Study brings us tonight in our continuing study of Hebrews to the 12th chapter, and in this particular portion, we come to a very, very significant subject. The title of our message tonight is "The Discipline of God." "The Discipline of God," and I really believe that if an individual gets a grip on the truths of this subject, that it can become a changing experience and changing facts in his life. We need to understand what God is doing in our lives, in our suffering, and in our trial, and in our trouble; and I think this passage, as clearly as any and others that we shall bring into comparison, can give us that information; and so I encourage you to stick with it. Get your mind in gear, and learn as the Spirit of God teaches us together.
Now, as we come to the 12th chapter, we need to get a running start, because that sets the stage for what we're going to study...The Hebrews to whom this epistle was written by an unknown author, the Holy Spirit, of course, being the unseen writer, but the Hebrews in this epistle are undergoing persecution, and the persecution was coming about as a result of their break with Judaism; and it was coming from their Jewish relatives and friends; and they were unduring...they were enduring some very difficult times.
In chapter 10 verse 32, the Holy Spirit says, "But call to remembrance the former days in which, after you were illuminated, you endured a great fight of affliction, partly while you were made a gazingstock both by reproaches and afflictions, and partly while you became companions of them that were so used."
Now, here, the writer simply says, "It has been your history and your experience to be in affliction, to be in persecution," and, indeed, it was so. They were being pressured particularly by the ostracizing from society that left them as almost nomads, people without a people, a nation without a nation; and they were being pressured strongly by their Jewish friends and relatives to forsake Christianity and go back to Judaism; and it was very easy for the friends to say to them, "You see, can't you see the fallacies of Christianity? You've accepted what you think is true, and look at all the trouble you've gotten yourself into. You've become a Christian, and look at the mess. Look at the persecution and the trial and the affliction and the suffering that you've gone through. You claim to have had the answer in the new covenant, this Messiah Jesus. Where are the changes? You're still suffering. You're still going through trial greater than every because you've been ostracized from your families, your homes, your society, your friends."
And so it was a...it was a tremendously heavy pressure. The community of Hebrews included those who were truly saved, those who had really committed themselves to Jesus Christ; but they were having a hard time making a clean break with Judaism because of these threats of these persecutions. They were hanging onto Judaistic function.
On the other hand, some of these addressed in the Book of Hebrews weren't saved at all. They were intellectually convinced. They believed in their heads, not in their hearts; and they, of course, were in danger of going right back to Judaism and being apostates, which is a person who has all the light and, against full light, makes a full rejection; but the primary target of these words as we shall look at them is to the saved who are going through some terrible trials, some real sufferings, some Tribulation, some anguish, some affliction. And lest they think that this is something bad within Christianity, and unless they begin in their minds to disqualify Christianity on the basis of trouble and say, "Well, I thought Christianity was a happy thing. I thought there was supposed to be joy. I thought there was supposed to be peace. I thought God was supposed to take care of us and supply our needs and give us answers for our questions, and...and smooth the way and etc., etc. Now I've got all this trouble and, worse than I had before, I've got everybody I used to love hating me."
Now, it's important that they understand the meaning of suffering. It's important that they understand what suffering has to do with Christianity and what part it plays in the new life in Christ; and it's a...it's a marvelous thing to begin with that he has already prepared the ground for what he says in chapter 12 in chapter 11, because in 11:35, he began a recitation of the great heroes, continuing through the whole chapter, who suffered. Look at verse 35. "Women received their dead raised to life again, and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea moreover, of bonds and imprisonments...11:37...They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tested, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented (of whom the world was not worthy). They wandered in deserts, in mountains, in dens and caves of the earth."...
The Holy Spirit has already shown them the great heroes of the faith. Great men and great women of years past lived amidst terrible suffering, terrible affliction, excruciating pain and faced it victoriously because they faced it, watch this, with the right attitude. With the right attitude.
Now having shown this at the end of chapter 11, that there were some who faced it with the right attitude, he then calls upon the Hebrews to do the same; and he says to them in verse 1 of chapter 12, "Wherefore, seeing we are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses." In other words, so many people to testify of the victory of faith over adversity, "Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us."
Listen, we have enough people to prove to us that faith endures, that faith is victorious, that suffering may come and suffering may go, but there's still victory. We have enough witnesses to confirm that. Let's get in the race, and let's run it with the same endurance that they ran it with; and then he gives the key to running it the right way. Verse 2, "Looking unto Jesus...looking unto Jesus." You say, "Why looking unto Him?" Because He suffered, too.
Verses 3 and 4, "Consider Him that endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself, lest you be weary and faint in your minds." You think you've got troubles, look at Jesus. "You have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin. None of you have died for the sins of the world yet. None of you know what it is to be absolutely pure, pristine to the very core without a possibility of defilement, and then to have poured out on you all the sins of all the ages. You don't know anything about that. Don't cry about your troubles. Look at Jesus. He endured, and His was victory." And so already, you see, He begins to move into the subject of suffering and how to handle it. Jesus suffered far beyond what we will ever suffer, and He endured, and you and I can endure as the Old Testament saints did as we look at Jesus.
Every Christian needs to remember that life is a marathon. The Christian life is a marathon, and there are obstacles all along the course. It's like the 3,000-meter steeplechase. There are water hazards, and there are hurdles that we have to go over. It's not just flat ground...and we must face it, and we must run it with endurance.
Now, why is the question. Why should I face suffering with a resignation? Why should I, if I'm to be scourged and mocked and all these things that are listed of those heroes in the Old Testament, why should I take it? In hope of what? For what reason? And what should be my attitude? And why should that be my attitude? How can I, as a Christian, really face suffering victoriously? How can I really want to look to Christ and see victory? In what...in what way does suffering do something for me that I can see and, understanding what it does for me, believe that it's a good thing and then face it with victory? Well, that's what he's gonna tell us in verses 5 through 11. He's gonna tell us what the discipline of God is and how to take it. What the discipline of God is and how to take it.
