You have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as sons: “My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; for whom the LORD loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.” (Hebrews 12:5–6—NKJV)

With the advent of “PC” thinking, and corporal punishment falling into disfavor, it does not surprise me that young Christians wonder what has befallen them when things do not go their way. General societal distaste for teaching life lessons through consequential punishment fosters the illusion that the modern age shields mankind from “barbaric” notions of judgment and retribution. Folly such as this invites evil to act.

Before we dig into the text, let us be reminded that the idea of discipline is not all negative instruction. Education in the disciplines of academia, the arts, exercise, and life skills is imperative for integration into society and a sense of self-worth. The constant pursuit of learning more and cultivating a broad knowledge of various interests is one of the best defenses against an atrophied brain and a loss of significance to this present age. On the spiritual level, every believer knows that he is to grow in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. Biblical knowledge is never an occupation with facts alone, it is a skillful application of the facts of who God is and what God says to practical matters of life and obedience. This kind of learning is rightly styled as discipline.

The author of our text is speaking of the continuing education that is spiritual living. We have a heavenly Father who desires the best for every one of His children, including you. His highest goal for us is that we grow into the “measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13). This is a lofty and comprehensive goal which we must own as well. When we were little kids we followed the natural inclination to compare ourselves to our earthly fathers and mothers. Their measure became our measure, and though we generally fell short, we never ceased to use them as a marker for our progress and success.

Our earthly parents viewed our progress along the same line of thought, and would often give their advice and encouragement, which sounded to our juvenile ears like lectures and disappointment. It is the “way of things” that we felt chastened and it is also the “way of things” that we repeat the process with our own children. The reason we do so is the fact that we have grown to value the wise words and the serious coaching along with the great big, loving heart that was behind them. Our God is the wisest and most loyal parent of all! If we can remember this fact and allow it to inform our evaluation of the events of our everyday life, we will gain the perspective He teaches us in Hebrews 12:1–11.

There are five keys to enduring the disciplining process of being humbled “under the mighty hand of God.” The first key is keep you eyes on Christ alone (vs. 1–2) In the race of life there is one goal, to be like the Son of God. Therefore, we have enlisted in a strenuous contest for excellence in service, just as our Lord prevailed. He is our goal. The second key is remember the hardships endured are measured against our Savior’s endurance (vs. 3–4). The author reminds us we have not resisted (stand against in line of battle) to bloodshed (meaning a terrific fight in a life and death struggle). For most of us, thankfully, this has not been our lot. So whatever discipline we endure, we gain perspective of severity when we remember our Lord. The third key is remember that discipline from God is a privilege of sonship (vs. 5). The exalted position of sonship inherits the grace of advice and encouragement from our Father which may sound to our ears as lectures and disappointment. Maturity in Christ informs us differently. The fourth key is embrace the chastening received from God (vs. 5). Despise means “to slight in thinking.” Never turn a deaf ear or a blind eye to the Lord and His work in your life. This passage is quoted from Proverbs 3:11–12 and the Name of the Lord is Jehovah, the Covenant-Keeping God. He loves you and therefore He chastens. The final, fifth key is lean on the Holy Spirit to shepherd you through the discouraging times (vs. 5–6). Discouraged is to be “dispirited” and to lose courage. We can grow discouraged when we are rebuked (chastening which brings conviction—a work of the Holy Spirit). As is often the case, parental discipline includes the admonition to do a better job. You are loved and therefore God desires you to be at your best whether in good times or in bad!

Are you facing some challenge right now? Is the prompting of conviction sharply grating your sensibilities? Look to your Savior, lean on the Holy Spirit, remember the Word, and embrace the parenting of God. Trust and obey.