“Pain to Gain” – Hebrews 12:1-13

February 17th, 2019

Hebrews 12:1-13

“Pain to Gain”

Aux. Texts: Proverbs 3:11-12

Call to Worship: Psalm 94

 

Service Orientation: God wants us to persevere in our faith.  Therefore He provides past and present members of the Body of Christ, Jesus Himself, and painful discipline to empower us to hang in there.

 

Bible Memory Verse for the Week: My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline and do not resent his rebuke, because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in. —  Proverbs 3:11-12

 

Background Information:

  • This is one of the great, moving passages of the NT; and in it the writer has given us a well-nigh perfect summary of the Christian life. (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series, Hebrews, 171)
  • From the beginning of this letter, the great concern of the writer has been the lethargy and faint-heartedness of these Hebrew Christians. They’ve been reacting AGAINST discipline that is normal for the child of God.  As a result, they have been shrinking from the way of the cross with its shame.  But now that they have learned the purpose BEHIND their afflictions, the writer expects them to shake off their stupor.  (C.S. Lovett, Lovett’s Lights on Hebrews, 305)
  • (v. 1) Race is the Greek agon, from which we get agony. A race is not a thing of passive luxury, but is demanding, sometimes grueling and agonizing, and requires our utmost in self-discipline, determination, and perseverance.  (John MacArthur, Jr., The MacArthur New Testament Commentary–Hebrews, 372-3)
  • (v. 1) The Greek word translated “race” (agon [73]) can also be used in the sense of a “struggle” or “fight” (see Phil 1:30; Col 2:1; 1 Tm 6:12). The Christian life is not a game of hopscotch.  Nor is it a short sprint.  It’s a hard, exhausting marathon.  To make it to the end requires us first of all to set aside anything that might hold us back or weigh us down.  (Charles R. Swindoll, Swindoll’s Living Insights NT Commentary–Hebrews, 194)
  • (v. 1) Hebrews gives examples of what it means to “run”: having faith, visiting prisoners, entertaining strangers, believing God, trusting God, worshiping God, knowing Christ, having courage, praying, encouraging others, and confessing sin.  These can be summarized as loving God and loving others.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Hebrews, 204)
  • (v. 1) The analogy, which was natural enough in an empire where athletic games provided an entertaining spectacle for the populace in many different cities, is found in the classical literature of Greece and, at the time of our epistle, in Philo who says, somewhat anachronistically, of Abraham that, “taking the good runners as his example,” he finished the race of life without stumbling and was rewarded with crowns and prizes. Another contemporary writing speaks of the Maccabean heroes Eleazar and the seven bothers and their mother as having “hastened to death by torture as if running on the track to immortality” (4 Macc 14:5), their virtue and endurance gaining for them the imperishable prize of everlasting life, with “the tyrant as their adversary and the world and the life of men as the spectators” (4 Macc 17:11ff.).  The analogy clearly had a strong appeal to the apostle Paul, who frequently depicts the Christian as an athlete, self-disciplined and concentrated, as he strives to gain a glorious and unfading crown (see 1 Cor 9:24-27; Gal 2:2; Phil 1:29f.; 2:16; Col 1:29; 2:1; 1 Tm 6:12; 2:5; Acts 20:24; cf. 2 Cor 10:13ff.), and who, as he himself faces the ordeal of his own martyrdom in the world’s arena, movingly testifies: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing” (2 Tm 4:6-8).  (Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, 518-9)
  • (v. 1) Protective warmth is fine for preparatory periods of spiritual growth, but there comes a time when these pleasant weights must be laid aside and we expose our bodies to whatever conditions prevail as we run the race. (Louis H. Evans, Jr., The Communicator’s Commentary–Hebrews, 215-216)
  • (v. 2) Literally the Greek reads “Look away unto Jesus” (away from your circumstances to Jesus)
  • (v. 2) Once again Christ’s human name, Jesus, is given a place of special emphasis. The human Jesus has known our experiences of trial and fierce adversity.  When we feel that we cannot summon another ounce of energy for “the race that is set before us,” we must think of the race that was set before him.  He endured, though his course was incomparably more difficult than ours.  Jesus triumphed and, in his strength, so can we.  (Raymond Brown, The Bible Speaks Today:  Hebrews, 228)
  • (v. 2) With a few strokes of his pen, the writer provides an account of Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, and ascension. The crowning point, of course, is Jesus’ enthronement at the right hand of God.  (William Hendriksen & Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 369)
  • (v. 3) The phrase “grow weary and lose heart” was sports lingo in the ancient world for a runner’s exhausted collapse. (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Hebrews, vol. 2, 163)
  • (v. 4) The author goes from one sport to the other; from the imagery of the race to that of boxing. In boxing, blood flows from the faces of the contestants when they withstand vicious blows.  At times serious injuries result in death.  (William Hendriksen & Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 372)
  • (v. 4) The writer thinks they should be ashamed of themselves to get so upset over a hostility which is normal to expect. It’s about time they realized the Christian life is not for sissies, but people who show themselves worthy of those who made their faith possible.  To sting them into this realization, the writer employs a phrase used by the Maccabean leaders.  When fighting against the enemies of the Jewish faith, those leaders challenged their followers to go out there and “resist unto death” the foes of Israel.  The readers knew that phrase.  In the light of it, they would feel the shame of their faintheartedness.  (C.S. Lovett, Lovett’s Lights on Hebrews, 297)
  • (v. 5) The word “discipline” comes from a root word generally meaning “to teach or instruct as one would a child” (cf. Acts 22:3; 1 Tm 1:20; Ti 2:12). Often it means “to correct or punish”–as it means here (cf. v. 10; Lk 23:16, 22).  Broadly, it signifies much of what we would think of as discipline for the purpose of education.  We experience God’s education through hardship or affliction.  (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Hebrews, vol. 2, 170)
  • (v. 5) We can take God’s discipline lightly in many ways. We can become callous to God and His Word, so that when He is doing something in us or for us, we do not recognize His hand in it.  When we are calloused, God’s discipline will harden us instead of soften us.  We may also treat God’s discipline lightly by complaining.  In this case, we do not forget God; in fact our attention is on Him, but in the wrong way.  Instead of showing patient endurance, like the hero saints, we gripe and grumble.  (John MacArthur, Jr., The MacArthur New Testament Commentary–Hebrews, 390)
  • (v. 6) Scourges (NIV- punishes) (mastigoo) refers to flogging with a whip, and was a common Jewish practice (Mt 10:17; 23:34). It was a severe and extremely painful beating.  The point of Heb 12:6b, and of Prv 3:12 (from which it is quoted), is that God’s discipline can sometimes be severe.  When our disobedience is great or our apathy is great, His punishment will be great.  (John MacArthur, Jr., The MacArthur New Testament Commentary–Hebrews, 394)
  • (v. 9)“The Father of spirits” (there is no “our” in the Gr.) is a most unusual expression found only here in Scripture, though a similar expression occurs in Nm 16:22; 27:16. The spirits might be those of “righteous men made perfect” (v. 23), but there seems no reason for limiting it in this way.  But likewise there is no reason why we should press the expression to mean a universal fatherhood.  A number of translations render this phrase “our spiritual Father” (TEV, NEB, JB), and something like this seems meant.  (Frank E. Gaebelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary–Volume 12, 137)
  • (v. 12) The command to “strengthen” comes from the word from which we derive our English word orthopedic. The sense is, “make upright or straight”–or in modern coaching terms, “Straighten up!  Get those hands and feet up!  Suck it in!”  (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Hebrews, vol. 2, 179)
  • (v. 12) Several commentators point out that the two verbs used at the end of this verse, “grow weary and lose heart,” are both used by Aristotle of runners who relax and collapse after they have passed the finishing post. The readers were still in the race.  They must not give way prematurely.  They must not allow themselves to fain and collapse through weariness.  Once again there is the call to perseverance in the face of hardship.  (Frank E. Gaebelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary–Volume 12, 135)
  • (v. 12) Drooping hands and weak knees are typical of low spirits. They portray persons who have become incapable of action through sheer exhaustion.  (Donald Guthrie, Tyndale NT Commentaries: Hebrews, 256)
  • (v. 12) The reference to drooping hands and weak knees is familiar imagery in Jewish literature, often used to describe attitudes of discouragement and despair. Here the writer uses the Septuagint version of Prv 4:26 and urges these believers to press on to the goal so that those members of the church who have become despondent (lame) will notice their good example, receive fresh courage and begin to march again rather than fall even further behind.  (Raymond Brown, The Bible Speaks Today:  Hebrews, 237)
  • (v. 12) Both the descriptions of the hands and the knees depict a heartless, slothful person, or one who is so faint in running the race that he is ready to abandon all hope and success and give up. (John Owen, The Crossway Classic Commentaries–Hebrews, 248)
  • (v. 13) Here the NIV translates orthas, which normally means “straight,” as “level,” but the idea remains clear–to put the paths in better order so as to make the race easier for the lame–“so that the lame may not be disabled” (literally, “put out of joint”).  (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Hebrews, vol. 2, 179)
  • (v. 13) In the Greek, the word for “lame” is a figurative description of someone wavering between two beliefs.  In this instance, it pictures a discouraged believer wavering between Christianity and Judaism.  Because of what they were suffering for Christ, Judaism was looking pretty good to some of them.  (C.S. Lovett, Lovett’s Lights on Hebrews, 305)
  • The rest of the chapter enlarges upon this fact that the Christian life will include times of hardship and trials. In this chapter there are three reasons why these difficulties, disappointments and heartbreaks must come to us.  First, trials manifest to us the discipline of love.  Second, they allow opportunity for the demonstration of adequacy.  Third, they expose to us the demarcation of truth.  (Ray C. Stedman, How to Live What You Believe, 166)

