Hebrews, chapter 12, verses 5 through 11. And I’ve call this passage the discipline of God. We used to have a football player when I was in college. He was a great big 6-foot-4, 225-pound defensive end. Really a fine athlete, tremendous skills physically. Never forget him.
The problem was for the Saturday game, we had to bail him out of jail, because invariably, every Friday, he got drunk. So we would go down in the morning and bail him out of jail after he’d been in the drunk tank. There wasn’t anything to pay. I say bail, just get him released to our custody. Take him around, try to slap him into some kind of sensibility, and then put him out on the field.
Eventually, halfway through the season, he dropped out simply because of an inability to discipline his life to function in the area of football. It’s true academically. It’s true in every single thing you do in life. The people who make a difference are the people who respond to the discipline that provides for success, people who are able to operate within the perimeters that are required for success.
The same thing is true spiritually. God is involved in an operation in your life and my life that has as an objective success. God wants us to be everything we can potentially be. He wants us to amount to everything we could possibly amount to. And in order to make that possible, God is busy disciplining us along the way: forcing us within those perimeters, forcing us to stretch our muscles, forcing us to increase our stamina, forcing us to be the kind of men and women He wants us to be. If, in fact, we are not willing, then He will push the issue.
That is precisely what Hebrews chapter 12 talks about. It talks about from verses 5 to 11 the discipline of God, what God does to get His desired results in the life of a Christian. He doesn’t really here use the metaphor of athletics, though, He uses the picture of a father and his son. And the symbolism is little different in its outcome; a father disciplines a child in order to bring about a certain kind of result. And that’s precisely what you have in this text. God is busy doing certain things in our lives that stretch us, that exercise us, to make us the kind of sons He wants us to be in the same manner that a father disciplines his children.
Peter talks about this act of discipline that God brings in the 5th chapter of 1 Peter in verse 8. He says, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, like a roaring lion, walks about seeking whom he may devour: whom resist steadfast in faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren and that are in the world.” Everybody’s getting attacked by Satan. “But the God of all grace, who hath called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, make you perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.”
In other words, God allows suffering as an agency by which you are strengthened, and established, and settled, and made mature. That’s part of God’s plan. That is the issue here. In James chapter 1, “The testing of your faith works patience, and let patience have its perfecting work,” so that God brings these things into our lives to make us mature, to make us perfect, to bring us to the place of maximum potential.
Now let me read from verse 5 through 11 as a setting for what we want to say. And this should come in the form of a question: “Have you forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto sons? My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of Him; for whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom he receiveth.’ If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if he be without chastening” – or chastisement – “of which all are partakers, then ye are illegitimate children,” – or bastards – “and not sons. Furthermore, we have had fathers of our flesh who corrected us, and we gave them reverence. Shall we not much rather be in subjection under the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but He for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous but grievous: nevertheless afterwards it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them who are exercised by it.”
Now, I know that most of you are familiar with this text, and I think your heart will be enriched as you begin to look at some things in your life in the light of this text even though you’re familiar with it, seeing perhaps from some new angles the things that God is saying here. Now, the key to the passage is the word “chastening” that appears in verse 5. Chastening. It also appears in verse 7. “Chastisement.” Again, appears in verse 8. “Chastened,” again, appears in verse 10. “Chastening,” again, appears in verse 11.
So this idea of chastened, chastening, and chastisement is the key. The Greek word is a word that is used of a training and education of children. Paideia literally is a word. In fact, paidia is a word for a child. So, it is a word that is used in the training of children. It is a very broad word. And it speaks not just of spanking your child or disciplining your child in that sense, but is a very broad word that would speak of anything that an adult would do to cultivate the soul of a child toward proper maturity, toward proper godliness. It does include any kind of corrective methodology. Any kind of effort to correct a mistake or curb the normal passion of a young person would be involved in this word. From the negative end turning to the positive, it speaks of anything that you would do to interest your young person in virtue, or to increase their life virtue.