Now, to begin with, we've gotta understand some introductory things. Here we go. There is a word that repeats itself in the passage. It is the word chastening, chastising, chastisement. You see chastening in verse 5. You see chastening in verse 6...chasteneth in verse 6, chastening in verse 7, chastisement in verse 8, chastened in verse 10, chastening in verse 11. You get the idea that's an important word, you're right.
What does the word chastening mean? Well, most people think it means God's browbeating us or punishing us for sin. That's not what it means at all. The word chastening comes from a Greek word, a Greek verb, really, the noun form is pideah, and pideahhas to do with children. It is the word that means to train and educate your children. Get that. The word should not really be translated chastisement. It should be translated discipline... discipline. I think the New American Standard does translate it discipline; but the word means simply a very broad term. It speaks of whatever, now watch this, of whatever adults use toward their children to cultivate their souls, to correct their mistakes, to curb their passions, that they might mature in the most...positive, effective, mature, disciplined way. It is a very broad word. It speaks of instruction that will increase virtue. It's not just punishment. That, if it was only punishment, it would be a different word. It is...it is instruction through discipline. It does not have only the idea of punishment in it. Punishment is part of discipline, isn't it? But that's not all of it; but it has the idea of corrective measures and preventative measures that bring up a child in the right path; and the word is used repeatedly to speak of a chill...of a parent working with his children.
So what we're talking about tonight is not God punishing the Christian. It is God disciplining the Christian into maturity; and so we've entitled our study, "The Discipline of God," and the figure changes here in chapter 12 from a race to a family: a loving father disciplining his beloved children; and the obstacles in the race are now the disciplines of the father training his children.
Now, in discipline from the Lord, and I want you to get this, this is basic, comes for three reasons. The discipline of the Lord comes for three reasons. No. 1, retribution. We'll look at 'em first, then we'll talk about 'em. Retribution. No. 2, prevention, and No. 3, education. Retribution, prevention, and education. There's three reasons for God's discipline.
Now, lemme say this by way a footnote. There is a very sharp difference between God's discipline and God's punishment. Mark this. God's people...all Christians, can never be punished for their sins in the full sense. Say, "Why?" Christ has already borne the full punishment of God. Right? And God will never exact double payment for the same sins. So the punishment end is finished in terms of punishment as regards guilt for sin. John said, "The blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanses us from all sin." He completely bore our sins in His own body on the tree...Neither the justice of God nor the love of God would ever permit God to exact payment for what Christ has already paid in full. Okay? So in no way does a Christian suffer the punishment that redeems him from sin. That's already been done...And we're not talking about punishment in terms of redemption. We're talking about discipline.
Now mark this, friends. Mark this, and mark it well. The difference between that kind of punishment, listen, and discipline lies not in the nature of the pain, but in the purpose of the pain, you see. In other words, the suffering of an unbeliever and the suffering of a believer may not be too much different. Both can get cancer...both can have loved ones that die, both can lose their jobs...but in one sense, a man is being punished for his sins. In the other sense, he is being disciplined by God. The pain may be the same. The purpose is different...In punishment, God is the judge. In discipline, He is the Father. In punishment, the object is His enemy. In discipline, the object is His child. In punishment, the goal is condemnation. In discipline, the goal is holiness...
Now, the discipline of the Lord follows three patterns. Let's begin with retribution....First of all, there is a sense in which God disciplines us when we sin. It is not redemptive discipline. It is corrective, but it is retribution. We sin, and we get disciplined. Classic illustration, David. David was up on his roof looking around, seeing who was sunbathing, and you know the king would have the highest house, so he'd have a good view of all available rooftops; and he...his eye fell upon one lovely lady by the name of Bathsheba. His lust burned within him. He desired to have that woman, and he did, and, not only did he take her in an adulterous situation, but he...he wound up being the murderer of her husband; and God moved against David in discipline...David was not redeemed by his punishment. David was not either condemned by his punishment. He was disciplined by it. He couldn't bear his own sins by his own punishment, not at all; but he could learn by the corrective measures of God's inflicting him; and God did. You know the story.
The statement of the Word of God is this. God said to David, "The sword...listen...shall never depart from your house," and David's life was a sad, sad, sad life, circumstantially. That little baby died. Later on, Absalom rebelled, and the tragedy of the death of his children, horrible deaths, and the bitterness of all the anguish in his heart as he ran from his enemies and hid like a...like some kind of a criminal; and the sword never departed from David's house. But you know something marvelous about it? Through all the discipline of the life of David, he was a better man than ever he was before that time. He was the friend of God. He was a deeper man in terms of his knowledge of God after the discipline than he ever was before, even though it was a painful thing. It had a purpose in it, and God knew well that purpose, and David found it out.
Sometimes God punishes, not in the sense of for...of redemptive punishment or condemnation punishment, but in the sense of discipline...In 1 Corinthians chapter 11, the Corinthians were in...were fooling around at the Lord's Table, orgies and all kinds of other things, and then fooling around with demons; and the Apostle Paul said, "Some of you are sick, and some of you sleep. God has actually moved in and disciplined you in retribution against your sin."
Sometimes, when a Christian suffers, he is suffering the direct response of God to his sin. He is not condemned. He is only being disciplined. When I discipline my child, I'm not booting him out of the family; I'm correcting him. And so when the believer is smarting, as it were, under the rod, whatever kind of rod it is, don't say, "God is punishing me for my sins, and He's condemning me." No, say, "God is correcting me, because I need to learn that you don't do that." You know how this works in your family. Yesterday, Mark - Mark is our problem - yesterday, Mark was jumping on the hood of my car...Now that needs to be corrected. We have a little fraternity paddle with which we correct. So I said, "Mark," today, I finally got to him, and I said, "Mark, we don't do that, do we?" "No, no. No, Dad, we don't do that." So we had a little correction time. I didn't condemn him. I corrected him. That's retribution for the believer.
Retribution for the unbeliever is condemnation. It's to be separated from the presence of God forever. That's different. A Christian should consider the chastening of the Lord not as some kind of necessary evil. "Well, we all gotta suffer. I guess I get mine." No, no, it comes from God's goodness, and He has in mind the purpose of shaping us. I do it to my children because I want them to be something...
