Is God really a good Father? Have you ever wondered that? I mean we hope He is. He kind of seems to be. We sing that He is; we try to trust that He is, but when we look around at how much seems to be wrong with this world, sometimes it can be hard to trust that He really is a good Father.
Sometimes we wonder why isn’t He disciplining all these wayward children of His? Why does He allow so much to go wrong in our world? Why is there so much evil, so much darkness, so much pain?
So what kind of Father is He? Is He really a good Father? And if He is, what can we learn about how to be good parents ourselves?
In Ephesians 6:4 Paul wrote: “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger…” “But bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
But what is the discipline and instruction of the Lord? How does God discipline and instruct us?
One day, I was thinking about that question in my office at my house, thinking about books, lists, laws, my kids, and my failures, the pressure to write a sermon, and I was getting angry. And as I was doing this, a thunderstorm grew right over our house.
Lightning started crashing, and I felt a tingling, and I thought: “Go ahead, God. Just smite me because this is all too hard!” Just about then, a spark jumped from my finger to the computer; there was a brilliant flash of light and a tremendous crash, then silence, and I thought: “Well, I’m still here…so…whatever.”
A few minutes later, I heard my wife call out to me: “Come here!” From our back deck, looking down, we saw that our neighbor’s house had been struck by lightning and was on fire! I was looking at this house on fire when I looked up to the right and there was this rainbow . . . all across the sky. And I remembered: the rainbow is the sign of the covenant.
Here was this house that had been struck by lightning, burning right in our neighborhood and then right over the whole thing was a covenant rainbow of Grace!?
Contemplating the events of the day, I went to bed asking: “What is the discipline and instruction of the Lord?” Early that morning, I woke up thinking: “It’s not a list . . . or laws! “Reality itself is the discipline of the Lord, and His Word is instruction.”
Into our reality He speaks instruction; He speaks His Word:
Ephesians 1:4 says, “We were chosen in Christ BEFORE the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him.”
Ephesians 1:11 “He accomplishes all things, according to the counsel of His will.”
(Reality is always in subjection to God; even our unreality is subject to His Reality.)
Ephesians 4:6 “He is the Father of all.”
Ephesians 5:1 We are to “imitate him as beloved children.”
So our whole life is like a classroom, and His Word is instruction within that classroom. His Word became flesh, and His name is Jesus.
So parents, to ask: “What is the discipline and instruction of the Lord?” is to ask: “How does the Lord discipline and instruct me?” And when I really think about it, I’m a bit surprised by the answer:
Firstly, His discipline and instruction is profoundly tolerant.
If we are all His children, He tolerates some pretty bad behavior. I mean…why does He allow us to sin?” Have you ever thought about that?
His tolerance is what we all complain about the most:
“Lord, why do you allow evil in the world?”
“Lord, why do you allow us in your world?”
See? I’m really not amazed that God smote some ancient Egyptians or even Ananias and Saphira. I’m amazed that He hasn’t smitten us!
And another surprising thing: Even though according to Paul, God is in complete control, He sure doesn’t seem very controlling. He’s tolerant, and that’s very unsafe.
He doesn’t protect us . . . even from ourselves. God lets us fail. Just think of all the stories in the Bible and all the failure He allowed to take place. And it’s a good reminder, if we as parents don’t allow our own children to fail, we fail them.
Secondly, God’s discipline is tolerant . . . but at the same time, it’s truthful!
You see? Tolerance of sinners is not a lie about sin. God always speaks truth to His children in their disobedience and it cuts us.
Jesus said to Peter, “Flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but my Father who is in heaven, and upon this rock I will build my church…” He looks at Peter and calls him a rock.
Then, just a moment later, in response to Peter, He said, “Get behind me Satan.” He sees the good and He sees the darkness.
So God speaks truth into our darkness, and it cuts the good from the evil.
So God speaks truth into our lies, and it burns the evil exposing the good.
Sometimes, even often, we hang on to a lie, but when we do, we choose to be alone, imprisoned in darkness. But God doesn’t leave us alone in that darkness!
So, thirdly, the discipline and instruction of the Lord is incarnate.
