“I don’t believe God disciplines anyone,” she told me as we stood outside the back doors of the hospital on our morning coffee break. I have to admit, I was caught off guard. Linda (name changed for privacy) had been doing prison ministries with me for a couple years. I found her full of God’s compassion, and I enjoyed hearing her speak about the Lord’s guidance over our lives.
“Linda, the bible clearly tells us He disciplines us as a loving Father would,” came my automatic answer.
“I know, but that was like what He did to Eli, or those other people in the Old Testament” was her reassurance to me.
My conversation with Linda that day brought me to more and more of an awareness of how many people don’t understand the discipline we receive yet today. And without understanding that it is there, it can be hard to receive it as it was meant and change our thoughts and deeds in accordance with God’s Will.
In Solomon’s wisdom, he shares with all who read,
He is on the path of life who heeds instruction, But he who ignores reproof goes astray. Proverbs 10:17
If that’s hard to understand, the NLT translation reads, “People who accept discipline are on the pathway to life, but those who ignore correction will go astray.”
If we want to be godly women on the pathway to life, Solomon’s words are to encourage us to accept discipline. In order to accept the discipline from God, we must be aware that it exists. We must fully understand that He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow (Hebrews 13:8). He didn’t decide He was done raising His beloved children with discipline, the same way that a mother of a young child doesn’t wake up one day and decide to stop disciplining her children.
One thing we must be careful of, however, is seeing anything negative or unpleasant in our lives as our punishment. For example, when we find out that our neighbor has cancer, it must not be our assumption that she has done something horribly wrong and “deserves” the cancer as a punishment.
While it is true that we see God discipline people with diseases, heart failure, and the like in the Old Testament, it is also true that many will become sick simply because sin entered the world and brought disease with it. Time and chance happens to all of us (Ecclesiastes 9:11).
To recognize discipline, we must live a life of prayer and openly seeking God’s insight and advice in our lives. And when we recognize it for what it is, we need to humbly accept it, repent of our sin, and use it to grow.
Let us not become so prideful that we either don’t look for it, or try to understand it, or (worse,) ignore it. Ignoring God’s loving discipline for us will result in our going astray. Heeding instruction will keep us on the path of life.