Punishment or Discipline?
So often when things happen in our lives, there are those believers who want to say, "Oh! God is punishing them for their sins." But is this really true? We see this with Job. His friends did not give him any sympathy, only condemned him and judged him. They would say things like, "If you would seek God and implore the compassion of the Almighty, if you are pure and upright, surely now He would rouse Himself for you and restore your righteous estate" (Job 8:5-6). Job, after listening to his friends tell him that he was not righteous in God's eyes, had this to say: "Sorry comforters are you all!" (Job 16:2b). So we want to take a closer look into this so that the next time someone we know is going through a tough time, we aren't quick to judge that person, but that we help them in their walk with God.
What exactly is punishment? The dictionary tells us punishment is "the infliction or imposition of a penalty as retribution for an offense." Discipline on the other hand is "the practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behavior, using punishment to correct disobedience." Now, you may say it seems like they are the same thing. But notice these two words: retribution and training. These are two different motives, and that makes the difference. The first is the penalty for disobedience which one may have to pay, and the other is for training a person to have a certain code of behavior.
We know that Yeshua (Jesus) paid the price, He took the punishment, for our offense or sin, and that penalty for sin is death. One day every person who has not accepted Yeshua's, death and resurrection, the price He paid for our sins, will suffer the retribution for his offenses. John 3:18 tells us, "He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." In John 8:24 Yeshua tells us, "Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins." Again in Luke 13:3, "No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish." In John 12:4 Yeshua tells us, "And if anyone hears My words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come that I might judge the world, but that I might save the world." But the day will come when if we do not repent and believe on Yeshua's work that was done on the cross that we will die in our sins. Again John 12:47-48 tells us, "If anyone hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge that person. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day."
So when we see someone going through a tough time, let us not judge, for God has not yet judged that person, but let us pray for them and help them if we can.
So let's look closer at what discipline is. We know that discipline is training a person to behave in a certain manner. Hebrews 12:4-12 tells us, "You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin (this referring to Yeshua); and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, ‘My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor faint when you are reproved by Him; for those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives.' It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness."
The book of Proverbs probably tells us the most about raising a child. Proverbs 22:6, "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it." Proverbs 23:12-14, "Apply your heart to discipline and your ears to words of knowledge. Do not hold back discipline from the child, although you strike him with the rod, he will not die. You shall strike him with the rod and rescue his soul from Sheol." Proverbs 13:24, "He who withholds his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently." Proverbs 19:18, "Discipline your son while there is hope, and do not desire his death."
So too our heavenly Father must discipline us to train us, for it says in Philippians 1:6, "Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Messiah Yeshua." Now I ask you, when Yeshua comes, would you rather that He had disciplined you now or have to punish you later? Let us rejoice in our trial, for James 1:2-4 tells us, "My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing." When we think of patience, we think of being calm in the midst of a chaotic situation, patiently waiting for the situation to become calm. But patience also means accepting suffering or trouble without becoming angry or bitter. Revelation 20:12-15 says, "And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds."
This is what we want, to be perfect and complete so that when the day comes for us to be judged Yeshua will say, "Well done good and faithful servant, enter into My kingdom."