Hebrews 12:3-13 (HCSB)
“For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, so that you won’t grow weary and lose heart. In struggling against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And you have forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons:
My son, do not take the Lord’s discipline lightly
or faint when you are reproved by Him,
for the Lord disciplines the one He loves
and punishes every son He receives.
Endure suffering as discipline: God is dealing with you as sons. For what son is there that a father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline — which all receive — then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had natural fathers discipline us, and we respected them. Shouldn’t we submit even more to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time based on what seemed good to them, but He does it for our benefit, so that we can share His holiness. No discipline seems enjoyable at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it yields the fruit of peace and righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Therefore strengthen your tired hands and weakened knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated but healed instead.”
I am currently teaching a Sunday School, lesson series on the subject of suffering at my church. The point of the series is to help the brethren understand what it looks like to handle life’s bad moments and seasons (which we all experience) in a way which glorifies God, rather than it possibly becoming a means of dishonoring Him when things get rough, through our poor responses to suffering.
Portions of the verses above are frequently coming up in the discussions, as to be an encouragement to help everyone see that they are to “Endure suffering as discipline…”
Because, God uses our suffering (the Christian’s suffering), “for our benefit, so that we can share His holiness.”
It is important for us to grasp that, “God is dealing with you as sons. For what son is there that a father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline — which all receive — then you are illegitimate children and not sons.” In other words, if God were not disciplining us as “sons,” then we are orphans… alone, unprotected, and unguided by Him… “illegitimate children and not sons.” We need to view our suffering properly, recognizing that, “No discipline seems enjoyable at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it yields the fruit of peace and righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Therefore strengthen your tired hands and weakened knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated but healed instead.” In other words, this is how God makes us (Christians) holy.
An Orphan in a China Shop
These verses got me thinking about the “orphan,” the unregenerate person.
Imagine a child in a china shop. If that child were to break something, who pays? The child or their parent? The parent pays, naturally. A child doesn’t have the means to pay. This is what we (Christians) have through Christ. In what I would call the “china shop of life,” we are covered by Christ’s blood for any damage which we might contribute to the world around us. It has already been paid for.
But, does this mean that we can then go ahead, carelessly running through the china shop of life with abandon?
The “Father of spirits” does not leave us orphaned in the china shop of life, owing a debt for our moments of careless behavior. No, Christ paid for it all. But, on top of that, we are then disciplined “as sons” for our moments of failure, which is a means by which God quells our giving in to the temptation to be negligent… making us ever the more holy. The orphan, on the other hand, remains in debt for their careless moments, never learning to be like Christ, never being disciplined as a son, awaiting judgement as “illegitimate children”; a fatherless and unguided dissonant, primed for segregation from His sons… forever.
We cannot be prideful in our spiritual pedigree, but fearful, as to maintain the integrity and virtue that we are called to demonstrate in the china shop of life. May we also be reaching out to the orphans, encouraging them to repent and to trust in Jesus Christ, letting them know that there is a “Father of spirits” who not only judges… but also forgives and adopts.
Godspeed, to the brethren!