We have been going through the book of Hebrews for the past few months. Jeff asked me to preach for him this week and I had to chuckle when I saw the verses. The first thing I want to bring up as we get started is that connotations of words have great meaning. The word “connotation” means the meaning of the word and what the word means to you. For example, when you hear a specific word it has a certain meaning to you. Tonight there are two words that we are going to deal with that can have a wide range of thoughts for you. For you they may mean one thing and for me another. We are going to work through those words tonight to help us make sure we get on the same page as we walk through Hebrews.
The first word that we are going to talk about, which is the main point of the sermon, is the word “discipline”. I went to the Internet and typed in the word discipline to see the definition. The definition reads as following: the practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behavior using punishment to correct disobedience. This was a flag to me. In fact, Jeff said on Sunday that he had portions of this sermon where he was trying to find a way to make it palatable or easy for you to hear. It is hard to do that. There are certain scriptures that are just going to be difficult or not easy to deal with. The scriptures for tonight land in that area.
That connotation is not really the best direction for the word. In fact, if you’ve been with us through this study of Hebrews, we’ve talked about works and obeying rules and how we are not able to do it. The Jewish people couldn’t do it in the Old Testament, which is why Jesus came and fulfilled the law. Jesus obeyed the rules for us. So, the fact that we are now going to talk about discipline almost goes against all that we’ve been teaching through this series.
I want you to remember that this is a portion of the letter in the book of Hebrews. We’ve had twelve chapters before these nine verses and then we have more chapters to come. We need to make sure that we don’t take these verses out of the context that they are written. As we get there we will see a good definition of discipline.
I chuckled when I got this passage to preach because the last nine weeks of my life have been crazy. We had a baby girl on July 1st. Yesterday was nine weeks since she was born and it’s been wild! Girls, I can’t figure you out! I’ve been married for ten years and I can’t figure her out. Nine weeks with this baby girl and I can’t figure her out. People have asked how they can pray for us and I tell them here are the three things I need: 1) I need sleep. 2) I need strength. 3) I need a schedule. Not being on a schedule is killing me. The baby, Karis, is great and we love her to death but these last few weeks have been an emotional rollercoaster. I don’t like being emotional but I’ve been more emotional in the last nine weeks then I’ve been in the last nine years. It probably hasn’t help that I just moved here five months ago, my first time away from home with my family. It’s been crazy, crazy, crazy. So when we get to these verses I’m ready to go and see what God is trying to say. I know that is why he has given me this opportunity.
Before we get into Hebrews, I want to read a verse that came to mind and has been on my heart the past few weeks. The verse is from Paul to the church in Corinth. Paul had something going wrong either mentally or physically for him. Something was making it very difficult for Paul to do his job. Each time he asked God to take away this terrible thing from him God said, “No.”
2 Corinthians 12:9
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weakness, so that the power of Christ can work through me.
When we look tonight at the word “discipline” we have to remember all the verses before it in Hebrews and the idea that God’s grace is working in us at all times as his children.
I have a few quotes that I want to read to you before we jump into the verses. The first one is comes from Jerry Bridges, who is a pastor, author and theologian. Bridges says, “All of God’s disciplinary processes are grounded in his grace, his unmerited and unconditional favor towards us. We tend to equate discipline with rules and performance standards; God equates it with a firm but loving care for our souls.”
I was watching a sermon this past week and found an even better quote. It said, “We need to stop equating friction in our lives with God’s seeming absence. The presence of adversity doesn’t mean the absence of God. There is no actual correlation between God’s lack of cooperation and God’s love for us.“ I want you to understand that for the past nine weeks I have prayed on many occasions, “Lord just let her go to sleep.” When she doesn’t go to sleep do you think God is saying that he doesn’t love me anymore? “Lord please just let her finish the bottle.” And, God is saying no. We can’t make the connection between God’s lack of cooperation with God’s love for us. If that were true, then we would’ve thought our parents didn’t love us either. Did your parent’s always cooperate with you? When you go to the dentist and they grind your teeth, do you think about how much they love you? No, but it was what was best for you at the time.
As we get into the verses tonight, I want you to remember this. Buck Parson, a pastor in Florida, said, “Dear doubting believer, one of the greatest assurances God gives you of your adoption is his fatherly discipline proving his love for you.” That’s amazing! If I could sum up this entire message in one statement this is what I would say: Discipline is part of the relationship.
I.Trust God’s discipline to help you fight against sin V. 4-6
4 After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin. 5 And have you forgotten the encouraging words God spoke to you as his children? He said, “My child, don’t make light of the Lord’s discipline, and don’t give up when he corrects you. 6 For the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes each one he accepts as his child.”
This verse comes right on the heels of Hebrews 12:1-3 which I wished I could have preached that message and those verses. In fact the last message I preached at my last church was Hebrews 12:1-3. I thought if I could have the church remember anything about me it would be those verses, not really realizing what comes next in verses 4-13. You are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, keep running the race, and avoid the sin that so easily entangles. In all of that God then uses discipline to get us there. God uses discipline to help us fight against what can hurt us. What really can do damage to us is not having discipline and having sin, so discipline wages war against sin. If you’ve been in church a long time you’ve probably heard this before, “sin will always take you farther then you want to go, keep you longer then you wanted to stay, and cost you more then you intended to pay.”
