If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons?…?for (our dads) chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:7–11—NKJV)

As everyone knows, discipline is more that simply spanking. Discipline is discipling and we never outgrow the need for it. Though we do outlast the trial period known as childhood, that period of life is to instill a mature temper of life that thirsts after, eagerly devours, and thrives upon instruction.

Not long ago I was grateful to get to be with two of my adult children during our family vacation. Since I had been privileged to overhear their reacquaintance, their chitchat, and their tête-à-tête, my “daddy senses” became alerted to the need for some necessary and timely instruction. Later, as all four of us were jumping in the car to take a diversionary trip, I notified everyone that they were now entering the zone of “Dad School.” (By the way, every consciencious dad runs one.) Much to my surprise, I did not hear any groans. (Hey, they must be growing up!) We soon entered into a lively discussion and a clarifying instruction time.

God utilizes the illustration of this kind of unique and dynamic parental relationship to teach us about His role in discipling us. It is true of His discipline for His own whether by mere instruction or in taking us “to the woodshed.” “Chasten” in verse 7 is also the same Greek word translated as “corrected” in verse 9. As God states, earthly fathers chasten, correct, and disciple for “a few days” and as “seemed best to them,” meaning “as they were of the opinion.” Sometimes that opinion did not conform to fact, as we learn to our chagrin. Earthly fathers are surely flawed, limited, and distracted no matter how pure their motives and deep their love for their children.

As sure as you are able to list your dad’s shortcomings, be even more assured that your heavenly Father is perfect. His discipline is always for His child’s “profit,” meaning “to bring together, to fit for service.” What God works in discipling discipline upon you, as His beloved, born again child is to bring together (1 Corinthians 12:7) your life’s call He has given you and your life’s work for which He is preparing you. Your earthly father’s instruction will cease with your manhood, whether he was successful or not. His labors may promote true growth to true advantage, or they may not. However, God’s parenting will always be true to its purpose. God’s chastening work bends you toward the privilege of being a partaker of His holiness, building true character within, and bearing true, eternal fruit.

Let the lessons of a good dad’s discipline illustrate this wondrous, intimate work of your heavenly Father. Your dad’s discipline has certain qualities that define your relationship to your father. His discipline is memorable, whether through his sheer strength or through the natural fear enforced by his size and his mien. It is binding and it is bonding for the simple reason you are accountable to him while you are under his roof and in his providing care. It is personal, and so it derives its guiding directives from justice and appropriateness. His discipline is measured and of limited duration for the fundamental fact that it is has a design to encourage qualities of maturity within you and equip you to provide discipling leadership to others around you. Therefore, your dad’s discipline must always be purposeful, designed to bring about your restoration from the state of brokenness and immaturity to the state of full-fledged fellowship with him and with others around you. This is the kind of discipline that shepherds you toward regular self-evaluation and teaches you to handle the tools of true manhood and admittance into the ranks of adults.

Observe that the same principles apply to your heavenly Father’s discipling discipline in your life. If you are “born from above,” one of the dearest and most treasured evidences of your vibrant spiritual life is the chastening hand of God leading, leaning, and loving you. Learn, be humbled, and be guided by His providential loving-kindnesses. Trust and obey.