Christians Gathered and Sharing Theirs Lives Together

A daily devotion for April 17th

The Disciplines of God

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father?

Hebrews 12:7

When we are dealing with the subject of discipline, we have God as the great example. He is the ultimate Father. The Scriptures are full of the fatherhood of God. The Old Testament psalm says, As a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear him, (Psalm 103:13 RSV). We see God reaching out in tender compassion to his children, and dealing with them in honesty and openness and, at times, in severity. We are supported by a Father's love, surrounded by a Father's compassion, and he is concerned about us. This is what life is really like. So we take our idea of fatherhood from God, and we take our idea of training from him as well.

The forces that God uses to train us are two-fold. They are law and grace. Law is a reflection of the demands which God makes upon us. Grace, on the other hand, is a word that gathers up all of God's patience, his forgiveness, his mercy, his help, his empowerment, which is available to us. It takes both. These are not opposed to each other. Sometimes the idea is advanced that law and grace are opposites, and that they never mix. This is not true. It is true that they have separate functions. Law cannot do what grace can do; grace cannot do what law can do. We are to use both law and grace. Law controls and regulates the actions of an individual, and sometimes we need to control our children's actions. Grace, however, controls and changes the attitudes within. You can't change attitudes by law, nor can you control actions wholly by grace. You need both in the raising of children.

That introduces the process by which God accomplishes this — discipline. The first factor in discipline is to assign certain tasks. This is an essential part of training — give jobs to do, make requirements. The second thing is to give directions. God never merely assigns a task and leaves it up to us. And we must not do this with children. You can't just give them a job to do; you must see that they understand how to do it. The third step in the process is to set limits. There are always limits — limits of time, how long it should take; limits of place, where it should occur and how far away; and limits as to what the results ought to be, what is expected in the performance of a task. It is the responsibility of parents to set these limits. Limits should not be set so narrowly that the child has no choice. The whole process of discipline is to give him choices and to let him handle them within limits.

Then the fourth stage of child training is enforcement. Not only are tasks given, results expected, and limits set, but parents are to see to it that the assignment is done. This takes place by praise and encouragement, by rebuke, and as a last resort by punishment. Wrong punishment, of course, is anything which is hasty or harsh or impulsive or inconsistent. That can do great damage and it must not occur. Sometimes we punish our children just because we are angry with them, and almost invariably that is harsh, impulsive, inconsistent — it has all the marks of wrong punishment, because we are simply expressing our own anger. And that is unwise discipline.

Father, help me to understand and apply these principles. Thank you for your grace which works in concert with your law and enables me to change my attitudes as well as my actions. Amen.

Life Application

How do I use both law and grace in the training of my children?

This Daily Devotion was Inspired by one of Ray's Messages

The Disciplines of God

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