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Hebrews 12:7-14 1

7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? 8 If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. 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 spirits and live! 10 They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order 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. 12 Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. 13 “Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed. 14 Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.

Background

Biblical scholars use the term Hebrews to designate the descendants of the patriarchs of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament)—i.e., Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (also called Israel [Genesis 33:28])—from that period until their conquest of Canaan (Palestine) in the late 2nd millennium BC. The text does not mention the name of its author, but was traditionally attributed to Paul the Apostle. However,  There is controversy about whether Paul was the author. The Letter to the Hebrews is an important letter of the New Testament. It speaks to the Priesthood of Jesus Christ, and His one Sacrifice which redeemed mankind and established God’s New Covenant. Christ took on flesh and blood to save humanity (2:14-17). Our chapter speaks to the difficulties of human life and its meaning when hardships are accepted as God’s discipline (Heb 12:4–13). If Christians persevere in faith to the word in which they have believed, they are assured of possessing forever the unshakable kingdom of God (Heb 12:14–29). The letter concludes with specific moral commandments (Heb 13:1–17).

Chapter 12 starts off with some great advice about how to live as a Christian:

  • Start Well
  • Run Well
    • Run with Endurance
    • Run with a Team
    • Run with your eyes on Jesus
  • End Well

When you begin to think of one’s faith walk as a race, our verses make more sense.  The author of Hebrews starts off with a hard statement to accept, Endure hardships as a discipline.  We all know that with any sport or skill, discipline separates the poor and mediocre performers from the achievers by how disciplined they are in their training.  No difference here. Sticking to the analogy of running, most would agree that “weight,” extra pounds serve no good purpose, just slows you down. In Hebrews, the analogy of pounds would be sin,  While a parent would discipline their children to modify their behavior (like a good coach) a parent can only offer their discipline  while their children are under their care. Children eventually go out into the world on their own and are held to their own accountability. God, too, disciplines us for our own good, in order that we may share in His holiness. With God’s discipline, it is ongoing throughout our life. Now if we were to decide to lose some weight, one might identify the bad habits, the causes of our extra pounds. This works the same way for God but the extra weight usually comes as sin. Each person is called through discipline to identify their sins and distractions that are leading them astray or weakening their faith.

The objective of our verses are to show that afflictions were designed on the part of God to also produce some happy effects in the lives of His people, and that we ought, therefore, to bear them patiently. We are directed to notice that the design of trials are necessary for our welfare, and that they are in fact proof of the paternal care of God, our Father. The choice comes to every person to either listen to or to disregard the messages of God. They may live as if that message is of no importance or as if it is the most important thing in the world. That is our “free will” at work. God’s warnings comes to us in many ways. It may come through conscience; it may come from some direct word of God to our souls; it may come from the advice or the rebuke of some good and godly friend; it may leap out at us from the Bible or challenge us in some sermon. Wherever it comes from, we neglect it at our own peril. William Barclay says, “Most of us live a cautious life on the principle of safety first; but to live the Christian life there is necessary a certain reckless willingness for adventure. If faith can see every step of the way, it is not really faith. It is sometimes necessary for the Christian to take the way to which the voice of God is calling them without knowing what the consequences will be.”

The story of the promise of a son to Abraham and Sarah is told in Gen.17:15-22; Gen.18:9-15; Gen.21:1-8. Its wonder is that both Abraham and Sarah were ninety years old, long past the age of fathering or bearing a child; and yet, according to the old story, that promise was made and came true.  By the grace and the power of God, the impossible became true. There is something here to challenge and uplift the heart of every person. People spend the greater part of their lives putting limitations on the power of God. Faith is the ability to hold onto that grace which is sufficient for all things in such a way that the things which are humanly impossible become divinely possible. With God all things are possible, and, therefore, the word impossible has no place in the vocabulary of the Christian and of the Christian Church. Our God wants to lift each of us to new heights because we are His very own creation and He loves us.

Items for Discussion

  • How would you explain the following as it pertains to the “life of a Christian?”
    • Start Well
    • Run Well
      • Run with Endurance
      • Run with a Team
      • Run with your eyes on Jesus
    • End Well
  • How can we sort out of our world’s crazy events, those things that might be God’s discipline and just bad luck, coincidences or things caused by our own mistakes?
  • Do you believe that all events in life are under God’s control?
  • Is there such a thing as bad luck? 
  • As a parent or from your own parents, what were some of the really hard forms of discipline that you received?
  • How did your parents discipline affect your love for them, your beliefs, your actions in life? 
  • How does unjust discipline work against the purposes that are being explained in Hebrews?
  • When you view God as a parent, how does that affect your view of the circumstances in your life, the “discipline you may have received?”
  • What happens when someone “wins a race” and did not have to work for it? How is their personal growth or satisfaction affected?
  • What is the difference between being judgmental and recognizing God’s discipline of others?

Discussion Challenge

  • What should the role of Christians be in a world under God’s discipline?

Notes:

  1. NIV New International Version Translations
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