 

The questions to be answered are . . . To what sources does the writer of Hebrews point his audience to encourage them to persevere in their faith?   How can our understanding of this text benefit us as 21st century American believers?

 

Answers: Hebrews looks to the Body of Christ, Jesus Himself, and discipline as sources of encouragement to hang in there and not forsake our trust in Jesus.  We too should receive encouragement from these sources.

 

The Christian is not called to lie down on flowery beds of ease, but to run a race, and athletics are strenuous, demanding self-sacrifice, hard training, the putting forth of every once of energy possessed.  I am afraid that in this work-hating and pleasure-loving age, we do not keep this aspect of the truth sufficiently before us: we take things too placidly and lazily.   The charge which God brought against Israel of old applies very largely to Christendom today: “Woe to them that are at ease in Zion” (Amos 6:1): to be “at ease” is the very opposite of “running the race”.  (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 894-5)

 

We only “run” when we are very anxious to get to a certain place, when there is some attraction stimulating us.  That word “run” then presupposes the heart eagerly set upon the goal.   (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 895)

 

It is the writer’s hope that the joy set before us is so attractive, we will give no thought to the pain or shame that goes with standing firm for Christ all the way to the end.  (C.S. Lovett, Lovett’s Lights on Hebrews, 295)

 

Everyone has from time to time a mild inclination to do good.  The author is not talking about this but about the kind of sustained effort required of the long-distance runner who keeps on with great determination over the long course.  That is what the heroes of faith did in their day, and it is that to which we are called.  (Frank E. Gaebelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary–Volume 12, 134)

 

Contemporary culture has an aversion to pain.  But, not the contemporary sports culture.  There, they understand that pain is necessary for gain.  —Michael Nikkila

 

The Word for the Day is . . . Persevere

 

It must be noted too that contestants cannot choose their own race, for the race is set before us, i.e. by God himself.  It is on his programme.  (Donald Guthrie, Tyndale NT Commentaries: Hebrews, 250)

 

The competition of the Christian life, of course, is different from that of an athletic race in two important ways.  First, we are not to compete against other Christians, trying to outdo each other in righteousness, recognition, or accomplishments.  Ours is not a race of works but a race of faith.  Yet we do not compete with each other even in faith.  We compete by faith, but not with each other.  Our competition is against Satan, his world system, and our own sinfulness, often referred to in the NT as the flesh.  Second, our strength is not in ourselves, but in the Holy Spirit; otherwise we could never endure.  We are not called on to endure in ourselves, but in Him.  (John MacArthur, Jr., The MacArthur New Testament Commentary–Hebrews, 374)

 

What sources of encouragement are available to help us persevere in our faith?:   

I-  The Body of Christ  (Heb 12:1, 12-13; see also: Job 4:3-4; Isa 35:1-4; Jn 13:34-35; Acts 11:23; 14:22; 16:40; 18:27; 20:1-2; 28:15; Rom 1:12; 12:10; 13:8; 14:13; 15:1; 1 Cor 12:12-27; 2 Cor 1:3-5; Gal 5:13; Eph 4:2, 32; 5:21; Phil 1:14; Col 3:13, 16; 1 Thess 3:2; 4:18; 5:11; 2 Thess 2:16-17; Philm 1:7; Heb 3:13; 10:24-25; 1 Pt 1:22; 3:8; 4:9; 1 Jn 3:11, 23; 4:7, 11-12; 2 Jn 1:5)

 

They’re NOT there to watch us as mere spectators (though they do see us), but to inspire us and cheer us on.  Having been in the race themselves, they are witnesses in the courtroom sense.  They testify that it pays to trust the Lord and remain faithful to Him no matter how rough the going gets.  It is their part to assure us that the race can be won.  (C.S. Lovett, Lovett’s Lights on Hebrews, 288-9)

 

When the heart goes out of a person he loses his spirit.  He no longer has any vision to spur him on.  A little encouragement right at that moment, could make all the difference.  (C.S. Lovett, Lovett’s Lights on Hebrews, 305-6)

 

It’s a lot easier for a wavering believer to be firmed up and healed when those around him have taken a strong stand for Christ and have settled down in the race.  Our writer’s strategy is clear–get the strong ones back into the running and the weak ones will be encouraged to follow their example.  (C.S. Lovett, Lovett’s Lights on Hebrews, 306)

 

The writer is picturing athletes in a footrace, running for the winning post and urged on by the crowd.  He speaks of the runners as “surrounded,” which makes it hard to think of them as looking to the “witnesses” and all the more so since they are exhorted to keep their eyes on Jesus (v. 2).  Both ideas may be present.  Perhaps we should think of something like a relay race where those who have finished their course and handed in their baton are watching and encouraging their successors.  (Frank E. Gaebelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary–Volume 12, 133)

