Hebrews 12:7-11 God’s discipline prepares us to meet the challenges of the future
It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. 11 All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.
It is natural as sons of God to receive life-long discipline and training from our heavenly Father. Discipline is not a corrective action for wrongdoing, but a process of learning by being subject to various divine circumstances. Discipline tests and reveals the true state of our hearts and it strengthens our resolve towards righteousness. Today’s passage teaches us to treasure God’s discipline and to assimilate His truths into our lives that can give us an edge to prosper in the future.
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.
The author stated in no uncertain terms that believers must learn to accept discipline and assimilate it into their lives. In other words, discipline is a permanent feature in a believer’s life. The Greek form of the word discipline is paideia which means the act of providing guidance for responsible living or the process of being brought up properly. Hence, discipline relates to the process of growth and maturity. The common notion in a narrower sense defines discipline as a corrective response to wrongdoing.
Therefore, any responsible father will see to it that all his children get the discipline required to mature and succeed in their lives. On the flip side, if children get no discipline from their fathers, they are in fact illegitimate children and not sons.
9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness.
The author drew upon the analogy of earthly fathers who bring up their children in the best of their abilities. If children respect their earthly fathers for their discipline, how much more must believers accord fear and reverence to the heavenly Father when He disciplines. What attitude must believers have when experiencing the brunt of discipline from the heavenly Father? Believers must in humble submission give utmost attention to the precious truths gleaned from life’s trials.
The author surfaced the motives and intentions of fatherly discipline. Earthly fathers discipline their children and bring them up according to their limited wisdom. Earthly fathers may not have perfect judgment, their culture and perceptions may also be dated. But the heavenly Father disciplines His sons according to His perfect knowledge with the intention to mold them into His likeness so that they may also share in His glory (Hebrews 2:10). Earthly fathers however, cannot in their best intention mold his children into their likeness because they are imperfect. Therefore, we can conclude that earthly fathers without the help of the heavenly father can never do a good job in the work of disciplining their children. Moreover, they are prevented from contributing to the growth of their children when they pass on: they disciplined us for a short time.
11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
All discipline carries the accompanying effects of pain and trauma. It is a fact that a person who has not experienced hardship and pain, was probably never disciplined and would likely not fulfill his potential. However, those who were trained by the hard knocks of life would most definitely yield the peaceful fruit of righteousness which is the foundation of success. Peaceful also means blessed and profitable. Righteousness means the quality of being upright and godly. The blessed fruit of discipline is most notably the character and the stature of God. Christ Himself was perfected in righteousness through divine discipline and suffering so that He could bring the sons of God to glory (Hebrews 2:10).
Righteousness is the foundation of enduring success. If our success is built on hard work or smart work alone, it will not last beyond our lifetime. Many people worked hard amassing huge fortunes only to have their children squander it for them. Some were even abused by their children after handing over their wealth. Therefore, we can never over emphasize the importance of building a foundation of righteousness and God-centeredness in our families and organizations. No doubt, creating a right work process makes us efficient, but building a foundation of righteousness is key to continual prosperity. Many churchgoers week after week are encouraged by their pastors to seek blessings as they are being reminded of the willingness of God to forgive and bless. Many still do not see discipline as God’s grace to build within them an enduring foundation for success – their focus is blessings, not righteousness. As a result, many of them are still living with the same bondages in themselves and their family. If the prime focus of the church is to acquire blessings, there is little future for them. Therefore, believers must learn to savor the righteousness of heavenly discipline so that we may live and prosper as sons of God.
To be subject to the father’s discipline is to assimilate His truths into our lives. To many, discipline is an inconvenience; it is likened to traffic lights – a necessary evil in their lives. For such do not revere God nor subject themselves to Him and they harbor a secret anger and displeasure against His interferences. Apart from the pain of discipline, they took nothing away from the experience. To some, discipline is meticulously received provided it brings earthly riches. Yet to even fewer, the prime purpose of discipline is to be transformed into His likeness and to be one with Him. Therefore, believers have to see all difficulties as opportunities to assimilate truths bringing glory and success.
Heavenly discipline comes in the form of injustices at the workplace, it test our confidence in the unseen God who vindicates while persevering in doing what is right. Betrayal from a friend or a loved one is most painful, but it tests the depth of Christ’s consciousness in us. Financial crisis tests the depth and strength of divine peace while trusting Him to lead one day at a time. Lukewarmness and spiritual lethargy among the churchgoers tests the purity of the church’s vision concerning the kingdom. There is popular demand from the present generation to keep rehashing elementary principles pertaining to salvation and blessings as opposed to the solid food of the word that leads to righteousness. Christ was disciplined so that as righteousness was first established in Him, He may understand our human weaknesses through His Spirit and sanctify us.
The heavenly Father disciplines us in order to help us meet the challenges of the future. The heavenly Father identifies our weaknesses and disciplines us ahead of time so that we can meet the challenges of the future and succeed. This explains why we sometimes face discipline and hardships even though we have done no wrong. Because God knows the future, He disciplines us ahead of time in order to prepare us to meet the challenges that have yet arrived. Our earthly fathers discipline his children according to the present need. When a child refuses to study, his earthly father disciplines him so that he may study and pass his examination. But God disciplines him so that he may be able to withstand a temptation in the future that could destroy him. Therefore, God’s work of discipline is both prophetic and strategic in preparing his children for an enduring prosperity.
The heavenly Father disciplines his children through perfect knowledge and authority. The heavenly Father is able to see into every heart as our weaknesses lie naked before Him. Hence, He is able to target his acts of discipline at the root issues of every person. Our earthly fathers may not be able to see into the heart of his children and completely understand their issues. They also do not have the resources to discipline them apart from withholding some privileges and implementing some consequences. However, the heavenly Father has in His disposal all authorities and resources in the universe to help His sons grow. Thus, He is able to configure our external circumstances, instruct His angels and control the devil using all things as instruments for our discipline. Therefore, as earthly fathers, pastors and disciple makers, it is critical that we first gain understanding from our heavenly Father and seek His wisdom before disciplining our children and instructing our disciples.
- What is your goal when you discipline your children and instruct your disciples? Is it merely to do what is right or to revere God by putting Him as the Lord of their lives? Righteousness is not about doing what is right in one’s eyes but obeying God’s every word. In all our past discipline, have we grown to put God first our lives?
- What issues is God working on in your life today? It helps if we could crystalize and put into writing the virtues that God is honing through your present circumstances. It would help if you could approach spiritually mature believers and seek their input into your life.
Dear Lord, I thank you for the discipline that you have introduced in my life. Although it caused me great pain, help me to savor every moment and the truths that you have impressed upon me. I trust that you are preparing me for the challenges of the future and to obtain the promises. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.