In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says,
“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”
Our author moves from the high ground of the first 3 verses into an area that isn’t quite as warm and fuzzy… or is it? Remember who he is writing to, Jewish Christians in Rome during the time of Nero’s persecution. These brothers are enduring very difficult times, times most of us can hardly imagine. This whole letter has served to encourage them to persevere, to hold on to their faith in Christ, and to recognize that whatever the current crisis may be, it is never worth throwing away our future hope to avoid it. Now, the author takes a different approach: Discipline.
Notice that right off, he paints discipline as a positive. To receive the discipline of the heavenly Father is to have our sonship confirmed! Have you ever thought of it that way? I hadn’t until about the third or fourth time I studied this.
As we struggle with sin… and yes, we all have that struggle in one form or another… we have not resisted (sin) to the point of shedding our blood (being killed). Even for the original recipients, this statement must have been obvious. Then the word of encouragement, that we receive discipline because we are God’s children… Take a minute to reflect on this quote from Proverbs 3. Early on in this letter, we rejoiced at the thought that through Christ, we have been made His sons and daughters, remember? We are co-heirs with Christ! As sons and daughters normally do, we come under the authority and discipline of Father. Are we still rejoicing?
Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all.
I have three children, all grown now, and when they were growing up, they were subject to my discipline. There were times when they were punished. There were times when I lectured them, times when I scolded them and times when I pleaded with them. As they grew, some of my methods changed because their understanding changed. There were times with all of them when I had to step aside and let them get hurt so they could learn the hard way a lesson they were slow to learn by other means; this was the worst for me. Oh, how much it hurt to step back and let them do something stupid; how hard it was to force myself not to say “I told you that would happen!” (I sometimes failed at this point, by the way) Of course, there were times when they blamed me for not stopping them when they set out to do something they knew better than to do. Maybe this sounds familiar to you parents out there… maybe this sounds familiar to all of us in our relationships with God also.
Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
Our human fathers did their best with us in most cases, as I did my best with my kids. But neither I nor any other human father was always right, no human father did as good a job for their children as our heavenly Father does with us. The sad truth is that for many, the concept of a loving and merciful father is hard to comprehend because of the imperfections of their human father, yet the truth remains that our heavenly Father is love itself. He is able, willing and more than capable of guiding us along through this great adventure that is our lives… this “race” we are in. Yet, from time-to-time we are much like any stubborn teenager, slow to learn.
Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. “Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.
A word of encouragement! Yes, may we learn, may we come to see the way that we should go. May we be like the young person who is willing to be taught, rather than like the one who is certain that they know everything already! May we accept our Father’s lessons and discipline and learn and grow from it quickly, and run our race straight to the finish line.