The Psalm that perhaps speaks to us clearly of this is Psalm 89, and we'll go from there. Psalm 89:27..."Also I will make Him My Firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth. My mercy will I keep for Him for evermore, and My covenant shall stand fast with Him." Did you notice that? God says, "I'll never break My covenant. I'll never break My covenant with My Firstborn." Listen, "His Seed also will I make to endure for ever, and His throne as the days of heaven." This is Christ, isn't it? "If His children forsake My law and walk not in Mine ordinances, if they break My statutes and keep not My commandments, then I will visit their transgression with the rod and their iniquity with stripes."
Say, "You mean if you're God's child and you sin, God's gonna zap you?" That's right. But listen to verse 33. "Nevertheless My loving kindness will I not utterly take from Him, nor allow My faithfulness...what?...to fail." You see what He's saying? It's not condemnation, my friend. It's correction, that God might conform us to that standard that He desires. All right, the first thing then in suffering is examine the suffering in your life. Is it retribution? Is God correcting you for sin? But this is serious error to get stuck there, and some people do. "Ah, he's getting what he deserved." That's not...that's not a very accurate statement in two outta three cases, because there are two other kinds of suffering. The second one is prevention.
Did you know that sometimes God disciplines us, not as a result of sin, but to keep us from it? You know, I have certain rules for my children. Do not play in the street. When they're little kids, you don't want 'em play in the street. And they'll say, "Ohhhhh, Dad, all the other kids play in the street." You know, and I'll say, "Listen, the reason I don't want you play in the street is because you could be in the street and get killed in the street." Right? So there is a discipline that is not in response to what they've done, but is trying to give 'em a frame so they don't do what can hurt them...and you may put hardships on your children, and you discipline them. You restrict them to stay outta the street or to not play with the stove or don't do this, don't stick your head in a plastic bag, and all these kind of things, because you know that's going to harm them; and so there's a discipline that is not in response to sin, but is in prevention of it...
Say, "Well, how does that work?" Well, you just think of dear old Apostle Paul. You know that God worked in his life with preventative discipline? Yeah, He did. Say, "How?" Well, 2 Corinthians 12, he said, "And lest I should be exalted...in verse 7, listen to this now...and lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations"...You know what ________ what the easiest sin for Paul would've been? What? Pride. I mean that guy was too much, and all these revelations, and so he says, "Lest I be exalted above measure through all the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh." You know, God gave him probably an eye problem...to keep him humble.
You see, some things come in our lives to humble us, to prevent sin, preventative discipline, and it was Paul's constant consciousness of his weakness that kept pushing him down and down and down, and as long as he was infirm and wasn't feeling good and had to hassle with his problem, he was leaning and leaning and leaning on God. See? God knows if some of us were healthy, we would never get plugged into Him, so He just keeps us sick...
Three times, you know, this is easy...it isn't easy to discover, 'cause three times Paul prayed for the removal of it. Finally he woke up to what was going on. Say, "Let's see, three times I've asked. Nothing happened. I think I'm getting the message. God wants me to suffer through this." So all his life, all Paul's life, discipline came preventatively, not in retribution.
There's a third kind of discipline, and that's education. Not only retribution and prevention, but education. Some things in your life are just to teach you, just plain teach you; and I think teach you two things. No. 1 is to know God better. No. 2 is to be sympathetic to other people. For example, God sometimes brings trouble into our lives to lead us into deeper fellowship with God. You know, one of the things that trouble does for us is, if it really does what God intends it to do, it drives us into His presence, doesn't it? You always say, "Oh, yeah, so and so, whenever he gets in trouble, runs to God. Whenever the kids get sick, whenever something happens, you know." And he always says, "Everything's going good. You never see anybody." All of a sudden his wife leaves him. Hmmmmm. He hits the church, you know, whammo; and he's here praying, you know. And that's fine. And God's saying, "Yes, uh-huh, that's...that's what I want." It's educative. At the same time he learns a deeper sympathy for others who go through the same thing, and maybe it's not in response to any sin at all. God wants to teach him, 'cause God wants to use him.
There's a good guy who illustrates this by the name of Job. Did Job commit any sin? No. He's a terrific guy. Did God mess him up like that to prevent any sin? No. God did it to educate him. You say, "How do you know that He did it to educate him?" I'll show you how. Look at chapter 42 of Job. God said, "Job, you know a lot, but you don't know enough. I'm gonna do some teaching." And, brother, did he ever get some lessons. He tasted every kind of suffering which could be known to man.
Have you never gone through and catalogued his suffering? He understood what it was to have everybody in his family die. He understood what it was to lose everything he owned. All of his property, all of his money, everything he ever had. He understood bodily disease. He understood everything, lousy friends with wrong answers. He understood everything. People always wanna offer their stupid advice. He got it all, see? He knew every kind of suffering and...and it wasn't any sin, and it was...and it doesn't say he was...God was trying to prevent him from stumbling into anything. God was trying to teach him, and you know what happened at the end of it all in chapter 42? He says, "I have learned a marvelous thing...verse 1...Job answered the Lord and said: 'I know." You say, "What do you mean, Job?" "I just learned it. I know that You can do everything." Say, "Hey, you know what he learned? He learned omnipotence." Job got a good lesson. "And that no thought can be withhold from Thee. 'Who is he who hides counsel without knowledge? Therefore have I uttered that which I understood not.'"
You see? Job says, "I didn't used to know what a God You were, but now I know it." It was education...And he says, "Things too wonderful for me, which I knew not." You read that? Isn't that a fantastic guy? "If I hadn't a gone through that, I'd a never seen Your deliverance. If I hadn't seen Your deliverance, I'd a never known how powerful You were." Too wonderful. Oh, you say, "Job, you're outta your mind. Have you remembered what you lost?" He says, "Yeah, but look what I learned." See?
"Hear, I beseech thee, and I'll speak; I'll demand of thee and declare thou unto Me. I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear. I...I was all kind of in the wind. I kinda got some, 'Oh, God can do this.' Ummmm-mmmm-mmmm. But now my eye sees You." Don't you like that? Job says, "God, I've got some information I never had before." He never woulda had any of that information if he hadn't gone through the trials he went through. "Wherefore I abhor myself." That's another good lesson, isn't it? He learned two things. Who God was and who he was. Every man oughta learn those lessons; and if you learn 'em...if you don't learn 'em one way, God'll teach 'em to you another way.
