I recently preached on Hebrews 12:1-11 about understanding and enduring suffering as the Father’s painful loving discipline. The writer says in verse 11, “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant.”
Pain is always hard to endure, but we compound and intensify the pain if we either don’t know what God is doing or, worse, actually think He’s turned against us. Now He doesn’t promise to tell us why this pain, why this long, why this intense, but He does tell us what He’s up to for our encouragement and endurance. Consider verse 7:
“It is for discipline (not condemnation or destruction) that you have to endure.” Here are three truths from this passage to remember in order to better understand and endure suffering—and help others endure—in a way that promotes God-glorifying holiness and ultimate happiness.
God’s discipline is an expression of his fatherly love for our sanctification.
Verses 7 and 10 say, “For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?….He disciplines us…that we may share his holiness.” This is so important to remember and so hard to trust when life is chaotic and painful.
When my daughter was little she used to get ear infections and I remember taking her to her pediatrician one day. He wasn’t able to see into her ear due to wax so he got out a sharp pointy instrument to pick the wax out. My daughter got very scared and I had to hold her down while the doctor poked around. Because of her thrashing he cut her ear, which just made her more terrified. Although I wanted to punch the doctor, I had to hold her down while he “hurt” her—for her good. When we left, I don’t remember her saying, “Thanks, Dad, I really needed you to hold me down.” She was probably thinking, “Why did my Dad help this man hurt me?!”
Sometimes our Father has to hold us down and make us bleed too. We don’t understand, we’re scared, but He knows what He’s doing. Jesus was held down and made to bleed by His Father too; but it was for His ultimate glory and for our salvation.
God’s discipline is assurance that you are indeed a born again beloved child of God.
Assurance of salvation is a precious thing—a strong tower in all kinds of trouble. Some struggle deeply as they seek it and it seems to elude them. Verses 7-8 tells us one significant way God assures us we are His beloved child. “God is treating you as sons…If you are left without discipline…then you are illegitimate children and not sons.” Painful discipline in your life is God’s assurance that you are the real deal—a true child of God!
When my son was small I had to spank him on occasion. One time, after getting spanked, he proudly said to his sister, “It didn’t hurt!” I heard him, brought him back for one more “spank,” and then assured him of my love for him. As he walked away the second time he knew two things for sure: “My bottom really hurts!” and “That’s my Dad.” The spanking was in the context of a loving relationship and was for the sake of the relationship.
God’s discipline produces holiness and greater happiness.
The writer tells us in verses 10-11 that our Father disciplines us “that we might share his holiness” and that we might experience “the peaceful fruit of righteousness.” We don’t often think about the connection between holiness and happiness, but it’s very evident in Jesus.
Hebrews 1: 9 says, “You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.” Jesus also said that those who hunger and thirst for righteousness are blessed—supremely happy. Hungering and thirsting for righteousness is also hungering and thirsting for ultimate happiness.
So the question is, what do you—and those you counsel—hunger and thirst for? Righteousness? Or power, comfort, success, control, possessions, etc.? These leave us empty and dissatisfied.
This is how Psalm 36: 7-10 describes the reward for hungering and thirsting for righteousness:
“How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light. Oh, continue your steadfast love to those who know you, and your righteousness to the upright of heart.”
“Heavenly Father, we thank you for your immeasurable love for us in Christ. We know that he was made perfect through suffering but confess we often don’t want the same process for ourselves. Please help us remember that you discipline us in love for our good and equip us to help those we counsel understand and endure suffering as your fatherly discipline. Amen.”
Join the Conversation
How have you seen God produce the “peaceful fruit of righteousness” through His discipline in your life? How do you effectively “win” counselees to embrace God’s discipline?