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God Disciplines Us

by David Johnson

   It is good to be together again as we look into the Word of God. The title for the lesson is, “God Disciplines Us” and the text is in the New Testament, the book of Hebrews chapter 12 verses four through 13. Listen to the Word of God.

In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood and you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons. My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son. Endure hardship as discipline. God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. 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 our spirits and live?  Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best. But God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. 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. 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. This is the Word of God.

And this is an important lesson for all of us and also to share with others.  So, which loves a son or a daughter more, the father who allows his child to do whatever he or she wants or the father who corrects, trains and disciplines his child to help he or she to learn what is right? It is especially never pleasant to be punished or disciplined by father God.  But God’s discipline, his correction is evidence of God’s deep love for us.  Discipline is proof of God’s seeking to correct and train us and we should seek and ask God what he is seeking to teach us in right living and to discern that he is training us. And so, a father that does discipline his child to do what is right is certainly humanly speaking and spiritually speaking the right way to go.

In Hebrews chapter 12 and verse four it says, in part: For you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. Well, resisted what? Sin. None of the first century Hebrew Christians nor any Christians down through the centuries including us today have had to endure the suffering of Jesus Christ.  None have lived a sinless life. We all have given in to temptation and sin. However, Jesus Christ never sinned.  Therefore, he never deserved any discipline nor any punishment from God the Father for his own sin as the Son of God and as the Son of man in his humanity. Yet he, Jesus of Nazareth, took our place, was our substitute and took our punishment and took the wrath of God, the full wrath of God on the cross in our place.

The first century Hebrew Christians—and we today—do sin.  So much of our suffering is deserved, not just to punish us, but to discipline, to correct, to correct us toward right living as sons and daughters. Our Father God deeply desires to teach and to train us in order to mature and to grow our belief and our behavior into deeper faith in him and his ways in our lives.
The Hebrew writer applies Proverbs chapter there and verses 11 and 12 in his epistle in Hebrews, what is to us Hebrews chapter 12 verses five and six, which says: My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline and do lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.  Verse five begins with: And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons.

The Hebrews writer reminds us as 21st century Christians of these truths, not to be discouraged, but to uplift and to encourage us that as sons of God today, his discipline is for our ultimate good and not harm.  When God’s Word is neglected it is often forgotten. When our flesh overrides our spirit, we often allow feelings to override our faith. We can easily forget anything connected to living by faith which does not please God. We often forget that even God’s choicest saints often suffered greatly for lapses in their faith and that these saints had to endure discipline from God also.

We today, as sons and daughters, can forget two key aspects of God’s discipline. First, making light of it and, second, losing heart, because of God’s discipline and rebuke of us.  So first we must learn that sometimes our suffering, our problems, our discipline, our chastening is from the Lord for our good. If we would change and repent of that which God is revealing is sin, is wrong, is a bad choice or decision in our lives.

 

Here it is not about taking our problems lightly but taking the Lord’s discipline and rebuke lightly.  It is our focus on the suffering or the problem rather than our focus on our heavenly Father and what he wants us to do or not do though the suffering and problem.  We can take the Lord’s discipline lightly in many ways.  For example, we can become callous, that is, harden our hearts rather than soften our hearts regarding and recognizing our disciplining is from the Lord.  And we need to change. We need to repent and obey our heavenly Father.

Another example is that we can only complain rather than commit to change and obedience.  Someone has written, quote: View the corruption in your own heart and marvel God has not smitten you more severely. Form the habit of heeding his taps and you will be less likely to receive his raps, end of quote.

Secondly, we can forget in God’s disciplining us that we should not lose heart and be so deeply discouraged. Rather, we should know that God is disciplining us to help us, not to harm us. We must not, in our sufferings and problems, which we perceive as God’s discipline, to cause us to become numb or unresponsive to the Lord. The remedy for hopelessness is always hope in our God.  And it is really about faith, trusting, relying upon our God who never makes mistakes. What we are going through is either initiated by God or allowed by God, ultimately, for us to learn and to grow and to mature from it if we trust and cooperate with God. In Hebrews chapter 12 and verse seven it says, in part: endure hardship as discipline.  God is treating you as sons.

