Many years ago, Adelaide Pollard and George Stebbins penned a song entitled, Have Thine Own Way, Lord. The first stanza reads,

“Have thine own way, Lord! Have thine own way!

Thou art the potter, I am the clay.

Mold me and make me after thy will,

While I am waiting, yielded and still.”

I liked this song when we sang it back in the day, but looking back, I think it is somewhat misleading. The scripture from which this song was taken is Isaiah 64:8:

“But now, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.”1

However, let’s read the context in which this sentence appears.

“We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. There is no one who calls upon your name, who rouses himself to take hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us, and have made us melt in the hand of our iniquities. But now, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. Be not so terribly angry, O LORD, and remember not iniquity forever. Behold, please look, we are all your people. Your holy cities have become a wilderness; Zion has become a wilderness, Jerusalem desolation” (Isaiah 64:6–10). (A related scripture in Jeremiah 18 describes a potter who destroys the vessel that was marred in his hand which he must re-work into a new one.)

Does this sound like a quiet prayer time, when the one seeking the Lord is “yielded and still”? No, rather, Isaiah and Judah are in a desperate situation. The Lord God is dealing harshly with a people who have turned away from Him. He exacts this discipline because He loves His people as a father loves his children. We are told in Deuteronomy 8:5, “Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the LORD your God disciplines you.” We find this idea repeated in Hebrews 12:5–6: “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”

Before we proceed further about God’s discipline, however, let’s consider the One who does this refining work.

The God we see in both the Old and New Testaments, is perfect. (For the previous post on this topic, see here: Let’s look at a couple of characteristics that indicate God’s perfection. The Christian God is perfect in knowledge. He has no need to look outside of Himself for knowledge—He knows everything that is possible to know, both now and in the future. This knowledge is so complete that it includes even our thoughts. “Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether” (Psalm 139:4). In addition, He is perfectly powerful. He does not need to call upon another power for strength in order to accomplish His purposes. No entity exists on the earth or in the universe that is more powerful than He, since He created all the powers that are. “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created “(Revelation 4:11).

We could go on, undoubtedly, about God’s perfection, but let’s return to where we started: God disciplines His people. The point I want to make is this: Because the Lord is perfect, He disciplines His people perfectly.

As we read earlier, every child of God is chastised and disciplined by the Father. Every one. No exceptions.

Yes, that includes you, if you are a believer in Jesus Christ.

As Hebrews 12:10 tells us, our fathers disciplined us, and they did the best they could, although their discipline was imperfect. However, unlike the discipline of our fathers, the Lord’s discipline is perfect. He makes no mistakes. There are no miscues or misunderstandings. Here are the implications of this truth: Whatever has come your way, whatever suffering, trial, or trouble, the Lord God has either allowed or caused it. If this were not true, He would not be perfectly sovereign, and therefore the possibility would exist that some other power on the earth has power superior to His. This cannot be true.

The Lord God does not toss out discipline at random, as if He were scattering seed willy nilly, and therefore some of it landed on you. He knows your thoughts, after all, as well as your actions, and therefore what is needed to further your growth in godliness. The trouble you are experiencing has been perfectly crafted by Him in order to bring some future good to you—sharing in His holiness. One of the problems we have, however, is that when we read, “that we may share his holiness,” we don’t really know or perhaps even care what that means.

Holiness has to do with separation. God is perfectly set apart from His creation, and He wants us to move in that direction. Although you are holy in Him by virtue of His sacrifice, His desire is to bring the reality of that holiness in your life, which means continuing separation from the world. “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15).

Holiness also has to do with moral purity. The Lord is perfectly morally pure. He has purified those who believe in Him with His blood. However, He also wants us to earnestly desire that we fight the good fight in our battle against our sinful nature. “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep” (James 4:8–9).

So, to sum up, God loves us so intensely that He sacrificed Himself to redeem us to Himself. But this God of love is also a God of whom it is written, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31). This extraordinary God will judge believers someday. “Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire” (1 Corinthians 3:12–15).

Our perfect God is a consuming fire, and He will discipline us perfectly. He will make us uncomfortable. He will try us, for His glory and our eternal good.

1All scriptures from the English Standard Version.