 

The metaphor of the church as a body is employed by the NT to represent both our union with Christ and mutual dependence: “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’” (1 Cor 12:21).  We need each other: “We, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another” (Rom 12:5).  We need each other’s gifts (Eph 4:11-16; 1 Cor 12-14; Rom 12).  We need each other’s graces (as in the many “one anothers” found throughout the NT: love one another, be kind to one another, bear one another’s burdens, etc.).  We need each other’s fellowship.  So we are warned, “Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together.”  The writer to the Hebrews sees the public assembly as the primary place in which the mutual stimulation to “love and good deeds” takes place: “Not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the day drawing near” (Heb 10:24-25).  (Philip Graham Ryken, Give Praise to God A Vision for Reforming Worship, pgs. 330-1)

 

The Son of Man has come unto the world to take upon Himself the sins of the world.   If you want to follow Him you must be willing to do the same.  (Jesus of Nazareth video)

 

Those who are strengthened by God’s discipline are to help clear the track of any obstacles in order to make travel easier for the weak.  Lame Christians, not knowing which way to turn and in danger of turning away from Christ, need help from the strong.  When the road of faith is rough, as with those Hebrew Christians, the danger that the lame become totally disabled increases alarmingly.  (Richard E. Lauersdorf, Hebrews, 158)

 

We are not told to strengthen our hands or our weak and feeble knees, but the hands and the knees, regardless of whose they are.  In other words, we are not to concentrate on our own weaknesses but to help strengthen other Christians in theirs.  One of the surest ways to be encouraged ourselves is to give encouragement to someone else, “encouraging one another; and all the more, as you see the day drawing near” (Heb 10:25).  One of the best ways to keep continuing is to encourage others to continue.  (John MacArthur, Jr., The MacArthur New Testament Commentary–Hebrews, 402)

 

Sadly, Christians sometimes are the greatest stumbling blocks to Christianity.  A bad example by a true believer can tilt a person away from full commitment to Christ, and therefore from salvation.  A poor testimony can cause irreparable harm, many times without our knowing it.  It can cause an already limping unbeliever to be put out of joint, completely dislocated spiritually.  (John MacArthur, Jr., The MacArthur New Testament Commentary–Hebrews, 403-4)

 

By encouraging these handicapped runners and by removing dips and bumps in the road, the able-bodied athletes perform a distinct service.  The result will be that the weak also reach the finish line.  If the paths are not leveled, the lame will be disqualified.  (William Hendriksen & Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 382)

 

The cloud of witnesses that fills the stadium are the great spiritual athletes of the past.  Hall of Faith members–every one a Gold Medal winner.  They are not live witnesses of the event, but “witnesses” by the fact that their past lives bear witness to monumental, persevering faith that, like Abel’s faith, “still speaks, even though he is dead” (11:4).  (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Hebrews, vol. 2, 158)

 

Those who are strong must make straight paths for the weak by the exemplary direction of their lives.  The lives of the strong must keep the weak on the right road.  Their lives must never cause the weak to stumble.  We have to run tough, and we have to run together!  (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Hebrews, vol. 2, 180)

 

I read the life of Martin Luther, and what a challenge it is; and of John Wesley, and D. L. Moody, and of some of the recent martyrs of faith.  Jim Elliot and others.  How they have challenged my life and inspired me to make a fresh start; to determine anew to walk with God, and to follow their example.  They challenge us to mobilize our resources, clench our fists, set our jaws and determine that we shall be men and women of faith in this twentieth century.  (Ray C. Stedman, How to Live What You Believe, 164)

 

Ours is a strenuous race demanding steady perseverance.  We must surely be encouraged by the fact that we are surrounded by former contestants who are witnesses to us of the faithfulness of God.  (Raymond Brown, The Bible Speaks Today:  Hebrews, 226)

 

Joni Erickson Tada while in the hospital thought about the “Great Cloud of Witnesses” and that is what got her though the agonizing months of restoration and healing after her accident.

 

When our author speaks of weights, he does not mean things which are evil in themselves, but things which keep a Christian from giving his best to the Lord.  For example, it may not be sinful for a Christian to use his time and talents to get ahead in the world and seek financial security for his family.  But he can’t win the race if he does.  Too much of his energy goes into things which cannot be laid up in heaven.  Again, there is nothing evil in vacations, having nice clothes, a new car and a fine house; yet seeking these things can keep a believer from putting Christ first.  (C.S. Lovett, Lovett’s Lights on Hebrews, 290)

 

The problem with sin is, we like it.  We fall into it so easily.  That’s what makes it so besetting.  For one man it might be the lust of the flesh, for another it might be greed or jealousy.  Again one person might be tempted with gluttony, whereas another likes to gossip.  These things are definitely sinful and distracting.  They foul up a runner by getting his eyes off the goal.  But because we like our lusts, we justify them.  That’s what makes them cling to our lives and entangle us as we try to run the race.  (C.S. Lovett, Lovett’s Lights on Hebrews, 290)

 

An actor would act with double intensity if he knew that some famous dramatic master was sitting in the stalls watching him.  An athlete would strive with double effort if he knew that a stadium of famous Olympic athletes was watching him.  It is of the very essence of the Christian life that it is lived in the gaze of the heroes of the faith who lived, suffered and died in their day and generation.  How can a man avoid the struggle for greatness with an audience like that looking down upon him?  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series, Hebrews, 172)

 

A straight clear road is a blessing for those who are lame, no less in the spiritual sense than in the physical.  The idea seems to be that the readers must accept the beneficial effects of any discipline they may at present be enduring and therefore pull themselves together and see to it that they make progress.  Those in a weak state should concentrate on healing and not dislocation.  The picture of a lame man putting his disabled leg completely out of joint because of the unnecessary roughness of the path vividly brings home the seriousness of ignoring spiritual and moral weakness.  The aim must be healing rather than injury.  (Donald Guthrie, Tyndale NT Commentaries: Hebrews, 256)

 

These people named in chapter 11 are saying something to us, they are testifying to us, they are witnesses in that sense.  Their lives are saying that we ought to lay aside every weight, i.e., everything that hinders faith.  You never say yes to Christ without saying no to something else!  And the sin which clings so closely–what is that?  That is unbelief.  That is the failure to take revelation seriously.  That is the sin which is mentioned all through Hebrews.  (Ray C. Stedman, How to Live What You Believe, 163-4)

 

Our greatest need is not for new light from God, but for paying attention to light we already have.  When God’s Word is neglected it is forgotten.  Sometimes the answer or the help we need is in a truth we learned a long time ago but have let slip away.  (John MacArthur, Jr., The MacArthur New Testament Commentary–Hebrews, 389)

 

II-  Jesus (Heb 12:2-3; see also: Isa 40:29-31; 1 Cor 11:1; Eph 3:17-19; ; Phil 2:6-11, 15-16; 1 Tm 1:16; Heb 5:8; 1 Pt 1:3-9; 2:21)

 

The greatest example of the faith life is Jesus.  We’re to fix our eyes on Him.  When the word “Jesus” is used alone, as it is here, it always refers to our Lord’s humanity.  Thus we’re reminded that Jesus Himself ran this race–AS A MAN!  So, even though we’re surrounded by all those wonderful saints who have gone before us, Jesus is the MAN to watch.  (C.S. Lovett, Lovett’s Lights on Hebrews, 292)

