Read: Hebrews 12:3-13

I don’t know of a single soul who would voluntarily sign up for suffering—outside of the Lord Jesus! Unless scripture informs us, hardships and sufferings have a bad reputation. We do everything we can to keep ourselves from life’s problems. And when difficulty does come into our lives, we tend to second-guess ourselves. “What did I do wrong? Is the Lord unhappy with me? Why can’t I be smart enough to avoid these hardships? Others do, so why can’t I?” All…LIES! 

Yes, the reality is that hardships are part of life—for EVERYONE. No one is exempt. And the larger reality is that God wants us to KNOW something and DO something in the midst of our “earth-side difficulties.” That is why this week’s text is so important for the well being of your soul. [So be sure that you read Hebrews 12:3-13 before you read any further in this post.]

Our text is part of the larger exhortation to “run life’s race with endurance” (cf. HEB 12:1-2). It has three subsections (vv.3-6; 7-11; and 12-13), and each section begins with a major exhortation. 

  • The first exhortation is to “consider Jesus.” The imperative has the idea of carefully pondering something or someone. In this case believers are to take time to reflect on the sacrificial work of Jesus. Why? It’s because many believers have not yet suffered to the point of death as Jesus did (vv.3-4). And in addition, we need to consider Jesus, so that we might remember who we are. We are children of the living God who have come into God’s family by faith in the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus. And now that we are His children, God the Father uses all of our hardships to “train us” (vv. 5-6). That is what the term “discipline” means—an intentional process of training us for God’s unique purposes. Please notice that “discipline” is not the same as punishment! God is NOT punishing us by way of hardship. He is training us to be what He wants us to be. 
  • The second exhortation in v. 7 is a call to “endure hardship as discipline.” The writer goes on to remind his readers what earthly fathers of the first century did. They disciplined their sons especially for specific roles in the family. A father who failed to do this was like one who had illegitimate children—one who really didn’t care about the child’s well being (vv.8-9). And why would God use hardships and sufferings to train us? Verse 10 says that He does this so that we might participate in His holiness. Or to put it another way, God uses all circumstances in life to make us more and more like Jesus (cf. ROM 8:28-29). 
  • The third exhortation in vv.12-13 is a combination of two verbs, one looking at the past and the other the present. With respect to the past, the writer tells his readers to “strengthen their weakened hands and knees.” The command looks back to the metaphor in verse 1, where life is described as a race. The writer indirectly acknowledges by the metaphor in verse 12 that the race can be grueling and exhausting. But Christians are to make a matter-of-fact decision to return to the race and persevere in the faith. The next command—“to make straight paths”—implies that this is something that is to be done over and over again in the present. Again the illusion is to the race metaphor in verses 1 and 2. They are to continually look to Jesus and live their lives for Him. 

So what are we to make of these three exhortations? Let me remind you that none of us signs up on our own for hardships. But God knows exactly what we need. You see, LIFE IS OFTEN HARD, BUT GOD USES OUR HARD TIMES TO MAKE US HOLY. God is training us. God is training us out of infinite love and wisdom, so that we will become the men and women that He wants us to be.

I am going to ask you to do a “hard thing,” even as I am asking the same of my own heart. Please take a moment and ponder all the difficulties you are facing right now. Think for a moment about the disappointments you are experiencing. Think about the people who have let you down. Think about the losses that you may be experiencing. And then, you might pray something like this: “Heavenly Father, you know me all too well. And you know that I don’t enjoy what I am facing right now. But I praise you and thank you that you are using these hard things to make me the holy person you want me to be.” 

Remember that God is not punishing you. JESUS paid the penalty for your sin once and for all. However, the Father is using what you and I view as difficulties to transform us. So don’t try to run from the hard times. Stop assuming that you are the cause behind everything that “goes wrong.” Instead submit to God’s training plan—as strange as it might be—and then watch Him do wonderful, glorious things in and through your life.

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