"Therefore I abhor myself, repent in dust and ashes." Isn't that beautiful?...What a fantastic thought. So Job, first of all, learned lessons about God and about himself; but then you know what? He became sympathetic to others. Look at verse 10. "And the Lord turned the captivity of Job when he prayed for his friends." Isn't that good? He learned about caring for others. He learned the troubles of life...And so, you see, some suffering is just plain, old education; and maybe God's got somebody that you need to teach some principles to that you don't really know very well yet. You know, you can't understand what a deliverer our God is until you've been delivered...
Now, your task, Christian, now, mark this, your task when you have trouble in your life is to look at it and determine what it is. Is it retribution? Is there sin your life that's obviously apparent, for which God is correcting you? Is it preventative? Does God know that, were you to continue on the same trail you were going blissfully along, you would've wound up proud? Or you would've wound up in some temptation, in some sin, and God has in His marvelous, sovereign grace prevented you from getting into that by bringing infirmity? Or, thirdly, is God just trying to teach you? If He is, get out your pad and pencil and learn the lessons...
Listen, when suffering comes your way, get ready to discover something exciting in that suffering. You say, "Well, I can handle the last two, but I don't know about that first one." Retribution, that's a good one, too, because correction is simply to shape you up to make you more like Jesus Christ, and that's a glorious purpose. You oughta see that in it, too.
Now, you see, in all of this, faith has to be activated. You can't do it with your own senses. The human senses can no more see what's going on than a blind man can see a sunset. You've gotta look at it through the eyes of faith. You've gotta see God at work in your life. When trouble comes, you say, "God, what are You doing in my life?" Not, "God, You've forsaken me." See. Oh, no, "God, You...You're working harder than You ever worked. What are You doing? What are You doing, God? Show me." And when you learn your lessons, you grow...
Now, as we look at the text, the principles and the features of the discipline of God unfold. Look at verse 5. Let's just start with an introductory verse, and then we'll get into the thing, and, "You have forgotten...he says, this is good...You have forgotten the exhortation...this is from Proverbs 3:11. He says, "You have 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." He says, "You forgot. You forgot what you used to know." Say, "What did we used to know?"
Well, if they were Jews, the knew the Old Testament. They knew proverbs 3. What did Proverbs 3 say? It said, "My son, despise thou not the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of Him." Did you forget that? Did you forget that You weren't supposed to uptight when God moved to discipline you? Did you forget all about that?" Yes, they did. Notice two things in that verse. "You have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto sons." And he quotes Proverbs 3. Isn't it marvelous that, in everything, the Scripture is the source? They're in trouble. He drives them right back to the Scripture. The Scripture's the place of comfort. The Scripture gives you all the information you ever need about trial, suffering. If you ever get into such a situation you can't figure out, go to the Word. Ask the Spirit of God to reveal the truth to you. The Word is the final authority.
There's another great footnote here about Scripture. It says, "And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto sons." And then he quotes Proverbs 3:11. That shows you the timelessness of Scripture. Proverbs 3:11 was written hundreds of years before these people were ever born, but he says it was written to speak unto you. Right? That's the timelessness of Scripture. This is written to speak to us. It's alive, the Word is, and, oh, how many Christians have found, when they really looked into the Word and into their afflictions, that it was God speaking. Don't despise. God is talking. In His Word, He has told you this.
I've got a verse here, anyway, I don't know what the reference is. Says this. "Whatsoever things were written before were written for our learning, that we, through endurance and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope." That simply says, when you get into problems, your comfort and your hope is in the Scriptures. So he reminds them of the Scripture. Now, he says, "You gotta go back to the Scripture. It speaks to you." Then having started there, he takes this one Scripture as his text and takes off.
I wanna give you a simple outline. With that introduction, he is now gonna tell us about the discipline of God. Now watch this. There are two perils, two proofs, and two products. Two perils in discipline, two proofs in discipline, and two products in discipline. Having introduced the fact that they need to go back to the Word and remember that discipline is good, you shouldn't despise it, etc., etc., he then begins with two perils in discipline.
Look at verse 5. "My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of Him." Now, there are two things that are perils to discipline, that can restrict what God wants to accomplish. No. 1, despise not. See it there in verse 5? The Lord's training...is in view here. He says, "Don't despise the training or discipline of the Lord." Now, the term despise simply means to treat lightly, or let's say...say it this way. To not see the full end. To misjudge what's really happening. He says, "Don't misjudge discipline," and that's what many Christians do. The affliction comes, and they misjudge what's going on. All they see is the pain, not the purpose, see? And so they, "Oh, my pain, my troubles," and instead of focusing on what God is doing, they're focusing on their own pain, their own problem.
"See discipline," he says, mark this, "not in the affliction, but in the accomplishment." What is God doing?...See past it. You say, "Well, how do Christians get into the thing where they're stuck on the pain?" I think there's a lotta ways. First of all by callousness. You know, a Christian can become so callous, that when God moves in his life, instead of softening, he hardens. He hardens, and he gets kinda bitter.
Also, by complaining. You know, some Christians just complain. You know, like...like Israel in the wilderness. They gripe and gripe and gripe. Some of 'em for 40 years. You know, some people get a little sick, and they get so cross and so sour and so outta sorts, you don't wanna go near 'em, right? "Well, they're in a bad mood. Stay away." Or they fret and fume at God. "You've forsaken me." You know. Pink says, is a good quote, "God always chastens twice if we are not humbled by the first one."...So choose for yourself.
He says, "Remind yourself of how much dross there is yet among the gold, and view the corruption of your own heart and marvel that God has not smitten you more severely...Then he says, "Form the habit of heeding His taps, and you'll be less likely to receive His raps."...So you can...you can despise the chastening of the Lord by becoming callous or by complaining. Thirdly, by questioning. Often we question the need of discipline..."Well, why do you have to do that, God? You coulda told me some other way." Listen, God knows more about what to do than you do. I... Your children did that to you, didn't they? "Well, you don't have to do that." Do you ever say to your kid...we say to the kids, "Which would you rather have? No dinner or a spanking." If your kids are like mine, they'd rather have anything than a spanking. Children gripe about the rod. "Can't you do it another way? I'll take no dinner, but don't spank me." You know, we wanna question God and God's wisdom in doing the way He does, right? Don't question.
