Connecting the dots of discipline

The soft gospel message is out there, teaching followers of Christ that we are inherently good people, not deserving of any discipline from the Lord as we live under His grace. Mushy, muddy, and misinformed are these leadings; claiming a false worship of a false god known as self. Scripture plays no part in this crooked line from mortality to immortality. To connect the dots between death to life in Christ most assuredly involves a myriad of pit stops along the path. Each and every pause we endure while pursuing a holiness pleasing to Him begs our attention and ponderings as to how these trials could be connected to the discipline God is providing for us.

King David, whose biography is told throughout 1 and 2 Samuel, is perhaps most memorable in how he pursued Bathsheba, Uriah’s wife. Although he was known as a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22), he relentlessly sought after a married woman, slept with her, had her husband murdered on the battlefield, covered up his transgressions, impregnated Bathsheba, and in all this, broke a decent portion of the Ten Commandments already given by God. But again, God still refers to him as being one after His own heart. Aside from how that could be claimed as a character trait of David, since each of us are easily as guilty as he was, how then does God treat David following these numerous and enormously indecent acts? He disciplines him.

I realize how harsh that sounds to many, but Scripture is brutally honest in regards to the necessary discipline God bestows upon His children. The son born to David, through the adulterous relations he had with Bathsheba, would die (2 Samuel 12:14). Yes, God took a newborn baby from breath to death on the seventh day of the little one’s life (2 Samuel 12:18) and this act of God was in direct relation to the sin committed by David. After admitting that, “I have sinned against the Lord,” (2 Samuel 12:13) and pleading with God for the child by fasting and retreating to his house for the days that followed the news that his baby boy would die, God followed through, mind unchanged, and took the baby from David. What has always amazed me from this recounting of a man losing a child is how quickly he recovered after being told that the boy was dead. “Then David got up from the ground. After he had washed, put on lotions and changed his clothes, he went into the house of the Lord and worshiped” (2 Samuel 12:20). Profound! God took his baby boy from him and afterwards he has the wherewithal to go straight to worshiping God. Where’s the blame game in this? Why isn’t David angry with God for not answering his pleadings for the boy’s life to be spared in spite of his sin? Verse 22 speaks volumes into David’s mindset, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept. I thought, ‘Who knows? The Lord may be gracious to me and let the child live.'” Confronted by his own sin, he still remains astutely aware of God’s grace…in whichever way He answers our prayers.

We may be tempted to think God as unfair in this account, but we’d be sorely mistaken. God is never unfair. If you’re even considering that He may be, you’re wrong. He is always right; we’re just not. Regardless of the circumstances that have occurred during your lifetime, laying claim to a victim mentality will not get you very far with Him. “In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood” (Hebrews 12:4). This particular passage in Hebrews goes on to explain hardship and discipline in light of it. “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father?” (12:7). When have we trespassed against Him? Daily. Can our specific sins being narrowed down to the point where we can connect the dots as to where He’s disciplining us in relation to them? In David’s case, yes; in ours, with help towards an accurate perception of ourselves. “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11).

In the end, David is heralded as one of the greatest men of old. He has many more experiences revealed in Scripture that show him to be a man with sincere adoration and reverence for God. Although some of us may think of his adultery, murder, coveting, lying, idolatry, and stealing, as levels above what we could find ourselves messed up in, we could also find it far fetched that we’d be driven as deeply as he was to seeking the heart of God. May we be humble enough to accept our discipline in relation to our sin and let our self-righteousness lessen when tempted to believe we aren’t deserving of it. Our only entitlement is found nailed in the capable and merciful hands of Christ on the Cross. In that, we see the free gift of salvation to those who believe and that our souls are deserving of damnation apart from Him, but by His choice in disciplining His children, we’re being lovingly molded and shaped as we approach eternity with our Father in heaven.

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