Aug 1, 2013
The author of Hebrews writes to believers who face severe trials. And in chapter 12 he encourages them by explaining that their trials are the discipline of the Lord.
But ask yourself — would it encourage you to hear that your trials are the discipline of the Lord?
It might not, because many of us misunderstand the discipline of the Lord.
So — to encourage us in our trials — here are some questions and answers about the discipline of the Lord —
Do All Trials Involve God’s Discipline?
In Hebrews 12:1-4 the author calls us to endure trials while we run the race (Hebrews 12:1-4). Then without any sign that he’s changing topics, he says “do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord” (Hebrews 12:5). That sounds like all our trials involve the discipline of the Lord.
Also, the author says we need endurance when we face trials (Hebrews 10:32-36; 12:1-3). Then in Hebrews 12:7 he says “it is for discipline that you have to endure.” That sounds like every time we have to endure trials, it’s so we can experience the discipline of the Lord.
So my conclusion is that every trial involves the discipline of the Lord. But that raises this next question —
When God Disciplines Us Is He Punishing Us For Our Sins?
We might think the answer is Yes. But what does the word “punish” mean? Dictionary.com says it means “to subject to pain as a penalty for some offense.”
So if God is punishing us that means our suffering is paying the penalty for our sin. But that can’t be what God is doing, because through faith in Christ, He has paid all the penalty for all of our sin.
Therefore, God’s discipline of His children never involves punishment. Because Jesus paid for your sins on the Cross, no trial you face ever has any punishment in it.
Does The Discipline Of The Lord Involve Consequences For Particular Sins?
Sometimes it does. God took the life of David’s son who was conceived from adultery with Bathsheba. That was clearly a consequence for sin (2 Samuel 12:13-14).
But it was not punishment for sin, since Nathan had already told David “The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die.” So there can be a consequence for particular sin, without it being a punishment for particular sin.
And yet, because of this and other passages, we can wrongly think that every trial is a consequence for some particular sin. So when trials come, too often that’s our entire focus: “I must have committed some sin. What did I do wrong?”
But in Hebrews 12 there’s no hint that their trials were the consequence of any particular sin. Instead, the author wants them to focus on the purpose for the discipline of the Lord —
What Is The Discipline Of The Lord?
Hebrews 12:6 says it is loving — “For the Lord disciplines the one he loves.” So when the Lord disciplines you, what he’s feeling towards you is love.
And Hebrews 12:11 says it involves training — “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.” So when the Lord disciplines you, what He’s bringing you is training.
So the discipline of the Lord is loving training. It’s loving, because it flows from God’s compassion and care for you. And it’s training, because it gives you an opportunity to grow in trusting Christ as your all-satisfying Treasure.
That does not mean we don’t pray for God to take trials away. We should, just like Paul did with his thorn in the flesh (2 Corinthians 12:7-8). But if God chooses not to take them away, we know His purpose — loving training.
This also does not mean that those who suffer the most, do so because they need more training than others. Think of Job. He was the most righteous man on the earth, and yet he suffered terribly (Job 1:8). So greater suffering does not imply a lack of righteousness or a greater need for training.
So whenever we face a trial, focus on how this trial is brought to you by God for the sake of loving training —
- Difficult boss? Loving training.
- Serious illness? Loving training.
- Spilled cereal? Loving training.
- Wayward child? Loving training.
- Flat tire? Loving training.
- Unresponsive spouse? Loving training.
- Struggles in ministry? Loving training.
And why is that so encouraging? Here’s one last question —
What Does God’s Discipline Bring Us?
The author of Hebrews 12 describes three gifts God promises to give us through this loving training.
First, God’s loving training will bring us life —
Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? (Hebrews 12:9)
Life is not earthly ease and comfort. Life is nearness to God, joy in God, worship of God. God lovingly trains us to give us more life.
Second, God’s loving training will bring us the good of sharing God’s holiness —
… but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. (Hebrews 12:10)
There is no greater joy than beholding God’s holiness. And God lovingly trains us so we will have even more of this joy.
Third, God’s loving training brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness —
… but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:11)
Sin causes warfare in our hearts and unrighteousness in our lives. But God lovingly trains us so that sin will progressively be conquered — bringing peace to our hearts and righteousness to our lives.
What Difference This Makes
Here’s the author’s conclusion —
Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees (Hebrews 12:12).
If we don’t see trials as God’s discipline — God’s loving training — then trials can make our hands droop and knees buckle.
So understand that every trial as a gift of loving training from God’s hand. Let that lift your hands and strengthen your knees.
And keep running the race.
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And here are some related posts you might find helpful –
- Is This Trial From Satan Or God?
- Asking Why? Here’s God’s Loving Purpose For Every Trial
- Does God Ordain Every Trial?
- How Spurgeon Saw His Trials And Suffering
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