Today I was once again lamenting the trials that I seem to face daily, with the difficulties of training my son and the frustrations with myself and my shortcomings and failures, and it occurred to me that the author of Hebrews was addressing the same things with his congregation. They were admittedly probably facing far more trying tests of their faith as they were being persecuted, at least in some ways (Hebrews 10:31ff), but they were repeatedly exhorted to come all the way to true faith in Christ and to persevere in that true faith. Hebrews 11 is all about those who endured to the end, about those who were given promises that they never saw realized and who were tried severely in their faith and who nevertheless persevered to the end, and we are exhorted to do the same thing. Then the author turns to chapter 12 and gives us the ultimate example of endurance in the face of the most severe testing in the Person of the glorious Lord Jesus Christ and reminds us that the Lord disciplines all those who are His own (12:5).
This is a reminder that I need, because I am very forgetful. I forget that the Lord is sovereign over all circumstances and all events and has designed these trials and this discipline for my sanctification and for my greater usefulness. I am being disciplined for His purposes, not my own, so that I will be prepared for every good work. I forget that the Lord Jesus Himself learned obedience from the things that He suffered (Hebrews 5:8). If my sinless Savior learned obedience from suffering, how much more do I need to submit to the trials the Lord sends into my life and allow them to sanctify me! I forget that I am a fallen creature and that my very flesh is indwelt by the malevolence of sin. I forget that I come from a broken home and that my father, who was a sinner like me and was also fallen with heavy baggage of his own from his life experiences, left our home when I was eleven years old and left me without a role model for my adolescent years. I am forgetful. I forget that I was lost until I was 31 years old. I forget that I live in a fallen world where the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now, so that everything in the created order now militates against my godliness and my obedience to the Lord and His commands. I forget that every person I meet in this world is likewise fallen and that most of them are unredeemed and are, as such, bent completely toward their own selfish desires and are in the grip of the evil one. I forget that the Lord Jesus told His followers that the world would hate them because of His name and that in this world we would have tribulation. I need to be reminded because I am forgetful of these things.
Therefore, I need to thank the Lord that He is at work in my life in evident ways and that He is disciplining me. My flesh hates discipline and craves ease and instant success, but it is discipline that I need. I want to escape the winnowing fork of discipline and I want to run from the Lord’s scourge, but it is this very discipline and scourging that prove my sonship and it is those that will bring me increased holiness. It is holiness that I now crave, and this craving is stronger than my flesh’s desire for ease and comfort and for its own lustful passions. I crave holiness and must therefore embrace the Lord’s appointed means to that end. When the Lord’s scourge cuts into my flesh, I will welcome the destruction of my flesh and will lean harder into the Lord and will anticipate the time when His discipline is no longer needed.
And so, I am susceptible to forgetting the exhortation which is addressed to me as a son, “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor faint when you are reproved by Him.” I often regard lightly the discipline of the Lord. I do not want it and I try to ignore it or to get around it or to put it behind me as soon as I possibly can. If I cannot ignore or avoid or brush past the discipline, then I am likely to “faint.” My fainting is not passing out or collapsing from exhaustion, but rather sounds a lot more like complaining and moaning about the perceived miseries, but it is fainting, nevertheless. It is lacking the courage to endure the Lord’s discipline and persevere through the Lord’s training. This is “fainting.” Therefore, my desire is to embrace the discipline of the Lord and to endure and to accept correction when I am reproved by Him.
I need to remember that, “Those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives.” This discipline is the Greek word “paideia” and can mean anything from “train” to “whip” to “scourge” to “discipline.” The word, in its noun form and in its verb form, appears multiple times in this passage. The idea is that the Lord is involved in the lives of His children to train them. His training involves severe discipline because His children need to have the evil driven out of them just as the Cretans did (Titus 1:13) and just as David did (Psalm 51:7 – “purify me with hyssop”)
The God of this universe is carefully training me using the means of His school of discipline and adversity and the occasional school of scourging. The evil runs deep in me and the Lord refuses to let me remain as I am. He thus raises the lash of adversity to teach me endurance. He confronts me with people who intentionally and unintentionally wrong me to teach me to forgive. He places me in situations that try my patience to train me to be patient. I am being carefully trained through life’s challenges by the Lord of glory who wants me to be like Him (Romans 8:29).
“Lord, let me embrace Your discipline as training from Your divine hand, and let me endure the adversity and the scourging until I come forth as gold. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
SDG rmb originally written in November 2009 – 10/5/2019