"The Gift of Discipline"
As a kid, I always found there were two categories to my Christmas gifts: things I really wanted and things I knew my mother would get me because I needed them (like socks). Socks are a perfectly useful gift, but sometimes it’s hard to be overjoyed about opening a package of them because it’s difficult to think of socks as a gift.
At the beginning of Hebrews 12, the author gives us this beautiful metaphor of running a race for the Christian life. To run this race well, we must lay aside all unnecessary weights, put aside sin, and focus our gaze on the face of Jesus alone. This takes discipline from the Lord.
Sometimes the gift of discipline might seem like the gift of socks. It may not seem like a gift at all for the Lord to rebuke you. Think back to a moment when the Lord really began to work in your heart to convict you about an area of sin in your life. I doubt that was a pleasant feeling. Discipline is painful because it is a turning from what feels normal, good, and right to what is holy. The process of pruning is painful.
Yet we learn that discipline is indeed a gift, and a useful one! First, discipline from the Lord is a gift because it is a sign of His love for you. Earthly parents discipline their children because they love them and want what is best for them. It’s the reason parents put covers over electrical outlets and warn children to stay away from hot stoves. How much more so is the discipline of the Lord a sign of His love for you? He knows what is best for you, even more than any earthly parent, and He knows sin will wreak havoc on your life. For that reason, He intervenes and disciplines you out of love for your own good, even when it doesn’t feel good.
Second, the author of Hebrews tells us that discipline is a gift because “it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11 ESV). Just as those who train for a marathon must lean into the discipline of a regular training schedule to be able to run the race well, leaning into God’s discipline for our sin helps us shed the unrighteousness that weighs us down. This process is known as sanctification; it is the work of the Holy Spirit to make you more like Jesus over time. And while it will never be fully realized on this side of heaven, the hope is that day by day, you would die to sin and self a little more and would see the fruit of the Spirit taking deeper root in your heart.
Take heart, knowing that when the Lord disciplines you, it really is a gift. His discipline is a sign that He cares for you, and His discipline is a promise that He will not leave you as you are. You are being made more like Jesus day by day.
Hebrews 12:3-17 (ESV):
3 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.
12 Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. 14 Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; 16 that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. 17 For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.