The number seven seems to be a special number in the Bible. There are the seven days to create the world in Genesis. Series of seven things crop up often in the Bible. For example, we find seven pairs of each clean animal on the ark, seven stems on the tabernacle’s lampstand, seven qualities of the Messiah in Isaiah 11:2; seven signs in John’s Gospel; seven things the Lord hates in Proverbs 6:16; seven parables in Matthew 13; and seven woes in Matthew 23.*
Maybe it is appropriate to end the chapter entitled “Responding: The Prayer of a Chastened Disciple” with seven reasons God disciplines us. Why do we have to endure discipline anyhow?
I have already written about obedience and prayer. As we pray to God and obey God, we find that our prayers bear more fruit. This is a positive cycle because the more we pray the more we know God better which triggers more obedience and thus more prayer and even more knowledge.
Secondly, God disciplines us so we can develop Godly personality characteristics. This is what the famous verses in Romans 5 are all about: perseverance. We suffer through discipline so we can develop character. Hebrews 12: 10-11 says “God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in His holiness.” James comments that when trials come, we should consider them “pure joy” because they develop perseverance. This is all about the development of spiritual maturity [Godly personality characteristics].
In addition, even though it may be hard to understand if you don’t know about plants, the more you prune a plant the more fruit it can bear. The same works with people. When unproductive, unfruitful aspects of a person are eliminated, they can work better and bear more fruit. They can work more effectively for the Lord. Discipline leads to increased productivity.
Fourth, when God disciplines us, we learn that we must depend on Him. When things go well, we forget God. We think we have brought about our success all by ourselves. When things go wrong, we have to lean on God because we know we don’t have the answers.
Fifth, God wants to prove through public discipline what He already knows is there; that a believer has true faith. Nothing speaks louder than a Christian who is being challenged by a hard time. Others watch as this person navigates through trials with their faith, leaning on God and not complaining about tribulations. The most well-known example from the Bible is Job.
Sixth, we all can learn spiritual truth through discipline from our Lord. Many times, we find our times of discipline can be instructional. God tells us truth but we don’t believe it until we experience repercussions. The Israelites wandering in the wilderness were told they must trust God, but they began to understand His lessons when they had to survive on His manna.
Finally, God reveals His glory and ours in times of discipline. Human glory is never the center of attention, even though we think it is. God does not exist for our sake; we exist for God’s glory. When we are the weakest, God is His strongest. When we cannot do our work, God can do His work. When we don’t have the answers, God can supply the wisdom we need. Think about times when life is too complex to understand and we are at a loss. That is when we can shine but our shine is reflected light from God. God works through us and we must give Him credit.
Discipline is hard to take sometimes but W. Bingham Hunter feels it is good for us to experience God’s discipline. As we experience God’s discipline, it is important for us to couple that experience with prayer…
“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer” [Romans 12:12].
The prayers of the chastened disciple are important prayers, maybe our most important.
*from the Gotquestions.org Website “The Biblical Significance of the Number Seven”