Then I think, fourthly, and perhaps the greatest danger in despising the discipline of God is by carelessness, and that is failure to change. By caring less what happens. So in all these ways, we can treat God's discipline lightly, but he says, "Don't do it. Don't treat the discipline superficially. Don't get callous to what God's doing. Don't complain about He's...what He's doing. Don't complain. Don't question the way He's doing it, and, most of all, don't get careless and not respond." That's to treat it lightly, and it isn't a light thing.
So the first peril in discipline is despising it. The second one is in verse 5. Look at there. It says, "Despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of Him." You know, the second response that's a peril is to faint. Some people just get, oh, despondent. They don't get so angry with God and treat it lightly. They just...they just sink into some sort of an inert thing. They just, "Ohhhhh," see. They can't do anything. Sinking in despondency. These are so often the sympathy seekers. They give up, and then they doubt whether God even cares, and then they doubt whether they're even saved...They forget Psalm 34:19. "Many are the afflictions of the righteous."...They give way to unbelief.
Psalm 42:5 says, "Why art thou cast down, O my soul? And why art thou disquieted in me? Hope thou in God, for I shall yet praise Him." Don't fall apart. These people despair. These are the two perils that when God disciplines, No. 1, you're not gonna take it seriously as the discipline of God. No. 2, you're gonna collapse in despondency. Both of those are perils. When those two happen, you have failed to be exercised by the discipline. You have not learned. Mark it. He'll be back again.
Not only are there two perils in discipline, there are two proofs in discipline, and they are in verses 6 through 8...It's interesting...before we look at those proofs...that Satan is often the victor in the trials that God would use for His benefit. When you despise them, when you faint at them, you have frustrated the plan of God, and Satan has gained a victory. Many Christians, you know, they take their trials with despair, despondency. They despise them. They feel God is a far off, and instead of trusting God and saying, "What are You doing, God? What are You saying? What are You teaching me? Is it retribution, prevention, or education? What are You doing?" Instead of that, they get doubt, turmoil, resentment. Instead of giving thanks, they get bitter, and so forth and so on; and they kinda cry, you know, with the Psalmist, "Why standest Thou afar off? Why do You hide Yourself in trouble?" The Lord seems no longer a very present help in time of trouble.
But we have to understand something that could change all that. Discipline proves two things, and these two things alone oughta make you take discipline in a whole different attitude. No. 1, it proves His love. His love, verse 6. "For whom the Lord loves He disciplines." You like that? You know, when discipline comes in your life, you say, "God, thanks a lot. I know You love me." You know, I don't run around disciplining other people's children. I discipline the ones I love, because I want them to be something significant. Disciplined, matured, together, competent, capable, responsible, and so I discipline them because I love them...
Ephesians 3:17 tells us to be rooted and grounded in love. You know what that means? What does it mean to be rooted and grounded in love? It means to have a settled assurance that God loves you, an assurance that He loves you no matter what hits you...that all that He's doing, even by way of trouble, is not in spite of love, it is because of love...
Jude 21, what a verse. "Keep yourselves in the love of God." You say, "Does that mean you gotta keep yourself saved?" No, it means keep aware that you are in the love of God. Don't ever forget that; and always look for mercy, he says in the next statement, 'cause it'll be on the way. Keep yourself constantly rooted and grounded in the fact that God loves you...and you look at your troubles. Don't look at your troubles. Look at His love.
A man said, "Why are you looking over the wall?" And the guy said, "Because I can't see through it."...Well, you know, so many Christians, they have a wall of trouble, and they stare at the wall, see. God says, "Look over the wall. You'll see the smiling face of a loving Father who put the wall there for a reason." See the dark clouds of despair. You look above the dark clouds of despair, and you see the blazing sunlight of God's love...
Oh, many people in Scripture have had this experience. Job 5 verse 17, "Behold, happy...listen to this. It's terrific... happy is the man whom God correcteth." That good? Would you like to just go down the tubes with no correction? Not me. I wanna be blessed. How do you get blessed? Live according to God's standards. How do you make sure you live according to God's standards? Whenever you...whenever you miss, hmmmmm, whappo, and you conform. And education and prevention, all these things.
So he says, "Happy is the man whom God corrects; therefore despise not thou the discipline of the Almighty." You wanna really be happy? Accept it as God's discipline, and accept the fact that if He cares enough to discipline me, He also what? Loves me. I like that. Psalm 94:12, just some verses that come to mind. 94:12 says this, "Blessed or happy again is the man whom the Lord disciplines, O Lord, and teachest him out of Thy law." Again he says, "Happy to disciplined." Over in Revelation, too, isn't it the 3rd chapter where you have the same statement? "As many as I love, I rebuke and discipline." Don't you like that? It's always connected to His love. It's always tied in with His love for us. The discipline of the Christian flows out of His love. Listen to me. It was love which elected us. Ephesians 1, "In love, having predestinated us," right? It was love which redeemed us. "God so loved that He gave." It was love that effectually called us. Jeremiah 3:13 says, "With loving kindness have I drawn thee."
And, believe me, it is love and love alone which disciplines you, because, as you're disciplined, you grow to conformity to God. As you grow to conformity to God, you are blessed and blessed and blessed and blessed, see. So don't despise the chastening. Don't fade at it. Be exercised by it. Let it accomplish what God wants. You're the winner...and, believe me, you know, you know, my dad always used to say to me that...he'd spanked me and he'd say, "You know, I want you to know that this hurts me as much as it does you." I never believed that. "Oh, come on." You know, what do you mean, "This hurts me as much as it does." But that's true. You know, to spank your children whom you love, that's a painful thing; and were I just to do what gives me pleasure, I wouldn't do that, because that doesn't give me immediate pleasure. It gives me long-range pleasure, because I know they're conforming to something; but the...the punishment itself, the...the corporeal act itself, is not a joy. You know, I'm not a...I'm not a child abuser, and I don't get any thrill outta smashing my children around. That's a painful thing for me. It is for you, isn't it? We do it. We know there's a sense in which it's right, and there's a future promise that gives us joy, but immediately it's a painful thing to discipline your children.
