Hebrewsby Robert M. Solomon
Keeping our thoughts on how hard Christian discipleship can be, the writer asks his possibly weary readers, ″Have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son?″ (Hebrews 12:5). The writer quotes Proverbs 3:11-12 to give an unusual encouragement to those in the midst of suffering. It does not promise a bed of roses, but offers meaning and hope. It points to the ″Lord's discipline″ (Hebrews 12:5) which involves His verbal rebuke and a more painful punishment (literally scourging)-a lesson that is not easily forgotten. The recipient of such discipline can remember that this means he is God's true son, whom God is shaping for future service, unlike those who are not His children (vv. 7-8), who have rejected such discipline. Those who seem to have no struggles may not be the genuine children of God (see Psalm 73).
We all have earthly fathers who disciplined us when we were children, and though they are imperfect, we appreciate them for disciplining us and shaping our character. How much more will the ″Father of [our] spirits″, our heavenly Father who gives us spiritual life and who loves us perfectly, discipline us for our own good (Hebrews 12:9).
Our earthly fathers did what they thought was best ″for a little while″, but our heavenly Father would, in His wisdom and love, discipline us ″that we may share in his holiness″ (Hebrews 12:10). The way God disciplines us is intended to make us share His character, to ″participate in the divine nature″ (2 Peter 1:4). As it has been said, there is no gain without pain, no crown without a cross.
As we struggle with sin, and as we persevere through persecution and pain, we are gaining ground and making steady progress. Though it is hard to bear, we can take heart that it provides spiritual training (″trained by it″, gymnazō in Greek, from which we get ″gymnasium″) for our souls and will produce a ″harvest of righteousness and peace″ (Hebrews 12:11; see Isaiah 32:17; James 3:17-18)-of right living and right relationships. These thoughts are most comforting when we are going through a painful trial. First, we remember that we are God's children and He loves us. Second, we know that ″in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose″ (Romans 8:28). We can trust in God's love for us and in His wise and sovereign purposes.
Think of God's discipline (and training) in your life. How have you experienced it and what does it say about your relationship to God? Think of how God's firmness expresses His love for you.
What ″harvest of righteousness and peace″ have you already seen in your life? What more can you expect from the training God is putting you through? What sort of trainee are you?