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.
After acknowledging the persecution with which his readers were burdened (Hebrews 10:32-39) and encouraging them to persevere by reminding them of the hardships experienced by the Old Testament giants of faith whom they respected (Hebrews 11) and even Jesus himself (Hebrews 12:1-2), the divinely inspired Hebrew author now says of Jesus, “Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted” (12:3). Closely studying the gospel accounts of Jesus’ life reveal the amount of hostility Christ experienced, from the ultimate hatred shown in the last hours of his life through betrayal, arrest, mockery, beatings, whipping, and crucifixion to hostility shown throughout his ministry in the form of constant challenges, slanderous accusations, rejection from his friends and family members with whom he had spent his childhood in Nazareth, and even accusations that he was an illegitimate child. I dare say few if any of us have had to deal with anything similar because of our allegiance to God. Indeed, this should help us to “not grow weary or fainthearted.” This is especially true if “in your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood” (12:4).
God then gives us another reason to persevere through whatever hardship comes our way because of our faith. Calling it “the exhortation that addresses you as sons,” the Hebrew author quotes Solomon: “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives” (12:5-6; cf. Proverbs 3:11-12). Applying this to the persecuted early church, he tells them, “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?” (12:7) Reminding them of the discipline they received as children from their fathers and how they respected them for it (12:9a), he points out that “all have participated” in discipline and without it one could not be legitimately thought of as the child of their fathers (12:8). He then asks, “Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live?” (12:9b) God has promised that all who desire to follow him WILL be persecuted in one way or another (2 Timothy 3:12). If any professed Christian finds that their faith brings them no hardship or trials of any kind, they are not the kind of Christian that God wants them to be.
Our physical dads “disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them,” but God “disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness” (12:10). Therein lies the benefit of the trials and tribulations God allows his followers to experience: they help us to become holier, more mature, more righteous. As the Hebrew author explains, “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. Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed” (12:11-13).
Hardship, including hardship that comes from persecution, always has the potential to help us become stronger and better in many ways. As James wrote, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4). Paul put it this way: “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:3-5).
Are you experiencing any sort of hardship in life because of your faith in Jesus? It might just be God’s way of helping you become a stronger, more faithful disciple.