I admit that it’s a mysterious passage: Hebrews 12:4-13. It brings more questions than it answers. Chapters 11-12 seem to be built around the theme of hanging on to God during the turbulence of our journey of faith. We are in a struggle against sin (12:4), no doubt about it. The Hebrews seem to be taking the path of least resistance … a river rushing around a mountain rather than burrowing in stubbornly. Perhaps they did not expect such a struggle? The prosperity gospel may have many people today thinking that if they are Christians the struggles will end. Or maybe we just think that way anyway. But they were struggling – although not to the point of bloodshed. Hebrews 11:36-38 demonstrates that even bloodshed is not reason enough to abandon faith! So things can get tough … sometimes even deadly.
In the struggle of faith, hang on to Jesus because we could be undergoing discipline of God. This is regarded as a forgotten teaching (verse 5). It certainly is a neglected teaching today. More than that, though, it is regarded as an encouraging teaching (12:5-13). A few observations…
1. THE NATURE OF GOD’S DISCIPLINE
- It is born of love (5). When times are tough we have no hint that God hates us, but rather that we need some redirection in our lives.
- It is a punishment (6). Are we afraid to label some of our hardships as “punishment”? We should not be so reluctant because of the next concept.
- It is an evidence of sonship (7-9). Only a neglectful father would watch while his own child harms himself and do nothing about it. Discipline is a part of being in the Family…in every family. When it is absent, the results are obvious (and discouraging).
- It is not pleasant (11). No discipline is pleasant … it is a pointed call for change on our behalf. It teaches us to veer into another path … to leave behind something that was alluring to us. No one likes this!
2. THE MYSTERY OF GOD’S DISCIPLINE
What are the causes of suffering / pain / hardship? There could be several possibilities. Perhaps it is the result of poor decisions on our part. How many of us can testify that destructive behaviors are given safe refuge in our hearts … even when they hurt? It could be that our pain is not discipline at all, but simply realistic results of our behavior. Pain and suffering could also originate in nature. Bad weather, ill health, dangerous animals, etc. could all be a natural part of living in our world – not the discipline of God. We cannot discount the possibility of the work of Satan. The enemy works against us, sometimes in severe ways such as the case of Job. All around us may be evil people who have no conscience about hurting you. There are sometimes mistakes / accidents wherein we are caused pain or hurt. There can be many sources for pain and hardship, and among them is God’s discipline
How do we know which of these forces are afflicting us? It’s a mystery! I do not know. We cannot always label our hardship. We can always search for meaning in our suffering, though. Whatever comes our way we cannot know that God sent it, but we can know that God is working within it to benefit His people.
3. HOLDING ON DURING THE DISCIPLINE
Do not lose heart (5b). Just because something is hard or hurts, it is not time to quit and give up. Faith is ours for just such a time as this.
Endure (7)! Seek to see your way through the pain … and to grow in wisdom along the way.
Submit to God (9). We are often filled with rebellion and pride and are unwilling to yield to the Spirit of God. Submit to God in every area of your heart and allow Him to carry you through.
Grow in holiness (10). If God is disciplining you, or even if it is just some other source of suffering, allow it to move you closer to God. Grow in your awareness of belonging to God. Purge areas that you previously have retained for whatever reason.
Watch for the harvest (11) – righteousness and peace. You may not receive healing, but righteousness and peace are awesome blessings … and can be yours eternally.
Seek God’s Healing (12-13). God’s goal for discipline is not to destroy you, but to bring you to a healing place in life.
Our faith journey can be filled with turbulence.We endure hardship as discipline from God and seek His help, holiness, and healing in the process.
Audio of this message can be found this week HERE in the next few days.