You know that God feels the same way? It isn't that God just gets some kind of glee running around going, ummmmm, ummmmm, see. I think this can be illustrated in Lamentations chapter 3, just a thought there, too, in verse 31. "For the Lord will not cast off for ever." Listen, this is so good, "But though He cause grief, yet will He have compassion according to the multitude of His mercies." You know, this shows His tenderness in His discipline. Listen, "For He doth not afflict willingly." Did you get that? God doesn't get any joy out of disciplining you at the moment. He...because, as a sympathetic High Priest, He feels everything you feel, right? Jesus can truly say, "MacArthur, I gotta do it, and it hurts Me as much as it hurts you."...
He doesn't do it willingly. He doesn't get any joy out of disciplining me, but you know what? He sees the fruit of that discipline...the fruit of that discipline. Jesus didn't get any joy outta going to the cross, but He did it for the joy, not in the cross, but the joy that was what? Set before Him...and so it is that it is God's love that is active, not that God loves to beat us up, but that God loves what we've become, even though it hurts Him to discipline us; but He knows the end of it. You see, this gives us a whole different concept of God, doesn't it? God is not a cosmic killjoy...God is a loving Father. He is disciplining out of love, even though it's painful for Him to do it. Don't you forget Lamentations 3:33. It's a wonderful promise. "He does not chasten us willingly."...
God is love, and lemme tell you something, people. What's the most sensitive emotion in the world? Love, and the more you love the more sensitive you are to the pain of the one you love. How much does God love? How much love is there? Listen, if He loves with infinite love, then He is infinitely sensitive; if He is infinitely loving me, then it hurts Him when I hurt; and it hurts Him when He has to hurt me...which tells me something wonderful. That there must be a good purpose in it, or He wouldn't inflict the pain on Himself. Believe me, He's involved in every trial you ever go through. To the same extent that you're involved in it, He's involved...Oh, listen, that's unselfish love...
Isaiah 63:9, listen to this. "In all their afflictions He was afflicted." Isn't that good? "In all their afflictions He was afflicted." Everything Israel went through, He went through with 'em. Don't ever question the love of God, beloved. He loves you so much, He endures pain Himself to bring about the fruit that He wants in your life; and when discipline comes and trouble comes, and you lose your job, and you have problems, and you get sick, and you can't understand things, and you can't explain it, say, "God, thank You for loving me, and thank You for being willing to endure this with me, so that the end might be to Your praise and Your glory." And then ask God to show you which of the three it is, and learn your lessons.
So, first, it proves His love. Secondly, it proves our sonship, and that's another terrific thing. You know, God only disciplines those that are His, right? I've felt like disciplining other people's children from time to time, and so have you. You see 'em in the market. You say, "If that kid was my kid." You know? When he's just, you know, thrown a grapefruit across the aisle that you stepped in. You say, "If that kid was my kid, he wouldn't do that." See, and you respond...But the fact of the matter is, you discipline your own children.
Look at verse 6b, "For whom the Lord loves He chastens. But watch. "And scourges every son whom He received." You know, one of the wonderful ways you can tell you're a son of God? Romans 8:14, "As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are... what?...the sons of God." You can tell you're a Christian by the leading of the Spirit. You wanna know another wonderful way? When you get scourged...You know, one of the saddest things in the world, some kids that don't have a father to spank them. You ever seen that kind of a child? A child who's never had anybody in loving discipline to care for them? You know what kind of a child you have when you have that, don't you? A undisciplined child, and a child who doesn't understand love.
Love disciplines, believe you me. Love disciplines, because love cares...and so God disciplines every son. Don't you like that? Every son. Don't think you're the only one getting it. We all get it. It comes. You may be getting a little more than somebody else. Why don't you learn your lesson?...'Cause that's an inclusive/exclusive statement. "He scourges every son... that's inclusive...whom He receiveth...That's exclusive." The only ones He disciplines are saved ones, but He disciplines all of them...
Look at the word scourge. Interesting choice of words. It's...you don't get the idea of a little tap. Nostagoy, it's the act of flogging with a whip. I mean God does discipline firmly. You know, proper training has to include this. You know this from a physical standpoint. As a father, believe me, fathers, discipline your children, corporeally, which means with a board or a belt or a good firm hand in the proper place. Discipline your children physically. That's important.
Proverbs 13:24, "He that spareth his rod hateth his son." Do you wanna know you can tell somebody who loves his children? He works hard at disciplining those children, because he cares what they become. "He that loveth Him chastens Him many times." Boy, did my father ever love me. He absolutely was flipped over me...If you love your son, you will discipline him many times; and, fathers, you know, we're so prone to say, "Oh, I...I discipline him. I can't do it again." Do it again in love...
Proverbs 19:18, "Chasten thy son while there is hope." Practical, and, listen, "Let not thy soul spare for his crying."...God said that. You like that? When he starts to cry, don't fold up. They're clever little guys, you know? Sheeee. Proverbs 22:15 says, "Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child, but the rod of correction will drive it out."...Proverbs 23:13 and 14 says, "Withhold not correction from the child; for if thou beatest him with a rod, he shall not die." You won't kill him. "Thou shalt beat him with a rod and deliver his soul from hell." Proverbs 29:15, "The rod and reproof give wisdom." Listen to this. "But a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame." Is that true? Indeed it is. So juvenile courts are living testimony to those principles.
So who is it that disciplines? It's a father, and that's part of being a father. That's what fathers are for. When we have the broken homes that we have in America today, we're finding out what undisciplined children are like, and you're watching a society that is being rea...that is rearing undisciplined children from broken homes with no respect for authority and no concept of love, incidentally.
