Hebrews 12:11 (ESV)
11 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.
Who likes to be disciplined? Who really enjoys it? Our Bible verse for this week tells us that even though discipline is painful, it is helpful. It produces righteousness.
So, what is meant by discipline? The Greek word used in Hebrews 12:11 has two meanings. The meaning for this verse is one of correction or chastisement.
The words used here is for when you do something wrong, and you are corrected. We tend to think of this type of discipline as punishment. But the purpose isn’t just to punish but instead to teach. Think of a small child who insists on running into a busy street. You can try to reason with a two-year-old about the dangers of running into a busy street. (I’ve tried; it doesn’t work.) Or you can discipline him so that he learns not to run into the street. The discipline you use will be met with cries and tears. But if the child learns not to run into the busy street, won’t that be worth it? The object is not to punish the child but rather to protect the child from greater harm. You use a small amount of pain to keep the child from experiencing a large amount of pain.
That is what God is talking about here in Hebrews 12. Because God loves us, He corrects us. He doesn’t want us to experience the eternal pain of hell. Therefore, He disciplines us using a small amount of pain. He does that, so we will learn righteousness. It is for our own good that we suffer or are disciplined.
This type of discipline is associated with punishment. But the real purpose is correction. We are corrected into thinking and living the correct way. We learn what is right and wrong. Correction’s purpose is to teach and train us.
This brings us to the second form of discipline. Athletes discipline their bodies for their sport. Musicians discipline themselves to practice so that they can perform. I really don’t know anyone who likes practicing. But I do know a lot of people who practice so they can play. The discipline of training is not the end goal. Playing on the field or on the stage is the end goal. It takes discipline to be a good athlete or musician. This discipline is training our bodies; it is educating them on what to do. This form of discipline is also not pleasant, but we keep our eyes on the goal.
The discipline of daily Bible reading and prayer can be very hard. It can be very tiring. We make up excuses about the lack of time, understanding, etc. But what is our end goal? Our end goal is to draw closer to Jesus, to know Him and His love for us better. When we do these spiritual disciplines, they produce righteousness in us. We become more and more like Jesus.
The same word that is used in Hebrews 12:11 to mean correction or chastisement also can mean training and education. Isn’t that what discipline means? The ultimate purpose is to train or educate us to be the people that God wants us to be. We do that by learning more and more about His great love for us!
So, the real question is, which kind of discipline do you want to experience? The first kind also includes chastisement. The second kind is one you initiate. Both bring about the fruit of righteousness. Both are hard and painful. As for me, I have experienced enough of the first kind of discipline in life. I think I will strive for the second kind.
Let me know how I can encourage you in your disciplined journey of faith!