“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. 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. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 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, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son."
Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. 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! 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. 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.” (Hebrews 12:1-11)
Dear Brothers and Sisters!
The heading to Hebrews 12:1-11 in my bible reads, “God Disciplines Those Whom He Loves”. And in those eleven verses the word discipline is used 10 times. It is striking to see the word so often in so few verses.
The passage begins with an exhortation to run the race before us and never give up. The writer encourages us with the fact that we are surrounded with a great cloud of witnesses cheering us on. The race is obviously a marathon fraught with challenge and difficulty so great that we are tempted to give up. How true to life and ministry! Over my past 28 years on staff and my 39 years in ministry I have been at the end of my rope so often. “Can I keep going?” has been a question I have asked often.
Then the writer gives us an even greater motivation to faithfully run our race. It is the way Jesus ran His race. A grueling, suffering race like no human being will ever experience. It is a race that cost Him His life and so much more. The writer encourages us to fix our eyes on Jesus. We are encouraged to follow His example. To watch the way he did it. To imitate Him not only in carrying our cross but to do it for the joy set before us. The joy is that we faithfully complete our assignments and hear the Father say well done good and faithful servant.
Then the writer reminds us that we are under the Father’s discipline. We are told earlier in Hebrews that Jesus learned obedience through suffering. Jesus experienced the Father’s discipline in His ministry. Do we think for a minute if He did that we won’t?
As we faithfully engage in our ministries, God is using our ministries to discipline us, shape us, and grow us into the likeness of His Son. Mother Teresa stated that our troubles are signs that God trusts us. Then she declared, “I wish He wouldn’t trust me so much.” I relate to that. Sometimes don’t you just want to say, “Okay God, stop. Enough.” But the truth is God is a watchful, attentive, loving Father with a plan for us.
In Amos God states to Israel, “I chose you out of all the nations of the earth to be intimate but you went after idols. That is why I must punish you.” We are His special possessions: sons and daughters. We can’t get away with anything. So, 10 times the writer talks of God’s discipline that is painful and not pleasant but will also lead to our holiness and fruitfulness.
Trust that the Father loves you when it gets hard in ministry. When there is suffering. It is an active sign of the Father’s activity. Our ministries are being used by God to shape us. Take a few moments and think on that. How has God shaped you in the last year through your ministry? Then fix your eyes on Jesus and keep running the race.
Under His Discipline,