Verse 7, "If you endure chastening or discipline, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chastens not?" Now, in those days, it never...there wasn't such a thing as what we have today. ________ What son doesn't get disciplined by his dad? That's plain old stuff, and he says, "If you're being disciplined by God, that means you're His son."... Discipline in the Christian life isn't in spite of sonship, beloved, it's because of it. God doesn't say, "Well, I know you're My child, but I'm gonna get you anyway." God says, "I know you're My child, and I'm gonna discipline you because you're My child, and I want My children to be what I want 'em to be." A child who's disobedient, a child who runs amuck, a child who is uncontrollable, a child who is incorrigible reveals, listen to me, reveals the fact that his father didn't love him, really.
Oh, he may talk about it, but a really loving father is absolutely committed to the performance of his child, to conform to all the standards of God. That's a real disciplined father. That's the kind of child you want. The discipline of my children proves they are my children, and I love them. So God says, "When you get disciplined, just remember God's working, 'cause you're His child."
What do some Christians do? "Ohhhhh, am I really saved? Am I His child? Has He forsaken me?" Very opposite. That is negative thinking, 180 degrees the wrong way. You say, "I'm suffering. Oh, good, I'm His child. He's showing me again His discipline in my life," and that's not always the common reaction; and, you know, some people will always say, "Well, I don't know why I should get it so rough. I'm a Christian. I know some unbelievers that are making it. I am...I know some unbelievers, they don't have any diseases. They got good jobs. What's the deal?" Well, it's not such a good deal verse 8 says. "If you be without chastening, of which all are partakers, then are you bastards and not sons."...You're illegitimate children... because all are partakers of God's discipline if they're God's sons. If somebody lives it up in discipline of God, he can't say, "I'm perfect." No, he should say, "I'm illegitimate. I am not truly His son. I'm a phony." 'Cause all His sons He disciplines.
So, remember, when God disciplines, thank Him, because it's a great reminder that you're His son. So I'll tell ya, next time discipline comes, you just sit down, and you say, "Well, God, I just wanna tell Ya two things that I have just learned. You love me a lot, and I'm Your child." Now you're beginning to learn what discipline's supposed to teach you...and if there's no discipline in your life at all, then you don't have the care of a loving father.
Jerome said a paradoxical thing that fits the point. He said this, "The greatest anger of all is when God is no longer angry with us."...He meant the supreme punishment is to be... unteachable, incurable, and not the object of God's discipline at all. That is really punishment, when God doesn't care because you're not His child. You're not even a Christian. You're a... an illegitimate fake.
So chastisement should never make you doubt your sonship. It is the opposite. If you're not being chastised, if you're not being disciplined at some time in your life, if you're not learning lessons through trial and Tribulation and trouble, you oughta wonder whether you're really His child, because He always disciplines His children.
All right, what have we seen? Two perils, two proofs, and that leads us finally to two products in discipline. Verses 9 to 11, these are just simply stated here. God definitely has some things in mind that He wants to get across. Verse 9, "Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh...just human fathers...who corrected us, and we gave them reverence. Shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of Spirits, and live?" Here he contrasts the physical father, the spiritual Father. A comparison between a natural father and a supernatural Father. He says, "Why, you know, and he's applying some of you...you Hebrews, God is disciplining you, and you're griping, and you're bellyaching, and you're getting angry with God. 'Is this what Christianity is? How did I ever get into this deal? What happened to God? Where did He go? What a mess.'" And he says, "You're reacting in a way toward the supernatural Father, you didn't even react toward your natural father."
He says, verse 9, "You had your father of the flesh who corrected you, and you gave him reverence." You know that a child appreciates the loving discipline of the father?...He says, "You...you...you...you look back, and I'll tell ya. I'm thankful for my father's discipline." Are you thankful for your parents' discipline? Sure, you are. I am grateful for it. I accepted it with gratitude, even at the time...Believe me, discipline is received well by a child. They need it, and they know it. We should discipline them justly, knowing that they shall respond to it. You try to be a buddy-buddy to your kid and talk him into everything, and you'll lose him.
So he says, "If you give reverence to your physical father instead of griping about what God's doing, shouldn't you just reverence Him in subjection?" See the word there? "Shall we not much rather be in subjection?" What's that? Willing submission. If this is what your design is, God, fine, do it. Do it, and bring that perfection which You designed. And then he brings the two results. No. 1 is this. The end of verse 9, "Shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the...unto the Father of Spirits, and...what?...live?" The first one is life. God designs life to come out of discipline.
You say, "What's he talking about here, John?" Well, I think he's talking in contrast to Deuteronomy 21, and I just wanna give you a brief look at that. Deuteronomy 21 is very interesting. It says in verse 18, this, "If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and that when they have chastened him will not hearken unto them, then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him and bring him out of the...out under the elders of his city and under the gate at his place." This is a kid who obey his mom and dad. Bring him out to the elders of the city and the gate. You say, "Boy, I'll bet they're gonna give him a lecture."
"And they shall say unto the elders of the city, 'This is our son. He is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey our voice. He's a glutton and a drunkard,' and all the men of the city shall stone him with stones that he die." You think it was important to God to have obedient children...in Israel? God says, "If you have a disobedient son, you bring him out to the elders at the gate and they can stone him till he's dead."...
Now what is he saying here? He's saying, "If you're in subjection to the Father of Spirits, you live." I believe, in an ultimate sense, he's saying this. Listen, beloved. A Christian can lose his life by not responding to the discipline of God. That's right. Remember what I read you in 1 Corinthians 11 or mentioned earlier? Many of you are sick, weak, and some of you what? Sleep. Have you ever read 1 John chapter 5 about the sin unto death? Have you ever recalled James 1:21 in that light? Listen to this. "Wherefore put away all filthiness and overflowing of wickedness and receive with meekness the engrafted Word, which is able to save your lives," in the Greek.
A Christian who continually rejects the discipline of God, who learns no lessons at all can lose his life; and so I think he's saying, "Subject yourself to the loving discipline of the Father and live." But there's another think I think is in it. I think implied in there is the fullness of life, really live. You don't know what living's all about until you've been through some things. You don't know what victory is until you've fought a battle. You don't know what deliverance has been...is until you've been in prison. You don't know what healing is till you've been sick...You don't know what riches are until you've been poor, right? Life only is life when you've been wretched and miserable.
