Study 9 OUR HEAVENLY FATHER’S DISCIPLINE
HIGHLIGHTS IN HEBREWS
by Francis Dixon
(Key verses: Hebrews 12:5-12)
The teaching in this study only concerns members of God’s family, those who have been born again (John 3:3) and have become children of God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:26). Much teaching in Scripture is for the true child of God only; it has no reference to the unbeliever. The subject of the Father’s discipline or “chastening” (KJV), is something which we need not fear. God’s discipline is His child-training and it is loving discipline. Christians can be afraid of this subject because they don’t understand it, but really this is a glorious truth because ”the Lord disciplines those he loves”. In Psalm 94:12 we read, “Blessed is the man you discipline, O Lord.” As disciples of the Lord Jesus we must accept discipline, which includes instruction, correction and that form of punishment, lovingly administered, which will prevent us from doing the wrong things and which will train us to be righteous. Discipline is not always in the form of punishment, nor does it follow that because God is disciplining us we must have displeased Him. In a good school all the pupils are disciplined, whatever their behaviour. In God’s school all His pupils are subjected to His loving discipline and this matter is dealt with in Hebrews 12:5-12.
1. Discipline is experienced by all the true children of God
We need to underline ”everyone” in verse 6, for if we’re Christians then God is exercising this ministry in us; this is something we must expect. Look at four words in verse 8: “and everyone undergoes discipline”, that is, all Christians. We must expect this for two reasons:-
- 1. Because God is our Father and it is an evidence of His love (verse 7). If He is not administering love’s discipline then He is not our Father at all.
- 2. Because we are His sons, and discipline is a mark of sonship (verse 8). If we’re not experiencing love’s discipline then we are not His children at all.
2. We are not to despise our Heavenly Father’s discipline
We are not to regard it lightly and be insensitive to its purpose; this is what verse 5 tells us. But we often despise it and as a result we find ourselves entertaining wrong thoughts about God and begin to question His love and His wisdom. Beware of treating the discipline of the Lord lightly and of failing to learn the lesson He is trying to teach us by permitting it.
3. We are not to lose heart when our heavenly Father disciplines us
Verse 5 simply means “Don’t collapse!” - as in verse 12! In the closing months of his life Hudson Taylor, the well-known missionary to China, was so weak and feeble in his body that he said to a friend, ‘I’m so weak that I cannot work, I cannot read my Bible, I cannot pray - I can only lie still in God’s arms like a little child and trust Him.’ As a matter of fact that is all God asks of us at the best of times and, incidentally, the remedy for losing heart is mentioned in Hebrews 12:3.
4. Our Father’s discipline is always profitable
Sometimes an earthly father chastens his son arbitrarily and in a fit of passion, but our heavenly Father never does this. It is always for our profit, as verse 10 assures us. We often think that discipline in the form of illness, sorrow, bereavement or some other trial spells loss, but God tells us that it is always intended for our gain, “that we may share in his holiness” (verse 10). His desire is to make us holy, more like the Lord Jesus (Romans 8:29).
5. We are not expected to enjoy discipline
Verse 11 reads, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time”; it is not intended to be otherwise. Notice here in verse 5 the word ’rebukes’ and in verse 6 ‘punishes’, which convey to us the different aspects of God’s discipline. Do we like it when the Lord rebukes or punishes us? We do not, and the Lord does not expect us to! - but He exercises these ministries in love and for our good.
6. There is always a ”later on” to discipline
We can read this in verse 11. Discipline (or chastening) is fruit-producing. Have you ever noticed the kind of branch that the Lord purges and why He purges it? - look up John 15:2. What is the fruit that discipline produces? We find the answer to this question in Hebrews 12:11. The fruit of chastening is righteousness and peace. Righteousness means being right with God and being right in our daily living, and therefore in the deepest sense it means being at peace with God and having the peace of God filling our hearts. In other words, God desires us to live in conformity to His will, and only when we are brought there can we know real peace. It is very comforting to hear the Lord saying to us - John 13:7. Never consider the ”now” apart from “the later on”.
7. We must be exercised by all our loving Father’s dealings with us
The last eight words of verse 11 assure us of this; this is the condition of blessing, the secret of present and of future reward.
There are four words in Hebrews 12:9 that reveal to us what our attitude should be when the Lord’s hand is resting upon us in discipline. Notice them carefully. They are the words ”submit to the Father”; not to a tyrant, but to our loving heavenly Father, who because He loves us so much wants the very best for us. So in concluding this study, please look up and consider Matthew 11:26 and pray the psalmist’s prayer, recorded in Psalm 86:11-13.