Answer from a Disciplined Child

Steve Viars May 6, 2006 Hebrews 12:1-17

- I have an announcement to make to you this morning that I think you will find troubling...
- It involves my father...
- frankly, this is very sad, and if you have tissues handy, you might want to locate them...

- let me just summarize it bluntly...no reason to beat around the bush...my father disciplined me as a child...he refused to give me everything I wanted...
- now, when I say discipline, I mean that he placed all sorts of limits and controls on my behavior...
- for example, when I was born, my father [in collusion with my mother, I might add], actually made me sleep in a bed that resembled a jail cell...with tall bars...
- and regardless of how loud I cried...they insisted that I sleep in that cell...imagine that level of discipline imposed on a precious, wee child such as myself...

- to make matters worse, they would not allow me to eat whatever I wanted...they put me on a very disciplined diet...
- imagine things like peas and squash being smashed and strained...that’s the kind of food I’m talking about...and it didn’t seem to matter if I liked it...

- then when I reached the age of 5...they made me go to school...and I was had to do my homework...and I had to behave...and I had to obey my teacher and treat my classmates properly...
- and I heard later that some other children were being schooled by their parents at home, but they too were expected to do all sorts of things they didn’t really want to do...this discipline was a parental conspiracy...the whole experience was incredibly confining...

- believe it or not...there were even a few times when my father spanked me...never in anger or in a way that was out of control...but he actually spanked me...
- like the time my neighbors were burning a bunch of leaves and trash in the alley behind our houses...when my parents turned their back, I went over and got the new plastic motorcycle they had purchased for me and threw in on the neighborhood fire...
- as I recall, there was a part of my anatomy that felt warm at the conclusion of that episode...

- and it continued...my father refused to give me everything I thought I needed...
- when I turned 13 some of my friends were learning the game of golf...
- I told my father that I needed a new set of golf clubs that would cost about $85...
- he congratulated me on my new interest, and assured me that as soon as I got a job and saved $85, he would be happy to drive me to the store where I could purchase them...

- what I am reporting to you this morning is the shocking news that I lived in a home, with a father who disciplined me in all sorts of ways...and I would like to know what you think about that...

- now, if have any skills at reading people at all, my sense is that you are not particularly shocked by this revelation...
- in fact, many of you have already said under your breath...”good”...that’s exactly what fathers ought to do...
- some of you have perhaps thought...”If anything, your dad should have disciplined you more...”...
- have I accurately summarized your response to this shocking revelation?...

- If that’s the case, then I would in turn ask you this...If that was a good thing for my earthly father, would it also be a good thing for your...Heavenly Father?
- with that question in mind, let me invite you to open your Bible to Hebrews chapter 12...page 175 of the back section of the Bible under the chair in front of you...page 1499 of our Chinese English Bibles...

- this spring we’re asking the question...Is God Mad at Us?...
- now can we make sense of all of these hurricanes, and wars, and tornadoes, and tsunamis and wildfires?...
- many people in our culture have taken the position that God is mad...and the worse the calamity...the madder He is...
- others say...no, God has nothing to do with those sorts of events...He’s as surprised as anyone else...
- and then there’s the position that such events prove God doesn’t even exist...
- so the question deserves an answer---is God mad at us?...

- now, I also want to keep before us that this is not some bland, sterile, philosophical question...
- for many in our congregation and in our community...this is real...
- whether we are talking about pain, disease, disappointment, trial, calamity, heartache...
- we live in a world where, as theologian Cornelius Plantenga titled his very important book on this subject...frequently, it’s Not the Way it is Supposed to Be....Is God Mad at Us?

- our approach, as it always is...is to turn to the Word of God...
- we want to get to the place where we can say with the Psalmist...things like...
- Psalm 119:50 - This is my comfort in my affliction, for Your word has given me life.
- Psalm 119:67 - Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word.
- Psalm 119:71 - It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes.
- Psalm 119:92 – Unless Your law had been my delight, I would then have perished in my affliction.
- and you know that what ties those concepts together is the Psalmist’s commitment to Scripture...
- we’re not going to ignore this question...or try to drown it out with busyness or activity or shallow pursuits...
- we want to allow calamity to drive us to the Word of God to ask hard questions and look for compelling answers...
- and I understand that for some who are with us...this is all new...wouldn’t it be great if all of us would be able to say things like...[repeat some of the verses above...]