Brother R. H. Bole, a very fine expositor of Scripture, wrote these words, quote:  It is hard to believe in God’s love and care when we are troubled. That goodness and mercy follow us in the bright happy days of life, we gladly acknowledge, chiefly because we think we can see it.  But the assurance that goodness and mercy follow us all the days of our lives more especially in regard to the dark days only faith can maintain. Sight fails us there. That calamities and sufferings work for our good is not often apparent. We think they injure us, at least they might have been avoided. If we are under the shadow of his wing it seems God could and would protect us from misfortunes. We feel tempted to distrust him. At any rate, we are inclined to distrust ourselves, the sincerity of our faith, the reality of our religion. God seems to have left us. Something must be wrong. Then comes the danger of casting away our boldness and our confidence and hope to become unfaithful and, perhaps, apostatize all together.  Against this danger all of these exhortations in Hebrews are directed. Hold fast. Do not be discouraged.  Cast not away your boldness. Do not shrink back. Continue steadfastly, firmly, patiently unto the end. Come or go what may, hold on to your faith, to your gospel, your God, your Savior. These things far from proving that God is not with us show that you are accepted in his army of soldiers, sufferers and martyrs. These afflictions invariably accompany such acceptance and are a proof in themselves that God regards us as his own, end of quote.

In Hebrews chapter 12 and verse eight it says, in part: If you are not disciplined then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Think of it this way. We, as Christians, sometimes wonder why unbelievers seem to be doing so well, we having so much trouble. We can take this as evidence that we belong to God and they do not, because God has turned, given them over to their sin, turned them over to their sin and unbelief. We should not envy, but pity the pompous, popular, prosperous, beautiful people who do not know God.  Of course, we should not wish on them any suffering, but we should want to say to them: Turn from your sin and turn to God.

Someone has said, quote: The greatest anger of all is when God is no longer angry with us, end of quote. Now this may sound backwards, but the point here is: anyone who is unreachable and so unreachable even by God is headed for perdition, for lostness, separation from God for eternity and this is a solemn truth.

Hebrews chapter 12 and verse 10 says, in part: God disciplines us for our good that we may share in his holiness. God’s discipline is always at the right time for the right reason and to the right degree.  If we think not, then we are thinking, in effect, that God our Father has made a mistake. God cannot ever make a mistake. Well, why not?  Because he would not be God if he made mistakes.  We need to trust God so that our faith outweighs or feelings. God disciplines us to impart holiness to us.  There is only one kind of holiness, not man’s idea of holiness, but God’s holiness. Holiness is separation from sin. and the only way that we can be separated from sin is in a growing, developing, maturing way as according to Romans chapter eight and verse 29 that says, in part: To be conformed to the likeness of his Son that as we grow in the mind of Christ our beliefs, our behavior will match in a consistent basis as we walk in his steps, as we emulate, as we model ourselves as our perfect example even Jesus the Christ.

 

In Hebrews chapter 12 and verse 11 it says, in part: Later on, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.  What is it? What is trained by it? Discipline, God’s discipline, the master training us.  There are at least four basic ways that we can respond to God’s discipline. Number one, we can accept it with reservations.  Or, secondly, we can accept it with self pity, thinking we really don’t deserve it. Or, thirdly, we can reject and resent it with anger toward God or, fourthly, we can accept it humbly in faith knowing that Father knows best.

So, which do we usually practice? Any negative circumstance, any unhappy circumstance is at least allowed by God and God has his purposes in our lives, in our individual intimate lives.  How do we know that we have genuinely accepted God’s discipline, his chastening humbly in faith? Well, it tells us here that it produces in us righteousness, that is, right living, correction in repentance and also that we can have peace. Now here for the believer not peace with God, that is at conversion, but the peace of God, having that serenity in our souls, that satisfaction that we have accepted God’s discipline to our good for his highest.

So, what do Hebrews chapter 12 and verses 12 through 13 have to do with God’s disciplining us, his sons and daughters?  The imagery here is taken from the Old Testament, Proverbs chapter four and verse 26 and also Isaiah chapter 35 and verse three, to describe the disciplined person’s condition with feeble arms and weak knees. However, the troubles and the trials in our lives as believers we must not let our circumstances overwhelm us. Instead, we need to endure. We need to hang on. We need to persevere. We need to grow in our faith.

Another way of looking at this passage is that we must not only endure ourselves as our focus, but also remember that others are looking at us. Our response to troubles and trials needs to be consistent in our faith in God as part of our example to others and proof of our commitment to God and our testimony to others of our genuine faith through thick and thin.

Our enduring strength and faith, especially in dark days of trials, including the Lord’s discipline, can be of great benefit, not only to weaker, but even stronger Christians if we allow it to be and discern God’s working in our lives for our betterment for holiness that we can be conformed more to the image of Christ, the likeness of Christ in us and could also be used of the Holy Spirit to get unbelievers attention and that they think or say: I need what the or she has because God disciplines us for our good that we might share in his holiness that can produce righteousness and peace. And certainly, we can never in this life, in these bodies ever have enough righteousness. Of course, we have positionally the righteousness of Christ, but in the process of our sanctification that we would grow in right living and grow in the peace of God as we recognize, as we discern his working in us and through us and accept humbly, trusting that God is working for his purposes to help us to be more like him.

 

David Johnson is minister of the Sellersburg Church of Christ, Sellersburg, IN.




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The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

John 10:10