Who here loved it when their parents disciplined them when they were young?
You just loved going to timeout, getting spankings, getting grounded, being told you couldn’t watch TV for a week, or couldn’t hang out with your friends?
Who just loved that?
None of us probably.
And yet, for those of you now in adulthood, How many of you are thankful your parents disciplined you?”
Most of us can now say, “Yeah, I’m thankful for the discipline my parents gave me.”
Now, certainly not everyone can.
Some of you had parents that were completely absent
Or they disciplined you, but it was abuse, not Godly discipline.
But most people would agree that in a healthy home, discipline is actually a positive thing.
But how many of us view the Lord’s discipline of us in a positive light…especially if you’re right in the midst of it?
The topic of God discipling his children is a topic a lot of Christians shy away from talking about, but the Bible does not.
In fact, as we continue in our Endurance series today, we’ve come to the passage in the Bible that talks more about the Lord’s discipline in our lives than any other passage.
Open up to Hebrews 12
(Bible – weekly verses)
Lot of Scriptures today…I think you’ll want to take notes and write them down
If you heard last week’s message, we talked about how to endure through tough times by throwing off everything that hinders and fixing our eyes on Jesus and the cross.
And now, as we move to the second section of the chapter, we’re going to see that we must also endure (and grow from) the Lord’s discipline.
There is A LOT in the 9 verses of our passage today, so we’re going to take it just one or two verses at a time
(Hebrews 12:5-6) – NIV
5 And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says,
“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
6 because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”
Look at the beginning of our passage:
The writer says, “Have you completely forgotten…”
And then (to remind people) he quotes from the Book of Proverbs in the Old Testament
He wants to know if we’ve forgotten all about what the Bible teaches about God disciplining those he loves.
And honestly, in the American church, I think we have largely forgotten about this theological truth
“Instead, we worship a false version of God whose only duties are apparently to help us get jobs, buy houses, stay healthy, and feel happy.
But the Scripture, very clearly today, says the Lord also disciplines you. He chastens you. He rebukes you for your sin
And He does so while thinking of you as His beloved child.
If you’ve read the Bible, this actually shouldn’t be shocking to you…even if it sounds a bit weird to our American ears.
God disciplines his people often in Scripture
Some of you might know the following stories where others of you are new in your faith, or just checking out God, so I’ll give references
God disciplined Jacob by having him struggle during the time he lived with his uncle Laban after he fled from his angry brother Esau (Genesis 29-31)
And that discipline for Jacob’s sin, ended up positively shaping his character.
After Moses, the adopted “Prince of Egypt” tried to take matters into his own hands and ended up killing an Egyptian, God disciplined him by having him spend 40 years as a no-name shepherd out in the desert (Exodus 2-3)
And that discipline for his sin, humbled him into the leader he needed to become.
In the book of 1 Samuel, King Saul is disciplined many times by the Lord.
Softly at first, than more strongly, until eventually the kingdom is ripped out of his hands and given to another.
And there are plenty of more examples with Israel as the Lord let other nations temporarily take them over, or even sent them into exile, all discipline for their sin…
But, for the purpose of turning back their hearts to Him.
Before we go any further, it’s really critical that we differentiate discipline from punishment.
Discipline is having someone experience consequences so they can have their character shaped, and be restored.
Just like a good parent disciplines their child for wrongdoing.
They’re not doing it to pay them back, but to shape their character.
Punishment is different.
Punishment is to subject pain or penalty on someone, so to make things to right.
God’s discipline for the Christian is never to punish you.
It’s not to make you pay for that big mess up you just had.
Jesus has already taken 100% of the punishment for your sins (past & future) on the cross
So, in the Lord’s discipline of you, there is not one drop of punishment or wrath.
God is NEVER paying you back for your sin. Sometimes people say that.
The Bible does not teach Karma
Now, God might be trying to bring you back, but he’s not paying you back.
Let me also clear up one more theological issue before we go any further.
I think if you go back 25-50 years, Christians actually used to overemphasize how often the Lord disciplines His children.
If suffering came into someone’s life, some Christians would sometimes say horrible things to each other like, “I’m so sorry your spouse died, but that must be the Lord’s discipline for your sins”
And the theological misuse of today’s passage was so poor, that today’s Christians have since overreacted and now almost never talk about the Lord’s discipline for our sins.