- now, what have we seen thus far?...
- the first week, Luke 13 – The Answer from a Fallen Tower
- where Jesus raised the question about the 18 men who had died when the tower of Siloam fell on them...
- and Christ asked...do you suppose that those 18 men were “worse culprits that all the men who live at Jerusalem?”...
- and what was His answer...No, but unless you repent, you will likewise perish...
- in other words...no, you can’t tell in a given situation why God allows something to happen in another individual’s life...
- but, if you need to, repent...turn around...learn the lessons God wants you to learn and take the steps He wants you to take...
- Is God Mad at Us?...He could be...Psalm 7:11 – He’s angry with the wicked every day...be sure that’s not the category in which you’re residing...

- last week we looked at Job – The Answer from a Suffering Servant
- and what we found there is that sometimes the persons who face the greatest calamities are God’s choicest servants...
- It is not a matter of God being mad at them...it is the exact opposite...the fact that He has trusted you with that level of trial demonstrates that He is especially pleased with you...
- that’s why the apostle Peter could be beaten for his faithful proclamation of the good news of Jesus Christ rejoicing that he had been considered worthy to suffer for Christ’s name...

- now this morning we want to study Hebrews 12 – and look for The Answer from a Disciplined Child.
- read Hebrews 12:1-17

- clearly the emphasis in this passage is on the word “discipline”...it is used nine times in 8 verses...
- it is the Greek word paideia – which comes from pais which means child...
- it is a very broad term, which speaks of whatever parents and teachers do to train, correct, cultivate, and educate children in order to help them develop and mature. (John MacArthur, Commentary on Hebrews, p. 385).

- that is what I tried to illustrate in the introduction this morning....my parents believed in the value of cultivating a disciplined life...that included structure, it included expectations, and rules, and yes, at times even punishment...
- they believed discipline, done in a loving consistent way was a very good thing...and now [not always then], but now I agree...
- and apparently...so does our heavenly Father...

- with the time we have remaining, let’s organize these verses around these three ideas...
I. What Discipline Requires
II. What Discipline Demands
III. What Discipline Produces

I. What Discipline Requires.


- one of the things I love about these verses is that while on the one hand they are very profound, on the other hand they are easy to break down and understand...
- [living in light of what they say is challenging...but the points are very clear...]

- because God believes in discipline...there are two things you can never do during a time of trial of difficulty or calamity...
- don’t consider it a commonplace thing [don’t miss the lesson, or fail to recognize it comes from God...don’t “blow it off”...]
- and also, don’t quit...don’t give up...don’t lose hope...
- so let’s turn that around....what does that mean discipline requires?...
A. Spiritual sensitivity.
- quoting from Proverbs 3...the writer says...verse 5 - do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord.
- you say, how might a person do that?...any time the response to the calamity or the trial fails to focus on God and what He might be trying to do...
- for example, when a person gripes and complains instead of looks for the hand of God...you better believe they are viewing the trial as a commonplace thing...
- they lack spiritual sensitivity...they are despising the discipline of the Lord...
- or when a person allows their heart to become bitter and hardened instead of soft and pliable in the Master’s hands...they are “regarding lightly the discipline of the Lord”...they are wasting the trial God has given them...
- or when a person is not willing to consider all the ways this calamity could help identify ways they need to change and therefore grow in holiness...they are despising discipline instead of benefiting from it...
- commentator Arthur Pink said – “Remind yourself of how much dross there is yet among the gold and view the corruption of your own heart and marvel that God has not smitten you more severely.  Form the habit of heeding His taps, and you will be less likely to receive His raps.”
- each one of us should ask the question...for the trials that we are acing whether small or large, does our response demonstrate that we meet the requirement of cultivating spiritual sensitivity?...do we have our “ears on” to what God might be wanting to say and do in and through this situation?...[friend, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord...]

B. Spiritual endurance.
- verse 5 goes on to say – nor faint when you are reproved by Him.
- if God is disciplining you in any way, shape, or form...the last thing you want to do is to lose heart, is to quit, is to give up, or have a pity party...
- that would be the polar opposite of what the direction this passage is urging us to take...
- and by the way...please don’t view these words as harsh and uncaring...even the writer exhorts us as “sons”...this is paternal advice given to help us get to where God desires...

