When I was a child, I hated getting into trouble. I did whatever I could to avoid it. And when I did something wrong, whether at home or school, I dreaded facing discipline. I still remember one occasion in elementary school when I said something inappropriate and the teacher had me stand against the outside wall of the school building and watch while all my friends played during recess.
As an adult, I have a greater appreciation for the discipline I’ve received in life, especially as I train my own children in the way of godliness. Yet, it’s easy in our fallen nature to grow weary from discipline. To think that we don’t need it anymore. To resist it. To shrug it off, to avoid it, or refuse to learn and grow from it. Yet, as we’ll see, discipline is necessary and good for our growth as believers.
The Trials of Life
In the letter to the Hebrews, the author writes to a group of believers who were weary and worn from suffering. They were experiencing persecution for their faith. They were tempted to return to what was known and familiar—the rules, rituals, and ceremonies of Judaism. They thought if they yielded, maybe the persecution might end. Maybe they’d get their jobs back, their belongings back, their friendships back. As the persecution worsened, their faith began to falter. The power and truth of the gospel became eclipsed by the fires of suffering.
Though we don’t often face the same levels of suffering that the early church faced, we do find ourselves worn by life in a fallen world. We find ourselves battling the same temptations and sins, wondering if we’ll ever conquer them. We experience rejection from family, friends, and co-workers for our faith. We grow weary from standing for truth in an increasingly post-truth world. We are worn from illnesses, losses, abuses, divisions, and heartbreaks.
Like the Hebrews, we may wonder if we should just give up and give in.
We need the same encouragement and reminder these early Christians needed. We need to remember that all hardship is discipline from our good Father for our good.
Discipline of Our Good Father
In Hebrews 12, the author reminded his readers that the trials and struggles they faced were in fact discipline from the hand of their Father in heaven. Quoting from the book of Proverbs, the author asked:
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. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” (Heb. 12:5–6)
This question reminds us of our sonship, our adoption as children of the Father. Before time began, God chose us to be His children in Christ. When the Spirit transforms our hearts, and our eyes are opened to see our sin and our need for a Savior, and we then embrace the truths of the gospel, we are adopted into this big family called the Church. We are no longer lost and wandering orphans, feasting on the trash piles of this world, but we are brought into the King’s castle and given a seat at His table. We now enjoy all the rights and privileges of being God’s children and are heirs of His Kingdom.
As God’s children, we also receive His discipline. The author of Hebrews pointed out that discipline is linked to our adoption. “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?” (12:7). Just as a human father disciplines his children, so too our heavenly Father disciplines us. Yet such discipline is not punishment, for Christ bore our punishment for sin at the cross; rather, God disciplines us for our training. Our hardships are the tools God uses to change and transform us into the image of Christ.
While our earthly fathers disciplined us according to what they thought was good, our heavenly Father always disciplines us in holiness and righteousness (12:10). Our God is perfect and only does what is good. This means we can trust the work He is doing in our lives. We can trust that it is for our good. We can also expect that any discipline He gives will bear fruit in our lives: “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” (12:11).
Throughout the book of Hebrews, the author instructed his readers to “consider Christ.” For those who are weary, the author again wrote, “Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted” (12:3). When we are weary and weighed down by the trials and sufferings of life, we are to look to Christ.
Consider Him who left the glories of heaven to take on human flesh and live a perfect life for us. Consider Him who endured all the sorrows and temptations of this life, yet never sinned. Consider Him who was rejected and abandoned by friends and family. Consider Him who knew no sin but willingly became sin for us. Consider Him who suffered the shame and agony of death on a cross in our place. Consider Him who defeated sin and death so that we would inherit eternal life.
When life gets hard, and you grow weary in your faith, don’t give up. Look to Christ. He went to great lengths to rescue and redeem you. So, stay in the race of faith. Remember who you are as God’s child. And as you run, look 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” (12:2).