Last week, we talked about how to endure opposition. Today, the author of Hebrews tells us how to endure discipline in the form of hardships that come our way, sent by a loving heavenly Father to produce a harvest of goodness in our lives.
Discipline. Yuck! While I know that God wants to perfect me and to make me more like Himself, I don’t always enjoy the process. Do you? I’m sure not. Discipline isn’t pleasant.
“…let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us…” (Hebrews 12:1)
God wants the sin out of my life. The Bible lists several ways to get the sin out:
- God could remove us through death. I guess that would get rid of the sin that entangles! 🙂 Here in Hebrews we read, “You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin” (Hebrews 12:4). The apostle Paul wrote, “But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Master’s body. For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Master, that we may not be condemned with the world” (1 Corinthians 11:28-32).
- We could take drastic action against sin ourselves. This is certainly the wisest course of action, but we often love our sin more than we desire to repent. Isn’t it interesting that Yeshua said, “If your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life lame or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet, to be cast into the everlasting fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire” (Matthew 18:8-9)? Oh, if only we would realize how serious sin is!
- Our loving heavenly Father could discipline us, to train us in righteousness. This is exactly what the rest of our verses today in Hebrews 12 talk about. As God’s children, He disciplines us because He loves us.
Yes, God disciplines us. The author of Hebrews quotes from Proverbs 3:11-12 to make his case:
My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord,
Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him;
For whom the Lord loves He chastens,
And scourges every son whom He receives (Hebrews 12:5-6)
The Tanakh (Old Testament) quote is slightly different from the Hebrews passage, but even this is very instructive.
- Proverbs 3:11 tells us not to “detest His correction,” where Hebrews says not to “be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him.” Obviously, God’s rebuking isn’t fun. Hebrews 12:11 says, “Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful.”
- Proverbs 3:12 tells us that God punishes us out of His love for us as His children and that He disciplines the sons He loves and delights in. Hebrews calls it “chastening” but says it shows He receives and accepts us as sons.
Why does God send difficult things into our lives to discipline and punish us?
“If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:7-11).
- God’s discipline of me shows I’m His child. He disciplines all His sons. It proves I’m not an “illegitimate” child. Sometimes I feel farthest from God during hard times, yet His discipline of me should actually make me feel loved. It proves I really belong to Him!
- Discipline is an opportunity for me to learn how to respect and listen to my heavenly Father. Just as I learned to respect my earthly father by his consistent discipline, so I learn to submit to my heavenly Father’s will by the discipline He brings into my life. Proverbs 30:5-6 says, “Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their rust in Him. Do not add to His words, lest He rebuke you, and you be found a liar.” When God rebukes me, I learn that His word is to be respected, which ultimately protects and shields me from harm.
- Discipline teaches me that God is wise. I sure don’t understand all the circumstances God allows into my life. I definitely protest when hard times come! Yet His discipline isn’t on a whim or arbitrary, as earthly fathers’ discipline can be. He only does what is for our good. As I submit to His will for my life, whether it’s easy or hard, pleasant or painful, I learn to trust His plan at all times.
- Discipline produces a wonderful harvest in my life. This passage uses words such as holiness, righteousness, and peace. Aren’t these character traits that we all want in our lives? Yet it also says that these come at harvest time. Before the harvest come months of planting, pruning, and weeding (ouch!). To use another metaphor from this passage, we have to be “trained.” Training isn’t always pleasant (“no pain, no gain”), but the results are worth it.
What should my response be to God’s discipline?
“Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed” (Hebrews 12:12-13).
- I need to strengthen up my feeble arms and weak knees. Don’t you love this word picture? My hands hang down. My knees are quivering. When I’m enduring hard times, I often feel feeble and weak. In fact, I want to just collapse. But as my husband has been known to say to our children, I need to “just buck up.” Honestly, knowing that God has a purpose for the hard times IS exactly what I need to get back up and keep going, even when it’s tough.
- I need to consider my path. The author of Hebrews quotes again from the Tanakh (Proverbs 4:26). The word for “make straight paths” means “to roll around,” like you would roll a piece of dough on your countertop, then check it for the right consistency, then roll it again and flatten it. When hard times come into our lives, we need to stop, roll around our circumstances in our minds, and consider what God is trying to teach us. God is trying to heal us, not disable us!
For what specific sins might God discipline me?
“Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see YHVH: looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled; lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright. For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears” (Hebrews 12:14-17).
- God wants me to have peace with all men.
- God wants me to be “holy” (set apart unto God, separate from sin and uncleanness).
- God wants me to understand that He has been gracious to me and that I must extend that grace and forgiveness to others. If a root of bitterness springs up in me, it’s because I don’t understand God’s grace to me in my own sin.
- God wants me to stay far away from sexual immorality.
- God wants to be first place in my life, evidenced from my obedience. If He’s not, then I’m acting “profane,” making His ways unclean to a watching world.
The fact is, any sin that keeps me from not loving Yehovah my God with all my heart, soul and strength or from not loving my neighbor as myself is a sin that He will discipline. “Thou shalt have no other gods before me,” and the first god I need to root out of my life is the worship of myself.
Unlike Esau, we need to have a “change of mind,” which God calls repentance. This is why God disciplines me. He wants to bless me. He loves me very much.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture in this blog post taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.