Monday, February 01, 2010

The Discipline of God: Hebrews 12:4-13

Today, I wanted to talk about the discipline of God in a believer's life. Often, when people hear the words "discipline of God", they only think in terms of punishment. It is true, that when a believer is involved in unrepented sin, he will undergo the discipline of God. We see this in 1 Corinthians 11:23-30, where the believers in Corinth were practicing communion in an ungodly manner. Because of this, God allowed some of those believers to become sick, and some of them He took home to be with Him. We also see it in the case of Ananias and Saphira in Acts 5, where they lied to the Holy Spirit and as a consequence they were struck dead by God. And we mustn't forget the familiar Biblical principal from Galations 6:7, which states, "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap." There is however, another kind of discipline that has nothing to do with any sin in the believer's life. This is the discipline that comes in the form of the various trials and tribulations we encounter in life.

In Hebrews 12:4-13, we see this kind of discipline from the Lord. In this epistle, the Christians were suffering hardships and persecution because of their faith. As a result, some were discouraged, disheartened and confused. The author of Hebrews takes this opportunity to remind them of the purpose of these trials and of the Father's love for them.

In verses 4-13, the author calls the trials "discipline", which is the Greek word paideia referring to the training of a child. It is a broad word that signifies what parents and teachers do in the life of a child to mold them into responsible, mature adults. Sometimes that discipline is rebuke, sometimes it is instruction, and other times it involves allowing the child to suffer hardship. The parent does this out of love for the child and with an eye to his future benefit. In the same way, the Father lovingly brings discipline into our lives through rebuke, instruction and hardship. This discipline often comes in the form of trials, such as financial hardship, sickness & death, social stress, persecutions and etc., all of which are the things that God uses to mold us into His image.

The author further encourages his audience by reminding us, that the "discipline" is proof of God's love and ownership of us For just as a father disciplines his "own" child, so also does the heavenly Father discipline His own. If we never experience the discipline of the Father, we do not belong to Him; instead, we are illegitimate. (Heb. 12:7-8) Knowing this should bring encouragement to our lives.

Lastly, the author encourages us in our trials by reminding us of the fruit that comes from them. He states in verse 11, "All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness." In this verse, he acknowleges the pain that comes from the trials, but then he encourages us with the revelation that it is those things that work righteousness in our lives. It is the hardships and sufferings that we go through, that mold us more into the image of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
While the knowledge of this does not remove the sufferings of the trial, it does bring to our souls and minds a steadied peace and joy in the midst of the trials. It is so much easier going through hardships, when you know that it is a loving God that holds you in the midst of them and that there is a wonderful, God glorifying purpose in those sufferings. This is the encouragement that is found in Hebrews 12:4-13.

I hope this passage of Scripture is a blessing and encouragement to you just as it has been to me, as I have walked through the trials/disciplines of life.

God Bless!