5 Have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says,
“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 the one he loves,
and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”
7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? 8 If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all.
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. [NIV]
This devotion continues the thought from yesterday’s devotion. Yesterday the author of Hebrews encouraged Christians not to grow weary when faced with trials and suffering because we are not suffering anything the saints who went before us did not suffer. They continued running their race in the midst of persecution and trials and remained faithful. In addition, Jesus endured persecution and suffering but did not waver in but kept running the race so that ever person of the world could be saved from sin and death. We must continue to run the race because we are like them and they continued their race. That was point one.
Point two was that the great crowd of witnesses watching us from heaven as we live our lives in the trials and persecutions (in addition to the times of joy and exhilaration) cheer us on to remain faithful and endure to the end. We have a cheering section at the stadium who encourage us to keep running, not to give up.
In today’s passage, we hear the writer’s words in our minds and recognize God’s voice telling us our times of trial are permitted to affect us so that we can be disciplined. Any athlete who is good or wants to be good at his sport disciplines his or her body so that the muscles work like a well-oiled machine. The muscles are trained by the determination of the person’s mind.
That is what our trials are like. They are discipline. Discipline is not punishment or chastisement, but a way to develop the body or person. God allows trials to come to develop and grow us to be more like Him, to be more righteous and holy. The writer said this in the verse seven when he said, “Endure hardship like discipline.” Discipline is not punishment, but training. It is a growing experience to mature our minds, hearts, and bodies.
The writer of Hebrews used the analogy of a father disciplining his child. When the child is more mature, he or she sees what the father did as a positive thing, a way to mature the child so that he or she would be a properly functioning adult and member of society. That father is compared to Father God. God allows trials to grow His children to be mature in their faith as well as righteous and holy – like Himself.
That is the first point – we are to look at trials as discipline, an opportunity to grow. So look at it in that way when you face a difficult time. How can you grow from that difficult time? What does God want you to learn from that experience?
The second point of this passage is that we each have to determine for ourselves to strengthen our mind, heart, and body for the task of growing through the trial. We must decide in our minds that we will get through it, realize it is an opportunity to be used for Father God (heart), and then focus ourselves and our bodies to be strong and endure. By doing this, our faith grows and our bodies are more prepared to live the Christian life on earth as a more pure, righteous, and holy child of God. That is strengthening our feeble arms and legs and making paths straight.
Choose to be trained by trials and suffering. Choose to stand strong in your faith so that God can make you more like Christ – holy and righteous. Being a child of God requires the head, heart, and body – mind, soul, and body. Choose to be disciplined and grow more like Christ. When we go through trials and grow stronger in our faith, we can then say as Paul did in Romans 5:3-5,
"We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us." [NIV]