Study Notes

Hebrews 12:3-11


Last Sunday, we talked about running the race. Throwing off the weights that we carry, the sin we get ensnared in, and running long-term, with endurance.

As you recall, the key to endurance is to keep our eyes on Jesus. We can always endure the agony of the run when we realize that Jesus is waiting for us at the finish line.

The point that the author was making in verse two was that Jesus also has endured agony by focusing on the finish line. He endured the agony of the cross by fixing His sight on the joy set before Him. It is here that we pick up in verse three.

12:3-4 So That You May Not Grow Weary

Remember that the Hebrews had endured great difficulties since becoming Christians. The Jews hated them for their "heretical" beliefs. The Gentiles hated them because they were not of this world. They suffered social opposition and physical persecution.

Now the author reminds them that Jesus also suffered hostility by sinners. When we fix our eyes on Christ, remembering that He has been through all of these kinds of things too, we don't give up.

And, as he says in verse five, Jesus has suffered far more than they have, or than we ever will, for He died for sin. He shed His blood in His striving against sin. When we consider Jesus and what He went through, it begins to make our complaining ring a bit hollow.

12:5-6 The Exhortation

And then he makes the point that will be carried through the rest of our text this morning. It is that they were supposed to look at their difficulties as discipline from the Lord, as God's reproof.

He starts by quoting from Proverbs 3,

Prov. 3:11-12 My son, do not reject the discipline of the LORD, or loathe His reproof, for whom the LORD loves He reproves, even as a father, the son in whom he delights.

God disciplines us. It's a fact. But this is something that is very hard for us to receive, because many of us have been hurt by Christians who see bad things happen and say, "God's judging you because of this or that." But I'm not talking about the judgment of God. I'm talking about the discipline of God.

The fact is that every negative thing that happens to us in this life is allowed by God. He is in control, and He chooses to either put a hedge of protection around us, or to let that hedge be broken down.

I don't presume to know why God allows the things He does. But I do know that if we spend our time complaining about difficulties, we're not learning from them.

Let's spend some time this morning examining what can be learned about God's discipline from these verses.

God's Discipline

First of all, we need to define what God uses to discipline us, so that we can recognize it in our own lives.

When Moses brought the people to the foot of Mount Sinai, God spoke with the people. They perceived thunder and lightning, trumpet sounds and smoke. They all freaked out, being terrified. They told Moses,

Exod. 20:19-20 Then they said to Moses, "Speak to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us, lest we die." And Moses said to the people, "Do not be afraid; for God has come in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may remain with you, so that you may not sin."

God had done this intentionally. Moses later told them,

Deut. 4:36 "Out of the heavens He let you hear His voice to discipline you..."

1) God will let us get into terrifying situations to discipline us.

Moses also said that the difficulties in the wilderness wandering that they endured for forty years was discipline from God. When they were humbled and hungry, they were being disciplined.

Deut. 8:5 "Thus you are to know in your heart that the LORD your God was disciplining you just as a man disciplines his son.

2) God will let you get into difficult circumstances to discipline you.

When Paul was rebuking the Corinthians for their cavalier attitude towards the Communion table, he gave them a warning: You'd better examine yourself before eating of the bread and drinking of the cup. Because some of you aren't doing this,

1Cor. 11:30-32 ...For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep. But if we judged ourselves rightly, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord in order that we may not be condemned along with the world.

The judgment that God was giving them, in that some were sick, and some died, was discipline.

3) God will let us get sick to discipline us.

So three things we know God can use to discipline us are: terrifying situations, difficult circumstances, and even sickness.

Regarding It Lightly

Now, when we are disciplined by God, we often refuse to recognize it as being from God, as being discipline. We regard it lightly and reject it. This is a terribly dangerous thing to do. Solomon said,

Prov. 19:27 Cease listening, my son, to discipline, and you will stray from the words of knowledge.

There are few things more frustrating on this earth than when your discipline is rejected by your children. If you've ever had a strong-willed child, you understand what I'm talking about.

There are times that your kid just will not receive discipline. You ground them, and they say, "I was going to stay in anyway." You spank them, and they say, "That didn't hurt." You take things away and they respond, "I didn't care about that stuff anyway." It makes you want to pull your hair out!

Imagine, then, how God feels when He brings discipline into our lives, and we refuse to acknowledge it. We esteem it lightly, we reject it. The proverbs call us scoffers and fools when we do this:

Prov. 13:1 A wise son {accepts his} father's discipline, but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke.

Prov. 15:5 A fool rejects his father's discipline...

Fainting When We Are Reproved

Rejecting God's discipline isn't the only thing we are warned against. We are also told here not to faint when we are reproved by Him.

The word "faint" there is the Greek word "ek-LOO-o," which means to set something loose. Most of us have experienced the fainting spells from discipline. We say, "I give up. I just can't take anymore." Our strength goes out the window. We give in to depression, disillusionment, and exhaustion. We become despondent.

But we are sternly told here that this is not an option. We cannot give in or give up. God is not disciplining us to break us, just to break bad habits. He is not disciplining us to make us give up on life, just to give up our sin.

The Psalmist sang,

Ps. 118:18-19 The LORD has disciplined me severely, but He has not given me over to death. Open to me the gates of righteousness; I shall enter through them, I shall give thanks to the LORD.

It's an old saying, but we have a choice when we are disciplined: we can get bitter, or we can get better. The Psalmist could have just given up, but instead, he chose to pursue righteousness and give thanks to God.

12:7-10 Love Of Sons

"Why," you may ask, "Should I give thanks for God's discipline? Why should I pursue God when He's punishing me?" Like any Father, He is simply training us to be better people, protecting us from wrong behavior and demonstrating His love.

Now, as an earthly father, I've tried my best to discipline my kids to train them up in righteousness. Sometimes I did that well, sometimes I did it poorly. But if I expected my kids to learn from discipline, shouldn't I expect myself to learn from God's perfect discipline? After all, He's not guessing at this like I did. He's not muddling His way through and making mistakes like earthly fathers do. He's got it down, and always does it perfectly.

For Our Good

The Bible says that parents who don't punish their children don't care whether they live or die. That's why the proverb says,

Prov. 19:18 Discipline your son while there is hope, and do not desire his death.

If you don't discipline your kids, you're saying, "I don't care how you turn out. I don't care what kind of person you turn out to be. I don't care if you end up in jail or dead."

By disciplining us, God is demonstrating that He loves us. Jesus said,

Rev. 3:19 "Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; be zealous therefore, and repent."

Illegitimate Children

Although most people expect you to spank your child when he or she misbehaves, they know that you're not supposed to go around spanking other people's kids.

But praise God, He is our Father! If He wasn't disciplining us, He'd be saying, "You're not my kid, why would I punish you?"

12:11 The Peaceful Fruit Of Righteousness

Now, no one expects the child who is being spanked to laugh and giggle with joy. Discipline is painful and brings sorrow to the one receiving it. But if the child learns, allowing his or her behavior to be modified by the discipline, then it brings about a good result.

The same is true in the spiritual life. When God disciplines us, it's no fun. But if we let ourselves be trained by it, fruit is produced in our lives. The proverb says,

Prov. 15:32 He who neglects discipline despises himself, But he who listens to reproof acquires understanding.

The real question is, "Will I listen to God's reproof? Will I let myself be trained by His discipline?" If I do, I will acquire understanding, and the peaceful fruit of righteousness will be produced in my life.

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