I once heard a preacher say that knowing what he knows now, he wished his parents had disciplined him more–he would have been spared many blunders and pain, in life. I now realize that this preacher was only echoing the writer to the Hebrews.
For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (12:11)
Though not perfect themselves, I remember my parents disciplining my siblings and I. They wanted us to do right, not wrong. They wanted us to succeed in life, not fail. Now notice how the same biblical writer contrasts our earthly fathers with our heaven Father:
For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but [God] disciplines us for our good, that we may share [God] holiness. (v. 10)
This discipline from our heavenly Father is for “our good, that we may share his holiness.”
The Reason. In 10:36 we read the need for “endurance” and in 12:1 to need to “lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely.” Moreover, the writer encourages to look to Jesus for our ultimate inspiration. “Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (v. 2, emphasis added).
Regarding the “sin which clings so closely,” the writer adds, “In your struggle against sin you have not not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood” (v. 4). The writer is no doubt echoing our Lord here (v. 2).
So there is that need to lay aside and the need to endure. This is where the Lord’s discipline comes in.
“For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.” (v. 6)
When we understand God’s love for us as the basis of God’s discipline of us, his children, we have reason to delight in his discipline.
The Reward. As already mentioned above, God wants us to share his holiness (v. 10). His reason for disciplining us, his holiness, is also his reward to us, his holiness. So it is nothing strange to read the following application:
12 Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. 14 Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; 16 that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. (vv. 12-16, emphasis added)
In concluding this post, I return to 12:2, “looking to Jesus…, “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (emphasis added). Before Jesus could enjoy the joy, he had to endure the cross and despise the shame associated with the cross. Likewise, before we can share the Father’s holiness, we must endurance his discipline (v. 7), though “all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant” (v. 11).