Sermon: God’s Work of Training His Children (Hebrews 12:3-11)

God’s Work of Training Us

Hebrews 12:3-11 (ESV)

Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.  [4] In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.  [5] And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,

nor be weary when reproved by him.

[6] For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,

and chastises every son whom he receives.”

[7] It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?  [8] If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.  [9] Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live?  [10] For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness.  [11] 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.

Last week we were encouraged by the Apostle to Look to Christ as One who ran a perfect race of endurance.  We looked to the Old Testament saints and then to Christ for endurance.

This week we are exhorted to look to Christ in yet another way.

How many of you have ever been discouraged and tired as a Christian.  How many have ever felt beaten down by the world and even wondered if you had the stamina to continue?  The original readers of this letter to the Hebrews were weary and tired in their souls.  They were about ready to quit.

For them, the cause of their weariness came because of hostility from sinners.

Hebrews 10:32-34 (ESV)

But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings,  [33] sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated.  [34] For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one.

They seemingly did well at first as they underwent persecution.  These early believers suffered well for the glory of Christ.  As time went on, they grew weary and tired in their souls.

The apostle reminds these saints of one huge invaluable point.  This truth, understood correctly, would give them the spark they needed to endure.  This one truth would change everything.

The hostility from sinners that the Apostle speaks of was really God working.  We often don’t think that God uses ungodly people to accomplish His purposes.

The universe is at God’s command.  He determines the numbers of stars in the sky and the number of grains of sand along the ocean.  He is sovereign over all people…those who are His and those who are not His.  He can raise up evil armies to render judgment on His own people to promote repentance.  He can give success to evil people in business so they will accomplish His purposes.  In this case, God used evil people to challenge and stretch those whom He loved in order that they would be better equipped to bring Him glory.

The writer here continues his analogy of a runner in a distance race.  Any runner worth anything knows that he will only get better as he endures the pain of training and practice.  It’s the same thing spiritually.

Like it or not we grow the most as we suffer through various trials that come our way.  God knows exactly what trial to use to cause us to grow.

We often don’t think about God sending us hard times.  For some reason we only think God sends us the sprinkles on top of our ice cream sort of stuff.

This text is very clear when the writer shows us that the hard stuff believers endure comes from God in the form of loving discipline.

When we think of discipline, we most often if not always have in mind punishment.  We think of committing a sin and then God punishing us like an earthly father punishes a child who breaks curfew or something like that.

Discipline- To instruct or educate; to inform the mind; to prepare by instructing in correct principles and habits; as to discipline youth for a profession; or for future usefulness.

This word comes from disciple.  It means to strengthen or to train in righteousness; much like a runner is strengthened as he trains in endurance.

Before we really get started in the text we should clearly spell out the doctrine we’re speaking of today…the doctrine of God’s providence.

The word providence does not ever appear in the Bible but that does not mean it isn’t biblical.  The truth of it is just about on every page.

Truth Taught- that mankind is in need of instruction and training in righteousness (discipline) and God uses whatever means He chooses to accomplish this end (God’s providence).

Both God and man are working together to accomplish God’s will.

Moses and Pharaoh

Jonah and the sailors

Joseph and his brothers

1. Consider How Christ Endured Hostility (Hebrews 12:3-4)

Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.  [4] In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.

The first stop the author makes is to have his readers go straight to the source.  More astounding and amazing than God’s providence in the lives of Moses, Joseph and Jonah was the providence that worked to crucify Christ.

I remember when the movie, “The Passion of the Christ” came out and there began a controversy.  Who crucified Jesus?  Some said it was the Romans because they actually drove the nails.  Some say it was the Jews because they plotted to see it carried out.  It is true that they all had their parts to play but ultimately it was God who crucified Christ.  It was Jesus’ mission to come to earth and die for the sins of His people.  God the Father, God the Son, Pilate, Herod, The Romans, and the Jews all worked to carry out the plan of Providence.

God orchestrated the event from all angles.  He was in control of everything.

