During my study of the book of Hebrews, I’ve been learning more about what discipline means. The kind of discipline that God our Father gives to us to purify us and cause us to “share in His holiness.” (Heb. 12:10)
Read this beautiful passage from Hebrews 12, immediately following chapter 11’s list of faith-filled people of history who endured great trials as they looked for a “better country.” (ESV)
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. 4 In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.
6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.”
7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline,in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
12 Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. 14 Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled…”
Discipline in some versions is translated as chastening, or even sometimes scourges. NASB in v. 6: “For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines,
And He scourges every son whom He receives.”
My study (I’m doing the LifeChange study of Hebrews right now) pointed me to many supporting verses in the Bible that talk about the discipline of God leading us to holiness and peace. I found this one particularly revealing:
“Before I was afflicted I went astray,
but now I keep your word.” Psalm 119:67 (ESV)
Just the fact that the psalmist was able to see this truth is astounding. It can be so hard for us to realize that affliction and trials are the Shepherd’s staff, urging us back onto the right path. Before…I went astray. Now…I keep Your Word.
God’s discipline for our sin can come in many forms, among which are:
-grievous conviction of sin (Ps. 32:3-5)
-sickness (I Cor. 11:30)
-the hostility of unbelievers (Heb. 12) – this would not necessarily be because we were sinning, but rather to purify us and make us more like Christ, who endured the same.
Charles Spurgeon preached a sermon on “The Discipline of the Lord,” which you can read by clicking on this link. Here is a beautiful quote from it:
“When any trouble is over, great happiness often come to us. It is the same with us as it was with our Master; he had been with the wild beasts; worse still, he had been tempted by the devil; but angels came, and ministered to him. There is, to a believer, sometimes, a wonderfully clear shining of the sun after the rain. Perhaps there is no happier period of life than the state of convalescence, when the sick man is gradually recovering his former strength after a long illness. So God gives surprising peace to his people when he takes away their troubles, but he also gives them a great measure of peace in their troubles. Thus, for another lesson, we learn to rest in adversity. The Lord disciplines us in order that we may learn how to stand firm, and bear up bravely while the trouble is still with us.
I have often noted how exceptional is my Lord’s great love and tenderness to me in my time of need. I do not say that it is exceptional for him, for he gives it often; but it is exceptional in the fact that the Lord does it when nobody else could or would do it. He gives us comfort when nobody else is either willing or able to provide any comfort to us.”
One more quote:
“Let us never forget that the Husbandman is never so near the land as when he is plowing it, the very time when we are tempted to think He hath forsaken us. His plowing is a proof that He thinks you of value, and worth chastening: for He does not waste His plowing on the barren sand. He will not plow continually, but only for a time, and for a definite purpose. Soon, aye soon, we shall, through these painful processes and by His gentle showers of grace, become His fruitful land.”
–Mrs. Charles E. Cowman