Hebrews 12:1-11 – Discipline Yourself!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
January 6, 20 12 AM
Whom would you emulate in life if you could? As I remarked last week, few adults have heroes anymore. We see those who society holds up as heroes and they fall far short of what true heroes are all about. In fact, we have reduced heroism to anyone who faces a difficulty in life, an illness, or anyone who we think is special. Now, do not get offended. I personally believe that heroes are more than that. While there are those who are very courageous and those who are strong in character, that does not necessarily make them heroes. Heroes are those individuals who are, in the face of personal danger, willing to sacrifice themselves or risk it all for others. We want to be careful not to reduce heroism to a politically correct definition in order to sooth our conscience.
Courageous folks who face a terminal illness or overcome difficult circumstances in life are great role models for us and Hebrews has just given us some examples of such individuals and their faith. Some even became heroes because of their willingness to sacrifice themselves for their faith. What does it take to become someone with the courage of convictions as these folks were? We will discover that the author of Hebrews encourages us to “strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees.” I believe it takes discipline. You are to discipline yourself! Let’s find out how…
Jesus taught his disciples, “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:40 NIV) We look to Jesus for our salvation but we also look to Jesus for our spiritual maturity. Hebrews writes that we discipline ourselves as we…
I. Consider Jesus and those who are examples of faith! (Vv. 1-4)
1. Can those who have gone before us see what is happening to us here on earth? This question is often on the minds of those who have experienced the death of a loved one. While we would love it if our loved ones could view our lives after death, do we truly want them to see us at our worst? I mean it is tough enough that God can see us, but his grace is sufficient for us even when we sin; however, that is not the case with our loved ones in the Lord. Paul reminds us that, “Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. We live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 5:6-8 NIV) I believe those who are with Jesus, do not care about what is occurring here because in a mere moment of time, we will be there as well. Plus the presence of God is better than watching what is happening here. So what does the writer of Hebrews mean when he says, “we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses”? He is referring to the examples and encouragement from the faithful he had just described and not actual people. The witnesses in the verse are not modern-day loved ones, but the faithful saints in Hebrews 11 who trusted God. Their lives testify about the value of relying on God no matter what hardships we face. They are active witnesses who speak to us by their example; not passive witnesses who watch us from heaven! Therefore, we are to “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” This can be easier said than done, yet, we have Jesus. Hebrews therefore encourages, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” When we “fix our eyes” on someone, we look intently at them. This is the idea, when we, “Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men.” We are to look intently at Jesus, so that we “will not grow weary and lose heart.” The author knew our “struggle” in life is “against sin.” His readers had “not yet resisted to the point of shedding (their) blood.” I believe however, he was aware that they were about to or could very shortly be tested. We are to consider Jesus and those who are examples of faith!
EXAMPLE: The word for “witness” here in Hebrews is the Greek word “martus” where we derive our word martyr. To be a witness for Jesus in the early church meant to be willing to die for one’s faith if needed. They were willing to witness unto death! Early Christians felt that if Jesus was willing to die for us, and his disciples were willing to face imprisonment and perhaps death, then they were to be willing to martyr themselves as well! How could they do such a thing? They looked at Jesus. They also remembered what Paul had written, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.” (Philippians 3:10 NIV) They wanted that for themselves as well, so they took to heart Paul’s admonishment, “Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us who are mature should take such a view of things.” (Philippians 3:13-15a NIV) We are to consider Jesus and those who are examples of faith!
Paul related that personal discipline was the only way the believer could know the will of God. He wrote, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:1-2 NIV) Discipleship comes from the word for discipline. Hebrews reminds us to…
II. Remember we are made holy when we accept our discipline! (Vv. 5-11)
1. When we focus our lives on ourselves, instead of Jesus, we can easily forget who are faith is based in. Hebrews writes his listeners that they had “forgotten” the “word of encouragement that addresses you as sons.” They had forgotten Jesus, the “author and perfecter” of their faith! As God’s children, his sons, we are “not (to) make light of the Lord’s discipline” nor are we to “lose heart when He rebukes” us. Far too often, we can whine or complain when things do not go our way in life, yet if we do, we are forgetting “the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.” If we do not “Endure hardship as discipline,” we are again in danger of forgetting that “God is treating you as sons.” And the question remains, “For what son is not disciplined by his father?” Perhaps his readers had forgotten this, have you? When we forget we are the children of God and that He is active in our lives, we are tacitly telling God we do not trust Him. This is sin. Perhaps, our faith is not as valid as it should be if we whine about our discipline. “If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons.” The writer uses the example of our earthly dads and reminds us, “we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it.” Now, I did not always like it when I was disciplined, but now I realize it was for my own good. Therefore, “How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live!” We can understand that “Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness.” We can be so feeble and weak in our faith-walk at times. God always disciplines us for our good. He desires His children to be holy in all they do and while “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.” We are to remember we are made holy when we accept our discipline!
EXAMPLE: One of the reasons I believe there is so much violence in our society today is because we do not know how to properly discipline our children and therefore they do not learn proper discipline for themselves. We have allowed political correctness to dictate and thereby mandate to us how to discipline not just our children but ourselves as well. We do not deny our children or ourselves anything. Every child is an “honored” student and we are to make no distinction between ability, sex, or worth. It is a “can’t we all just get along” philosophy. It has infected the church as well. Getting along is not good enough for God, only holiness is. Holiness is only obtained through faith in Christ and personal growth in Him. We are to remember we are made holy when we accept our discipline!
We are to consider Jesus and those who are examples of faith! We are to remember we are made holy when we accept our discipline!
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.
Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 27 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2012 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.