The truth is that God uses discipline in his relationship with us. I read to you earlier what discipline meant, in the Greek the word used is the common term for childrearing through instruction, training and correction. It brings the relationship to it. If you have children you know what this means. You discipline them to teach them, instruct them and train them.
In verse 5 the writer is speaking of Proverbs 3:11-12 where it states, “my child, do not reject the Lord’s discipline and don’t be upset when he corrects you for the Lord corrects those he loves just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights.” I told you I have a nine-week-old baby girl but I also have a four-year-old son. He can get pretty upset with me as his father because I am constantly trying to discipline him, correct him, or train him in the ways that he should go. The reason I do that is because he is my child and it is my responsibility. My responsibility is not your children. My responsibility is my children. I love him. I don’t necessarily love your kids. I don’t even know your kids. He is my child and I will take care of him and his sister above others. The whole reason is because there is a relationship. We should find some encouragement in this because it proves our son ship. We are God’s children and that’s why we are being disciplined.
II. Trust God’s discipline to help you endure suffering V. 7-11
7 As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Who ever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its father? 8 If God doesn’t discipline you as he does all of his children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really his children at all. 9 Since we respected our earthly fathers who disciplined us, shouldn’t we submit even more to the discipline of the Father of our spirits, and live forever? 10 For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness. 11 No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.
Anyone know a kid who wasn’t disciplined? He was the one with the cool parents who let him get away with anything. You come to realize they probably need some boundaries in their life.
Again let’s look at the connotation of some of the words in these verses specifically the word “father”. Jeff mentioned this on Sunday and we actually talked about this before this sermon. When some people hear the word “father” they think of a great man who has lived a great life. You wish your life would emulate his. For others you hear the word “father” and have very negative connotations of an absent or abusive father.
Gary Goglia made a great statement when he said; “God is not the reflection of our earthly father but the perfection of our earthly father.” When you really see who God is then you can see what our fathers should have been. Even our good fathers weren’t perfect. God is that perfect father. I understand that we have to work through some of that because of your experiences with your father. Through lots of time and experiences I hope that you can see that God is the perfect father.
That last sentence we need to keep in front of us as well. Our harvest is part of the new earth and peace is coming. I have to keep running. Or, as Dory in Finding Nemo said, “Keep swimming. Just keep swimming.”
There are four things in these verses that you need to remember and Jeff went over them on Sunday as well. Four things that God’s discipline does for us. First, his discipline is for our good. Now, it’s not for our good like the video on Facebook this past week of a lady who stood in front of a large church in Texas and made a blasphemous statement. Then you see Bill Cosby come up on the screen and say, “That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard in my life.” It’s not that kind of for our good. It’s for our good because it brings God glory and in God’s glory there is goodness for us. Second, discipline makes us more like him. I remember showing a video of the Passion of Christ to my student ministry years ago. I showed Jesus being beaten in the movie and I asked the students “And we want to be like Jesus?” We call ourselves Christians, which means Christ followers. The good thing with discipline is that there is a purpose behind it. It happens for a reason. Third, discipline allows a harvest of right living. God uses discipline to remove sin that easily entangles us so we can have a season of right living. Fourth, discipline is for our peace. Remember discipline is part of our relationship. If you feel like you are being disciplined it is a good thing. It means you belong to him.
III. Trust God’s discipline to make your faith stronger V. 12-13
12 So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees. 13 Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong.
We end almost where we began. Through God’s grace we get a good grip because his strength is made perfect in our weakness. As we can see from the first word in all three of our points, it is simply about trust. I went to the Internet again and looked up the definition for the word “trust”. The definition says: a firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something. All of the trials and discipline we go through simply shows us how much we trust God or whether we trust in something else.
The question becomes, do we have a firm belief in the reliability, trust, ability and strength of God? The only way to know if it is firm is if we put some weight on it. It’s like sitting on a stool. Do you trust that it is a stool? No, I’m intellectually saying that it is a stool but how do I trust that it is a stool. What do I have to do? I have to put my weight on it. When I sit on it then I trust it. If one of the legs were missing I wouldn’t trust it to put my weight on it. Through this discipline what we are asking is what do we put our weight on. I like the song that Michael did titled I Trust You by Aaron Keys. The bridge to that song is so true. What are we trusting in? Our wisdom? Our might? Our riches? Or are we trusting in God?
Tonight I want us to think about trust a little bit more and what trust really looks like is rest. I rested on the stool. I was able to get a new grip to strengthen my weak knees because I rested. I want to encourage you to rest. Rest in what God has done for you. Rest in the season of discipline and that God is using it for your good. The way I want to encourage you tonight is by showing you a video. It is a song by Andrew Peterson titled “Rest Easy”. Listen to the words because it definitely helps us to see that our relationship with God includes discipline.
- Did you ever have a coach or parent that was really hard on you for no reason? How did you respond? What about when they were hard on you for a good reason?
- Is discipline the same thing as persecution? (Explain your answer.)
- Does an unbeliever experience discipline? (Explain)
- Can you be a disciple of Jesus and not be disciplined by him?
- What gives God the right to discipline?
- How can the way that you run your race make someone else stronger in their faith?
- Pray for each other that we would run the race in a way that honors Jesus and encourages each other.