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God's Loving Fatherly Discipline

Hebrews  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  30:04
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Our Scripture text this morning is Hebrews 12:3-11:
Hebrews 12:3–11 ESV
Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
The author of Hebrews is clearly worried that the church he is writing to will misinterpret the trials and hardships they are undergoing. This is no isolated problem, my guess is that there is not a person here this morning who has not questioned the love of God when they have suffered from the trials and tribulations of this life. If you are in that place today, please know you are not alone. If we are to move on we need to be honest with ourselves and each other. So I hope you will allow me to speak directly to your pain this morning. But we also must be honest with God. We must be honest with God and allow Him to speak to us through His word. We must see reality through the eyes of faith, not through the eyes of experience. As we learned in Hebrews 11:
Hebrews 11:1 ESV
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
In the middle of our passage today the author of Hebrews cites Proverbs 3:11-12. The first verse of this citation highlights the response of those who question the Fatherly Love of God because they don’t use the eyes of faith. There are two ways those who question God’s love respond to the trials and tribulations of life:
They dismiss the idea that God could be disciplining them.
They grow resentful and angry at God.
Let us look at each of these:

Questioning God’s Fatherly Love

There is no doubt that trials and hardships throw us into a theological crisis: How could a loving, all powerful God allow this to happen? This is no easy question to answer when we suffer the evils of this life. For example:
The death of a child or spouse.
Facing serious health issues.
Suffering injustice or abuse at the hands of others.
The easy way out is to deny any involvement of God. In this unbiblical solution, God is just as powerless as we are in the face of evil.
When asked, “How could God have allowed this to happen?” Many-well meaning people will respond, “God did not have anything to do with this. We live in a fallen world and bad things just happen.” This type of thinking is reflected in the first half of the citation from Proverbs 3:11, “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord.” To “regard lightly” is to consider something of little value or to see no purpose in it. This is the type of thinking that dismisses the idea that God has a purpose for our suffering and that purpose is for our ultimate good.
When confronted with the reality of their own evil, Joseph’s brothers could only see the evil of their actions. Years earlier they had sold their own brother into slavery. This most certainly was an evil act. It had caused Joseph and their father Jacob much sorrow, pain and suffering. Yet years later, Joseph was able to say to his brothers.
Genesis 50:20 ESV
As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.
Now realize Joseph was able to say this AFTER he interpreted Pharaoh's dream, AFTER he was made second only to Pharaoh and AFTER he has stored up enough grain for seven years to safe all the known world. For many years he was totally in the dark as to God’s purposes in his suffering, but in those dark years he never lost faith in God’s goodness and wisdom. He knew the truth of Romans 8:28.
Romans 8:28 ESV
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
We all want to know the answer to the “why question”, but Romans 8:28 does not promise us that we will have a “Joseph moment” and see God’s purpose for our trials and hardships in this life. In fact, both Scripture and experience teach us that for most of the suffering in our life will never now fully the answer to the “why question”. In this life we must live by faith, not sight, just as Faith Heroes of Hebrews 11 did as they looked for the coming of the Messiah.
I know this is not the answer some of you wanted to hear today, but it is the answer the Bible gives us. Our text calls us to patient endurance as we place our faith in God’s love and wisdom. This brings us to the second point.

Accepting God’s Discipline as Fatherly Love

The second verse of the Proverbs 3:11-12 citation focuses on God’s love.
Hebrews 12:6 ESV
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”
As proof of this, God points to wise, loving earthly parents.
We live in a day in which we see the bitter fruits of loving, but foolish parenting. Almost a whole generation has grown up to become what are called “snowflakes.” They have been ill prepared for the pressures of adult life and when those pressures come upon them they melt away like a snowflake. Why is this? It is because their parents have hovered over them, protecting them from all the hard things in life.
There are three Greek words referring to the process of disciple in this text: The first is the word translated “discipline” in most English bibles. What you need to understand is that this word does not primarily refer to punitive or corrective discipline, but rather to instruction and training. From the same root comes the Greek word for “school.” One of the ways that parents in Paul’s day were expected to train their children was by purposely arranging demanding experiences to spur on their development and toughen them up for the real world. It is what is known as the “school of hard knocks.”
This is the number one reason God allows trials and tribulations in our life. Listen to what the Apostle Peter says:
1 Peter 1:6–7 ESV
In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Metal only becomes pure and strong after it has gone through the fire and is beaten with the hammer.
The other two words do refer to punitive discipline. The first is found in verse 5, it is the word “reprove.” To reprove is to verbally scold or correct. The book of Proverbs teaches that heeding reproof is literally a life and death matter.
Proverbs 6:23 ESV
For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light, and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life,
The second form that God’s punitive discipline takes place in found in verse 6, it is the word “chastise.” In certain contexts, this word is translated in our English bibles as “flogged.” Very clearly the idea is causing pain for the purpose of punishment.
Why does God use chastisement? Because sometimes it is the only way we will listen. C. S. Lewis in his book The Problem of Pain wrote:
“God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: It is his megaphone to arouse a deaf world.”
It is the same reason that a parent must use chastisement. Chastisement should always be a parent’s last option. Our discipline should consist of first instruction, then reproof and as a last resort chastisement. However, when it is needed chastisement can latterly mean the difference of life or death to our children:
Proverbs 13:24 ESV
Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.

Do not withhold discipline from a child;

if you strike him with a rod, he will not die.

14  If you strike him with the rod,

you will save his soul from Sheol.

This leads to this morning’s final point:

Rejoicing in God’s Loving Fatherly Discipline

As I reflect on my life, I am so thankful for my parents’ loving discipline. At the time, as our text says the discipline seemed “painful” moreover, as our text also says, no parent’s disciple is perfect. My parents made mistakes. But if I can be thankful for their imperfect discipline, how much more can I be thankful for God’s perfect discipline? This is why James can add his voice to Peters when he writes:
James 1:2–3 ESV
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.
God has a loving purpose for every tear we shed and every pain we feel. Sometimes we imagine the world and life would have been better if we could go back into the past and remove our pains and regrets, but do we really know this? A T.V. show recently explored this idea:
In season four of Marvel’s Agents of Shield, a mad scientist places some of the team into an alternate reality where their greatest regrets are removed. In each case, they became worse people and the world became a much worse place.
I realize this was just a T.V. show, but it illustrates that the trials and tribulations of this life have made us the people we are today. If the bible is right about what it teaches us about God’s providential care of this universe, we are fools to think that the world would be a better place if we could change the past.
My brothers and sisters, God loves you and He knows what He is doing. Someday we will see it all and rejoice. Today we can’t see it all, but we can still rejoice if we see by faith. By faith look to Jesus. If you do this is what you will see:

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things

Let us pray.
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