So it doesn’t just have the idea of punishment, but it has the idea of setting a pattern which both negatively says, “You can’t do that,” and disciplines that; and positively says, “This is what you should do,” and pushes the child into that area. It signifies then the totality of training for a child. And you know as well as I do, as a father of four children, that you must do both. You must say, “You can’t do this.” And you must, on the other hand, say, “You must do this.” Both sides are critical, and both sides are involved in the term. So whereas the terminology of athletics is used in the first four verses, the terminology of a father and his son comes in verse 5.
Now, let me talk about how God chastens for a minute. There are three reasons why God disciplines the believer. Three reasons why God chastens you. Three reasons why God forces you within some limitations. Three reasons why God says you can’t do that, and you must do this.
Number one is what I call retribution. Number two is prevention. And number three is education. Now, we’re going to look at those three: retribution, prevention, and education. But before we do, I want to remind you of one thing. There is a very important difference that you want to make in your mind between divine punishment and divine discipline. While there is a sense in which discipline incorporates punishment, they are not the same; and particularly are they not the same in terms of a biblical view. And let me tell you why I say that. As far as we are concerned, there is no sense in which God punishes us in the strong sense of that word, in the condemnation element of it. Katakrinō in the Greek. There’s no sense in which God literally punishes us for our sin, and the reason is because someone has already been punished for our sin. And who was that? Jesus Christ.
Christ has borne all of our sin; and not only did He bear all of our sin on His body, but He bore all of the punishment for our sin in His body. Consequently there is no remaining punishment, and that’s why Romans 8:1 says “There is therefore, now, no condemnation” – or no judgement, no katakrinō, no firm, final punishment for those who are in Christ, because Christ Himself has borne it all. And John says “The blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanses us from all sin.” He has borne the punishment of everything. And so neither the justice of God requires it, nor does the love of God permit it that we should have to pay again for what Jesus has already paid for. So there’s no sense in which the believer pays for his sin. And you have to recall that. You have to remember that, because it’s important to our entire study.
As far as position is concerned before God, your sin is totally paid for. You couldn’t do anything to expiate your sin. You couldn’t pray to do it, you couldn’t say some beads in a Catholic church, you couldn’t by penance and do it. There is no thing you can do to atone for your sin, it’s been done, paid in full. But though God does not punish us in an ultimate sense for our sin, though there is no punishment that comes to us that in any way expiates sin, there is the fact that God is engaged in disciplining us, which sometimes brings about His loving rod of correction. But note, it is a corrective and not a punishment in terms of definition. And I don’t want you to get mixed up on those terms, so keep thinking of the distinction there.
Let me help you to understand it. In punishment, God is judge; but in discipline, God is father. In punishment, the object is the enemy; in discipline, the object is his child. In punishment, condemnation is the goal; in discipline, righteousness is the goal. So it is not an angry God judging His enemy with condemnation, it is a loving Father disciplining His children under righteousness. And so when we suffer, and God has to rebuke us or chasten us, it is not that we are paying for our sins. It is that we are learning that we are not to do that again, because our sins have all been paid for. It’s a marvelous thought.
Now, let me get into those three reasons why God chastens us. Number one, retribution. Now, please keep in mind what I just said. By retribution, I mean this: God is reacting to our sin. Now, I’m not saying He is punishing the sin, but He is reacting to the sin. And when God sees that we are sinning, He will bring chastening into our lives - listen - not to make us atone for sin, but to teach us not to do it again. That’s the point. In other words, God wants some consequence to come to bear so that we’ll know you can’t do that and prosper.
In 1 Corinthians chapter 11 there is an illustration of this, among many in the Scripture. But this one would be familiar to you because of our recent study, 1 Corinthians 11. And here you have the Corinthians who had in their carnality failed to come to the Table of the Lord with any sense of holiness or awe or reverence, and so God had brought retribution.
It says in verse 29, “He that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself,” – and that’s not katakrino, that’s chastening here. That’s chastisement. That’s discipline. “And because of this, because of the way that you are treating the Lord’s Table,” verse 30 says - “many of you are weak and sick and many sleep.” In other words some had actually died. But there you find the indication that some people are sick because of sin. Wrongly approaching the Lord’s Table, they have entered into it sinfully and God has literally afflicted them with illness. That is retribution. Now, remember, that is not for them to atone for the sin, but for them to learn that they are not to do that if they are going to conform to God’s standard to be all that He wants them to be.
