When I was a child, I asked my dad for a lot of things. But I never asked for discipline. Unfortunately, “I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child” (1 Corinthians 13:11). That meant, by and large, corrective and conditioning disciplines were to be avoided.
I enjoyed an orderly house, tended yard, prepared meals, clean clothes and a loving, respectful, peaceful atmosphere in my boyhood home. But I didn’t naturally enjoy the disciplines required to achieve these things. I often sought to evade them. I also enjoyed the idea of performing well in school, sports and music, but didn’t naturally enjoy many of the exercises required to develop my skills. I shirked them too often.
If my external authorities—my parents, teachers and coaches—hadn’t wisely and lovingly imposed upon me unpleasant and often undesired disciplines, I never would have realized many of the benefits they brought me. And I would have realized even more benefits had I been mature and wise enough to appreciate and welcome their discipline more and avoid it less. I did not see, or did not believe, the long-term gain of short-term pain.
Maturity Welcomes Discipline
But “when I became a man, I gave up childish ways” of thinking about such discipline (1 Corinthians 13:11). Well, that’s an overstatement. However, I have learned to value the benefit of submitting to discipline far more than I did as a child and to welcome it—especially the discipline of the Lord.
Around age 20, I became keenly aware I was helpless to achieve the kinds of transformation I needed in my character and affections on my own. Even my efforts at self-discipline, while needed, still could not bridge the gap between what the Scripture described and my experience. So I began earnestly asking my heavenly Father to discipline me, whatever it took.
God lovingly answered with a convergence of events I never could have orchestrated or even imagined, resulting in a prolonged season of very difficult and painful spiritual wrestling. Not only did God work me over in areas I knew needed change, but he also addressed areas I wasn’t even aware of. Most wonderful of all, God met me in personal and powerful ways as he deepened and strengthened my faith. Afterward, I saw clearly how the benefits outweighed the painful struggles.
This experience has encouraged me in subsequent years to repeatedly pray, and at times fast, for my Father’s discipline when I’ve needed breakthroughs. And he has lovingly and faithfully answered. Some of his discipline has been more severe than that first one, and some less. But regardless, I have never regretted those prayers, nor have I stopped praying them. For through them, God has pressed my love for him to depths and heights I otherwise never would have known.
I’ve learned that asking God to discipline me is a Christian Hedonist’s prayer; it’s asking him for a greater capacity to enjoy him.