What do you think of when you hear the word discipline? Do you think of a child being corrected? An athlete in training? What does it mean to get discipline? If you read through all of the Bible verses that use the word “discipline”, the context often implies a consequence or punishment for wrong behavior and always implies correction.
Hebrews 12:11 says, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful! Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”
What is the purpose of discipline? The purpose is correction. Correction is needed when anything is wrong. Correction sets things right; it corrects our course when we have strayed.
As children, most of our discipline comes from external sources – our parents, teachers, and others in authority over us. They are training us toward righteousness, both in our thinking and in our actions. By the time we have grown into adulthood, the training of our youth should have produced in us “self-discipline”. We are self-disciplined when we know the right thing to do and choose to do it even if it is hard work or unpleasant or we don’t feel like it.
As an employer, I both enjoy and trust the employees that are self-disciplined. I know they will do what I expect them to do and I do not need to keep checking up on them; they don’t require micro-managing. In the event that employee gets a little off course, they listen and willingly heed correction. I love the employee who is proactive and asks questions to ensure they are doing what is expected! These employees are also esteemed by their coworkers because they always carry their own weight and are able and willing to help others. They take responsibility for their actions.
When an employee lacks the self-discipline necessary for their job, it affects everyone around them. Their coworkers are frustrated because they are not pulling their own weight and I am frustrated because I feel like I have to check up on everything they are doing. Most new policies or rules come about as a result of someone who is undisciplined. Have you noticed that? Until “Undisciplined Employee” came along, no one had to be told to do “X”. It just naturally followed “W”. When Undisciplined Employee is told that X must follow W they may say “okay” but not follow through, or they may say, “It’s not in the policy manual” and therefore conclude they don’t have to do it. Eventually this employee either gets in line because of the external discipline (employee discipline write-ups, adjustments to rules and policy manuals) or they leave or are fired.
As a parent and an elementary school principal, I want my children and my students to fully connect the truth of Hebrews 12:11. We say a hearty “amen” to the first part – that discipline is unpleasant and even painful. Then we often read past the rest which is the best part! For those who have been trained by it, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace. Who wouldn’t want that?
If we are going to “get discipline” we are going to choose to do what is right even if it is hard and painful because we see the end result! Like an athlete preparing for an event, we know that the hard work pays off. It makes doing the right thing easier the next time; doing right becomes more natural, routine. We also will not only listen to correction or feedback, but look eagerly for it. How can I fine tune what I’m doing now? How can I get better? Someone who is seeking to get discipline, knows they are fallen and imperfect, and we all are even if we don’t admit it to ourselves and each other. We are still in need of help and correction. Someone who is getting discipline wisely goes after it rather than waiting for it to come to them.
8 If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. 9 Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! 10 They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness.
Hebrews 12:8-10 (NIV)