I think about David and his sin with Bathsheba. Not only the sin of immorality and lust, but the sin of murder, as in effect he had her husband killed; and how that in response to that, God brought retributive chastening to David. It wasn’t that David could atone for his sin by all of his agony, it was that David learned that you can’t do that and be blessed of God. And that lesson, beloved, is written in the Word of God, so all of us, by the retribution of God in David’s life, might learn the same lesson and not be so foolish as to fall into the same sin. Whenever I would meet somebody who knows anything about the Bible and enters into sexual immorality in any way, shape, or form, I have to wonder whether they’ve been listening to what the Bible has been saying about people who do that, even the Children of God who pay such a high price.
The person in 1 Corinthians chapter 5 who got into that was literally turned over to Satan for the destruction of his flesh. And so when a believer is smarting under God’s chastening rod, let him not say, God is punishing me for my sin. He’s making me pay for my sin.” No. “God is correcting me in his love; not smiting me in wrath, but correcting me that I would not do that again, so that I may be conformed to the image of Christ.”
God told David. He said, “The sword shall never depart from your house.” “David, from now until you die, there’s going to be a sword hanging over your life.” And it was right. The rest of David’s life, he knew the pain that God brought in the consequence of sin; and yet all the way through it, David is seen as a man after God’s own heart.
In Psalm 89, just to further look at David’s experience, in verse 27 it says, “Also I will make him my firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth. My mercy will I keep for him forevermore, and My covenants shall stand fast with him.” This is God’s great promise to David of the Davidic covenant fulfilled in the Messiah. “His seed also will I make to endure forever, and his thrown is the days of heaven. If his children forsake My law and walk not in Mine ordinances, if they break My statues and keep not My commandments, then will I visit their transgression with the rod and their inequity with stripes.” God says, “If My children don’t conform to My law, then I’m going to come with My rod!” But look at verse 33: “Nevertheless My loving kindness will I not utterly take from him, nor allow My faithfulness to fail.” God says he’ll never change how I love. He’ll never change how I care. It’s simply a manner of learning what is acceptable.
It’s just like 1 Corinthians 5. That individual in 1 Corinthians 5, having sexual relationships with his father’s wife, his step-mother. The apostle Paul says “Turn him over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh.” In other words, let him go the way he’s going to the rock bottom, but his soul will be saved, because God never lets go of His own.
So there is a time in which God may discipline us in retribution, not so that we pay for sin but so that we learn that we must not do that if we’re going to conform to the image of Christ. And usually it works. It works in the family. If you spank your child for doing something long enough, they’ll know they’re not supposed to do that; and they’ll lose the desire to do that, because of the consequence.
Secondly, discipline on God’s part is often not only retribution, but prevention. Sometimes you may say to yourself, “You know, things are going so lousy for me and I can’t figure out what I did wrong. I mean, I’ve been down the list of everything, and I haven’t really done any really bad sins, and I’ve sure been confessing and trying to walk in the Spirit, and I keep having all these problems!”
I can remember when my children were little, we had kind of a standing rule - we still do with Melinda, she’s nearly four now. But we don’t have a lot of rules in our house, but we have a couple rules, and one of them is, “Stay out of the street.” That’s a basic rule. “You’re not allowed in the street, period.” And invariably, all of our four kids have learned, because we have this paddle that hangs in the cupboard. It’s a big wooden paddle. It’s been there through all four children, same paddle. It’s got their names written on it, you know, engraved, as well as other things being engraved on it - comments that they’ve written in regard to it.
But this paddle has been used again and again over the issue of, “Stay out of the street.” And the other day, I was standing in the front yard, and Melinda was playing with this little orange ball and it went out into the street. And I just thought I’m going to watch and see how well she’s learned. And so she ran as fast as her chubby little legs would take her, right down to the curb, and just took one step and looked back at me. And I just went... And then she said, “Dad, would you get my ball?” See, she’s learned. And it’s been painful because she’s been really walloped a few times. She really didn’t do anything, it’s just that we don’t want her to do anything.
And so there’s a certain kind of discipline that is prevention.
