Three Truths About Discipline

Shepherding a Child's Heart
Shepherding a Child’s Heart

There are three important considerations regarding biblical discipline.

First, discipline is meant to highlight the unpleasantness of sin. Discipline, must not be confused with retribution. A child ought to be motivated to avoid discipline. It is important that parents respond with pleasant, even words in the course of discipline. This is because it is pleasant words, and not anger, that promotes instruction (Proverbs 16:20-24).

Second, the fruit of discipline is not always seen immediately. This is where faith comes into play. Assurance comes from things that are not seen (Hebrews 11:1). So, there may not be immediate confirmation that the discipline “worked.” Parents should not discipline simply to manipulate kids into better behavior. Christian parents are to discipline in faith, out of love for God, as God has directed so that he is honored.

Third, the peaceful fruit of righteousness comes to those who have been trained by it. The word for training here is the word used for gymnastics training. Thus, the training is detailed and ongoing. This concept removes the element of retribution from discipline. Biblical discipline is not aimed at getting even, but at pointing children to Christ and their need of him. This three-fold understanding of discipline is outlined in Hebrews 12:11:

“For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”

Here is one scenario of what this would look like in real time. Daniel has been instructed by his parents that biblical obedience is doing exactly what he is told, right away, and with a good attitude. When Daniel refuses to respond to this his mother says the following:

“Daniel, you chose not to respond quickly when I called you. And you know that Mommy must obey God and discipline you. I pray that God will work in your heart. I pray that the unpleasantness of discipline will help you so that God’s grace will grow in you. God’s Word is clear about how quickly you must obey. Let’s ask God for his help right now.”

God is in control, not the child and not the parent. The key component in this scenario is faith. Mom disciplines because her confidence lies in things that are unseen. She knows that only God’s grace can bring about the needed changes in her son. She is content to trust God that he will honor her faith in his time and seek the peaceable fruit of righteousness in the life of her son.

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