I love many things: dark chocolate, sunny days, chai tea, the beach, reading a good book and playing games with my family, to name a few. Discipline is not something I would think to include in such a list, yet the Bible holds up discipline as something the wise person should love. To not be stupid, we must grow in loving discipline.
In a previous blog, we looked at the proverb that tells us it is stupid to hate reproof and considered reasons why we tend to hate receiving correction. In this post I want us to focus more on the first half of this proverb.
Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid. Proverbs 12:1
The opposite of hating reproof is loving discipline. I am guessing you are like me in that discipline is not at the top of the list of things you love, but since this proverb is part of God’s Word to us, let’s consider how we can grow in loving discipline.
Why Do I need Discipline and Reproof?
We are born with hearts full of foolishness (Proverbs 22:15). Left to our own devices, we really don’t improve with age but continue to be foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved to sin (Titus 3:3). Our hearts are deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9). When God saves us in His grace and kindness, He gives us a heart of flesh that is then able to grow in loving Him and loving others. Yet God’s grace does not instantly exchange all our foolishness for divine wisdom, nor all our sinful habits for righteous living. Properly understanding our sinful nature should cause us to anticipate that we need much teaching and discipline to grow in wisdom and holiness. While it may be hard at first to love reproof, we should love the opportunities reproof gives us to address our sin and grow in godliness. As believers, we are to love what bring us closer to conformity to the image of Christ. Even reproof that is correcting mistakes (errors that are not sin issues, like burning a cake or missing a math problem) helps us grow in our understanding of life or certain tasks, humbly recognizing that we need the help of others.
God is self-sufficient; we are not. He does not need or rely on others for any part of His existence. We are utterly dependent on God in every way, and mutually dependent on each other in many ways. While God does not need instruction or counsel, we are very much dissimilar from Him in that way (Isaiah 40:14). We are limited and finite in our knowledge, and thus need teaching from the Lord and from others, both in the form of instruction and reproof. We need discipline because we are fallible and often downright sinful. When we dismiss our need for discipline, we are exalting ourselves to the place of God, in essence saying we are all-wise, all-knowing and without fault, having no need of any correction. We need discipline to remind us that we are not God nor like God in his perfection and omniscience.
A Wise Son or a Mocker
The book of Proverbs is full of the sage father’s pleas for his son to listen to his instruction so that his son may find wisdom, fear of the Lord and life (Proverbs 1:8; 3:1-2; 4:1-2). Each one of us is that son who needs instruction, including reproof. The Lord disciplines those He loves, and He often uses other people in our lives to bring us reproof (Proverbs 3:11-12). In the New Testament, we learn that God has given some believers the ability and authority to teach, implying that believers need to be taught (Ephesians 4:11, 1 Timothy 3:2). All believers are charged with the duty to confront other believers caught in sin (Matthew 18:15). We should be prepared to not only confront others, but to humbly listen when confronted ourselves.
When we embrace discipline as God’s loving tool for our maturity and growth in godliness, we embrace wise living. When we argue with, rail against or ignore reproof, we are choosing to live as a mocker (Proverbs 13:1). Whether we realize it or not, we are choosing to be stupid.
We will all receive reproof in our lives. We need it and should not be surprised by it. We can grow in loving discipline as we remember it gives us opportunities to cultivate humility and to replace our sin with righteousness. God lovingly extends to us the invitation to be wise, not stupid. Will you receive God’s invitation by accepting reproof in your life?