Now, I want you to look at 2 Corinthians 12, and I’ll give you an illustration of it. Now, Paul had a problem; he had a thorn in the flesh. It could have been a malarial eye disease that could have caused a very ugly kind of oozing from the eye, very possible. But whatever it was, it was just a very, very distressing thing; and apparently throughout many of the years of his ministry, he was unrelieved in terms of the pain and the anxiety and the discomfort that this terrible thing caused him. And according to what he writes in some of his epistles, it may have been a very ugly thing and rather distasteful to people who had to look at it.
But whatever it was, it was a great burden on his heart. And he says in verse 7, at the end of the verse, “This was given to me as a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan, to buffet me.” And he says in verse 8, “For this thing I besought the Lord three times that it might depart.” In other words, I prayed “Lord, I just don’t know how this thing can possibly help me. I’m trying to minister the best I can and I got this lousy handicap. And I just don’t know, Lord, how this is supposed to help, and so I would just like to have You get rid of this thing. I got enough trouble trying to cross the whole continent of Europe on foot and hassle with all of these things I’m involved in without this dumb thing. And I just really would very much appreciate it, Lord, if you’d take this one back.”
Well, at the end of the three times, Paul became aware that there was a reason, and it wasn’t retribution. What was it? Verse 7. “And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations,” - and at the end of verse 7 - “lest I should be exalted above measure.” Listen, Paul had so many revelations from God. He had so many incredible visions of Christ himself. Three times he had seen Christ. Once in this chapter he says he was caught up into the third heaven and say things that couldn’t be uttered. He had so many marvelous revelations that in order to keep his perspective and humility, God gave him something that kept him humble. It was a preventative. It wasn’t because he was proud that he got it, it was because he had it that he didn’t get proud. Do you see? I guess God brings some things like that into our lives, all of us, at some time, to humble us. I know in my own life, personally, there are things that occur that I wonder sometimes “Why do You do this, Lord?” For example, last night, I was sick; and I don’t usually get sick. I think I told my wife, “I think I’ve been sick enough to urp maybe twice since we’ve been married - fourteen years.” I never get sick. I sometimes feel sick, but I just go about my business and it goes away.
But I got really, really sick, and so I didn’t know whether I was going to make it today. I still don’t know; I’m hanging on here. But I got up this morning and my first thought was, “Lord, you know, this would have been okay on Friday. But what’s the deal on Saturday night? I’ve got to stay up all night, you know. This just doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense.”
It’s always like that. You know, we’ve had some problems at our house and some harassment and so forth, we’ve always had that; I guess maybe that’s normal. But it always comes at the same time every week: Saturday night, invariably. Not long ago there was a fellow who was washing a horse on our front lawn at 3:00 in the morning. And he rang the doorbell and wanted to know if I wanted to come out, 3:00 Sunday morning, and help him wash his horse. I said, “This is okay. I don’t mind helping him wash his horse, but why on Sunday morning?”
Well, that’s a small thing to compare with Paul’s problem. But just a little of those things in my life, and you know what happens? You begin to realize that you come to the pulpit and you come to the place of ministry with a tremendous sense of dependence on God. And that’s what Paul goes on to say when he says, “God was teaching me that His grace was sufficient and, ‘My strength is made perfect in weakness,’ was the message He wanted me to learn.” And so there is a sense in which God will chasten us, not in retribution, but in prevention. And some of the problems we have, beloved, are to keep us on our knees - do you understand that? - and to keep us plugged into the source of real spiritual strength. Thank God for your trials.
There’s a third area, and that is, some chastening of God is for education, for education; not prevention, not necessarily retribution, but just to teach us something. In other words, it’s designed to teach us something about the experiences of life, so that we can understand somebody else, so that we can have a sense of comradery, a sense of sensitivity to those who are going through troubles. I thank God for troubles in my own life that educated me, so that when somebody else has those troubles, I’m a little more sympathetic, right? And sometimes God brings things along just for that purpose.
I think of Job. Satan had told God that Job was only a faithful man because everything went well. Then God says, “All right. Things won’t go so well.” So God let everything happen to Job imaginably. Would have been a benefit if Job had died, but he wasn’t so fortunate - everything short of death. He tasted every kind of suffering that could fall to humankind. He lost his family, he lost his property, he became very ill – bodily disease; but in the end, he got a marvelous education, marvelous. He got an education about problems, by which he could help others, and he got an education about God.
