The Discipline of God’s Love
The Discipline of God’s Love
Several years ago when I was working in Dallas I had a coworker tell the following story. He tells that one day he and his daughter were walking in the forest. They came upon something that you rarely see. It was an almost-born butterfly. The little cocoon was spinning and spinning and part of one fabulous wing was already out. This was right at the eye level of his daughter, so Bruce bent down and looked at that little cocoon at her level. She said, "Oh, Daddy, he's just struggling to get out." Bruce thought, "I'll just help it." He said, "I reached down ever so carefully and gently and took the bottom of that cocoon and split it. And it all dropped in a blob and killed the butterfly." He said, "I learned a lesson—they need the struggle of emergence to survive." That little butterfly could not become the beautiful butterfly that we see flying around in the world unless it overcame and strengthened its muscles caused by its exit from the cocoon. The butterfly must strengthen its physical muscles in order to survive. We are much like the butterfly in that we must strengthen our spiritual muscles in the adversity that we endure in this life.
Scripture assures us that the sovereignty of God’s love does not mean that we will not experience adversity. In fact Scripture assures us that discipline in the form of adversity is proof of God’s love. Hebrews 12:5–6 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. 6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” The wise man Solomon also wrote: 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.
Many times we look for tokens of God’s love in the happiness we experience. We should instead look for them in His faithful and persistent work to conform us into the image of Jesus Christ.
Discipline is the mark not of a harsh and heartless Father but of a Father who is deeply and lovingly concerned for the well-being of His child.
Divine discipline is often very painful. God intended it to be painful. It would not accomplish its intended purpose if it was not painful. God in His infinite wisdom and perfect love will never over discipline His children. He will never allow any adversity in our lives that is not ultimately for our good. God will never allow us to suffer needlessly. Lamentations 3:33 for he does not afflict from his heart or grieve the children of men.
God disciplines us with reluctance, though He does it faithfully. God does not delight in our adversities. He will not spare us that which will cause us to grow more into the likeness of His Son. It is our imperfect spiritual condition that makes discipline necessary. Every adversity that occurs in our lives is not related to some specific sin we have committed. God’s dealing in our lives is not so much what we do but what we are. We tend to underestimate the sinfulness that exists in our hearts. We fail to see the pride, fleshly desires, self-confidence, selfish ambition, stubbornness, self-justification, lack of love, fail to totally submit to God, and the distrust of God Himself. Adversity brings the sinful dispositions to the surface just as the refiner’s fire brings impurities to the surface of the molten gold. We cannot always discern the specific spiritual good that is brought about in our lives through a particular adversity. Many times we do see God dealing with some obvious character trait needed. We do not see all that God is doing in us. God is at work through our adversities working in us to produce what is pleasing to Him. Hebrews 13:21 equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever.
In Romans Paul speaks of the good and that good is defined in verse 29 as being conformed to the likeness of God’s Son. Romans 8:28–29 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. Paul is talking about the evil within us. There is nothing good about birth defects, natural calamities, or almost any other adversity that we could experience. The evil that is perpetuated by others against us is certainly not good. In God’s wisdom and love He takes all the events of our lives both good and bad, blending them together so that they work together for our good, the good that He intends.
In the making of biscuits the various ingredients alone are not good by themselves but the final biscuits after being baked are delicious. The things in Roman 8:28 are like the ingredients of the biscuit dough. Each by itself is not tasteful to us. We would shun these ingredients by themselves. God in His infinite skill has blended them all together and cook them properly in the oven of adversity. We shall then one day say it is good. We must be very careful here that we do not equate the amount of the adversity with the level of sin in each of our lives or someone else’s life.
Most Christ-like people experience the most adversity. We can look at Job as an example of this in Scripture. Job 1:8 And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” No one except the Lord Jesus Christ has ever experienced the total calamity that Job experienced. In general we see God making a good man better. The theme of the book of Job is: “God making a good man better”. Do not let a supposed link between adversity and sin discourage you. God may have other things in mind than corrective discipline. Joseph’s brothers needed corrective discipline far more than Joseph did yet none of them suffered as Joseph suffered.
What adversity in your life strengthens your physical muscles and why?