“It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (Hebrews 12:7-11; all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible).
Over the last few months, many posts on Darkened Glass Reflections have considered the Beatitude that reads, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9). Within the next few weeks, we will begin to look at the final Beatitude (or, perhaps, pair of Beatitudes):
“Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:10-12).
Hebrews 12:7-11 seems to fit as a reasonable transition between them. Peacemakers shall be called sons (or children) of God. Christ’s disciples will endure persecution. Hebrews 12 reminds us that God uses difficult circumstances, including persecution, to discipline His children.
This also seems fitting as we enter Holy Week, beginning today with Palm Sunday, leading up to Christ’s sufferings on Holy Thursday and Good Friday, and finally culminating in His resurrection, which we will celebrate on Easter. Earlier in his letter, the author of Hebrews wrote that even Jesus learned through suffering:
“Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation, being designated by God as a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek” (Hebrews 5:8-10).
It would take too much time to go into the details of what it means that Jesus learned obedience. However, we should realize that, as Christ suffered, we will suffer too. Bad times are not a sign that God hates us; they do not always mean that God is even angry at us or displease d with us.
Many Christians believe that faith in God should make life easy and comfortable. Some of us are better at being Americans than Christians. We are more devoted to national and cultural ideals than to the kingdom of God. We are eager to stand up for our rights or to fight against those we disagree with. When Scripture or the Holy Spirit tells us to forgive others, turn the other cheek, or endure hardship, we can find every excuse imaginable why it does not apply to us.
Furthermore, large segments of the Body of Christ have adopted ideas like the prosperity Gospel, positive confession, etc. They believe God will automatically make all Christians healthy, wealthy, and comfortable in every area of their lives. If you are battling illness, struggling financially, or going through any significant life crisis, they would say that you do not have enough faith.
Christianity is not supposed to be easy. As C. S. Lewis observed in Mere Christianity:
“I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.”
I doubt Lewis would encourage us to drink that bottle of wine as an alternative to Christianity. There are too many eternal blessings from faith in Christ, which no manmade beverage can match. On the other hand, if you are measuring your Christian walk by how happy, wealthy, healthy, or popular you are, then you are probably drunk in self-delusion.
Sometimes, bad things do happen to good people. Faithful Christians will suffer, sometimes for no obvious reason. Part of this is because God allows hardship to come into our lives to fashion His holiness in us. He is teaching us to set our minds on heavenly and eternal things, not on earthly and temporary things (Colossians 3:2). He is teaching us to live like Jesus, who endured hostility from sinners (Hebrews 12:3). God is working so that we may share in His holiness and bear the “peaceful fruit of righteousness.”
Even if His discipline is in response to sin in our lives, it is not the rage of an abusive parent taking out his frustration on the children. It is always purposeful, designed to make us more like Him.
Through every hardship, we should fix our eyes on Jesus, taking note of how He responded in His greatest time of suffering:
“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:1-3).
As we journey through Holy Week, let us fix our eyes on Jesus. He endured the cross, as well as all the cruelty, violence, false accusations, and rejection that preceded it. Let us see how He responded to hardship and follow His examples. Through this, God will mold His character in us and make us more like Him.
Heavenly Father, Your Son Jesus endured the cross, despising the shame, and is now seated at Your right hand. As we reflect on His Passion in the coming days, help us to take note of how He responded to difficult situations. Give us strength, courage, and wisdom to respond as He did. Make us more like Him, so that we can look more like Your beloved children, which is what we truly are. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
How can you respond to difficulties in the days to come? How has God used hardship the mold you in the past? Share your thoughts below.
Copyright © 2023 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.