The point here is that if the most terrible deed in all of history was orchestrated by God, namely the crucifixion of Christ, then it should be easier to see that all events, even those we experience, are also orchestrated by God.

Here is an example of how God brought all things together to accomplish His purpose.

Acts 2:22-23 (ESV)

“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— [23] this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.

One the one hand, God determined and planned it to happen.  On the other hand evil men carried it out.  God in no way performed any of the evil in which it took to bring this event about.  Evil men who are held responsible carried out God’s decree.  That is a huge truth to wrap our small brains around.

Jesus was also working toward the same end.  Jesus was faithful.  He accomplished God’s plan for Him.  He didn’t quit.  This is the point the writer is making.  We must stand firm to the end.  We may be tempted at times to quit, especially in a time of persecution.  The apostle is reminding his readers that we are to stand firm just like Jesus did in the midst of His persecutors.

2. Discipline Trains Us in Godliness (Hebrews 12:5-11)

[5] And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,

nor be weary when reproved by him.

[6] For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,

and chastises every son whom he receives.”

[7] It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?  [8] If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.  [9] Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live?  [10] For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness.  [11] 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.

The first point to remember is that the God is a loving Father who disciplines every child that belongs to Him.  He teaches us through life experiences and trains us in righteousness.  Sometimes His disciples us and sometimes He punishes us but at every step He has in mind our good and His glory.

This is a lot like the teach our Lord gave us in John

John 15:1-6 (ESV)

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.  [2] Every branch of mine that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.  [3] Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.  [4] Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.  [5] I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.  [6] If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.

Why does the Father prune us?  Is it to discourage and bring us down?  It’s to make us better.  As we endure the pruning necessary and as we remain in Christ, we will bear much fruit.  Both aspects must be there.  We must abide in Christ and endure God’s pruning.

What does discipline tell us?  When we are disciplines we should praise the Lord because it is a reminder that we are sons and daughters and God is our Father.

[6] For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,

and chastises every son whom he receives.”

[7] It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?

If we are never disciplined then we should be concerned that perhaps we’re not really His children.

[8] If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.

Truth Taught- that mankind is in need of instruction and training in righteousness (discipline) and God uses whatever means He chooses to accomplish this end (God’s providence).

The writer moves to the example of an earthly father and discipline he gives.  We should stop here and mention that it is very important that we as parents discipline our children.  We discipline them as we teach them right from wrong.  As we set parameters that are acceptable and ones that are not.  We also discipline them when those parameters are broken.  As we discipline our children we are loving them as sons and daughters.  When you discipline be loving and firm and consistent.

We desire our children to bear much fruit in their lives.

[11] 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.

The writer brings up a universal truth.  No one likes discipline, especially the one being disciplined.  I didn’t like it when it happened to me and my kids don’t like it when it happens to them.  That’s not the issue.  The issue isn’t whether it’s pleasant or not.  When parents don’t discipline their kids, many times it’s because they are selfish and don’t want to engage in an unpleasant task that nobody likes to produce over time a productive child.  Parents take the initiative and discipline your kids.

We live in an ungodly age that tells us spanking is wrong.  We live in an age that tells us about all discipline is wrong.  Discipline should happen at home.  School is not the place for discipline.

Notice what discipline is…it’s training.  Our writer goes back to the example of the endurance race and specifically says that God children are trained by discipline.  Just like the athlete who really doesn’t like the pain of daily training, nobody likes the pain of discipline.  Through his hard training and through godly discipline we grow up yielding fruit.  When God prunes His children, they grow in righteousness yielding fruit.

I pray that we understand a little more fully today that we have a part to play in our training and God has a part to play.  Both must be working together.  Are you engaged in daily training?  Are you striving toward the finish line?

Truth Taught- that mankind is in need of instruction and training in righteousness (discipline) and God uses whatever means He chooses to accomplish this end (God’s providence).

Praise God that He controls all events in order to bring about His ends.  Praise the Lord that He also disciplines His children for our good and His glory.

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