“My sons, . . . listen to discipline and become wise.”—PROV. 8:32, 33.
1. How do we acquire wisdom, and with what benefit?
JEHOVAH is the Source of wisdom, and he generously shares his wisdom with others. Says James 1:5: “If any one of you is lacking in wisdom, let him keep asking God, for he gives generously to all and without reproaching.” One way that we acquire wisdom from God is by accepting his discipline. And that wisdom can safeguard us from moral and spiritual harm. (Prov. 2:10-12) As a result, we “keep [ourselves] in God’s love . . . with everlasting life in view.”—Jude 21.
2. How can we build appreciation for God’s discipline?
2 However, our sinful leanings, our upbringing, and other factors make it a challenge to accept discipline or to view it in the right light. We build appreciation for discipline when we experience its benefits, which confirm God’s love for us. “My son, do not reject the discipline of Jehovah, . . . for those whom Jehovah loves he reproves,” says Proverbs 3:11, 12. Yes, let us never forget that Jehovah has our best interests at heart. (Read Hebrews 12:5-11.) Because God fully knows us, his discipline is always appropriate and properly measured. Let us now examine four aspects of discipline: (1) self-discipline, (2) parental discipline, (3) discipline within the Christian congregation, and (4) something that is worse than the temporary pain of discipline.
SELF-DISCIPLINE SHOWS WISDOM
3. How does a child develop self-discipline? Illustrate.
3 Self-discipline includes exercising control over ourselves in order to improve in our behavior and thinking. We are not born with an inclination toward self-discipline. We have to learn it. To illustrate: When a child first learns to ride a bicycle, a parent usually holds the bicycle to steady it. But as the child finds his balance, the parent cautiously lets go for a few moments at a time. He lets go altogether when the child can keep his balance. Likewise, when parents consistently and patiently train their little ones “in the discipline and admonition of Jehovah,” they are also helping their children to develop self-discipline and wisdom.—Eph. 6:4.
4, 5. (a) Why is self-discipline an important part of “the new personality”? (b) Why should we not give up on ourselves even if we “fall seven times,” as it were?
4 The same principles apply to those who come to know Jehovah as adults. True, they may already have developed a measure of self-discipline. Spiritually speaking, however, a new disciple starts off being immature. But he or she can steadily grow toward maturity as part of learning to put on the Christlike “new personality.” (Eph. 4:23, 24) Self-discipline is an important part of that growth. As a result, we learn “to reject ungodliness and worldly desires and to live with soundness of mind and righteousness and godly devotion amid this present system of things.”—Titus 2:12.
5 That said, we are all prone to sin. (Eccl. 7:20) A fall, however, need not spell complete failure or a serious lack of self-discipline. “The righteous one may fall seven times, and he will get up again,” says Proverbs 24:16. What will help him to succeed? Not sheer willpower, but God’s spirit. (Read Philippians 4:13.) The fruitage of that spirit includes self-control, which is closely related to self-discipline.
6. How can we become better students of God’s Word? (See opening picture.)
6 Also important to cultivating self-discipline are heartfelt prayer, Bible study, and meditation. But what if you find it hard to study God’s Word? Perhaps you do not consider yourself to be studious. Keep in mind, however, that Jehovah will help you if you let him. He can help you to “form a longing” for his Word. (1 Pet. 2:2) First, pray to Jehovah for the needed self-discipline to study his Word. Then, work in harmony with your prayers, perhaps keeping study periods rather short. Over time, study will be both easier and more pleasurable! Indeed, you will find yourself cherishing your quiet times when you are absorbed in Jehovah’s precious thoughts.—1 Tim. 4:15.
7. How can self-discipline help us to reach a spiritual goal?
7 Self-discipline helps us to reach spiritual goals. Consider the example of a family man who felt that his zeal was waning somewhat. Concerned, he set the goal of becoming a regular pioneer and read articles on that topic in our magazines. This, along with prayer, built him up and strengthened him spiritually. He also arranged to be an auxiliary pioneer when he could. The result? Despite obstacles, he kept his eye on the goal of becoming a regular pioneer and eventually reached it.
RAISE CHILDREN IN THE DISCIPLINE OF JEHOVAH
8-10. What can help Christian parents succeed in raising their children to serve Jehovah? Illustrate.
8 Christian parents have a precious privilege—that of raising their children “in the discipline and admonition of Jehovah.” (Eph. 6:4) That is a major undertaking, especially in today’s world. (2 Tim. 3:1-5) Of course, children are not born knowing right from wrong. They are born with the faculty of conscience, but it needs to be educated, or disciplined. (Rom. 2:14, 15) One Bible reference work suggests that the Greek word translated “discipline” might be rendered “child development.”
9 Children who are lovingly disciplined usually feel secure. They learn that freedom has boundaries and that decisions and conduct have consequences—good or bad. How important, then, that Christian parents look to Jehovah for guidance. Do not forget that ideas and methods vary from culture to culture and from generation to generation. When parents listen to God, successful child-rearing does not become a matter of guesswork; nor does it depend on human experience or human thinking.
10 By way of illustration, consider the example of Noah. When Jehovah told him to build the ark, Noah could not rely on experience. He had never built an ark before. So he had to rely on Jehovah, doing “just so”—that is, just as Jehovah directed. (Gen. 6:22) The result? Noah got it right the first time. Indeed, he had to! Noah also succeeded as a family man—and for basically the same reason; he trusted in God’s wisdom. He thus taught his children well and set a fine example for them, which was a big challenge during that wicked pre-Flood era.—Gen. 6:5.