 

Jesus went all the way to the cross without once wavering in His faith.  In doing so He became the PERFECTER of the faith life, living it perfectly from start to finish.  Thus He became the perfect example.  As for running the race, He was the first to cross the goal line and win the prize–a place at God’s right hand.  In spite of all that He suffered, this amazing MAN won the race.  (C.S. Lovett, Lovett’s Lights on Hebrews, 293)

 

Very clearly the JOY He knew would follow His sufferings was so great that He was willing to endure all the terrible things which came upon Him.  The prize held out to Him made it worth anything He had to go through.  And what was the prize?  It was two fold; (1) the thrill of winning righteousness for Himself (as a man) and His people (our salvation), (2) the excitement of winning the kingdom for Himself and those willing to run the race with Him (our reward).  (C.S. Lovett, Lovett’s Lights on Hebrews, 294)

 

If one “scorns” a thing, one normally has nothing to do with it; but “scorning its shame” means rather that Jesus thought so little of the pain and shame involved that he did not bother to avoid it.  He endured it.  Then, having completed his work of redemption, he “sat down at the right hand of the throne of God”.  The perfect tense in the verb “sat down” points to a permanent result.  (Frank E. Gaebelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary–Volume 12, 134)

 

It is not difficult to trace an affinity between the joy of which our author speaks here and the joy to which Jesus himself makes repeated reference in the upper room discourses of the Fourth Gospel.  He tells his disciples there of his desire that his joy may be in them, so that their joy may be complete (Jn 15:11; cf. 16:20, 21, 22, 24); and in his high-priestly prayer he asks the Father “that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves” (Jn 17:13).  So here, “the joy set before him” is not something for himself alone, but something to be shared with those for whom he died as sacrifice and lives as high priest.  The throne of God, to which he has been exalted, is the place to which he has gone as his people’s forerunner.  (F.F. Bruce, The New International Commentary on the NT–The Epistle to the Hebrews, 339)

 

God will not spare His children when they need to be chastened.  They shall have some blows as hard as He can well lay them–that is to say, as hard as such a loving heart as His will permit Him to give.  They shall have such blows that each one of them shall have to cry out, “I am broken in two; my heart is smitten and withered like grass.”  And this is to be the treatment for every son whom God receives; not for some of them, but for all.  (Charles Spurgeon, Spurgeon Commentary–Hebrews, 399)

 

The cross assures us that Christ, in suffering, the Righteous for the unrighteous (1 Pt 3:18), plumbed the furthest depths of human shame and that, consequently, there is no person, however debased by sin and guilt, who is beyond the reach of his pardon and grace.  Paul, himself a Roman citizen, had to learn not to be ashamed of the gospel of a crucified Savior, a gospel against which he had at first poured forth the full fury of his persecuting and blasphemous zeal (Acts 8:3; 9:1; 1 Tm 1:13); for he discovered, thanks to the grace of God, that the message of the cross, foolishness though it is to those who are perishing, is the power of God unto salvation to all who believe (Rom 1:16; 1 Cor 1:18, 24; 1 Tm 1:14f.).  Hence his determination, as a messenger of the gospel, to know nothing except “Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor 2:2; NEB, “Jesus Christ–Christ nailed to the cross”).  (Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, 525)

 

But the cross is the gateway to joy, his joy and ours; for Jesus, who endured the cross, despising its shame, is now seated at the right hand of the throne of God. The theme recurs throughout our epistle (1:3; 2:9; 4:14; 5:5, 8f.; 6:19f.; 7:26; 8:1; 9:12, 24, 28; 10:12; 13:20), and has momentous consequences for the believer who, while sharing in “the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings,” is always in association with the experience of “the power of his resurrection” (Phil 3:10), and is one with his Redeemer also in his exaltation to glory (Eph 2:6; Col 3:1ff.). Sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, we have “the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it” (Eph 1:13f.) and the constant assurance that “if we endure, we shall also reign with him” who is enthroned on high (2 Tm 2:12).  (Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, 525)

 

Consider Him.  It will remind you how necessary suffering is.  If He could not be perfected without it, how much more we.  If suffering wrought such blessing in Him, how surely in us too, for whose sake He was made perfect, to whom God has given Him as a Leader in the path that leads through suffering to glory.  We may be sure of it, all that is most previous in a Christlike character–the virtues that were perfected in Him through suffering, the meekness and lowliness of heart, the gentleness and patience and submission of the Lamb of God, will come to us too if we will but consider Him.  (Andrew Murray, The Holiest of All, 486)

 

When the Lamb of God came to this earth to suffer God’s will, it was that He might teach us what the place is that becomes the creature, and the child–absolute subjection to the perfect will of love.  He came to show that the thing that makes life worth having is to have it to give up to God, and to prove that humility and resignation are the sacrifices God delights in, and the sure, the only path to God.  (Andrew Murray, The Holiest of All, 491)

 

Our blessed and glorious Lord lived his earthly life in faith’s dynamic certitude.  “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for [future certitude] and certain of what we do not see [visiul certitude].”  Our blessed Lord fixed his “eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Cor 4:17, NASB).  (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Hebrews, vol. 2, 162-3)

 

They can inspire us, but He empowers us.  Moment by moment, day by day, week by week, year by year, if we learn to look to Him we find strength imparted to us.  That is the secret.  You can find strength to begin in Jesus, you can venture out and start this life of faith today in Him.  You also discover strength to continue.  He is not “up there” somewhere.  As this book has made clear, He is within us, by faith.  If we have received Jesus Christ He dwells within.  He has entered into the sanctuary, into the inner man, into the place where we need strength, and is available every moment for us–for me!  Therefore, in Christ I have all that it takes to meet life.  As Paul says, I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me (Phil 4:13, KJV).  (Ray C. Stedman, How to Live What You Believe, 164-5)

 

“Looking,” in Scripture, when it refers to God or Christ, denotes an act of faith or trust, with hope and expectation.  It is not just an act of understanding or considering what we are looking at; it is an act of the whole soul in faith and trust (see Ps 34:4-6; Isa 45:22).  Such is the look of believers on the pierced Christ (Zech 12:10). (See Heb 9:28; 11:10; also Mic 7:7, “I watch in hope for the LORD, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me.”)  (John Owen, The Crossway Classic Commentaries–Hebrews, 243)

 

The shame was simply not important to Him.  Comparing that rejection and degradation with the blessing that would come through it for all nations, Jesus put it aside as of little account and endured the cross in loving redemption.  (Louis H. Evans, Jr., The Communicator’s Commentary–Hebrews, 222)

 

III-  Discipline (Hardship) (Heb 12:4-12; see also: Ps 89:30-34; Prv 5:22-23; 10:17; 12:1; 13:18, 24; 15:5; 22:15; 23:13-14; 29:15; Rom 5:1-5; 8:18-25; 2 Cor 4:7-5:10; 12:7-10; 2 Thess 1:4-7; 2 Tm 2:3-4; Jam 1:2-4; 1 Pt 1:3-9; 4:12-14)

 

 

God loves you far too much to allow you to stay where you are.  —Pastor Keith

 