Even though, sometimes your suffering may actually be the Lord disciplining you for your sins…
…He lets you experience consequences & pain to shape your character, or to protect you from further sin)
What the Bible truly teaches is this: The hardships we experience could be the Lord disciplining us, but they could also be a whole number of other things:
I’ll quickly give you 4 of them, and this isn’t even an exhaustive list:
Firstly, humans are sinful, and suffering is very often just a natural consequence of our sin & foolish choices.
When Esau foolishly and impulsively sold his birthright as the firstborn (all for a pot of stew), he suffered the natural consequences of…not having the rights of the firstborn
Two, Spiritual warfare is real and Satan and his demons are wreaking havoc (the book of Job is a good example of this type of suffering)
Three, God sometimes uses suffering as a training to make us stronger
(Like when David suffered when a lion attacked his sheep, but God was using that hardship to prepare him to battle Goliath later)
Four, God sometimes uses suffering as a part of His greater plan
(like when Joseph is sold into slavery and taken to Egypt, but that was only so later on Joseph could save the region from 7 years of famine)
But Joseph was not being disciplined. He didn’t do anything wrong.
Just as Jesus didn’t do anything wrong when he suffered on the cross
There are many, many reasons we suffer, and the Lord’s loving discipline in our life is but one of those reasons.
Let’s keep reading:
(Hebrews 12:7) – NIV
Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father?
And so let’s say you deduce that your suffering is most likely a result of God’s discipline… (and it’s not always easy to tell!)
…but let’s say you know you’ve been wandering from God in your heart, and you suspect that He’s using this pain to draw you back…
We’re told that we are to remember that He is doing this because we are His beloved child!
Think about it this way: Two different people could stab you – but one could be doing it to hurt you, and the other could be a surgeon that’s doing it to ultimately save your life.
Both are stabbing you…both situations are painful…but one of them is doing it out of malice and the other out of love and compassion.
When God cuts, he cuts like a surgeon who wants to save your life!
The challenge for the Christian is this:
As soon as God begins to cut us with his discipline, with his surgical scalpel, satan will whisper in your ear, “See, I told you…God is no good. He’s making your life miserable. You can’t trust Him. He’s not worth following!”
You need to whip out your sword of the Spirit and come back at the devil with the very words of this passage:
“What children are not disciplined by their father??”
God loves you!
God loves you the way you are, but He loves you too much to leave you that way.
And sometimes to bring about necessary change in your life, he has to use his scalpel, not his hand of blessing.
We too often fail to look at God’s relationship with us, like we look at our relationship with our own children
For those of you that have kids, let me ask you a question: “Why do you discipline them?”
If you have a toddler or preschooler, and they don’t clean up their toys 3 days in a row, why do you tell them they won’t be able to play with them the next day?
If you have a teenager, and they come home an hour past curfew, why do you tell them they won’t be hanging out with friends next weekend?
What are you trying to do?
If you’re doing it right (which, admittedly we’re not half the time…half the time we’re just really, really angry!)
But if you’re doing discipline right, you’re trying to shape their character.
Godly discipline is not punishing out of anger, but it’s disciplining by having our children experience logical consequences.
You’re teaching them that if they’re not responsible with their stuff, their life will become messy.
If they can’t be counted on to arrive on time, their employer won’t count on them either someday
And so on and so forth
And you’re trying to shape their character in a fairly safe and stable environment before they enter the big wide world on their own
And you discipline them because you intuitively know, that if you never disciplined them, they most certainly would not develop character or maturity.
But, what tends to happen when you discipline them??
You say to your 6 year old: “Because you screamed at mom and told her you didn’t like what she made for dinner and refused to eat it, you’ll need to make your own dinner tonight if you’d like to eat”
They say, “What!? I don’t know how to do that! That’s horrible!”
See, in the moment of discipline, they’re only thinking short-term, but YOU, wise parent, you’re playing 4D chess…you’re thinking long-term.
You know that discipline is good for their character
Well the same thing is going on with us and God…except now He’s playing 4D chess…and we’re the child
God disciplines us through suffering, or hardship, or just the natural consequences of our poor choices…
…but when He does so, we tend to only look at the short-term.
And we say, “What are you doing to my life, God? It’s outrageous! It’s unfair! This is horrible!”
But look at me, God is shaping you, protecting you, He’s actually LOVING You…because you’re His child.
Look at verse 8
(Hebrews 12:8) – NIV
If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all.
Only a completely abandoned child doesn’t experience discipline
“God disciplines those He loves,” verse 6 said.
Here’s a mistake we make as American Christians:
We tend to measure God’s love for us by how many good things happen to us.
Biblically, you’d almost be better off by measuring God’s love by how many bad things happen to you
I say that a bit tongue and check, but think of people like the Apostle Paul.