And at the end of the book of Job, chapter 42, “Then Job answered the Lord and said ‘I know that Thou canst do everything.’” Where’d you learn that Job? “Oh, I learned that ‘cause I had so many problems, and God took care of all of them and I know he can do everything.” “And that no thought can be withheld from Thee. Who is he that hideth counsel without knowledge? Therefore have I uttered that which I understood not; things too wonderful to me which I knew not. Hear, I beseech Thee, and I will speak. I will demand of Thee, and declare Thou unto me.” Listen, “I have heard of Thee by the hearing of Thee of the ear; but now my eye sees Thee.”
Do you see? He says, “I used to hear about You, God, and I used to hear about what You could do, and I used to hear about the marvels of your grace; but now I’ve seen it.” See? And so God literally brought things into his life just so that he could have firsthand information about how God works in times of stress. And the result, he not only learned about God, but he learned about himself in verse 6: “Wherefore I hate myself, and I repent in dust and ashes.”
Listen, through all this troubles, he got such a view of the majesty of God that coming along with it, commensurate with that view of the majesty of God was a terrible sense of his own unworthiness. Beloved, let me tell you something. The two greatest lesson you’ll ever learn is who God is and who you are; and then the marvelous miracle of salvation will mean something.
And then the 10th verse, 42 of Job: “And the Lord turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends. And the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before.” But you know what else? He prayed for his friends. He learned about God, he learned about himself, and he learned how to pray for the needs of his friends. You know how he learned all of that? Because God gave him trouble, chastening, discipline.
So, beloved, God may discipline you because of sin. He may discipline you to prevent sin. He may discipline you with trouble just so that you can learn more of Him, more about your own lowliness, and more of how to minister to the needs of others. Now, as we think about those three things, let’s quickly just glance at this text. We’re not going to spend much time on it, I just want to share with you some key thoughts.
Hebrews chapter 12, verse 5. “He says,” – now remember that these people to whom the author is writing, and we don’t know who the author of Hebrews is. We just have no indication in the book who it is. But remember that he’s writing to some people who were undergoing some serious persecution. They had really suffered. In chapter 10, there is a comment about their suffering, verse 32: “You endured a great fight of affliction. You were made a gazing stock by reproaches and afflictions.” I mean, they were going through it. They were really suffering. And so they were beginning to complain a little bit about it, about all the troubles. And so he says in verse 5, “Have you forgotten the exhortation which speaks unto you as unto sons?” And what is that exhortation? It’s a quote of Proverbs 3:11, “My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou aren’t rebuked of Him.”
He says “Have you forgotten Proverbs 3:11? Have you forgotten that God is going to chasten His children? Have you forgotten that’s the promise of God? Let me remind you of it.” And then he says, “Let me remind you of several things.” And he gives them - watch this - two perils in discipline, two proofs in discipline, and two products.
Two perils; let’s look at 5 again. “Have you forgotten?” he says. “Have you forgotten that this is par for the course? Have you forgotten that the chastening of God is to conform you to Christ? Have you forgotten the word of Proverbs?” And then in that verse he introduces the two perils in discipline:
"My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord nor faint when thou art rebuked.”
There are two perils in discipline. One is you would despise, and the other is that you would - what? - faint. One is lashing out, and the other is crawling in. One is an external reaction, and the other is an internal reaction. There are always those two dangers, and you can think about them.
Number one, look at the despising. You know, there are some people who get angry at God when He chastens. Pretty foolish. All God is doing is conforming you to Christ. Have you tried to discipline your children sometime and found that they were angry with you? And you try to get the point out, “Hey, Kid. This is for your benefit. This is for your good.” Well, that’s God’s position.
And so he says, number one, the first peril in discipline is that you would despise what God is doing. You know who did that so often in the Old Testament? The children of Israel, didn’t they? Whenever God would chasten them, they would gripe and complain and holler at God, and get angry at God. There are a lot of people like that. They get sick, and they begin to blame God. “Well, I don’t know why I have to go through this, and I don’t know why the Lord does this to me.” They fret and fume at God.
