never became a manly man,
But lived and died as he began.
Good timber does not grow in ease:
The stronger wind, the tougher trees,
The farther sky, the greater length,
The more the storm, the greater strength.
By sun and cold, by rains and snows,
In tree or man, good timber grows.
Where thickest stands the forest growth,
We find the patriarchs of both.
And they hold converse with the stars,
Whose broken branches bear the scars
Of many winds and much of strife —
This is the common law of life.”
In the spiritual realm this thought could be stated thus: “It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth” (Lam. 3:27). The pathway of true success from infancy to manhood is the deliberate assuming and faithful discharging of the responsibilities of each stage of life. The old adage: “Well begun is half done,” contains a good measure of truth.
Still another is: “As the twig is bent, so grows the tree.” The Bible puts it thus: “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it (Prov. 22:6). Thus childhood discipline is essential to the development of adult maturity.
(3) Discipline is needed because of our natural wilfulness. A child naturally wants to go its own way without any interference from its parents. It early evidences this fact by resisting the will of its parents, and sometimes flies into a rage and throws a tantrum in order to force its will upon its parents, if they are foolish enough to surrender to its whims. Children ordinarily do not like to go to school. Left to themselves they would never go, but would spend their time playing. They only go, and that most reluctantly, because their wise parents realize that necessity compels them to send them. It is only afterwards that they realize the superior wisdom of their parents, and are grateful for the discipline. A good illustration of this is found in an entry in a diary which Blake, a noted English writer, wrote as a schoolboy. Here are his words:
“I cannot pretend to like this school, however much I try. The head is a beast, and not one of the under masters is a decent chap. I hate being kept in after hours when the other fellows are going out to games; yet, whenever I haven’t done a lesson right, they make me do it until I know it thoroughly. This is constantly the case with my Latin. Also, I loathe the food they give us; we have to eat fat and lean together, and fat is beastly. Also, however cold it is, we have to take long runs when it would be much nicer to sit by the fire and be comfortable. Also, I can’t understand my father and mother, who say they love me and all that, sending me to such a place.” So much for Blake as a school boy. It is amusing to read what he wrote 50 years later, when he had matured: “Of my many advantages in early life, I place easily first my parents, whose particular method of training me was beyond all praise… In looking back on my first school, I can think of it only with affection, for the manner in which the masters treated my inert tendency of character was entirely admirable. To their insistence at that period, I owe one of the keenest delights of my maturer years, a love for the Latin authors… In the matter of physical soundness, also, I am much indebted to the school runs, which were compulsory, and to the wholesome and sensible diet on which we were fed, without which I should not possess today the virility which has kept me free from disease to a quite unusual extent.” No wonder an educator once wrote: “Every pupil hates his teacher, either now or later. I want my pupils to hate me now!”
(4) Discipline is needed because of our natural waywardness. The flesh, that corrupt nature within each child of God, is unimproved and unimprovable. Left to ourselves, without God’s discipline in the life, there is no knowing how far we could stray into the bypaths of sin, and thus bring disgrace to ourselves and to the name of Christ. One has only to think back over the years to recall many believers, who were once happy in the Lord and useful in His service, who have made a miserable mess of their lives and brought discredit to Christianity because of a failure to heed the warnings of God’s Word, and submit to the discipline of God in their lives.
The solemn warnings of the Word of God have not been recorded there for nothing. Our Lord knew full well the nature of the flesh and declared: “The flesh profiteth nothing” (John 6:63). His words need to be carefully laid to heart when He said: “Without Me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5). The essence of the flesh is the fatal tendency to pride of heart, which expresses itself in self-confidence, self-esteem and self-assertion, and these are always the precursor of a sad fall. It is only as a Christian proposes, seconds and carries unanimously a vote of no confidence in himself, and a hearty vote of confidence in the Lord, and maintains that attitude, that he can be kept going on, growing on and glowing on for his Lord.
It was said of Uzziah, the King of Israel: “As long as he sought the Lord, God made him to prosper” (2 Chron. 26:5). It was when he became proud and self-confident that disaster followed (See 2 Chron. 26:16-21). The warning of Hebrews 3:12 should not be allowed to remain unheeded: “Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.” The nation of Israel serves as a tragic example of this fact. See 1 Corinthians 10:1-12. No wonder David prayed: “For Thou art my Rock and my Fortress; therefore for Thy name’s sake lead me and guide me” (Psa. 31:3). He also prayed, as he realized the value of divine discipline: “Be not silent to me: lest, if Thou be silent to me, I become like them that go down to the pit” (Psa. 28:1). Paul could write: “We are the circumcision, which worship God in the Spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh” (Phil. 3:3). May this be true of each of us!