“Lord, happy is the man You discipline and teach from Your law to give him relief from troubled times until a pit is dug for the wicked” (Ps. 94:12–13).1
Brothers and sisters, how often do we consider ourselves happy (or traditionally rendered blessed) when we are disciplined by the Lord? Hebrews tells us, “No discipline seems enjoyable at the time, but painful. Later on it yields the fruit of peace and righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (12:11). So, the discipline is not enjoyable but it is a blessing. God’s discipline in our lives is meant to instruct us in godliness. He is lovingly training us for our good and for His glory. This is why the psalmist pairs discipline with teaching. The Lord is always at work to conform believers to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29). This sovereign sanctifying work only occurs in the lives of born again believers. Therefore, to experience the Lord’s merciful ministry of discipline and teaching in one’s life is truly a source of happiness (i.e. blessing).
In the second half of the verse the psalmist declares the individual who experiences the Lord’s discipline and teaching ministry is not only happy (i.e. blessed), he also receives relief from troubled times. How specifically does the individual receive relief? Furthermore, what kind of trouble is being discussed? Well, the passage tells us we receive relief through the Lord’s divine discipline and teaching from His law. Imagine the fact that God’s discipline in the life of a believer brings relief! Hebrews clearly teaches that experiencing divine discipline is a proof of being a child of God (12:5-8).
God’s gracious teaching ministry does not always come in the form of intellectually stimulating information. In His sovereign wisdom the Lord often utilizes the school of hard knocks because it is the most effective means of teaching His people. Spurgeon preached, “Do we not also learn by affliction our own frailty, and our own impatience? We are wonderfully patient when we have nothing to suffer, as we are all great heroes and very courageous when there is no fighting to be done.”2 It is a profound thought, isn’t it? We learn what we are made of in the difficult times of life. The Holy Spirit moved Peter to write, “You rejoice in this, though now for a short time you have had to struggle in various trials so that the genuineness of your faith —more valuable than gold, which perishes though refined by fire —may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1:6–7). Just as gold is refined by fire to remove its impurities, so are believers refined by trials to remove the impurities from their lives.
So, brothers and sisters, the next time you are facing trials from the sovereign hand of God, remember He is disciplining you to conform you to the image of the Lord Jesus Christ. Find comfort and relief from the wisdom of His Word. Take heart, the discipline is proof you are a child of God. This sanctification process has been designed by the Lord to take our whole lifetime. We frequently become discouraged with our lack of progress. It brings to mind this chorus,
“He’s still working on me
To make me what I need to be
It took him just a week to make the moon and stars
The sun and the earth and Jupiter and Mars
How loving and patient He must be
‘Cause He’s still workin’ on me.”3
This reality caused John Newton to write, “I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I want to be, I am not what I hope to be in another world; but still I am not what I once used to be, and by the grace of God I am what I am.”4 Where are you in your walk with the Lord Jesus Christ?
1Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, HCSB®, and Holman CSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers. The Holy Bible: Holman Christian Standard Version. (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2009).
2 C. H. Spurgeon, The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 40 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1894), 387.