True discipline leads to joy.
“It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 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.” (Hebrews 12:7-11 ESV)
Discipline is work. Discipline is painful. But if you are looking for gratification right now, you will not reap a joy that comes at the end of discipline. You will have a cheap momentary pleasure that costs little and lasts only a little while. Training produces something, and that something is fruit, and the fruit of that training gives us more joy in the future than in the moment.
In the passage cited above, I want to focus in on the sentence where the writers says, “but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness.” This sentence is connected with the last sentence, “but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” In these verses what is in view is the fact God disciplines his children and answers the question why He disciplines his children. Though it may not be obviously stated, the author of this passage is clearly saying that discipline is good, it hurts, but it produces something that we will enjoy and it demonstrates something that we ought to delight in.
It all begins with “God is treating you as sons.” This is the whole point of the passage. If you are being disciplined, then you are a son of God. To be a son of God is a staggering, life altering, joy producing, mind bending truth in the life of a Christian. To be a son means that we will inherit what He gives us, that He will treat us with kindness and goodness, and that He will not let us go astray. As children, God will train us up, and what better joy is there than to be a son of the creator?
We must be cautious, however, to think that when an evil doer receives their just punishment that this is also discipline. That is not. Punishment and discipline are not the same thing. When God disciplines his children, he disciplines them to produce the fruit of holiness in their lives. As the passage indicates, he disciplines us so that we may share in his holiness. Discipline is corrective, it is refining, and it is also training. Which means discipline leads us to something and somewhere. Punishment means we get what we deserve. Discipline means we receive pain in order to be molded into the pot God is making us to be.
Now, if we want to, we can talk about discipline in general, and how we ought to train ourselves. We can talk about how discipline is God’s idea and even unbelievers live out God’s ideas. It’s true that discipline works this way in all areas. If you are disciplined now in some area of your life, you will reap benefits in that area years down the road. We can discuss how discipline is for our joy. It just isn’t for your joy right now. And I believe, many things aren’t for your joy right now, but will produce lasting fruits later down the road.
But I’ll merely state those things and say that to be disciplined as a Christian is necessary and inevitable because we are God’s children. So let us delight in discipline. And let us also train ourselves in Godliness and holiness, so that we may reap the benefits that it produces, both later in life and in eternity.