The word for discipline combines the thoughts of chastening and education.  It points to sufferings that teach us something.  (Frank E. Gaebelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary–Volume 12, 136)

 

In the ancient world it was universally accepted that the bringing up of sons involved disciplining them.  Therefore, we should not read back modern permissive attitudes into our understanding of this passage.  (Frank E. Gaebelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary–Volume 12, 136)

 

Suffering is needed to get our attention. When things are comfortable, we have no thought of changing.  We like things the way they are. So suffering is a necessary instrument for the transformation of our souls.  If we can accept it as coming from the hand of a loving Father, each trial becomes a spiritual workout.  Our author’s word “exercised” comes from the Greek word, “gumnazo,” referring to the discipline of a gymnasium.  Our workouts (trials and afflictions) become less painful when we cease to rebel against them and no longer resent God’s discipline.  We intensify the pain when we question God’s goodness. (C.S. Lovett, Lovett’s Lights on Hebrews, 304)

 

Love without discipline is indulgence, and discipline without love is tyranny. (Floyd McClung Jr., God’s Man in the Family, 77)

 

Pain is weakness leaving the body.  (US Marine Corp Sign on US 127, 4-15-02)

 

The fact that they are God’s sons guarantees they will suffer the world’s hatred (Jn 15:19).  Even so, they are to view everything that comes against them as from the hand of God.  Why?  He is in complete control of all things.  Nothing can come into a believer’s life unless He permits it.  This is what they have forgotten in the midst of all their complaining.  (C.S. Lovett, Lovett’s Lights on Hebrews, 298)

 

It is doubtful if God can bless a man greatly without hurting him deeply.  –A. W. Tozer

 

If we stay in the race until we learn to trust the Lord, no matter what, we’re sure to win.  In time we’ll gradually start shedding those weights and putting off the sins we love so much.  It might take years, but God is in no hurry.  It is part of His technique not to remove our weaknesses.  He lets us stew in our sins until we get fed up and learn to hate them.  People just don’t do those things they hate.  So if we hang in there, we’ll win.  Or as Paul puts it, we’ll reap in due season “if we faint not” (Gal 6:9).  (C.S. Lovett, Lovett’s Lights on Hebrews, 292)

 

Everything is necessary that He sends.  Nothing can be necessary that He withholds. — John Newton

 

Punishment and pain are the means of healing.  To any one ignorant of medical science, a surgeon performing an operation would seem cruel and unfeeling.  But he cuts down into the living flesh with his keen knife and inflicts the sharpest pain because he knows that in no other way can the life be saved.  In the hands of a benevolent God suffering is surgical.  (Joseph S. Exell, The Biblical Illustrator, 2 Chronicles, 27)

 

The exhortation not to treat discipline lightly is constantly needed since men have an inborn dislike of discipline and never more so than today.  It is all too easy to regard it lightly (oligōrei, to belittle or treat as insignificant).  This is all the more evident when it is the discipline of the Lord.  To many the concept is a contradiction, since they have so poor an understanding of the character of God. This whole chapter is bent on rectifying this.  It is because men do not naturally recognize the need for discipline that they lose courage when punished.  They cannot see the long-term benefits, nor the concern of God over them.  (Donald Guthrie, Tyndale NT Commentaries: Hebrews, 252-3)

 

So we see that when disciplined we must not afford ourselves either the luxury of disdain or of dismay.  Why?  Because discipline is the telltale sign of being loved by God and in family relationship to him–“because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and punishes everyone he accepts as a son” (v. 6).  In other words, if we cop out in respect to the Lord’s discipline either by disdain (making light of it) or dismay (fainting away), we are turning our back on the personal evidence of his love and relationship to us.  (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Hebrews, vol. 2, 169)

 

There are still people who regard God as vindictive.  When something happens to them or to those whom they love their question is:  “What did I do to deserve this?”  And the question is asked in such a tone as to make it clear that they regard the whole matter as an unjust punishment from God.  It never dawns upon them to ask:  “What is God trying to teach me and to do with me through this experience?”  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series, Hebrews, 178)

 

Believers should see and feel the hand of God in their difficulties.  The use of the expression not make light of suggests that they ought to view discipline as coming directly from God.  If the readers of the epistle take discipline lightly, they will also think lightly of the suffering Jesus had to endure.  However, they have to take God’s corrective measures for their spiritual well-being.  (William Hendriksen & Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 374)

 

Until we are broken, our life will be self-centered, self-reliant; our strength will be our own.  So long as you think you are really something in and of yourself, what will you need God for?  I don’t trust a man who hasn’t suffered.  —John Eldredge (Simon Guillebaud, Choose Life, 365 Readings for Radical Disciples, 10/6)

 

A hindrance is something, otherwise good, that weighs you down spiritually.  It could be a friendship, an association, an event, a place, a habit, a pleasure, an entertainment, an honor.  But if this otherwise good thing drags you down, you must strip it away.  (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Hebrews, vol. 2, 159)

 

He rebukes the people on account of their carelessness in accepting divine discipline.  Certainly God gave them spiritual training, but they had failed to pay attention to what God was teaching them.  This careless attitude toward discipline placed them in the same category as illegitimate children.  These children had no claim to inheritance; they were a source of shame and embarrassment to their father; and they were denied the discipline, coaching, and grooming that true sons received.  (William Hendriksen & Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 377)

 

Not to accept discipline is a mark of rebellion against authority.  (William Hendriksen & Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 377)

 

If you have pain and you run from it, you will find yourself emotional and psychologically frustrated.  You must run to the pain and dig at it and dig at it until you find God. —  M. Scott Peck and Larry Crabb

 

Every boy knows that his father does not discipline the neighbor children, he disciplines him!  The reason is that he is a son.  God does not discipline the children of darkness either; he disciplines His own.  Therefore, if we have discipline, if we are going through struggles and problems, then thank God.  Even with our earthly fathers, he points out, we gave them respect during times of discipline.  (Ray C. Stedman, How to Live What You Believe, 167)

 

Surely it is difficult to believe that God sends these things, yet the whole of Scripture is to this point.  Perhaps you say, Satan sends them.  No, God sends them, using Satan, perhaps, but you have never looked far enough if you look only at the immediate instrument.  You must lift your eyes to the One behind it all and see that God sends these things.  Therefore they come for our blessing and we are to rejoice in that.  (Ray C. Stedman, How to Live What You Believe, 168)

 

Even when he has to correct us for some fault, it is not to vent his anger, but to reclaim and redirect his wayward sons.  This Father has a love which cannot fail and a wisdom which cannot err.  To see his caring hand behind life’s trials and to submit to his shaping discipline is to live in the fullest sense of the word.  (Richard E. Lauersdorf, Hebrews, 156)

 

All would agree to the painful character of discipline.  It is axiomatic.  At least, that is how it appears for the moment.  It is difficult to appreciate the purpose of disciplinary action at the point of impact.  The idea of being pleasant seems utterly alien.  But later things fall into place.  The real purpose becomes clearer.  What seemed painful is still recognized as such, but is tempered by the effectiveness of the result.  (Donald Guthrie, Tyndale NT Commentaries: Hebrews, 255)

 

