"Whoever heeds discipline shows the way to life, but whoever ignores correction leads others astray" (Proverbs 10:17).
One lesson that life has always taught and will continue to teach is that even the best and most beneficial lessons that are learned are not always learned easily or with great comfort or ease. Discipline is a word the Bible uses in various contexts but always with the intention of leading one forward towards a certain cause. You discipline yourself to maintain that direction. You are disciplined by others or God when you stray from that direction. The habits you adopt that insure greater stability for keeping you focused on that direction are called disciplines. A disciple is one who employs such disciplines as they determine to learn from one who teaches the disciplines.
"Whoever heeds discipline..." To live a life of discipline wars against the human nature of instant gratification. Self-control is a great phrase to talk about, but is one element in humanity that will seek to stand in the way of any goal. At times, there's not one of us on this journey of life that doesn't step off track just a bit for one reason or another. It's not so much the stepping off-track that will derail the destination of the journey, but how you respond to the disciplining process that God will give. Discipline is God's way of saying, "I love you'" "I have a plan for you that I don't want to see you miss." "What I'm offering you doesn't seem enjoyable, but if you trust me, you will see that it is both essential and beneficial to restoring you to the path of your destiny for my purpose for you." To 'heed' is to pay attention to and to take advantage of. Discipline is always a choice. As a parent, I have learned that the difference between discipline and punishment for something done wrong is decided in the heart of the parent. Punishment deals with "right now." Discipline deals with both "now and later." God's discipline is His heart for your "now and later."
"...shows the way to life..." How you respond to God's discipline and correction will be a determining factor to how He uses you in the future. God will use your failures, mistakes, and mishaps as a means of showing life, restoration, and forward motion to those around you. You are the example of God's redemption. God will use people in your life to bring correction. Don't allow pride to lead you astray down the path of self-denial and defensive responses. Listen to what is being said. Take it to prayer if you're not sure of its accuracy. Let God show you the truth about you. There is LIFE on the other side of discipline.
"...but whoever ignores correction..." Let's face it, there are many, and I know that I have been included in that "many," who will feel absolute that they are in the "right" when they are being confronted as wrong. Ignoring correction is a manner of self-exaltation. We rise up on a false pedestal that we are the only ones that can confront, but we cannot be confronted. Whether or not you agree with what is being said isn't the litmus test on its truth factor. Ignoring the correction that God may be speaking to you through another will cause you to miss the benefit He knows you need to be restored to the path He has for you.
"...leads others astray." Pride is a leader, because pride is an influence. It will lead others to adopt your response, or it will lead others away from you because of your response. Pride is not so much the opposite of humility, but rather the absence of it. It is masked in elements that would be noted as honorable character like confidence and perseverance, yet is void of humility and a pure focus on Jesus. Where you lead is where others will follow. If the destination of your direction is pointed back to you, you are going nowhere sustainable and taking others with you.
Discipline doesn't always feel good in the moment, but what it produces in a heart of humility and purpose IS good. Let God work that good in you through His discipline and correction. God's love for you is greater than the reason you need correction. It's because of His great love that He offers discipline, because He already knows the difference between the destination of both choices. Let discipline lead you and those who follow you.