“This hurts me more than it hurts you.” Ever hear that when you were being disciplined by your parents? I certainly did. I remember the instruments of discipline, too: a worn brown leather belt that popped, a wooden paddle, a green limb off a willow tree from down by Granddaddy’s catfish pond, etc. There were more instruments but those are some that “impressed” me, shall we say. But now that I am much older, I look back in gratitude upon the deserved discipline. My family was raising me to work hard, to tell the truth, to be respectful, to grow up into responsible adulthood.
In the book of Hebrews, the writer encourages weary Christians to persevere, not to give up, not to abandon the truth of the gospel of God: justification by grace alone through faith alone in the person and work of Christ alone.
Why did the writer labor his point? Because the initial recipients of the New Testament book of Hebrews were predominantly just that—Hebrews, Jewish Christians prior to A.D. 70 when Jerusalem was sacked by Rome. They were being persecuted for their faith. Some were tempted to retreat, to surrender to political pressure, to bow to the wicked godless government.
Hebrews (as a book) speaks to a call to persevere, to not whine about the discipline believers receive, but to trust the Lord, and to be obedient and faithful—to be like the Lord Jesus. He, too, endured suffering, was betrayed by wicked men, was maligned and cursed. But he remained faithful to to the end. And just when Satan thought he had killed God, three days later, Jesus rose bodily from the grave. Despite added Roman guards, despite hyper-vigilance by the occupying army, despite all the evil forces that converged, Christ conquered the grave just as he had promised. He even appeared to hundreds post-resurrection, told Thomas to touch him and see and believe (John 20:24-29), spoke with Mary at the tomb (John 20:11-18), appeared to and spoke with the disciples (John 20:19-23). The historical examples go on and on. Luke 24 is as powerful of a Christian apologetic of the Christian faith as one could ever ask for.
But what I sense today among many professing Christians is a desire to not be uncomfortable. Many want comfortable Christianity. Listen to Hebrews 12:3-6 where the writer reminds Christians of the theology of suffering:
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.”
Encouragement: Discipline is seldom pleasant when we experience it. “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” (Hebrews 12:11 ESV).
Persevere, dear Christian. The Lord sees. He is faithful. He is refining you and shaping you into a vessel fit for eternal glory. To be left without suffering, without discipline, would be a sign you are abandoned by God, illegitimate. Let us thank God for his redeeming grace for all who turn to him in genuine repentance and faith.