- now you might say...PV, I know that intellectually, but I certainly struggle with factoring it in during a time of difficulty...
- we can be incredibly forgetful, can’t we?....
- which is why verse 5 began with what words?...”you have forgotten the exhortation.”
- and sometimes it is a mater of reminding ourselves and reminding ourselves and then looking for opportunities to act on that reminder in a way that meet’s the requirements of discipline....
- Psalm 42:5 - Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him For the help of His countenance.
- now, how would this have applied to the original recipients of this letter?...
- some of you have studied the book of Hebrews before and you know it was written to a group of Jewish individuals [thus the name, Hebrews...] who fell into two broad categories...
- there were those who had genuinely come to Christ and had begun following Him and had become part of the church where they were obeying Him, and worshipping Him...
- but it was so different...all of the ritual was gone...not that the sacrifices were bad...they were just no longer necessary...
- I think that is one of the big misconceptions out there that to become a Christian, a Jewish person would have to deny his/her heritage...
- that is not true at all...it is simply to embrace the next logical and biblical step in the program...
- the Messiah has come...the Scriptures have been fulfilled...
- Jesus is the great High Priest who, because He was the Sinless Son of God, could offer a sacrifice once and for all for the sins of men and women...
- but some of the recipients of this book had genuinely come to Christ but they were facing trials because of their faith...their families were mad at them and some had lost their standing in the community or their place in the family business...
- and so they are tempted to look back at the temple and the sacrificial system...
- and they are warned in this book about how offensive that would be to the finished work of Christ...of course there are challenges to the Christian life, but don’t regard lightly the discipline of the Lord or faint when you are reproved by Him...

- the second group was Jewish persons who had essentially “come along for the ride”...
- in other words, they had left the temple and were coming to the church and associating with Christians but they had never genuinely put their faith in Christ...
- and this book has strong warnings for them as well...he actually says in chapter 6 that if you get this close to the gospel...this close to trusting Christ, and then walk away...you could reach the terrible position of being beyond repentance...it would be impossible for you to come to Christ...not because He would not accept you if you came, but because you squandered the opportunity to respond while He was drawing you...
- be sure that you meet the requirements of discipline...

- [if time – could develop the objection – but my situation is more than I can bear, God has given me more than I can handle...cf. I Cor. 10:13]...

- now, I understand that you might say, but PV, that is hard to do...and admittedly it is...that’s how this next part of the passage really helps...because it teaches...


II. What Discipline Demonstrates.


- please scan down over verses 6 and 7...
- what does discipline prove?...what does it demonstrate?...
- 2 crucial answers...

A.  The Lord’s love.
- see, this is an issue of logic...many times when we are experiencing discipline...
- that does not prove that God is mad at us...it proves that He loves us...
- my parents would not have been loving to me if they put me in a big bed the day I came home from the hospital...I needed the discipline of a baby bed...
- they wouldn’t have been loving to me if they allowed me to eat whatever I wanted...I needed the discipline of baby food...
- my dad wouldn’t have loved me if he allowed me to get away with destroying my toy motorcycle...I needing the discipline of a spanking...
- and he wouldn’t have been loving if he just shelled out the $85 for the golf clubs as soon as I thought I needed them...I needed to learn the discipline of working and earning money and then the hard task of saving that money...
- [develop what golf clubs you played with Friday, 32 years after getting a job as a caddy and saving up enough money to buy them...]

- parents who think that the best way to get their kids to love them is by allowing them to do whatever they want are making a fatal error...
- Ephesians 6:4 - And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.
- [develop]...

- that’s what the writer meant in verse 9 when he said – We had earthly fathers to discipline us and we respected them...

- [show pic of dad and you on the boat....]
- my dad and I were very close, even though we didn’t share the same beliefs on a lot of things...
- He was the best man in my wedding and we did a lot of things together before he died and I miss him a lot...
- but one of the best5 things my father even did for me was to love me enough to discipline me...
- and I know that intellectually...but I don’t always make the logical transition I should when considering the heavenly Father’s discipline...

- Can I ask you this...have you developed the habit of telling yourself...God’s discipline proves that He loves me?...[repeat...]

- Ephesians 3:17 - that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love,
- part of your challenge as a believer is to root yourself in the doctrine of the love of God...and at times the opportunity to do that the most is when we choose to do it the least...

- now, what else is demonstrated by God’s discipline?...the Lord’s love and...
B. Our sonship.
- Hebrews 12:8 - But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons.
- had one of the other neighbor kids thrown their plastic motorcycle on the fire, what do you think my dad would have done?...not a thing [maybe told the kid’s dad...]
- why would my dad discipline me and not them?...because they weren’t his sons...
- that is why, by the way, it is so irrational to envy the wicked...
- how come people who don’t know God seem to have it so easy and followers of Christ have it so hard?...
- why?...because God is doing a special work of grace in us...

- that brings us to a point we have to be sure to make in this series...

- if you have trusted Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, you will never face the wrath of God...
- His wrath for your sin was placed on the cross of Jesus Christ, once and for all He paid the complete and sufficient price...
- now as a son or daughter who still needs to grow, you will face His fatherly displeasure, and you will face His discipline in a variety of forms...but you will never face His wrath...