11. How important is parental example in training children?
11 As parents, how can you do “just so” in God’s eyes? Listen to Jehovah. Let him instruct you in child-rearing by means of his Word and the guidance we receive through his organization. In time, your children will likely thank you for doing that! One brother wrote: “I am filled with gratitude for the way my parents raised me. They did their best to reach my heart. Much of the credit for my spiritual advancement must go to them.” However, despite the parents’ best efforts, some children leave Jehovah. Nonetheless, parents who have tried their best to impress the truth on a child’s heart have a good conscience. They can also hope that the wayward child will one day come “home” to Jehovah.
12, 13. (a) If a child is disfellowshipped, how do Christian parents show that they obey God? (b) How did one family benefit from the parents’ obedience to Jehovah?
12 One of the greatest tests of obedience that some parents have involves their relationship with a disfellowshipped child. Consider the example of a mother whose disfellowshipped daughter left home. The mother admits: “I looked for loopholes in our publications so that I could spend time with my daughter and my granddaughter.” She adds: “But my husband kindly helped me to see that our child was now out of our hands and that we must not interfere.”
13 Some years later, the daughter was reinstated. “Now she calls or texts me nearly every day!” the mother said. “And she deeply respects my husband and me because she knows that we obeyed God. We have a wonderful relationship.” If you have a disfellowshipped child, will you “trust in Jehovah with all your heart [and] not rely on your own understanding”? (Prov. 3:5, 6) Remember, Jehovah’s discipline reflects his matchless wisdom and love. Never forget that he gave his Son for all, including your child. God wants no one to be destroyed. (Read 2 Peter 3:9.) So have faith in Jehovah’s discipline and direction. Do so even when it pains you, the parent, to do what Jehovah says. Yes, work with God’s discipline, not against it.
IN THE CONGREGATION
14. How do we benefit from Jehovah’s instruction provided by means of “the faithful steward”?
14 Jehovah has promised to care for, protect, and instruct the Christian congregation. He does so in a number of ways. For example, he has placed the congregation under the care of his Son, who appointed a “faithful steward” to provide timely spiritual food. (Luke 12:42) Made available in many ways, that food provides valuable instruction, or discipline. Ask yourself, ‘How often has a talk or an article in one of our journals moved me to make adjustments in my thinking or conduct?’ If you have responded positively, rejoice! You are allowing Jehovah to mold, or discipline, you for your benefit.—Prov. 2:1-5.
15, 16. (a) How can we benefit from the “gifts in men” in the congregation? (b) How can we make the elders’ work more pleasant for them?
15 Christ also gave to the congregation “gifts in men”—elders to shepherd God’s flock. (Eph. 4:8, 11-13) How can we benefit from those precious gifts? One way is to imitate the faith of the elders as well as their fine example. Another way is to heed their Scriptural counsel. (Read Hebrews 13:7, 17.) Remember, the elders love us and want us to grow spiritually. For instance, if they notice that we are missing meetings or that our zeal is cooling off, they will no doubt quickly come to our aid. They will listen to us and then try to build us up with warm encouragement and appropriate Scriptural counsel. Do you view such help as an expression of Jehovah’s love for you?
16 Keep in mind that elders may find that it is not easy to approach us with needed counsel. Imagine, for example, how difficult it must have been for the prophet Nathan to speak to David after the king tried to cover up his gross sin! (2 Sam. 12:1-14) Similarly, the apostle Paul no doubt had to muster up courage to provide correction when Peter, one of the 12 apostles, showed favoritism toward his Jewish brothers. (Gal. 2:11-14) So how can you ease the load for the elders in your congregation? Be humble, approachable, and thankful. See their help as an expression of God’s love for you. This will not only benefit you but also add much joy to their work.
17. How did one sister benefit from the loving help of the elders in the congregation?
17 Because of her past experience, one sister found it hard to love Jehovah. “When my past and other issues brought me to emotional exhaustion,” she said, “I knew that I had to talk with the elders. They did not berate me or criticize me, but they encouraged me and strengthened me. After every congregation meeting, no matter how busy they were, at least one of them would ask how I was. Because of my past, I found it difficult to feel worthy of God’s love. Time and time again, however, Jehovah has used the congregation and the elders to confirm his love for me. I pray that I will never let him go.”
WHAT IS WORSE THAN ANY PAIN OF DISCIPLINE?
18, 19. What is worse than any pain that may result from discipline? Illustrate.
18 While discipline may be painful, there is something that is even more painful—the harm that may result from rejecting discipline. (Heb. 12:11) Consider two examples—Cain and King Zedekiah. When Cain developed a murderous hatred toward Abel, God admonished Cain: “Why are you so angry and dejected? If you turn to doing good, will you not be restored to favor? But if you do not turn to doing good, sin is crouching at the door, and its craving is to dominate you; but will you get the mastery over it?” (Gen. 4:6, 7) Cain did not listen. Then sin overwhelmed him. What needless pain and suffering Cain brought on himself! (Gen. 4:11, 12) The pain of Jehovah’s reprimand would have been mild by comparison.
19 A weak and wicked ruler, Zedekiah reigned during very dark days for Jerusalem. The prophet Jeremiah repeatedly exhorted Zedekiah to leave his bad ways, but the king refused to be disciplined. Again, the results were tragic. (Jer. 52:8-11) How Jehovah wants to spare us from such needless suffering!—Read Isaiah 48:17, 18.
20. What does the future hold for those who accept God’s discipline and for those who refuse to accept it?
20 In the world, discipline, including self-discipline, is often sneered at. But that foolish attitude will soon catch up with the wicked. (Prov. 1:24-31) So let us “listen to discipline and become wise.” As Proverbs 4:13 states, “hold on to discipline; do not let it go. Safeguard it, for it means your life.”