Summary: The training, correcting, and molding of our character by the Lord is one of His greatest blessings in life.
The Encouragement of Discipline
For the past two weeks we have been studying the twelfth chapter of Hebrews and learning how we can run the race of faith. The writer of Hebrews has used the illustration of a runner to teach us that we should cast aside everything that would slow us down and the sin that immobilizes us so that we might run to our full potential. He has told us that we must fix our eyes on the finish line where our Savior, the Author and Perfecter of our faith, awaits our arrival. He has also sought to encourage us by telling us to keep in mind the incredible endurance of Jesus so that we might run with perseverance -- because the race is long and difficult.
As we move into the next section of Scripture we see the writer of Hebrews move us from the arena of athletic competition into the living room of the family where the training of children takes place. Where there is no family room for training or discipline and no parent to train their children how to live life in a way that is pleasing to God, what to avoid, and the consequences of unacceptable behavior then you have chaos and children who are unmanageable - children who are much more likely to destroy their lives.
Children will tell you that they do not enjoy discipline. Children would rather play video games or watch television instead of work on their multiplication tables, study history, spend time in a science lab, or go to practice and go through the same old agility drills that their coaches have put them through since they were in elementary school. Discipline is not meant to be a trip to Disney World or a day at the beach. Discipline is exacting. Discipline is costly. Discipline will wring you out and make you feel like you can’t give another ounce of energy to the cause, but discipline shows you that you can. Discipline is a priceless, precious gift that is often looked upon with disdain, derision, and disgust.
Even though the benefits of discipline have been greatly downplayed in our day, everyone loves watching the end product of discipline in the lives of those who have submitted to its tutelage. Stop and think about what I am saying for a moment. Who does not enjoy the excellence of an artist like Leonardo DiVinci or Vincent van Gogh? Who can resist the refined elegance of a Mikael Barishnikov? People pay big bucks each week to watch the finely honed skills of Randy Johnson as he consistently places a baseball in the strike zone at 95 plus miles an hour. People flock to basketball arenas to gaze at the ballerina moves of Vince Carter or Kobe Bryant. Throughout history, hearts have been touched by the melodic tones of Beethoven, Mozart, and Chopin. How did these people acquire such skill? How do modern-day artists and athletes rise above the rest of the crowd so that they have the ability to move us at a deep level and inspire us to answer the call? The answer is quite simple: They keep practicing, they have accepted the correction of their teachers, and they never try and convince themselves that they have arrived.
The Hall of Fame, ex-coach of the Dallas Cowboys, the late Tom Landry once said, "The job of a coach is to make men do what they do not want to do, in order that they can be what they’ve always wanted to be." What is true for football is true for every arena of life where people pursue excellence. People who are respected and appreciated by society are men and women from all walks of life who welcome discipline’s exacting correction and counsel. Discipline is not only beneficial for artists and athletes; discipline is much needed in all of our lives if we are to live this life in a way that will bring glory to God and peace to our own hearts.
In our Scripture for today we are going to take a long look at the discipline of the Lord in the lives of His children. Won’t you take out your Bible and read along with me from Hebrews 12:4-11.
4In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5And 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, 6 because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son." 7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? 8 If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. 9 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! 10 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. 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. (Hebrews 12:4-11 NIV)