“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.
6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.”
7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. – Hebrews 11:5-8
In this passage the author of Hebrews quotes the Old Testament, reminding his audience of something they’d forgotten – that they are sons of God.
He admonished them earlier for being immature (Hebrews 5:12). This passage from Proverbs 3:11-12 is one that would have been well known by a Jewish audience. He’s saying, you’ve forgotten this basic teaching of scripture from this commonly used passage. You’ve forgotten a passage you should be familiar with, that you should be turning to for help and encouragement.
And what is in this passage that is so important?
(v. 5b1) “…My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord…
The word “discipline” in the first line of the verse is associated with the training of children. It has the sense of helping someone reach full development. The difficulties they are facing is the Lord training them and the author tells them not to take that lightly. The verb form implies continual action: do not “keep on taking it lightly” or, said another way, do not “keep on caring too little about it.”
How do we care too little about the discipline the Lord sends into our lives?
Most of the time if I’m facing difficulty, I care a whole lot about it. But, here’s the thing, it is all in how I view it. By treating it as a nuisance, or as something just to be endured until it’s over, or as disconnected from my Christian life, after which I can get on with my life or my ministry or whatever – like a train pulling off of the main track onto a siding, I am not in a position to learn from it, to grow from it. As I heard someone say, difficulty is not a distraction from your ministry, it is your ministry. It’s not a sidebar in the journey for a Christian, it is the journey.
Paul tells the Corinthian church:
For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. – II Corinthians 1:8-9
God had a purpose for the difficulty He placed Paul in. God has a purpose for the difficulty these Jewish believers are facing. He has a purpose for the difficulty He places in my life and in yours.
John Piper wrote a books called “Don’t Waste Your Cancer.” By that he meant, don’t lose the opportunity to grow as a Christian and glorify God that something like cancer provides you with.
The author of Hebrews says something similar, don’t keep on acting like these difficulties have no purpose, don’t see them as nuisances or as something just to get through, see them as discipline from the Lord. See them as something God has placed in your life to grow you in the faith. Don’t take them lightly, don’t waste them.
He goes on…
(v.5b2) “…nor be weary when reproved by him.”
He talks of another type of God’s work in their lives – reproof.
This word has a more negative connotation than “discipline.” This word is associated with rebuking someone, exposing their guilt or proving them wrong.
Not all difficulty that comes into our lives is a direct result of our personal sin –The man born blind John tells us was not that way because of his sin or his parents but, so that God’s works could be displayed (John 9:1-3).
But some is.
When believers are involved in sin we should expect the Lord’s correction.
Often that comes in the form of a fellow believer coming along side us and gently pointing us back to the right path. At other times it may reveal itself as a consequence of our actions – a man who steals from his company is discovered and fired. At still other times it may be seemingly unrelated, such as an illness.
Again, not all difficulties are the result of my personal sin but when I find myself in a continuing difficult circumstance it pays to examine my life and see if there is any sin from which I need to repent.
Could it be some of the difficulty they were facing was because they were looking back like Lot’s wife (Genesis 19:26) and considering a return to their former way of life?
They were considering abandoning the faith so the Lord was reproving or rebuking them for this.
Whatever form it was taking with the recipients of Hebrews, they had become weary of the Lord’s correction. They wanted it to stop before it had done its work or before they had done what they needed to do, such as repent, because they didn’t see in it the hand of God.
But the author reminds them that such things, discipline and chastisement, are marks of God’s love and of their status as His sons and daughters.
(v. 6) “For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”
These difficulties are a mark of God’s care and concern for them as His children. Therefore, the author says, you must endure it.
(v. 7) “It is for discipline you must endure.”
Endurance is necessary for the discipline to be effective. Part of the discipline is the waiting, the trusting God in the midst of difficulty. If you seek to short circuit what God is doing in your life or you don’t seek to learn from it or you run from it, the discipline the Lord is trying to bring to your life, the growth He seeks for you, as His child, won’t happen.
It is for discipline you must endure.
He closes out this section with a sobering thought and a dire warning: If you’re not being disciplined, you don’t belong to the Lord.
When the Bible tells us that something is the mark of an unbeliever, we need to listen up because it’s important.
(v. 8) “If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.”
Let that sink in a minute. If my Christian life makes no demands on me, does not stretch me and is always problem free I might not be truly converted. And while I don’t think we can say because we’ve had lots of difficulty we’re believers, based on what the author says here, if we are not experiencing the discipline of the Lord either positively as training or negatively as chastisement and rebuke when necessary, it’s a sign we’re not converted.
A friend of mine once told me “The most dangerous place you can be is involved in sin and experiencing no adverse consequences for it.”
In other words, if I’m not being chastised for my sin, if I’m not experiencing negative consequences of my sin, if I can just sin with impunity and be fat and happy about it, or even worse, proud of it, it’s because the Lord does not consider me His son or daughter and He’s therefore not taking the time to discipline me.
If someone tells you the Christian life is a life of health and wealth and ease and the only reason you don’t experience those things is your lack of faith or your lack of positive thinking or speaking good things into existence run from them, they’re a false teacher.
In this life you will have trials Jesus told His followers. If it was true for Him it will be true for us. Thankfully for believers those trials are not random purposeless things but tools a loving Father uses to mold us into the likeness of Christ.