Paul’s life oughta knock out any prosperity gospel theology that’s left in you.
If God is supposed to financially and physically bless those who love and serve Him (like the prosperity Gospel says), Paul should have been on Forbe’s Rich List
Instead, look at his biographical sketch of his life:
Read 2 Corinthians 11 tonight.
Paul says he was put in prison multiple times, flogged, whipped 5 times, pelted with stones, shipwrecked 3 times, and often went without food or clothes.
And somehow, Paul seemed to know God better than any of us do in our great prosperity and relatively easy lives.
Do not fear the Lord’s discipline and hardships that He will bring
Some of the greatest Christians of history are those that have experienced the most afflictions
I think that’ll make even more sense in Verses 9-13. Let’s keep reading:
(Hebrews 12:9-13) – NIV
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 spirits and live! 10 They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 11 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.
12 Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. 13 “Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.
Verse 10 says that God disciplines us for our good.
One of my favorite verses…and it’s one I’ve leaned on a lot during these past 6 or 7 months…comes from Romans 5:
(Romans 5:3-4) – NIV
Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope.
God will bring you to the mountain, but sometimes He’ll also walk with you in the valley of the shadow of death.
In my experience, and in what I see in Scripture, God tends to shape us more in the valley than He does on the mountain.
Because on the mountain, we tend to pat our own backs for getting there and push God out of view.
Verse 10 says God disciplines us for our good…in order that we may SHARE IN HIS HOLINESS.
That we may become more like Him.
I heard of a man once who kept asking God to heal him of his cancer…but, when the healing wasn’t coming, he started praying differently to God
And he said,
“God, what is it you want to heal in me through this suffering?”
That is a key question to ask when you suffer.
And there will be times you won’t really even know if your suffering is the Lord’s discipline, a spiritual attack, or just part of some grander plan…
But I can assure you that God is still in control…and still doing something with your suffering.
So you can still ask that question:
What is it that you want to heal in me…
What is it that you want to change in me…to do in me?
There’s a brilliant little nugget in verse 11.
it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
Way too many Christians don’t let themselves be trained by the Lord’s discipline.
They drown it out, or they get mad at God
And that’ll never lead to righteousness and peace like God offers to you.
That’s like a child that never wants to learn the lesson of their parent’s discipline…
…a child that never examines themselves and never wants to learn from their mistakes
But typically it’s our spiritual pain that is the very thing that makes us aware of the fact that we need to change.
Just as if you feel an initial pain in your stomach, or knee, or heart, or anywhere, that initial pain can be a warning sign of something more significant going on.
But too often, because we fear pain, we take the easy way out, and we do whatever we can to mask the pain
Take a pill, ice it, take another drink…
But your body is often letting you experience that pain, not for you to drown it out, but to show you that something deeper is going on.
The Lord’s discipline works the same way
The pain causes us to ask questions we never would on the mountaintop
It causes us to dig deeper…to ask God, what are you doing here…
And ironically, the blessing of pain, not the blessing of prosperity, is the thing that usually causes us to take our walk with God, our holiness, more seriously
Let me close by telling you a bit how the Navy Seals train
This is from Admiral William H. McRaven, a 36-year Navy SEAL veteran
Every day during training, future Navy SEALS are challenged with multiple physical events—long runs, long swims, obstacle courses, hours of calisthenics—something designed to test your mettle.
Every event has standards—times you have to meet.
If you fail to meet those standards your name is posted on a list, and at the end of the day, those on the list are required to do complete what is called a "circus."
A circus is two hours of additional calisthenics—designed to wear you down, to break your spirit, to force you to quit. And some do. They don’t make it as a Navy Seal.
Listen, no one training to be a Navy Seal wanted to do a circus.
A circus meant that for that day you didn't measure up.
A circus meant even more fatigue—and more fatigue meant that the following day would be more difficult—and more circuses were likely.
But at some time during SEAL training, everyone—everyone—makes the circus list.
But an interesting thing happens to those who are constantly on the list (that is those who are constantly enduring that discipline of a circus)
Overtime, it was those students—the ones who did two hours of extra calisthenics—who got stronger and stronger.
The pain of the circuses built inner strength, built physical resiliency.
In fact, many of them became the strongest of all the Navy SEALS.
Life is filled with circuses. You will fail. You will likely fail often. It will be painful.
It will be discouraging. At times it will test you to your very core.
But never doubt God in the midst of it.
He’s shaping you, and preparing you, because He loves you as His child.
Let me pray
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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