Talked to Alan Jurdythe other day and seeing how he liked living in Vietnam. He says, "I don't think I could ever come back to the boring existence in the United States. We've seen God work so many wonderful miracles over there. Who wants to come back here in this routine?" See? I mean they've been through it. Well, it's when you go through it that you see God, and that's really living...Living life to it's fullest.
Psalm 119:165 says, "Great peace have they which love Thy law, and nothing shall offend them." No matter what happens, trust God. When you've been through something, and He's gotten you out, and you...you...you've got stories to tell and victories won and deliverances seen and healings wrought and God has worked miracles in your poverty, and all these things have happened in the midst of trial, and you're living.
Second thing, the second product is holiness, verse 10. "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." Here's a great truth. Our earthly fathers only discipline us for a short time. They did they best they could. It says, notice it there in verse 10, "They did it for a few days, only till we grew of certain age. And after their own pleasure." That phrase is misleading in the...in the authorized version. What I means is as they...as they thought best. They did it as they thought best.
You know, I've always tried to discipline my children as I thought best, but sometimes I've been wrong. Never forget one time spanking Matt, I think it was; and I really let him have it; and I saw him crying and...and he usually gets over it pretty fast; but he continued to cry; and I said, "What happened? What's the matter?" He said, "Well, Dad, I didn't do it."...And, you know, that just killed me, and I sat down, you know, little tears in my eyes, and I said, "Oh, Matt, I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I would never have disciplined you had I known you didn't do it. I assumed you did it." He was, "Ooooooh-ooooooh," you know, which just tears me up, you know.
Never forget Kenny Coretelling about the time he spanked David and then found out David didn't do it and gave David the paddle and asked David to spank him...and David never forgot that. He talks about that to this day, the fact that his father was a big enough man to take the discipline that he had wrongly given his son. But we do the best we can. You know, some other times I suppose we could punish our children in a wiser fashion than we do and bring about a better result, but we do the best we can; and it may not always be for their profit. Have you ever spanked your child in anger?..._______ you know. That's not best for them either, but you know something wonderful? Even though we blow it and only can do the best we can, "For they verily for a few days...a little time...did the best we could, but He disciplines for our profit always to make us partakers of...what?...His holiness."
He never does it wrongly. He always knows the right discipline and just how much...that we might be partakers of His holiness. You know, there's only one kinda holiness. What kind? His holiness. That's the only kind, and He wants us to partake of His holiness. That's a absolutely fantastic thought. To partake of His holiness. Ephesians 3:19, "To be filled with all the fullness of God." What a thought, and the only way that I could ever partake of His holiness and be righteous before Him in a practical sense is when I conform to His image; and to conform to His image I must take His discipline.
You see? Because I'm unruly, and I have sin in me, and I must respond to His discipline. I wanna be a partaker of His holiness, and it'll only happen...as I am disciplined. How you gonna take discipline? You're gonna look at it first of all and watch those two perils. Don't treat it lightly, despising it and not seeing the full end of what it is. Look over the wall, over the dark cloud, and you're not gonna faint, get despondent, despairing.
Second thing is you're gonna recognize what it proves. It proves, first of all, His love, and, secondly, what? Our sonship. And instead of doubting that He's near, you're gonna thank Him for being near and being a loving Father and teaching what He's teaching you. Thirdly, you're gonna recognize the product that He's trying to get at. No. 1, life lived and lived to its fullest. No. 2, He wants you to conform to His holiness, practically. Positionally, you're holy. Practically, He wants you to be what you are positionally.
God gives these things in our lives, people, to drive us to Him. Listen to what Hosea said. Hosea 5:15, God speaking to the prophet, listen. "In their affliction will they seek Me early. In their affliction will they seek Me early." And so what do I say? I say let the rains of disappointment come if they water the plants of spiritual grace. Let the winds of adversity blow if they serve to root more securely the trees that God has planted. I say let the sun of prosperity be eclipsed...if that brings me closer to the true Light of Life...Welcome, sweet discipline. Discipline designed for my joy. Discipline designed to make me what God wants me to be...
Then he summarizes in verse 11. "Now we recognize no discipline for the present seems to be joyous." Please, I'm not saying, "Oh, some kind of strange masochism oughta overwhelm us where we get glee out of flagellani, flannel, flagellanitype activity. That is not it. No, "No discipline for the moment seems joyous, but grievous." It's painful. Our carnal senses, our natural mind objects to this thing. We cast it off. We push it away. We don't like it, but that's 'cause we look at the present; but look at this. "Nevertheless...oh, I love this word...afterward,"...isn't that good?. You look back on your life, how many afterwards have their been? There's one after every trial you ever had...and you came out richer. When He has tried me, I shall come forth as what? As gold. Afterward, "It yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them who are exercised by it."
God wants to make you righteous, and if you'll let His discipline exercise you, that means to regard it rightly. Don't despise it. Don't faint at it. Take it for what it is, and you're exercised by it. It's just like spiritual weightlifting. Consider...watch this...consider your troubles not a burden, but a weight, and every trouble that comes is spiritual exercise; and when you get exercised by it, you're building spiritual muscles. The stronger you are...the more you're gonna appreciate what God has done...
Mary Magdalene stood at the open tomb and cried and cried and cried. You know what? She was crying at the very thing designed to bring her the greatest joy...Did you hear that? Christian, don't stand at the open tomb of your trouble and cry. God designed that for your joy. Let's pray.
We think of the words of Job, Father, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him." Thank You for discipline...'cause it tells us You love us. Reminds us we're Your sons. Oh, Father, how good it is, how good it is that You care, that You're working in our lives to make of us what You want us to be...Father, I pray that You'll help me to respond to Your discipline, even the simplest, smallest trials that enter my life, that I may see them for what they are, that I may examine my heart to see whether they're retribution, prevention, or education, that I may yield in subjection to a loving Father, proving His love and molding His beloved son to the image that He has sent...Father, may it be so for all of us. We pray in Christ's name. Amen.