Every sorrow or trial a Christian endures is designed for his blessing, never for his harm.  Consequently the readers are urged not to despise their troubles, but to see God behind each one.  Every bit of suffering a Christian endures is MEASURED by God to make sure it is just right for him.  (C.S. Lovett, Lovett’s Lights on Hebrews, 298-9)

 

He wants them to regard every affection and sorrow as a TEST from the hand of a loving Father Who would never cause them a needless tear.  If a Christian will work hard to get an “A” on the test, relief will come as soon as he has made the change the discipline calls for.  But the problem is the PAIN.  The believer becomes so occupied with the HURT that he can’t see beyond it.  He forgets all about God’s part in the process. He views his troubles as “accidents” or “misfortunes” which he must do his best to solve.  Christians sometimes feel the blows of life come from a God Who is angry with them because of some sin.  And that what they’re suffering is His retaliation.  The truth is, God doesn’t have a vindictive “bone in His body.”  He never reacts against us for what we DO or DON’T do.  Everything He allows to come against us is for our own good.  What He can’t stand is to see us waste our lives, letting days go by without any changes.  Because of that, He will not let us pass through this life without discipline or chastening.  If Christians will begin to thank God in the lesser trials, they’ll soon find themselves able to praise Him no matter what He sends.  (C.S. Lovett, Lovett’s Lights on Hebrews, 299)

 

I ask you, would it not be a most ridiculous thing if a father should so chasten a child that the child came away laughing, and smiling, and rejoicing?  Joyful?  Instead of being at all serviceable, would it not be utterly useless?  What good could a chastisement have done if it was not felt?  It is the blows of the wound, says Solomon, that will cleanse evil (Prv 20:30); and so if the chastisement does not come home to the bone and flesh, what good end can it have served?  It might even work the other way and be hurtful, for if those very gentle blows were enough, with one or two soft chiding words, to express parental hatred of sin, the child would surely think that the parent only played with it and that disobedience was a trifle.  If only the mockery of discipline were given, the child would be hardened in sin, and even despise the authority that it ought to respect.  If God sent us trials such as we would wish for, they would be no trials.  (Charles Spurgeon, Spurgeon Commentary–Hebrews, 404-5)

 

“Everything that hinders” translates onkos (only here in the NT), a word that may mean any kind of weight.  It is sometimes use of superfluous bodily weight that the athlete sheds during training.  Here, however, it seems to be the race rather than the training that is in view.  Athletes carried nothing with them in a race (they even ran naked), and the writer is suggesting that the Christian should “travel light.”  He is not referring to sin, for that follows in the next clause.  Some things that are not wrong in themselves hinder us in putting forward our best effort.  So the writer tells us to get rid of them.  (Frank E. Gaebelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary–Volume 12, 133-4)

 

We can prevent God from accomplishing His desired result through discipline by questioning.  Like complaining, questioning shows a clear lack of faith.  When a child asks his parents, “Why?” he usually is not looking for a reason but is challenging them to justify what they want him to do or not do.  In exactly the same way, our questioning God implies that He is not justified in doing what He is doing to us.  (John MacArthur, Jr., The MacArthur New Testament Commentary–Hebrews, 390)

 

We live in a time when certain kinds of parental discipline, especially those involving pain, are viewed as unacceptable by many.  It is not uncommon to hear a social commentator proclaim the emotional and psychological damage done to a child by any form of “negative” treatment, be it a “spanking” or a verbal rebuke.  Now, we need to not digress to a discussion of contemporary parenting theories.  My point is that if we hold to a theory that disallows any form of pain or unpleasantness in the training of a child, we will have difficulty either in grasping or applying Heb 12:3-13, which assumes that parental discipline involves pain in some form (12:11).  (George H. Guthrie, The NIV Application Commentary–Hebrews, 407)

 

C.S. Lewis notes the meaningfulness of pain: “God whispers to us in our pleasure, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” ( C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain)  (George H. Guthrie, The NIV Application Commentary–Hebrews, 412)

 

The linking of joy with suffering in this verse echoes a constant NT theme.  Indeed on the eve of his passion Jesus spoke of his joy and of his desire that his disciples should share it (Jn 15:11; 17:13).  It is highly probable that the disciples remembered this remarkable fact when they later reflected on the passion of Jesus.  (Donald Guthrie, Tyndale NT Commentaries: Hebrews, 250-1)

 

The principle laid down here is that the relationship determines the purpose of the discipline.  A father who neglects to discipline a son is deficient in his capacity as father, and a son who escapes all discipline is losing out on his sonship.  This is a principle which would not be recognized by all schools of thought in this modern age where permissiveness has such powerful influence.  The authority of parents has been so eroded that discipline rarely if ever comes into play.  It has generally ceased to be a part of sonship.  It is small wonder that those brought up in such an atmosphere find genuine difficulty in understanding the discipline of God.  (Donald Guthrie, Tyndale NT Commentaries: Hebrews, 253)

 

The father does not give the illegitimate son the same rights and privileges, neither does he bother to discipline him.  The absence of discipline, therefore, reflects on the status of the person.  True sonship involves responsibilities, for which each person must be prepared by discipline.  (Donald Guthrie, Tyndale NT Commentaries: Hebrews, 253-4)

 

However high the principles on which an earthly father acts he is not infallible.  He is governed by his own pleasure which may at times be unwise or even against the best interests of the son.  By contrast God’s knowledge of us is perfect and what he does is for our good, for he understands what discipline is needed.  He will never overdo it, nor will he neglect it.  He wants to make his sons like himself.  He has a specific aim that they may share his holiness.  While the earthly father’s action is essentially short-term, the heavenly father is concerned with our eternal welfare.  Sharing his holiness is the antithesis of a short-term benefit.  (Donald Guthrie, Tyndale NT Commentaries: Hebrews, 254-5)

 

In disciplining their children, parents frequently lack wisdom; corrective measures are at times too severe, and at other times are abandoned.  (William Hendriksen & Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 378)

 

A healthy church member recognizes this chastisement as love and accepts it as one source of assurance, since those who are not so chastised are “illegitimate children and not sons” (Heb 12:8).  (Thabiti M. Anyabwile, What is a Healthy Church Member?, 79)

 

Sense perceives in our trials naught but expressions of God’s disregard or anger, but faith can discern Divine wisdom and love in the sorest troubles.  Faith is able to unfold the riddles and solve the mysteries of providence.  Faith can extract honey and sweetness out of gall and wormwood.   Faith discerns that God’s heart is filled with love towards us, even when His hand is heavy and smarts upon us.  (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 941)

 

Submission to the discipline of our temporal fathers brought good things, but how much more will come through submission to the discipline of our eternal Father.  (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Hebrews, vol. 2, 173)

 

In the Christian life we have a means.  That means is steadfast endurance.  The word is hupomonē which does not mean the patience which sits down and accepts things but the patience which masters them.  It is not some romantic thing which lends us wings to fly over the difficulties and the hard places.  It is a determination, unhurrying and yet undelaying, which goes steadily on and refuses to be deflected.  Obstacles do not daunt it and discouragements do not take its hope away.  It is the steadfast endurance which carries on until in the end it gets there.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series, Hebrews, 173)

 

Now he says that they must bear hardship because it is sent as a discipline from God and no life can have any value apart from discipline.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series, Hebrews, 175)

 

