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December 21, 2017

Clang! The Harsh Notes of Discipline

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Dissonance is a musical term that means “lack of harmony among musical notes; a tension or clash resulting from the combination of two disharmonious or unsuitable elements.”

The dissonance in my life right now is excruciating. In this season I’m battling darkness, despair, and depression. I ache for the relief from discord. I ache for the swell of happy notes that pierce the soul with joy.

Still, I’m sitting in dissonance—under the loving discipline of the Lord.

Discipline: The Treatment for Sons

Dissonance in musical terms is an excellent parallel idea for the reality of spiritual discipline believers in the Lord Jesus experience:

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:11)

Because he has adopted us as sons, God the Father disciplines us as his children:

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.  (Galatians 4:4-5)

It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? … but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. (Hebrews 12:7, 10)

And, because of his faithfulness—his commitment to us—he will not cease from his labor to mold us into the image of Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24). He will not leave or forsake us, which means he will not refrain from refining us (Hebrews 13:5). That is our comfort during the discipline of sanctification.

Our Great Shepherd does not reside on a distant mountain. He is in the pasture with his sheep. He’s aware of their surroundings because he led them there and he will not abandon them to the wolves, the weather, or themselves. So even his rod of discipline and his staff are our comfort (Psalm 23:4).

Discipline Comes From Our Heavenly Father

In his first letter, Peter writes to persecuted believers living in a dissonance and discipline of their own. How did he encourage these exiles struggling so badly?

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,

To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you. (1 Peter 1:1-2, emphasis mine)

Peter has barely put quill to parchment when he begins reminding his readers of the Lord’s character and the good news about Jesus. He takes them back to truth that God sovereignly reigns over and governs the whole universe in his perfect wisdom.

By rehearsing the truths of the Lord’s character, Peter helps fix their gaze not on their dispersion but on the One who dispersed them—not on the discipline but on the great wisdom of their Father, not on the rod, but on their Shepherd. He tells them they are exiles not according to a cosmic accident or mistake, but according to the foreknowledge of their Heavenly Father.

Discipline is Designed

Right out of the gate, Peter addresses our fear of abandonment during hard times with a powerful truth: The trial through which he is disciplining us is not hidden from him—it’s designed and deliberate.

In fact, Peter explicitly states that each member of the Trinity is present and active in the trauma and tension of his audiences’ circumstances for a distinct reason:

…So that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:7)

We see the foreknowledge of the Father orchestrating through the Spirit every event for the sanctification and refinement of his children in order to produce in them more obedience to and worship of his Son.

Discipline Produces Praise for Christ

That’s the silent work God accomplishes through the discipline, the dissonance. Not only does discipline make us more like Christ, but it also generates more praise for him, who entered our discord and sin, taking it upon his holy shoulders.

When we listen to the Word of God, we hear that it was Jesus who hung in the ultimate discord. And he endured it for us.

He was forsaken by God so we never will be.

He undeservedly drank the wrath we sinners deserve so we could know His grace.

At the cross, we see God’s supreme conducting skills working in the dissonance and turning it into something beautiful.

Heaven’s Maestro will not fail. He knows what he is doing. He will not let the dissonance clang forever. “For you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness” (James 1:3) And the Lord says that we must “let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:4).

Discipline is for Our Good

Our Father is composing a masterpiece of such wonder and majesty that we wouldn’t believe it if he told us (Habakkuk 1:5, 1 Corinthians 2:9). He is active in the frustrated notes. He is not idle. Through such discipline, he is fulfilling his promise to produce great joy for us, and greater glory for himself, though we may not see it now.

Clashing notes make resolve sweeter. Harsh tones make the finale more dazzling. The discomfort makes the relief more satisfying.  

For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:17-19)

Trust that your Heavenly Father is at work in these seasons and has sovereignly arranged each “dissonance” not to kill our joy but to kindle it as we see him glorified. For “he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness” (Hebrews 12:10). He is teaching us to trust him while making us more like him. May we let that truth be our motivation to sit in discipline and not despise it (Job 5:17, Proverbs 3:11).

Do we really believe even this is the Father’s love toward us in Christ? Do we trust that knowing Jesus is better than knowing what he’s doing?

I’m praying we would have a wholehearted obedience to rejoice in the dissonance—God’s loving discipline—in this life and rest in God, the Composer and Conductor.

Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire. (Hebrews 12:28-29).

[Photo Credit: Unsplash]

Sophie McDonald

Sophie McDonald is a writer, Bible teacher, and nanny. She’s a fan of blue ink pens, theology, books, coffee, and journals. Her primary aim is the fulfillment of the Great Commission and a life drenched in holiness. You can read more of her writing on her blog and follow her on Twitter and Instagram.
Sophie McDonald is a writer, Bible teacher, and nanny. She’s a fan of blue ink pens, theology, books, coffee, and journals. Her primary aim is the fulfillment of the Great Commission and a life drenched in holiness. You can read more of her writing on her blog and follow her on Twitter and Instagram.