One of the hardest things for any parent, let alone us who are half way around the world, is
to see our kids suffer hardships. My son just had a string of mishaps while driving, which has me on my knees in prayer. This comes at a bad time while trying to balance the cost of school, relationships, two part time jobs and now vehicle costs. His trials are putting my faith to the test right now. Being so far away from our boy is trying my resolve to not complain, and making me camp out on the throne of grace. picture from http://daybreaksdevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/18/
Wait a minute; this is exactly what this week’s lesson is about – living by faith through hardships. Do I have the faith to come to God with thanksgiving for allowing the hardships to happen rather than complaining? Can my attitude be that of Job -“Though he slays me yet will I trust him.” “Faith is more important than life.” And just as I want my son to grow up in responsibility for his life, so God wants us to grow up into confident adult sons in the Lord as we go about his business.
Hebrews 11 revealed God’s power so that we said “wow, wow, wow, God, I trust you.” Then when Hebrews 12 things happen to us, we won’t say “waa, waa, why God, how could you?”
God Disciplines His Sons
12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. 4 In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons:
“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, 6 because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.”
7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? 8 If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. 9 Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! 10 Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
12 Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. 13 “Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.
Who are you Lord?
I AM the God who matures my children. I AM the Author and Perfecter of your faith. “I love you just the way you are, but I love you too much to leave you that way.” Salvation is just the beginning. My salvation of you is free. It cost you nothing, but it cost my Son everything. Now that you are in my family, and one of my children, I want you to be like Jesus. Like any good dad, I want the best for you so that I can be glorified through you. Consequently, I will help you become a responsible individual whether you agree to it or not. You are the object of my love and the beneficiary of my salvation but the reason I chose to save you is so that you can be with me in heaven one day to behold my glory forever. In the mean time, I want you to represent me to the world by your changed life. This is where your faith will cost you everything. Like all the saints of old, who displayed my glory and character regardless of the hardships they faced, I want you to be my representative to this generation which will be hard and will take genuine faith.
I AM the rewarder of those whose hearts are steadfast on me. You need to remember that I am working in you and on your behalf to make you mature, fully trusting me in every situation. “Without faith it is impossible to please me.” “If you shrink back I will not be pleased.” Your faith, demonstrating your reliance on me will cost you everything, so live this life with that goal in mind and come to life’s finish line expecting great things in reward.
I AM holy and my children must be holy too. Words like perseverance, endurance, trained, hardships, discipline; all indicate that it takes trials and testing for you to display that genuine faith in real situations. Righteousness, peace, holiness; these traits I produce in you so that you can be useful tools for my glory. When you don’t discipline yourselves and throw off anything that hinders my revealed will in your lives, know that I will do it for you.
I AM the Vine dresser, any branch that does not bear fruit I prune so that it will bear more fruit.” I want to remove anything that obstructs my glory from being seen in you; not as some kind of cosmic kill joy, but as a proud dad who wants the best for you. Then like Paul says in 2 Timothy 2:21, you can be “articles for noble purposes in my household.” Like I doted on about Job, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.”
How to endure hardships and ultimately win
There are a couple of items to talk about in this passage. Firstly why hardships happen and our attitude toward them, and secondly, what we can focus on to come through them successfully. No one is immune to hardships; and granted – no hardship is enjoyable. They are inevitable and necessary for our benefit. When we understand the reason behind them and the secret to enduring them, we cannot help but profit from them in our character. Discipline does not necessarily mean punishment. But when we do not respond to God’s discipline, it can have ramifications that bring on punishment later. The questions is, how fast can you be trained by it? Your attitude in the discipline will increase or decrease the time it takes for God to do his work in you (but not necessarily). And God knows the level of your maturity and what trial will be necessary for you to respond in genuine faith, (the more mature, the greater the trial).
Firstly the passage says that hardships happen to mold us into the image of Christ’s holiness righteousness and peace which will result in God’s glory being revealed through us and result in our being rewarded some day in heaven although God’s glory should be our motive, not the reward. Knowing that Christ likeness is the greatest means of revealing God’s glory to our community, we understand what we must endure is toward that end. Secondly our attitude in hardships is what God is looking for to see if we are submitting to, or resisting his working in our lives which will also determine future results. Christ willingly submitted to God throughout his painful ordeal confident in what God promised him would come later. Words like “enduring”, “persevering”, or “not growing weary so to lose heart”, all take faith and point to our reliance upon God’s wisdom and mercy and grace to see us through.
God is making saints out of sinners
There is probably a good reason that the word disciple is within the word discipline. God transformed us sinners into saints when we first believed in his saving work. But to take a sinner and make him live like a saint takes a lot of removing of old habits which to the sinner feels like punishment. We each have blind spots in our character and practice which need to be refined out of us. And like all metallurgical refining processes, that takes fire. Can we trust God as we go through the fire? We are encouraged to have the same attitude that Christ had when he died on the cross knowing that we will also taste glory. That is the question we need to ask ourselves, which do we want more? Do we want a life of selfish ease, or a life reflecting God’s character for all to see for his glory? Fortunately God in his wisdom does not give us that choice. He knows what the better option is for his “true sons”.
We can help ourselves get through the hardships
There is one more aspect of what we can do to help ourselves through this “painful”
process. It says to “strengthen feeble arms and weak knees and make level paths for our feet.” When you think of life as a race, or some athletic event as Paul alludes to in his writings, we can ease our suffering by being prepared for it. “Throwing off everything that hinders us” in the first verses means the same thing here in the last in that we rid ourselves of excess baggage in light of what is truly important to God. What holds us back from being mean, lean, fighting machines is that we are carrying all the creature comforts that the World is pushing on us. If we truly want our lives to count for eternity, we have to rid ourselves of such perceived needs. We can’t take them to heaven, so why let them ruin our reward there by hindering our effectiveness here. Sometimes our hardships are just God’s pruning away the dead wood. We can help in that process ourselves so it is not that painful if we are serious about our effectiveness for God. But we got to want God to mature us as his children. (picture from http://marthame.wordpress.com/2011/11/13/the-hearse-and-the-u-haul/)
More to come,