“In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says, ‘My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.’
Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. 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! 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. 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. Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. ‘Make level paths for your feet,’ so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed. (Hebrews 12:4-13 NIV)
If the persecuted Jewish Christians of the 1st Century were looking for sympathy, they didn’t get it from the writer of Hebrews. Though they were being treated terribly by the Romans, the writer points out that none of their blood had yet been shed. Instead of complaining about their difficulties, he thinks they should view their hardships as discipline from the Lord, intended to mold them into holy people. And like a coach gathering together his battered and disheartened team at halftime, he challenges them to get it together, lift up their heads, and get back out on the field. This is not the time to feel sorry for themselves. There is still a game to be played, and to win.
The true test of faith is how it holds up in the difficult times, yet it seems we are loath to endure them. We complain, we mope, and we want our difficulties resolved immediately. We fail to understand that through hardships God is seeking to shape us and refine us into the people He created us to be. Just as we needed parental discipline as children in order to grow into healthy, well-functioning adults, we are in need of the Lord’s discipline to help us to become spiritually healthy. Yet, so often, like the Jewish Christians, we are looking for sympathy and whining about the hard times we are facing.
We complain about how bad our boss is or how rough we have it in school. We get upset at how the “liberal” media treats our faith, or how we Christians are being increasingly marginalized in our society. We get frustrated and easily discouraged when things in life don’t go our way, whether it is a relationship, our plans for the future, or just day-to-day life.
Well, the Hebrew writer would say something like this to us: You may be having difficulties, but they haven’t yet killed you. God is trying to teach you some things through your hardship, not because is He is mean or gets some sick satisfaction out of it, but because He loves you and wants you to grow into the person He created you to be. Now, pick yourself up and get back out there living your life for Him!
If you expect an easy life because you follow Jesus, you are badly mistaken. Life will have many difficulties because that is how God trains us to become who He created us to be. So if your life is hard and you’ve been complaining about it, get over it. The Lord is at work through these things. Accept it and move on, allowing Him to mold you into the man or woman He created you to be.
© Jim Musser 2012