“I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4)
Pride and fear tends to be my response to discipline. I don’t like to be corrected because it says there is something wrong with me, and if there is something wrong with me, then I’m not going to be accepted or loved. Human reasoning says to be loved, I need to be the best kind of person. I fear rejection if I am not perfect.
God’s reasoning is totally contrary to that nonsense. For one thing, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) He didn’t hope or wait for perfection. He loved you and me while we were at our worst. Being loved and accepted by God isn’t about me; it is about Him.
It might be a huge challenge for some people to compare God to a loving parent, or realize that He is better than even that. However, a loving parent is concerned about the well-being of their child, wants the very best for him or her, and will discipline that child to keep them out of danger and behaving in ways that are not harmful but beneficial.
Even so, many people think that the discipline of God is punishment, perhaps because that is how parental disciple was or seemed to be. It is difficult for many to realize that the love of God cannot bear it when His children stray off the path like wayward sheep. He knows there is danger ahead. He sees the rocky places, the barren fields, the wolves. We just see something we want and it takes His rod and staff to bring us back, a rod and staff that we should realize as comfort and not a threat.
Note these thoughts, first that God’s aim is a godly life . . . “The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” but how easily we stray, for the next sentence says, “Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions.” (1 Timothy 1:5–7)
Here the Bible is talking about straying from sound teaching into vain and false teaching. Why would anyone do that? I’m learning that sound biblical teaching does not have all the answers. Much of what God says does not make sense and becomes a faith issue, but the self-centered person just has to figure it out, know the answers. It is easier to trust his own reasoning than to trust a God who does not always explain Himself. I know this . . . I have been there.
Yet God desires a pure heart, a good conscience and a sincere faith. He will correct impurity and insincerity. He will make our conscience clear, but He does not do this out of anger or to punish our foolishness. He does it because He loves us and wants the best for us . . .
Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him. (Proverbs 13:24)
Proverbs speaks of earthly fathers who love their children. The next passage speaks about our heavenly Father who loves us perfectly . . .
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. Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. (Hebrews 12:5–13)
Besides all the discipline to rid me of impurity and godlessness, God also has to discipline me to accept His discipline and even consider His rod and staff as a comfort and not a punishment. Truly He is a good Shepherd to His prone-to-stray, headstrong and contrary sheep.