This passage vividly pictures God as a challenging coach who pushes us to our limits, encouraging us beyond what we think we can attain.  When the pressure and opposition build, we must not be paralyzed with fear and inaction.  We must get involved in the challenging contest.  Although we may not feel strong enough to push on to victory, we will be able to accomplish it as we follow Christ and draw on his strength.  Then we can use our growing strength to help those around us who are weak and struggling.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Hebrews, 214)

 

This, then, is what the Apostle means here, “You have your hands,” he says, “hanging down and your knees feeble, because ye know not what real consolation there is in adversity; hence ye are slow to do your duty: but now as I have shewn how useful to you is the discipline of the cross, this doctrine ought to put new vigor in all your members, so that you may be ready and prompt, both with your hands and feet, to follow the call of God.”  (John Calvin, Commentaries:  Hebrews, 322)

 

Is there no way for us to “share in his holiness” but through chastening?  It would seem so from the wording of this verse.  The Lord, as our loving Father, makes use of the rod so that He may make us to be truly holy.  (Charles Spurgeon, Spurgeon Commentary–Hebrews, 403)

 

Job’s discipline was clearly not punishment; nor was it prevention.  It was sent to educate Job further in the ways and character of the Lord.  It was a slow process.  Job did not sin through all his suffering, but he was hard put to explain it.  He kept trying to figure out on his own why he was having such a hard time.  (John MacArthur, Jr., The MacArthur New Testament Commentary–Hebrews, 388)

 

The author has just pointed out that Christ endured his suffering on the cross on account of the joy set before him.  His suffering had meaning.  So for Christians all suffering is transformed because of the Cross.  We serve a Savior who suffered, and we know he will not lead us into meaningless suffering.  The writer points to the importance of discipline and proceeds to show that for Christians suffering is rightly understood only when seen as God’s fatherly discipline, correcting and directing us.  Suffering is evidence, not that God does not love us, but that he does.  (Frank E. Gaebelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary–Volume 12, 136)

 

If a grandfather of ours should die and leave us 500 pounds, what a merciful providence that would be!  If by something strange in business we were suddenly to accumulate a fortune, that would be a blessed providence!  If an accident happens, and we are preserved, and our limbs are not hurt, that is always a providence.  But suppose we were to lose 500 pounds; would that not be a providence?  Suppose our establishment should break up, and business fail; would that not be a providence?  Suppose we should during the accident break our leg; would that not be a providence?  There is the difficulty.  It is always providence when it is a good thing.  But why is it not providence when it does not happen to be just as we please?  Surely it is so; for if the one thing is ordered by God, so is the other.  It is written, “I form light and create darkness; I make peace and I create evil; I am Yahweh; I do all these things” (Isa 45:7).  (Charles Spurgeon, Spurgeon Commentary–Hebrews, 397)

 

Comfort and prosperity have never enriched the world as adversity has done.  Out of pain and problems have come the sweetest songs, the most poignant poems, the most gripping stories.  Out of suffering and tears have come the greatest spirits and the most blessed lives.  –Billy Graham

 

Worship Point: Worship God who loves us so much that He assures us that every experience, hardship, joy, sorrow, accomplishment and failure is serving to help you persevere so He can shape you into the person God created and designed you to be. (Rom 8:28-29; 2 Cor 3:18; Phil 3:21; 2 Thess 3:1-3)

 

Everything He allows to come against us is for our profit.  Every testing we endure is calculated to change us into the likeness of Jesus and increase our endurance.  It doesn’t matter whether we drop a tiny part while working on something, discover cancer in our bodies or are thrown in jail for witnessing–it is all part of His plan for us.  But O how long it takes us to learn that.  Yet we must learn it, for it is only through suffering that we do come to holiness.  And why does He want us holy?  Because He is holy.  The future fellowship He has planned for us is also holy.  He has to get us ready for it.  That’s why the established path is “suffering first and the glory which follows.”  For God to let us go through this life unchanged and unholy is unthinkable.  The more holy we become, the more suited we are for a place near Him in the eternal fellowship.  (C.S. Lovett, Lovett’s Lights on Hebrews, 302)

 

I know that some of you have gone through accidents, earth-shaking tragedies, or other terrible experiences. I’m not trying to minimize anything that has happened to you or the pain it has caused. But after a while you have to decide, “I don’t want to be a victim anymore.”

I like to say, “You just have to get a big, old ‘So what?’ down in your spirit.”  So what if they left you?  Jesus will never leave you or forsake you.  So what if they hurt you?  Jesus is your healer.  So what if that event stole from you and altered the course of your life and abilities?  Through Jesus you can do all things!  It’s time to talk to the mountain and command it to get out of your life.  (Jentezen Franklin, The Spirit of Python, 100)

 

Whereas human fathers train their children to conduct themselves appropriately, God disciplines us for holiness.  That is, he wants us to become like him, perfect and holy (Mt 5:48; Lv 11:44-45; 19:2; 20:7; 1 Pt 1:15-16).  God prepares us for life eternal.  Therefore, we cheerfully accept God’s discipline, for we know that the adversities we experience are for our spiritual welfare.  (William Hendriksen & Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 378)

 

The ancient world found it incomprehensible that a father could possibly love his child and not punish him.  In fact, a real son would draw more discipline than, say, an illegitimate child.  For the precise reason that greater honor and responsibility were to be his.  (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Hebrews, vol. 2, 173)

 

All the disciplines of the Heavenly Father have one grand aim, which is nothing less than to make his people like him–holy (cf. Lv 19:2; Mt 5:48; 1Pt 1:15, 16).  In Christ we have been made partakers of the divine nature (2 Pt 1:4), and as partakers, God chastens us so that we will partake even more.  (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Hebrews, vol. 2, 174)

 

But God is asking us to rejoice, nevertheless; not saying, “Hallelujah, it hurts,” but “Hallelujah, it helps!”  (Ray C. Stedman, How to Live What You Believe, 168)

 

Faith is occupied not with scaffolding, but with the completed building; not with the medicine, but with the healthful effects it produces; not with the painful rod, but with the peaceable fruit of righteousness in which it issues.   (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 941)

 

The Christian is not an unconcerned stroller along the byways of life; he is a wayfarer on the high road.  He is not a tourist, who returns each night to the place from which he starts; he is a pilgrim who is for ever on the way.  The goal is nothing less than the likeness of Christ.  The Christian life is going somewhere, and it would be well if, at each day’s ending, we were to ask ourselves: “Am I any farther on?”  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series, Hebrews, 171)

 

Gospel Application:  Jesus not only paved the way for us to have a relationship with Almighty God by His death on the cross; but He also is the Author and Perfecter of our faith.

