Dear Fellow Children of God,
No doubt you’ve heard the old saying, “No pain, no gain.” More modern minds would argue that pain is not a sign of weakness leaving the body, but rather injury. But the idea behind the aphorism is that working out to gain strength … or making changes to our lives to break bad habits … can be painful in a literal sense or a figurative sense. Nevertheless, if we desire to improve our health, our minds, or many other aspects of life, it often requires us to go through some discomfort to make the desired change.
Hebrews 12 begins using the analogy of running an endurance race to help us understand the Christian life (Hebrews 12:1-3). It’s from this analogy that the writer goes on to discuss discipline. Just like athletes need to discipline themselves to endure hours of training … stretching, lifting, running, and otherwise pushing their body to the limit and maybe a little beyond … to improve their endurance, we also undergo discipline to grow in faith. God’s Word encourages us, “My (child), 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 (child).” (Hebrews 12:5b-6) This is the discipline of training, learning, studying and then paying attention so that we, through the knowledge God’s Word gives us, can apply it to the life God calls us to live as His children.
The story of a young man named Derek, who for years was entangled in substance abuse, is a good example of how this discipline works in our lives. He struggled for years to kick his bad habits on his own, but kept regressing back into abuse. Then, a Christian family took him under their wing. He was subjected to the discipline of God’s Word and was baptized. The discipline continued as he saw how his sinful behavior ran counter to God’s will. It was painful to kick his old habits, but empowered by the Holy Spirit, seeing the love of God for him, Derek made the changes needed to overcome a lifetime of substance abuse. It was difficult, but Derek endured.
Jesus endured the discipline of the cross and the abuse of the world as He shed His blood to rescue us from the grip of the devil and the power of sin and death we’re all entrapped in. As a result of His endurance and rising to new life, we’ve been given new lives as God’s own children. God’s Word nowhere promises a life of ease. Hebrews 12:4-11 reminds us with words like “struggle … hardship … painful” that it’s hard to live in the world as a child of God. But, like the discipline of exercise strengthens an athlete for competition, the discipline found in the regular study of God’s Word, prayer, and worship strengthens our faith for the struggles and temptations Satan throws our way as we run the race of Christian life in the world we live in each day. This discipline enables us to grow in “His holiness … (and) produces a harvest of righteousness and peace” (Hebrews 12:10-11) in our lives, both now and in eternity.
In Christ’s Love,