Arthur Pink says “God always chastens twice, if we’re not humbled by the first time. Remind yourself of how much dross there yet is among the gold, view the corruptions of your own heart, and marvel that God has not smitten you more severely.” He goes on, “Form the habit of heeding His taps, and you will be less likely to receive his raps.
We can complain, and gripe, and lash out, and get angry, and question God. That isn’t what he wants us to do. He wants us to learn where the limits are to conform to Christ.
Or we can faint. You know, some people, when they get under pressure, “Oh!” You know, they just wilt. “It’s all over!” This is the breakdown inside. “Poor me!” You know, they’re going around seeking sympathy. They give up. They forget, you know, that Psalm 34:19 says, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous.” They forget that they’re not alone. They give way to unbelief.
Psalm 42:5 says, “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? Why art thou disquieted in me? Hope thou in God:” - and then in the Psalm it says - “I will yet praise Him.” There’s no reason to get mad at God, and there’s no reason to faint. Both of those are perils in discipline; and if you do either, you’ve missed the point.
And then, secondly, there are two proofs in discipline, as well as two perils. Verse 6, two things are proven. When you’re disciplined, it proves two things; and this is so great. When you’re disciplined, it proves two things. Number one, “For whom the Lord loves, He chastens.” What’s the first thing it proves? He loves you. Second, “And scourges every,” – what? – “son.” It proves, one, He loves you; two, you’re His son. It’s great, isn’t it?
Listen, God is never more near to you than in those times. People say, “Oh, God’s so far away in my trouble.” No, no; God is there. We cry with the afflicted one in Psalm 10, and we say, “Why standest thou far off, O Lord? Why hidest Thou Thyself in my time of trouble?” And the Lord doesn’t seem like a very present help in time of trouble, but it’s just at that point that we have to believe He is.
And there are two great things we learn when we’re chastened. Number one, He loves us. Boy, that’s great. You know, if I didn’t have problems, I’d worry. If I didn’t get sick sometimes, I’d worry. If I didn’t get tired sometimes, if I didn’t have to fight the hassles of life, if I didn’t have to beat my body into subjection, if I didn’t have to struggle against my own ignorance, if I didn’t have all those troubles and anxieties, I’d be worried; because I want to be like Christ, and I want to know that God wants me to be like Christ; and I know I’m a long way from that, and I expect some trouble getting there. So it’s a welcome friend.
I remember, ah, about five or six years ago - maybe more than that - I was in my office one day, and I was just fighting in my own spirit, wanting to be everything God wanted me to be, just going from being a spiritual young man to really wanting to be a spiritual father. And I’ll never forget praying this. I got down on my knees at my chair and I just began to pray, as I sometimes do in my office. And I poured out my heart, and I said this to God. I said, “God, I want to be like Jesus Christ. Whatever that takes, do it.” That was the first time in my life I ever had the guts to say that. “I want that, and I know that means trial, tribulation.”
But you know what? I could tell you something wonderful. I don’t see it that way anymore, even though it keeps coming. I really think I understand what it means to count it all - what? – joy, because I, anymore, don’t get any different reaction from a bad thing than a good thing, because it’s all a part of the process. But I think every Christian has to come to the place where you say, “Whatever the price, whatever it is, make me the way you want me to be.” And when I see Him doing it, I am assured that He loves me. Boy, that’s exciting.
Listen, if nothing’s going wrong in your life, verse 7 and 8 should be considered. “If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons. For what son is he whom the Father chastens not? But if you be without chastisement, of which all the sons are partakers, than you are an illegitimate child, not a son.”
Listen, we see God’s love. We see God’s calling us sons in His discipline. It’s His love that makes us like Christ. It’s His love that takes us as children and pushes us to conform to His standard. Look at the word “scourge” in verse 6; mastigoi in the Greek. It’s the act of flogging somebody with a whip. You say, “You mean God actually flogs us with a whip?” Well, it’s a spiritual sense. But God really lets us have it to make us the way he wants us to be.
You know, I can remember as a little boy, and so can you perhaps, being spanked so many times. I was spanked constantly. My dad used to say that he had a guilty conscience the whole time he was raising me because he had to hit me so many times.
