Tuesday, June 03, 2008

God’s Loving Discipline, Yes Loving!!

As I was studying for last Sunday’s sermon at SGCF on Hebrews 12:3-6 (God's Loving Discipline-Part 1) I kept wondering how much people’s lack of understanding of discipline affects their correct understanding of these verses. When I say this I am not speaking of unbelievers but of believers or at the least professing believers. In a day and age where states seek to pass law against spanking and people see discipline of children as “stifling their creativity” what do you do with a passage that speaks of discipline as that which we are to be thankful for?

Keep in mind that the author speaks of discipline in two manners: that of correction for sins we have done and that which is simply to build us for what He has planned and are not specifically tied to particular sins. So discipline covers a wide gamut of things in our lives. The goal of discipline is to disciple and train us to be the men and women of God we are called to be. It is to move us to holiness so that we become more holy as He is holy (1 Peter 1:13-16, V16 cites Lev 1:44).

The writer of Hebrews continues on to encourage his audience to endure the race before them and that the struggles that they will encounter are of the God. Even including those struggle that lead to the shedding of blood (12:4). With the popularity of such beliefs as “Open Theism” this is obviously an area of struggle for many. How can a “loving” God allow, or even ordain, that which is painful for His children some, if not many, will say. Well V6 says why; because he loves His children and by the way all of His children are disciplined. In using a quote from Prov 3:11-12 the writer is also making a vital connection with the past and letting those he is applying this to, including us, realize God is working as He always has. God’s having always worked this way is why the “cloud of witnesses” in V1 are so vital to the Hebrew believers and us, they too have been through this at the hands of the Lord.

One needs to always keep in mind when reading Hebrews that this message, or sermon, to the Hebrew believers was meant to encourage, exhort and bring hope. Yes, to know God is intimately involved in our trials is to bring hope. The alternative is hopelessness, in that if God is simply a reactor to trials what type of God is that. A God that is not part of our struggles and is not the ordainer of them may seem comforting for a short time until you realize that there is then no purpose to what goes on in our lives.

Instead we are to see God, as the writer of Hebrews sees Him, as the architect of all that happens first for His glory then for our good, by the way they coincide for His children and that is the point behind V11. So what may “seem” painful now, and they are truly painful from a temporal perspective, will be joyful when God produces in us what He desires and ultimately when we get to glory. Our foresight is forever getting shorter and that is why the smallest pain is often seemingly unbearable. Unlike in times past when life was generally more hash our pain threshold, so to speak, is much lower.

This passage is also not about getting through trials and pain by gritting our teeth and plowing on. It is as James says in 1:2 to be counted all joy when we face trials since when seen in light of Hebrews 12 it is proof of God’s love for us. Let us thank God for the love He shows us as His children in disciplining us and working in us to make us holy. Thank Him for His work in us to make us useful instruments in His hands. Let us truly “cuont it all joy” when we face all kinds of trials.

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