“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.” Hebrews 12:5-6
Sanctifying discipline is the training work of God, which results in an increased practical holiness, in the lives of His children. Scripture tells us that the afflictions and hardships of our lives are providentially ordained training sessions intended by God to make us holy. In other words, it is through trials that God most strenuously exercises our faith muscles, and thus most effectively produces the holy character of Jesus in us.
Hebrews 12:11 tells us that, “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.” The word ‘trained’ in the preceding verse is a key term in understanding the Biblical concept of sanctifying discipline. It is a word that figuratively means “to train with one’s full effort, i.e. with complete physical, emotional force as when working out intensely in a gymnasium; to exercise vigorously, in any way, either the body or the mind.” Sanctifying discipline is about teaching us to believe God’s word, training us in godly behavior, and exercising us in the practice of holiness.
Through sanctifying discipline, God especially works on developing our faith. The painful providences in our lives are opportunities to see the grace of faith in action. First Peter 1: 6-7 says, “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith… …may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” So you see, sanctifying discipline is about our faith; it is about believing God.
This Scripture teaches us that our trials are intended to prove or test our faith in God. As we walk through our trials with God by believing Him, our faith in Him is rewarded with a deeper holiness of life; through a harvest of righteous fruit, in a more Godly character, and with an increase of tried and purified faith (Hebrews 12:10-14; 1 Peter 6-7). The pain of our trials make us seek God for more of the grace of faith; the increased ability to obey His word, and the fulfillment of the promises that He has made to us in it. For, it is the painful sting of trials which motivate us to “…draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
Sanctifying discipline results in a deeper holiness of life because trials burn off the dross of our souls. In other words, trials purify us; they make us turn away from our pet sins. It is when we are under stress that we tend to want to revert to our sinful coping mechanisms, but the Holy Spirit doesn’t let the Believer get away with our old sinful coping strategies and ungodly behaviors. He convicts us of the harsh words that we say when we feel stressed, the unkind gestures and faces that we make when we are angry, and the hateful feelings we have when we are thwarted in our plans. He convicts us of our sin, so that we will confess the wrongdoing to God and others and receive God’s forgiveness. We become increasingly holy as we repeatedly confess our sins and seek God for His grace to obey His Word. This is the fulfillment of the promise found in 1 John 1:9; which says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Throughout our trials, this happens again and again. When the trial is over we are kinder, gentler, more humble people than we were when it before it began. God uses the stress of affliction to produce the habits of holiness. Through trial the Holy Spirit makes us people who are less likely to blame others for our sinful reactions to stress and more likely to exhibit the holiness of our Heavenly Father.
Sanctifying discipline also results in a harvest of righteous fruit because trials make us relinquish more and more control of our lives to God. Trials wear us out and cause us to seek God for His strength. As the Holy Spirit of God has more control over us, more of His holy fruit is revealed through us: His love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22). It is in this way that God uses our trials to produce a harvest of righteous fruit in our His children’s lives.
Sanctifying Discipline makes our character better by making us holy in our character. As the Word says “…suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope…” (Romans 5:3). As we endure in faith through our trials, as we keep believing God’s promises; our character becomes more and more like Jesus’ character. In other words, we become holier.
In all of this, sanctifying discipline is about increasing our faith in God, because trials increase our dependency on God, which results in experiencing deeper levels of God’s faithfulness to us. We experience God’s faithfulness as we see how He uses all the difficulties of our lives for our good, just like He promises that He will in Romans 8:28; which says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
Scripture says, “Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful” (James 5:11). It is when we experience the merciful compassion of God in our trials and difficulties; that our faith is increased.
It is important to understand that sanctifying discipline is not about punishing the children of God; it is about disciplining and training them. We can be confident that the Lord is not reckless in His administration of discipline with His children, He knows exactly what He is doing by bringing difficulty and hardship into our lives. That is why the Word encourages us, “…do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son…” So, when trials come look to God in gratitude and faith, knowing that He has sent them for your good and because He loves you.