Even if we hide in darkness imprisoned by a lie or run away from the Truth,
He runs after us (See Matt. 18)!
He won’t leave us or forsake us (Heb. 13:5)!
He descends into the darkness with us (Ps. 139:8)!
His name is “Emmanuel,” it means “God with us” (1 John 4:9)!
He is with us in Jesus–God incarnate (Philip. 2:5-11)!
So, God enters our world that we might know the depths of His love.
Fourthly, the discipline and instruction of the Lord is individual and unique.
Have you ever wondered why God wrote one story with Jacob and another with Esau? Why He treated Saul in one fashion and David in another? Why He said one thing to Peter, another to Matthew, and another to Judas?
Maybe one needed to spend time in outer darkness, weeping and gnashing his teeth for an age, before coming home.
Maybe another needed to squander his father’s property in a far country.
Maybe another needed to deny Jesus three times, suffer His gaze, and then weep bitterly, in order to come home.
Maybe God disciplines each one uniquely, yet loves each one exactly the same amount. And how much is that? It’s with all His substance and all His life.
He gives all of Himself to each of His children.
Jesus died for all and for each.
So each child has a unique story of his or her Father’s Love, and maybe that story defines each child.
Fifthly, the discipline and instruction can look messy.
To us, the way God disciplines and instructs looks messy, but it’s the manifold Grace that brings color to the eternal habitations!
LAW is predictable – it makes everyone just the same.
LOVE makes each person unique – but it’s very messy.
So, when thinking about our own parenting, we’re failing our kids if we don’t let them fail–if we protect them from the Truth and if we don’t enter their worlds. And we’re failing them if we treat each one just the same. God’s discipline is individual and unique and it’s messy!
And finally, it’s sacrificial!
Isaiah said it five hundred years before we saw it: “The Lord has laid on him (the Lord) the iniquity of us all” “Upon him was the chastisement (the discipline) that brought us peace” (Isaiah 53).
Paul wrote, “God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself” (2 Cor. 5:19).
When the children see that their Father bears their discipline, their hearts are healed and they come home. The crucifixion of Christ is not what the Father needed to love us but what we needed to love our Father.
And according to Paul, God planned to let us take His life from the foundation of the world. We were: “chosen in Christ from the foundation of the world.” “…according to the purpose of Him who accomplishes all things according to the council of His will.” “He consigned all to disobedience that he may have mercy on all.”
Scripture teaches that ALL will “look upon him whom they have pierced.”
He is the Judgment.
He is the Discipline.
He is the Instruction.
He is the Word of the Father that does not return void.
So, when we discipline our own children, it’s helpful to remember that the discipline of the Lord is purposeful and that purpose is reflected in His Word—Jesus. God doesn’t discipline for discipline’s sake. He has no interest in endless torment; His discipline has a purpose and accomplishes that purpose for which it was sent. If we discipline our kids for discipline’s sake, we’re not just failing our kids, we’re becoming satanic.
The discipline and instruction of the Lord is not law.
The discipline and instruction of the Lord is the Lord.
Discipline has a purpose, and the purpose is trust—trust in a good and loving Father!
So to bring your children up in “the instruction and discipline of the Lord” is not to make them conform to some list rather, it is about God working through you to write a story of His Grace upon their heart. And you can’t actively write that story of God’s Grace on your child’s heart unless you see that God is writing His story of Grace on your heart.
In order to parent a child well, we need to let our Heavenly Father parent us. We must become like little children as well and acknowledge our need for our Heavenly Father’s guidance. We need to trust that although we fail, Love does not fail. Love always wins!
Love wins in our lives and in our children’s lives, and our Heavenly Father parents us with perfect love, for He is Love.
“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created” (James 1:17-18).
This devotional was prepared by Kimberly Weynen, Peter Hiett’s assistant. It is a compilation of excerpts from Peter’s sermon titled: “Parents and Children (The Discipline and Instruction of the Lord)” and devotional thoughts from Kimberly. To read, watch or listen to the sermon in its entirety click here: Parents and Children (The Discipline and Instruction of the Lord)
*Discussion questions are available here: 9.8.2013 Discussion Questions