Ask any conscientious parent—disciplining your child is hard work. But you do it because of the fruit you hope it bears in your child’s life. Hebrews 12:4-13 calls you to endure the discipline of your Father in heaven—so that you, as you trust your faithful Savior, he grows in you a harvest of righteousness.
Endure discipline. Discipline means that God is treating you as his child. Discipline is a sign of God’s love. The quote from Proverbs 3:11,12 refers to God’s love. Too many parents try to show love without discipline. True love (and the Scriptures) require that you train, discipline, provide structure, and lead your children. Christ suffered to the point of death, Hebrews 12:2,3. Your suffering has not gone that far, v.4. However, your suffering is not meaningless. Discipline is proof of your being a child of God. Parents, are you concerned to discipline the kids down the block? No, just your own. “Illegitimate sons” is used instead of “foreigners” to warn against the danger of apostasy. If you can live in this sinful world and feel quite at home, if you can live here and not experience the reproach of Christ (Hebrews 11:26), is not something wrong?
God’s discipline is for your good. Discipline seems painful now. It is not pleasant. You may be tempted to lose heart, v.5. You may think God has forgotten you. When you understand that God is in control, you can sometimes understand that God is disciplining you. Remember that discipline is positive as well as negative. God does not make mistakes as human fathers do. You respect human fathers for exercising discipline. How much more should you respect the Father of spirits? Human fathers discipline briefly (though it may not seem brief to a grounded teenager!), but God disciplines you throughout your entire life. Human fathers discipline as they think best. They often err. They may punish out of frustration. Some forget the purpose of discipline and abuse it, becoming persecutors rather than parents. God disciplines for your own good. He is the omniscient, loving Father in heaven. You may not be able to identify a specific “lesson” from a particular trial through which you are going. Time may (or may not) provide the perspective to look back and say, yes, I learned this as I went through that particular trial. Not all suffering is the result of specific sin, John 9:2,3.
Experience the harvest that comes from discipline. Be trained by God’s discipline. Do not rebel or lightly shrug off God’s discipline. Be trained (exercised) by it. Be willing to endure suffering, looking to God to sustain you, teach you, train you, and bring you through. Listen, change, and grow. “God whispers to us in our pleasures, 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, p.81).
Your Savior learned obedience as he suffered. Remember that you are united to your Savior, who himself learned obedience through his suffering, Hebrews 5:7-10. Christ’s obedient suffering lay at the heart of his priestly work. Your union with him involves you in his suffering. Don’t overlook the corporate aspect of this discipline. Hebrews is writing to the church. Don’t just read it as a personal guide to private holiness (as important as your own growth in grace is). God’s discipline leads to training and discipline in the body, vv.12,13. It involves mutual encouragement and exhortation. “The more we please Christ, the more he delights in his people and rejoices that his work for us is being realized by his work in us. The sanctification of the church is an important part of Christ’s glory. Our desire that in all things Christ should have the pre-eminence should move us to please him more and more (Col. 1:18), knowing that we too can grow in wisdom and in favour with God” (Mark Jones, Knowing Christ, p. 83).
Reap the harvest of righteousness. There will be a harvest. Results are not immediate, and present suffering can be difficult to understand. God’s harvest will certainly come, because God is sovereign, ruling over all. The goal is righteousness. God is holy, and expects you to share that characteristic, v.10; see 1 Peter 1:15. Discipline’s result is sanctification, conformity to Christ’s image, holiness in your life and in the life of the church as a whole. The harvest is a peaceable fruit. The perfectly holy God who is angry with sin has dealt with it by giving Christ as the propitiation for sin. This God is not satisfied until the vestiges of sin are rooted out of your life, until you are drawn into the perfect fellowship that you will have with him for eternity. That is his peace.
Look at your life. Perhaps nothing seems less peaceable at the moment. However, in Christ God is using the problems you face to produce the harvest of righteousness.