Hebrews 12:12-14 How to emerge victorious through God’s discipline
12 Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed. 14 Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.
Discipline is an essential component in the preparation of believers to obtain the promises of God. The habitual sins and the root of immorality pose as threats that will spring up unannounced to destroy the believer and together with him, his family and career. Discipline comes in various forms that sometimes involve agents of evil and even loved ones as instruments of His discipline. The fruit of righteousness is the willingness to make peace with those who offended us and becoming more god-like in the process.
12 Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.
God’s discipline came at a time when many harbored secret sins and entertained fleshly desires. Believers were faced with the decision to remain under God’s discipline and be changed in the process or … take flight. It is wise for believers to submit to God’s discipline by actively assimilating the truths into their lives. Weak hands and feeble knees are signs of weariness and a subtle rejection of God’s work of discipline. Strengthen the hands … Make straight paths for your feet means to actively embrace discipline with a heart of repentance while pressing forward. The limb which is lame (or dislocated) refers to a handicap or sickness that was caused by the dark passions of the flesh. God’s discipline must be received as a wake up call for believers to divorce themselves from sin and submit to His lordship. In doing so, they may be healed of their handicap and be released from their bondages.
14 Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.
God’s discipline some times in the form of financial crisis, religious or political persecution is directed at specific communities or even nations. This tends to put everyone under pressure to safeguard personal interests and disregard the needs of others. Strive for peace with everyone translates into the act of loving others as ourselves in being peaceable while relating with one another in humility and truth. The people of God must endure discipline in the spirit of love and unity by being sensitive to one another’s needs.
God’s discipline also comes when one individual attacks another for selfish reasons. In such a case, a spirit of peace and forgiveness must prevail knowing this is a divine discipline for all parties. Through it all, both the victim and the perpetrator are challenged to put on the virtues of Christ – to be holy as God is holy.
Strive … for the holiness means to actively transform our hearts according to God’s virtues (holiness). In the presence of conflict, believers were challenged to make a choice: to act according to the truth or to yield to their fleshly instincts. When a believer decides to let God have His way, he emerges victorious from the discipline. To such God reveals Himself and extends His favor.
We must see all conflicts and challenges as divine discipline for our good. Many see conflicts and challenges as acts of injustice coming from God or from other people. They subtly blamed God for not blessing them or protecting them from their problems. Some sought revenge from those whom they thought were responsible for their plight. Hence, they continually harbored discontent, anger and vengeance becoming weary and losing heart.
In the midst of challenges, we could either choose to complain, blame and escape from our problems. Or we could recognize the dire circumstance as divine discipline for our good. Until we come to recognize God’s providence over the crisis, we will not benefit from divine discipline and become more god-like in the process. Many choose to escape into another world, not wanting to face the burden of changing their destructive lifestyle and mindset. They have spent much of their lives living in their make-believe world of shopping, of unhealthy relationships, of computer games and of Korean dramas etc. In short, they have never emerged victorious from any discipline and because they were accustomed to the way of escape, they remained stunted like a child trapped in the body of an adult.
“Strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble” depicts the conscious act of submitting to God’s discipline. In taking the step of self-surrender, the dislocated limb or the sickness of the body will be healed. Subsequently, the whole body will be energized with God’s power to overcome the challenges at hand.
A community that welcomes God’s discipline is a community of holiness and peace. Families and communities who welcome God’s discipline with a positive mindset exude an aura of peace and righteousness around them. They see all conflicts and crisis (internal or external) as divine providence to bring them to a higher level of god-likeness. Hence, they do not hang on to anger nor do they remember the sins of others. They constantly speak the truth and uphold the virtues of patience and forgiveness.
On the flip side, we see families and communities perpetually mired by internal divisions, back biting, strife, selfish ambition, sexual immorality and worldliness. Each member perceives dire circumstances or conflicts as divine discipline directed at everyone except himself. They perceive family conflicts as the result of an unruly child or an unreasonable spouse, and not as divine opportunities for self-examination. They accord blame to another and quickly absolve himself from all responsibilities.
The text says, “Strive for peace with everyone…” Peace depicts a peaceable and caring culture that governs the values system of the community. We must see each crisis as God’s discipline to foster mutual dependence, patience and care among members of the family and community. Paul taught the believers in Colossae to bear with one another and let the peace of Christ rule in their hearts,
So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, Colossians 3:12-13
The author also encouraged his readers in the midst of crisis to strive for holiness. The church that welcomes God’s discipline is a church that emphasizes holy living through repentance leading to salvation. Paul wrote a letter to discipline the Corinthian churches,
For I see that that letter caused you sorrow, though only for a while —I now rejoice, … that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, …For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation. 2 Corinthians 7:8-10
A church that values God’s discipline is sensitive to the Spirit’s variegated sensibilities. When God disciplines His sons, it is required of the whole community to come to the point of sorrow and contrition for sins committed. Some churches accustomed to a celebrative and triumphant atmosphere week after week actually run contrary to the sensibilities of the Spirit. Church leaders must refrain from playing up the emotions of the congregation in order to appeal to the masses. After a while what seems jubilant becomes soulish, trite and shallow.
- Are you currently going through a crisis? Are you weary and losing heart? Ask God to show you His purpose during this time. Seek to understand the virtues that He sought to imbue into your life.
- Is your family, church or organization experiencing frequent quarrels and strife among the members? God may be doing a work of discipline within your community. Ask Him to show you how you could be a mouthpiece of God calling all towards reconciliation with one another and holiness towards God.
Dear Lord, I thank you for the discipline that you are bringing into our midst. Show me how I can emerge victorious out of this crisis and make me more like you in the process. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.