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But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. (2 Cor. 4:7 NIV)

Hebrews: Enduring Discipline (12:4-13)

After his encouragement to walk by faith, the author of Hebrews briefly shares how to handle suffering and discipline from God. We should learn that all of it, regardless of the source, is something that God uses to train and equip us for eternity.

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

A Struggle Against Sin

In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.

Hebrews 12:4 NIV

I have to admit that my struggle with sin is ongoing. As I have gotten older, both physically and spiritually, the struggle is not as great. But it is still there nonetheless. However, it is hard to imagine struggling with sin to the point of shedding my blood.

I do not believe though that the author here is talking about resisting the daily temptations we face. Instead, he is looking at the root cause of why we suffer as believers at the hands of unbelievers. It is sin in their lives that causes them to act the way they do. My struggle against sin here is really a struggle against those who are led by their sinful nature.

The author has earlier talked about what they had gone through as believers (Heb. 10:32-34). And it does appear that some of them had given their lives. But those who are reading this letter have not yet had that experience. This is not intended as a negative reflection on his hearers. Rather, it is a confirmation that they are still here, and that God still is at work in their lives. And he expresses that as he goes forward.

The Lord’s Discipline

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 12:5-6 NIV

These two verses, coming where they do, might lead you to believe that God is responsible for our suffering. That our suffering is a direct result of God disciplining us. But, given what follows, I do not believe that is his intent.

It is important to recognize the role of discipline. Discipline has to do with training. And in some areas, we do use them nearly interchangeably. There was a time in the not too distant past when I used to run several half-marathons a year. And the running I would do each week in preparation was called “training”. And that training required discipline. It was not easy. I had to train, or discipline, myself to continue to run mile after mile, even when I was tired.

When God disciplines me, it is not the same as punishment, although it could feel the same. Punishment is retributive. Discipline is training. God’s discipline helps me to grow in maturity and holiness. Rather than chaff at discipline, I should welcome it because it demonstrates that God loves me enough to want to see me grow.

Hardship and Discipline

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 NIV

Endure hardship as discipline. This is a very important concept here. The suffering I am experiencing may be because the Lord is correcting something in my life. Or it may be a result of my faithfulness to him and the world’s reaction to that. But whatever the reason, I should treat it as discipline from God.

Romans 8:28 tells us “that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Regardless of what happens in my life, if I am in a relationship with God, he will use it to help me to develop into the image of Christ. Remember that discipline is not punishment. It is training. I can trust that God’s hand will be on me for my development throughout all I experience.

My own earthly father used the bad experiences in my life as teaching moments. And he also used corrective action to redirect me into more productive avenues. If he was willing to do that for me, how much more my heavenly Father, who loves me more than I can know.

The Discipline of Fathers and God

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 NIV

Most of us had human fathers who at least attempted to discipline us for our good. But, unfortunately, that is not a universal experience. There are some fathers who have little interest in their children. And others who have an abusive relationship with them.

But God is not like that. His care for us is greater than that of the best human father. And his discipline is always for our good and development. He never punishes his children because he is having a bad day. Or because we have failed to obey him. He always works for our good.

A Harvest of Righteousness

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 NIV

Discipline is hard. If it was easy, it would not be discipline. Running endless miles in preparation for a marathon is not easy. It is, at least for me, very difficult and challenging. But when the race is over, I am grateful for those training miles that enabled me to successfully complete the race.

The author here uses an agricultural example. A harvest is what comes after the ground has been prepared, the seed planted, and the plants tended to. The more effort I put into the preparation, planting, and tending, the greater the harvest will be. The work that goes into obtaining that harvest is hard. But the end result is good.

God’s discipline is similar. It is not pleasant. But, in the end, it will be well worth it. And the harvest from God’s discipline is not something that is soon gone. Instead, it produces an eternal harvest of righteousness and peace.

No Pain, No Gain

Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. “Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.

Hebrews 12:12-13 NIV

The “therefore” at the beginning of this verse signals a conclusion that we should draw based on the preceding passage. Because God disciplines us for our good, keep walking the path that has been laid out for you. Do not grow weary. Recognize that God is working to make a masterpiece out of you.

So, determine that you are going to continue on the way laid out for you. Regardless of the obstacles that you might find on the road. Trust in God to give you the strength you need. And work in your own life to develop Christ-likeness.

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The views expressed here are solely mine and do not necessarily reflect those of any other person, group, or organization. While I believe they reflect the teachings of the Bible, I am a fallible human and subject to misunderstanding. Please feel free to leave any comments or questions about this post in the comments section below. I am always interested in your feedback.

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