How to Minimize Divine Discipline
By Jeff Cranston
The book of Ruth is a beautiful story. Through this book we learn that God can take small things—things that the world may not think would ever make a difference—and God will use them for a higher and greater purpose. Read Ruth 1.
In Ruth 1, we see that Naomi is involved a whole series of trials, and it appears that some of them were probably related to her disobedience. She lived for ten years in Moab, and they were not easy years. She had lost all three men in her family. Then word came to Moab that the famine was over in Bethlehem. Moab had been a bitter experience, and Naomi went home and found herself face-to-face with her old neighbors. They had all stayed put; she had left. She was coming home without her husband or her sons.
As far as Naomi was concerned, God had publicly embarrassed her by events. God had also testified against Israel by events. The event that provoked this whole sequence was a famine, and God told Israel that if they turned to idols, He would send famines to discipline them.
Had Israel acted with wisdom when the famine came, they would have called a convocation of the people and asked the question: “Who among us is worshiping false gods?” They would have insisted the guilty ones get rid of them, and the famine would have ended. This teaches us that God’s discipline is not punitive, it is corrective. He doesn’t punish for punishment’s sake. He corrects and moves us back in a healthy direction.
How can you stay away from divine discipline in your life? Quite frankly, in one sense, you can’t. Hebrews 12 says that all true believers partake of divine discipline. But there are steps you can take to minimize it.
Step One: Obedience
Obedience is living in active response to the living God. Every time we open God’s Word, the most important question we should ask of the text is not, “What does this mean?” but “What can I obey?”
Step Two: Prompt confession
This is the open acknowledgement to God—and to others if they have been injured—that we have been wrong. The apostle John teaches us, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9, NASB).
Step Three: Self-examination
This principle was given to us by the Apostle Paul: “But if we judged ourselves rightly, we would not be judged” (1 Corinthians 11:31).
The way to avoid divine discipline is to beat God to the punch, so to speak. He is patient. He will wait awhile for us to deal with these things ourselves, and we do that by forsaking our sins. But He will eventually deal with it if we don’t.
Step Four: Provide restitution
When people have been damaged by our actions, we should provide restitution whenever possible. That’s true for any of us who truly follow Jesus. Genuine repentance leads to a desire to redress wrongs. When we become a Christian, we have a desire born of deep conviction to do good and that includes making restoration whenever possible.
Jeff Cranston is lead pastor of LowCountry Community Church in Bluffton, S.C.