We must realize that there is a great difference between God’s discipline and His judgmental punishment. As Christians we often have to suffer painful consequences for our sins, but we will never experience God’s judgment for them. This punishment Christ took completely on Himself in the crucifixion, and God does not exact double payment for any sin. Though we deserve God’s wrathful punishment because of our sin, we will never have to face it, because Jesus endured it for us. Neither God’s love nor His justice would allow Him to require payment for what His Son has already paid in full. In discipline, God is not a judge but a Father (John MacArthur, Commentary on Hebrews, p. 385).

- now you might say, O great, PV...the next thing you’re going to be quoting that lame saying parents use when they are spanking their children...now, this is going to hurt me more than it is going to hurt you...
- you know, I always thought that was pretty lame too, until...I became a parent...

- the prophet Jeremiah said -- Lamentations 3:33 - For He does not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men.
- the prophet Isaiah made a similar point -- Isaiah 54:10 - For the mountains shall depart and the hills be removed, but My kindness shall not depart from you, nor shall My covenant of peace be removed,” Says the LORD, who has mercy on you.

- this is why a person can actually get to the place of rejoicing during a time of trial like James says...because of what discipline demonstrates...His love, and our sonship...

- now, the passage ends by talking about...

III. What Discipline Produces.


- there is a lot to be gained from all of this...
- did you notice what was emphasized at the end of verse 10?...

A. Holiness.
- see, if we allow it to...God’s discipline can make us holy...
- of course that assumes that we value holiness...

- are you in the habit of saying things like...Lord, thank you for allowing those consequences to come into my life when I sinned, because if you had allowed that plan to work...it would have taken me further from you...
- Lord, thank you for causing me to reap what I sowed...
- it hurt...I wish it didn’t have to happen...but it was good for me...
- Lord, thank you for not giving me everything I want....thank you for not making everything easy...
- thank you for the beauty of discipline....

- now, of course all of this assumes some things...
- it assumes that you have truly become a child of God...
- many times trials can actually bring us to a place of seeing our need for a personal relationship with God...
[- deal with repentance and trusting Christ...
- and friend, if you are here and you have never placed your faith and trust in Christ’s finished work on the cross...can I love you enough as a pastor to tell you that it is very dangerous to put that decision off...
- because often, if you don’t allow discipline to have the effect God desired, do you know what is left in its place?...bitterness...
- and what did verses 14-17 say about that...
- a root of bitterness will spring up, and defile you and others...and then you could even become like a man in the Bible named Esau [read verse 17]

- also it assumes this, that you are growing in your knowledge of God’s Word so that you can [verse 5 in reverse – remember the exhortations when you need them...]
- We cannot be profoundly influenced by that which we do not know (Kent Hughes, Commentary on Hebrews, vol. 2, p. 169)
- [develop – those who are getting involved in ABF’s, Wed. night FBI classes – gaining the truth necessary to respond to discipline well...
- could also talk about the importance of getting our children under such teaching...]

B. Peaceable fruit of righteousness.
- why peaceable?...
- because responding to God’s discipline in your life properly will give you an increased measure of patience with others in need of discipline...

- last week we studied the book of Job...and we concentrated our attention at the beginning of the book...and then right at the end when Job’s possessions and family were restored to him...but of course a lot of the focus is on his three sorry friends...his so-called counselors...
- and at the end of the book, the chain of events is fascinating...because God is very angry with Job’s friends...and He instructs them to go and offer sacrifices...and then he says...go to Job...and “my servant Job will pray for you...”
- that was a tall order...Job, after all the abuse these men have heaped on you...I want to ask you to pray for them...
- and then we read this... Job 42:10 - And the LORD restored Job’s losses when he prayed for his friends.
- responding well to God’s discipline in your life can make you...peaceable with others...

- it can also make you fruitful...
- we all know the principle...pruning produces better fruit...

- by the way, I think in many ways we have a very disciplined congregation...and therefore a very fruitful one...
- I realize that some of you will be gone next week for Mother’s Day...let me just say this...if you possibly can...I would encourage you to be here...
- without being melodramatic...we have something to announce to you next week that is absolutely historic...I think you will have wanted to be here if at all possible...but it really is a fulfillment of this principle right among us...

- Someone has written - And so what do I say? I say let the rains of disappointment come, if they water the plants of spiritual grace. Let the winds of adversity blow, if they serve to root more securely the trees that God has planted. I say, let the sun of prosperity be eclipsed, if that brings me closer to the true light of life. Welcome, sweet discipline, discipline designed for my joy, discipline designed to make me what God wants me to be.

- could conclude with illustration about Roger Bannister and John Landy

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video