BCC Staff Note: You’re reading the first in a new three-part Biblical Counseling Coalition Grace & Truth blog mini-series on Conflict Resolution and Church Restoration. In today’s post, Judy Dabler shares about The Discipline of the Lord. In Parts 2 and 3, you will read posts from Robert Cheong and Ernie Baker.
All Was Not Well
My counseling ministry nearly ended before it began. Early in my ministry, I witnessed a church-related conflict that so discouraged and shocked me that I seriously considered finding another line of work.
A pastor had contacted me for counseling. His children were hurting, and his marriage was distressed. This same story is played out in churches around the world. Unfortunately, in this case, the pastor had misrepresented the condition of his family prior to accepting his new call to the church. The elders had been told that all was well in the family. Sadly, all was not well.
“Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body” (Ephesians 4:25). What is a falsehood? A falsehood is a lie, or an inaccurate or untrue statement. A falsehood might also be a truth. One of the most common types of falsehood occurs by over-emphasizing a “truth” in order to capture the attention so that the listener does not realize there is more to the story.
Few things destroy relationships more than falsehood. When it comes to the church, falsehood is a serious enemy that threatens the entire church body. “…put off falsehood… for we are all members of one body.”
My pastor client had been honest with me about his failing marriage, so when the elders fired him for his falsehood, I was troubled. The pastor had met with the elders, admitted his fault, confessed his lie, and sought their forgiveness. It would take me years to realize that at the time I had failed to grasp the seriousness of this pastor’s falsehood, and the grave impact it had on the elders and the entire church.
Falsehood is not a minor issue. “The Lord detests lying lips…” (Proverbs 12:22). Falsehood on the part of church leaders is extremely significant because of the broad and extensive impact these men and women have on the spiritual well-being of other believers. Falsehood in the church damages unity, which hinders the church’s ability to send the bold message of God’s love to the watching world (John 17:20-23). Because God so loves the world, believers who engage in falsehood ought to expect the loving discipline of the Lord.
The more this pastor suffered, the angrier I became at how his situation had been handled by the church’s elders. Counseling my client and his family through the consequences resulting from his lost job and a dwindling severance was painful. I called my mentor to discuss the situation and seek advice. I will never forget his words: “Judy, do not spurn the discipline of the Lord in your client’s life.” Every time I responded with a “Yes, but…” he would repeat his words.
“Do not spurn the discipline of the Lord.”
My mentor invited me to see this pastor’s hardship as the Lord’s discipline in his life. Falsehood indicates a serious heart issue that needs attention. God desires good for each of us, and He is always at work to produce Christ’s character in us. Therefore, out of love, God will discipline His own.
I studied Hebrews 12:7, 10-11 in my effort to embrace my mentor’s counsel.
“Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children.…God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”
One painful aspect of the Lord’s discipline is that consequences are often experienced broadly. It is not just offenders who suffer the pain of the Lord’s discipline, it is everyone who loves the offender, and everyone who is connected to the offender. When one of us is disciplined, there is a sense in which we all are disciplined. If discipline results because of falsehood, it is not only painful to experience, but we must also face and deal with the damage done to church unity as a result of the falsehood.
The most significant consequence of the Lord’s discipline, however, is the eventual righteousness and peace that results… for those who have been trained by it. What does it mean to “be trained”? Those who are trained in any area first endeavor to “get it” (repent), then they “own it” (confess), and then they strive to live it out. Believers trained by the Lord’s discipline come to share in the holiness of God by trusting in His love and living in obedience to His Word.
If you are experiencing the discipline of the Lord in your own life, or witnessing discipline in the life of another believer, or even a church leader, remember that God the Father disciplines those He loves. It is painful to watch and experience discipline. It is painful to watch and experience discipline as a result of falsehood.
Do not spurn the discipline of the Lord. He disciplines those He loves.
Join the Conversation
In your church ministry and in your personal life, what does it mean to “not spurn the discipline of the Lord”?