Hebrews 12: 5b – 8
The writer turns his attention on the Jews who had made a choice for the Lord by responding positively to the message of the Gospel and more importantly, abandoning Judaism to walk in this new way and Testament of the Lord. These believing Jews now face a problem of persecution, pain and suffering from the unbelieving Jews. They were gradually becoming a subject of isolation and rejection; many had been sidetracked in the market place. No one wanted to trade with them, they lost their friends, some family and finally they were pushed out of the synagogue.
They were faced with social and financial pressure.
The pressure was becoming so much that some of the believing Jews began to contemplate on journeying back to the old ways of ceremonies, rituals and traditions. They were thinking of getting back into Judaism and the Old Testament. The general idea and the cry in their hearts must have been centered on why God couldn’t deliver them from their taskmasters. And this is the cry in many hearts today as they face rejection, pain, affliction and suffering. We looked at times when we were delivered from the clutches of Satan as we have been taught. We devise prayer meetings to pray about the hell we are going through in the hands of the Devil. Some have given up because it seemed God was not answering their prayers. Some have walked away from the Church because they wonder why a loving Father would fold His hands when they are going through what they describe as the worst times of their lives.
Just before the believing Jews moved back to their counterpart, the writer came to their rescue with a somewhat different perspective from the mindset they had. He refused to point at the Devil or Satan as the orchestrator of their pain but made them understand that the pain, suffering and afflictions were God’s way of disciplining His children. WoW! You may exclaim! Yes that’s what he said.
The writer started with running a specific race. First, you had to qualify for the race before you are allowed to run and secondly, when you qualify for the race, you had to engage in a structure that would enable you run the race so as to finish and win. That structure is what I call discipline. You couldn’t eat whatever you liked, plus you had to shed some weight and train regularly if you must run in the race. I am definitely sure that Usain Bolt wouldn’t have found it easy as he prepared and ran for three consecutive Olympics. It’s hard work, perseverance and determination.
The writer had used the metaphor of “running in a race” to describe the Christian walk in an ungodly world where values change by the second. The writer had also used the cloud of witnesses to help us understand that many of the witnesses went through very difficult times as they took stands for God. It is not going to be an easy one in our times too, trust me, especially when the world is so crazy about materialism – this has also found its way into the Church and the idea is that it doesn’t matter how you get the money or fame, as long as you get it.
According to the writer, suffering, affliction, pain and whatever we may want to term them as, is all summed up as DISCIPLINE. DISCIPLINE is God’s way of training, safeguarding and punishing His children irrespective of how they come and where they come from. In other words, and from this writer’s perspective, the moment I suffer a pain or a setback, it is God’s way of helping to NURTURE, SHIELD and CORRECT me. This concept is contrary to what we have been taught in the Church. God knows His children and therefore understands what to do in order for His children to grow and mature so they’re able to face the future.
Left to God’s children, no one would choose pain instead we would look for ways of avoiding them.
The writer also likened this way of God’s discipline to how parents or teachers discipline their children or students. The parent decides to discipline their children because they want them to turn out right, develop good character and not become a threat to the society at large. To the parent who disciplines their children, one of these things should be the reason for the discipline. It’s either they are CORRECTING, TEACHING or PROTECTING their child. This is oblivious to the child and the child might not completely understand the effect of the discipline until they reach that position of maturity.
There is a twist to this writer’s perspective and that is, what happens when the parent does not use the vehicle of discipline on their children. It can mean the parent isn’t a biological parent or is just a carer/guardian for the child. Not many parents want to see someone else discipline his or her child. The writer concludes that only illegitimate children are not disciplined.
God uses DISCIPLINE, in whatever form it comes to NURTURE, SHIELD or CORRECT His children for the enviable future He is setting them up for. When you suffer, it should then mean to you that you have a Father who knows the end from the beginning and who is also aware of the necessary tools you need to be prepared for where He is taking you. Apostle Paul summed it up when he said, “those that are led by the Spirit of God are indeed sons of God”.
Job was an upright man, he was perfect and who also shunned and avoided evil yet, he suffered greatly because God was taking him to another dimension of his life that he (Job) was unaware of. Job’s kind of suffering and pain had the basis of God NURTURING and EDUCATING him. When Job became matured, he looked back at the times of his suffering and knew that there were many things he hadn’t discovered about God and had no choice as he clamored, “ I had only heard about you before, but now I have seen you with my own eyes” – Job 42:5.
Apostle Paul drove the point home when he discovered God’s protection or safeguarding against pride and said, “If I wanted to boast, I would be no fool in doing so, because I would be telling the truth. But I won’t do it, because I don’t want anyone to give me credit beyond what they can see in my life or hear in my message, even though I have received such wonderful revelations from God. So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud. Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time He said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
The writer then advised that we should not disesteem, disregard or give-up, especially when it comes to discipline. There is still a lot we have not discovered about ourselves that we need to discover.
“It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad” – Clive Staples Lewis.