 

As sin-bearer, Jesus bore God’s wrath for us, so that we who believe in him will never be forsaken by God.  God does not punish us, because Jesus received our punishment.  We are disciplined, not punished.  (William Hendriksen & Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 374)

 

Why did Jesus suffer and allow Himself to be humiliated?  “For the joy set before Him” (Heb 12:2).  To gain us (Isa 40:10; 53:11-12; 62:11).   At the cross all of Jesus’ followers were looking at the circumstances.  But Jesus, by faith, looked away from the circumstances and saw what was coming as a result of the circumstances.  “I am making all things new” (Rv 21:5).  — Pastor Keith (with insight from Tim Keller and Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones)

 

How can we poor limping mortals run in such a race as this?  Even the starting is beyond us; how much more must perseverance in it outreach our strength!  See how we are driven to free grace, how we are driven to the power of the Holy Spirit!  The race that has been set before us most clearly reveals our helplessness and hopelessness apart from divine grace.  The race of holiness and patience, while it demands our vigor, displays our weakness.  We are compelled, even before we take a step in the running, to bow the knee and cry unto the strong for strength.  (Charles Spurgeon, Spurgeon Commentary–Hebrews, 385)

 

Spiritual Challenge:  Run the race of life without giving up because you know that God your Father is in control, He loves you and you must learn to endure hardship as discipline.  Run well so others might be encouraged to do so as well.

 

Everything difficult points to something more than our theory of life yet embraces. — George MacDonald.

 

We need to prepare ourselves for the ugliness and struggles of life.

 

If your meaning for life is to maximize comfort and pleasure now; then suffering will destroy you because it destroys your meaning for life.  — Tim Keller

 

Self-discipline is the child of external discipline. (That is why we need discipline from authority figures: parents, teachers, coaches, etc.)   — Ted Landel

 

Spiritual Challenge Questions

What past and/or present experiences and/or people has God introduced into your life that has served to encourage your ability to persevere in regard to your faith in Jesus?

 

If God is sovereign (and He is) and a loving Father (and He is) and all powerful (and He is) and all wise (and He is); then how should we regard every single thing that occurs in our lives?  How can we strive to live like this? (1 Thess 5:16-18)

 

When it comes to faith, speed means nothing.  It’s endurance that counts.  This is the one quality a person must have in order to win.  A believer must be able to take it and not give up.  (C.S. Lovett, Lovett’s Lights on Hebrews, 291)

 

Though we will “hit the wall” many times, we are called to “tough it out,” realizing that the hardships we endure are disciplines that enable us to share in God’s holiness (cf. vv. 4-11).  (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Hebrews, vol. 2, 178)

 

The apostle writes in 2 Tm 3:16, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.”

In other words, the Scripture, which is “breathed out” or inspired by God, has two general purposes: formative discipline and corrective discipline.  (Thabiti M. Anyabwile, What is a Healthy Church Member?, 75)

 

It is not simply a book of religious ideas or good moral advice; it is the very Word of God.  It “is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”  “Doctrine” tells us what is right; “reproof” tells us what is not right; “correction” tells us how to get right; and “instruction” tells us how to stay right.  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 296)

 

We exercise to get stronger.  And it is at the point of our exercising that you think you are getting weaker, that you are, in fact, getting stronger.  —Tim Keller

 

So What?: God disciplines the ones He loves so they might persevere in their faith.  Knowing we are to “endure hardship as discipline” allows us to rethink the “bad” things that happen to us so we might “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thess 5:18) and live the life that is truly life.  (Gn 50:20; Job 2:10; Prv 3:11-12; Lam 3:31-33; Rom 8:18-25; 1 Cor 10:13; 1 Tm 6:19; 1 Pt 1:3-9; 4:12-14)

 

It is important that suffering be accepted in the right spirit; otherwise it does not produce the right result.  (Frank E. Gaebelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary–Volume 12, 138)

 

“Joy is not a requirement of Christian discipline, it is a consequence.” (Eugene Peterson; A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, 92)

 

The result of this submission is an abundant life (12:9).  Though our lives will never be perfect and without pain and suffering, staying on the path of faithful obedience will enhance and enrich our lives (Prv 6:23; 10:16-17; 29:15).  It will save us from many avoidable hardships and much pain that comes through sin and disobedience.  And it will give us peace and joy even in the midst of our suffering.  (Charles R. Swindoll, Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary–Hebrews, 198)

 

No circumstances are beyond God’s control, and there are none he cannot use to carry out his purpose.  So the believer is not to belittle the significance of his sufferings nor lose heart in the face of God’s correction.  (Frank E. Gaebelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary–Volume 12, 136)

 

In times of affliction, says the author, keep in mind that all your setbacks come from God; he is training you in godliness and has accepted you as sons.  The adversities you encounter are blessings in disguise, for behind your difficulties stands a loving Father who is giving you what is best.  God’s children, then, must always look beyond their trials and realize that God himself is at work in their lives.  (William Hendriksen & Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 376)

 

Every trial comes from God as a call to come away from the world to Him, to trust Him, to believe in His love.  In every trial He will give strength and blessing.  Let but this truth be accepted, in every trial, small or great: first of all and at once recognize God’s hand in it.  Say at once: My Father has allowed this to come; I welcome it from Him; my first care is to glorify Him in it; He will make it a blessing.  We may be sure of this; let us by faith rejoice in it.  (Andrew Murray, The Holiest of All, 487-8)

 

Learn today the secret of never suffering loss in the soul by the sufferings of life–yea, rather, of always making them your greatest gain.  Link them to God and to Jesus.  It is God who sends them.  He sent them to Jesus and perfected Him through them.  He sends them to thee in the same love, and will make them thy highest gain.  (Andrew Murray, The Holiest of All, 487)

 

The quickest way to a person’s heart is through a wound.”  (John Piper sermon “God Seeks People in Spirit and in Truth”)

 

There is no such thing as a dreadful price for the “pearl” in question.  Suffering for him is actually something we rejoice to be counted worthy of (Acts 5:41; Phil 1:29).  The point is simply that unless we clearly see the superiority of what we receive as his students over every other thing that might be valued, we cannot succeed in our discipleship to him.  We will not be able to do the things required to learn his lessons and move ever deeper into a life that is his kingdom.  (Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy, 293-4)

 

Since holiness has the priority over happiness and health, He must send the pain.  However, by putting our trust in Him, we can reduce the anguish in the same way that physical relaxation reduces physical pain.  When we stop fretting and begin to judge ourselves, confess our sins and rest in His goodness, then we know REAL PEACE.  This is the fruit of righteousness.  It is a precious thing to relax and let God have His way with us.  It brings the contentment and peace for which our souls really long.  (C.S. Lovett, Lovett’s Lights on Hebrews, 304)

 

Faith interprets things not according to the outside or visible, but according to the promise.  Faith looks upon providences not as a present disconnected piece, but in its entirety to the end of things.  (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 941)

 

Dwell upon the many unmistakable proofs which God has made of His love to you: the gift of His Word, the gift of His Son, the gift of His Spirit.  What greater, what clearer proofs do we require?  Steadfastly resist every temptation to question His love: “keep yourselves in the love of God.”  Let that be the realm in which you live, the atmosphere you breathe, the warmth in which you thrive.   (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 940)

 

Perhaps the greatest danger in regarding God’s discipline lightly is carelessness.  When we do not care about what purpose God has in the discipline or about how we can profit from it, His discipline cannot be effective.  It becomes like a blessing that we misuse.  He gives it for our benefit and His glory, but we do not use it for either.  We thwart its purpose by spiritual indifference.  (John MacArthur, Jr., The MacArthur New Testament Commentary–Hebrews, 391)

 

You do not have to try to make sense of life every minute, for God has already made sense of it.  (Ray C. Stedman, How to Live What You Believe, 169)

JESUS:

MARATHONER

 

 

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