You know, one day I was directing traffic on Colorado Boulevard when I was five years old in the middle of an intersection, and I got it. I got spanked for a couple days. One time, the guy next door collected pigeons, and I opened all the cages and they all flew away, and I got spanked. One time I got up in the morning and broke all the dozen eggs that were delivered by the milkman on the floor with a hammer, and I got spanked. My life goes on, and those are daily incidents.
And I know those times were acts of love, and acts of a father to a son. And that’s all it’s saying in the text. He says, “What son is he whom the father chastens not?” humanly speaking. So it proves sonship, and it proves love.
In fact, to know that God is chastening me is the greatest possible indication that I’m His child. You ever gone into a market and seen some really poorly behaved child, really bad? And, of course, you’re going down every aisle right behind this lady and her child. And finally she starts to wail on this kid. One thing you know immediately: that’s her child. You don’t spank other people’s children. That’s essentially what God is saying to us here. It’s the illegitimate child that the father doesn’t care about. True child, He loves and disciplines.
So we find two perils then. You can despise God, or you can faint. But two proofs in discipline: He loves you, and you’re His child. And lastly, two purposes in discipline - two purposes, two things He wants to accomplish. Verse 9: “Furthermore we had fathers of our flesh who corrected us, and we gave them reverence. Shall we not much more be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live?” “We responded with reverence to our fathers physically. Should we not do the same to our Father spiritually, who is God,” - now notice the first thing - “and live?”
What is the product that God wants in our lives? What does He want to produce? Life; really living; full, meaningful life. It may be that life here means being alive as opposed to dead, because if we don’t ever respond to God’s discipline, He might just take us home, right? Like James says, “You better receive the Word, which is able to save your lives, because if you don’t, the Lord may take your life.” But more than that, I think he’s saying when you respond to God, you enter in the fullness of life. And so the first product in discipline is to live a full, rich, meaningful spiritual life. And I’m telling you, the more things you go through, the richer your life becomes.
And the second thing; not only life, but holiness. In verse 10: “For they verily for a few days” – or a short time, that is - “chastened us,” – this literally means as they saw fit, or as they thought best. They did the best they could. “But He for our profit that we might be partakers of His holiness.” Our fathers did the best they could, and sometimes they were wrong. But God always does it for our profit, and He always does it with holiness in mind to conform us to Christ, to make us righteous, to make us holy. And so, beloved, God wants you to really live, and God wants you to know real holiness, and so he disciplines.
And you can respond to that discipline by saying, “Thank you, God, that you love me this much. Thank you, God, that I’m Your child, and this is evidence.” Or you can despise it and faint under it, and miss the point.
He concludes in verse 11: “I realize no chastening for the present seems joyous.” If you look at it from the present, you’re going to have trouble. “It all seems grievous. Nevertheless” – what’s the next word? “afterword it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them who are exercised by it.”
The people who use it to develop their spiritual muscle will find out that it has incredible benefits; that’s the key. If you understand that the discipline of God is like spiritual weightlifting; it’s just making you stronger, and stronger, and stronger, and stronger, that you might be more the man and more the woman that God wants you to be. So we see the discipline of God. And as the bee sucks honey out of the bitter flower, so your trust in God can suck blessing even from trouble.
I always think about Mary when I think about this text. Mary stood at the empty tomb. She cried her eyes out. And you know what? She was weeping over the very thing that should have brought her, and finally did, the greatest amount of joy. Jesus was alive, but she couldn’t see that; she saw the pain of the moment.
We’ve got to see the afterward. We’ve got to see what Jesus meant when it says that, “Because He could see the glory that would be revealed, because He could see the joy that was set before Him, He endured the cross, knowing what it would accomplish.”
Beloved, if it’s retribution or prevention or education, let God do His perfect work. And after He has done it and you have suffered, He will strength, establish, and settle you; and that will be to conform you to Jesus Christ.
Our Father, we thank You tonight for our time of sharing in just these thoughts. We’re so very grateful that your Word is so rich; so grateful that it’s so simple in its richness that a wayfaring man, though he be a fool, need not err therein. We’re so thankful, Father, that You’ve called us together as children, and You love us enough to discipline us, to make us into what You want us to be. Do that, Father. Do it, whatever it is, that we may be all that we can be for Your glory, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
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