Hebrews 12:4-11: The Father’s Discipline

In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.  And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says, “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”

Hebrews 12:4 – 6 NIV

The author of Hebrews points us to
the love and nurturing of the Father when,
in the midst of adversities,
we want to collapse, lose heart, give up.

In chapter 10, the author invited his readers to remember earlier days, days of suffering, insult, persecution, confiscation of property, and more. There he urged them to stand firm in their confidence, to not give up. He gave them one example after another of those who had gone before, how although imperfect as they were, they were credited with righteousness for their “enduring” faith.

As the author continues in this theme of suffering, he points out two ways we could potentially respond to difficulties. First he says, “Don’t make light – ” In other words don’t treat the difficulties in our lives as if they are unimportant or insignificant. Don’t just laugh them off. The pendulum swing is just as important, “Do not lose heart – ” Don’t become overly discouraged in the midst of suffering. As dearly loved children, children in whom God delights, we realize that He is orchestrating, shaping His will and purpose in our lives, using ALL circumstances, even those that are most challenging. I was reminded in a Tweet I saw today that “In the hardest of things you will find God doing the best of things.” (@PaulTripp)

But that’s not all! Even in times of trouble we have a joyful confidence, knowing that our pressures will develop in us patient endurance. And patient endurance will refine our character, and proven character leads us back to hope. And this hope is not a disappointing fantasy, because we can now experience the endless love of God cascading into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who lives in us!

Romans 5:3 – 5 TPT

God is not just “punishing” us … that word in Hebrews 12:6 translated as “discipline” isn’t only negative. It has a more global meaning, “to train up.” We had dinner with family this week, grandsons around the table. More than once, a parent reminded one boy or another of appropriate table manners – how to ask for something, how to get what you need from a platter, how to take your dish to the kitchen. You know if you have children, that you are making the most of moments for the little details in training so that your children are “presentable” in society. And so, this is God’s work as our Father – He is making us presentable, by educating, training, disciplining us as His children. This same word for discipline, paideia, might be translated as nurturing like the King James version of Ephesians 6:4.

Look with wonder at the depth of the Father’s marvelous love that he has lavished on us! He has called us and made us his very own beloved children. 

1 John 3:1a. TPT

The author of Hebrews points out
three elements of spiritual discipline
that will strengthen and encourage us.

FACT #1 We will all experience hardship.

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. 

Hebrews 12:7-8

This hardship may be something we bring on ourselves by our own waywardness. It might be hard truths spoken into our lives by friends or family. But there are hardships for which there doesn’t seem to be any reason other than we live in a fallen world. I think of Job. God pointed Job out to Satan as a righteous and upright man, without fault. Satan countered that Job had it easy – that if Job suffered, he would surely curse God. And you know that story, how God gave Satan parameters, allowing him to cause Job suffering. Job’s suffering was not punishment nor a sign of God’s anger. The prolonged suffering became an exercise in holiness, in trust, in learning more about God.

Sometimes we face trials simply to grow us up,
to test us, to strengthen us.
Training in holiness, our process of sanctification
may not always be an easy path.

Scripture also teaches us that God will rebuke us, correct us when we disobey His Word. In John’s revelation to the churches, Jesus reminds the church, “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent.” (Revelation 3:19 NIV).

We will all experience hardships, discipline, a blessing for us in growing “enduring faith!” Which is an interesting thread in the book of Hebrews. The author describes true faith as one whose life bears evidence to holding firm in faith. The fact that a Christian remains true is evidence of the salvation already gained. In fact, in Hebrews we find strong warnings to those who toyed with faith, thinking of “leaving Jesus to return to Judaism.” We are called to enduring faith knowing that He is the one who is faithful!

A second interesting theme in Hebrews is the idea that Jesus learned obedience through suffering. “Even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered. In this way, God qualified him as a perfect High Priest, and he became the source of eternal salvation for all those who obey him. … (Hebrews 5:8 NLT)” Christ was obedient to the will of His Father. Joyfully obedient! Paul teaches in Philippians that Jesus “humbled himself by becoming obedient to death” and then in Romans, by Christ’s “obedience the many will be made righteous.” It’s this same obedience that God wants from us!

FACT #2 God’s discipline is perfect!

Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 

Hebrews 12:9-10

God is all-wise. While we as parents may discipline in error, God never does, never will. We do the best we know how at the time as parents. When I look back on disciplining my sons, I was wrong a time or two (at least). I wish I could have a do-over – but I can’t. I have to accept that just as scripture says, I did as I thought best, repent of errors as they become known, and trust God to work in my children His righteousness and holiness. But God who created us, knows us, knows our coming in and going out, does not have to second guess Himself in discipline. His discipline is perfect, allowing us to share in His holiness. Our prayer, “may the God of peace make us holy in every way, and may our whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again! (1 Thessalonians 5:23).”

FACT #3 Discipline is never pleasant!

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

Hebrews 12:11

This most likely goes without saying – none of us enjoy discipline. We didn’t as children, we don’t as adults. But we appreciate discipline because of the work it does in our lives. James tells us to “consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance! (James 1:2-3 NIV). Jesus persevered unto death for the joy set before Him … He anticipated what His death would accomplish. And so we also anticipate with joy the peace that is ours as we persevere in faith through sufferings.

I listened to a podcast recently entitled, “What to do when you can’t find God.” I was reminded of this phrase, “the dark night of the soul.” Sometimes our suffering, hardships are so dark that we can’t see God, can’t find Him. There is a Christian song whose lyrics address this idea …

Our Father knows what’s best for us
His ways are not our own
So when your pathway grows dim
And you just don’t see Him,
Remember you’re never alone

God is too wise to be mistaken
God is too good to be unkind
So when you don’t understand
When don’t see His plan
When you can’t trace His hand
Trust His Heart

Babbie Mason

Today, I am trusting Him … learning to be grateful for discipline. Not an easy lesson.

Dear Father, I often think of you as my redeemer, savior, friend. Today I thank you that you are also my father, I am your beloved daughter, you delight in me. And because you delight in me, you do not leave me to my own devices. Instead, you discipline me, teach me, show me your ways to shape my life in conformity to your own. And while it is even hard to type the words, I thank you now and in advance for hardships. I don’t ask for them, but simply thank you when they come, knowing that only good gifts come from you. The gift of your discipline is good, right, pure, and for making me into the woman you want me to be. May I learn to submit easily to your work in my life, bend my will to yours, repent quickly, and in everything give thanks! Amen.

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