Joy and the Christian Life, Pt. 5 – Suffering
You struggle against sin, but your struggles haven’t killed you. 5 You have forgotten the encouraging words that God speaks to you as his children:
“My child, pay attention when the Lord disciplines you.
Don’t give up when he corrects you.
6 The Lord disciplines everyone he loves.
He severely disciplines everyone he accepts as his child.”
7 Endure your discipline. God corrects you as a father corrects his children. All children are disciplined by their fathers. 8 If you aren’t disciplined like the other children, you aren’t part of the family. 9 On earth we have fathers who disciplined us, and we respect them. Shouldn’t we place ourselves under the authority of God, the father of spirits, so that we will live? 10 For a short time our fathers disciplined us as they thought best. Yet, God disciplines us for our own good so that we can become holy like him. 11 We don’t enjoy being disciplined. It always seems to cause more pain than joy. But later on, those who learn from that discipline have peace that comes from doing what is right. – Hebrews 12:4-11
It is a truth that struggles are not enjoyable as a Christian. The people in the book of Hebrews were rejected from their society. They had received persecution, imprisonment, and poverty. Life has continued on for them but they live wondering how long this will keep going. The author of Hebrews continues to redirect their vision to Jesus and God’s heavenly city. He has taught them the truth that suffering is the road to glory, not a side-step. In this portion he reminds them of the encouraging words given to them by God when they endure struggles.
First he changes their situation from a struggle into discipline. This word ‘discipline’ can also be translated ‘training’. One commentator says the word denotes all the steps a parent would take to raise up a child. A parent does simply discipline but also trains and educates. By changing their situation from ‘struggle’ to ‘discipline’ or ‘training’, the people are able to look at their situation differently. A struggle might seem unfair and pointless, but discipline and training is never pointless. Actually, discipline and training is always beneficial.
In these verses he points out two simple but profoundly encouraging things. Their ‘discipline’ is a sign of God’s love for them and also a sign of God’s acceptance of them. It is always the thought of people when they endure a struggle that God must hate them or that God has left them. But quite the opposite is true. Here they may know that they are God’s children, that God loves them, and that God accepts them. Children that never receive discipline or training are not true children, they are orphans, and if not orphans, they are unloved by their parents.
The author admits that no discipline is enjoyable but the result is peace. For a body builder it is painful to train but the result is strong muscles. For a Christian, struggles are beneficial. They are for his good, for his holiness, and yield the peaceful fruit of righteousness. But first the Christian must realise that his struggles serve a purpose. If he continues to think of them as meaningless, or continues to run away from them, he will never learn nor experience the results of what they will teach him. How about it, what is your struggle today? Allow the Lord to teach you and look forward to the results.
(One last note, this is not the answer to the question ‘why bad things happen’. The cause of evil is always the devil and fallen man’s sin nature. But evil is not greater than God. Nor will God allow evil to overcome his children. As Joseph said “Even though you planned evil against me, God planned good to come out of it” (Gen 50:20). The life of Joseph is a testimony to this truth.)