And you have forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons: My son, do not take the Lord’s discipline lightly or faint when you are reproved by Him, for the Lord disciplines the one He loves and punishes every son He receives. Endure suffering as discipline: God is dealing with you as sons. For what son is there that a father does not discipline? (Hebrews 12:5-7 HCSB)
Do not take the Lord’s discipline lightly
When you were a kid and (if you are an old guy like me) you received a spanking but it wasn’t very hard. Did you ever kind of laugh to yourself? You probably knew better than to laugh out loud. In this passage there are two “Do not” commands that represent the extremes of how you could respond to the Lord’s discipline.
The first response is to take it lightly. To oligōreō, that is to have “puny care”, little regard, despise. The idea is that you were disciplined and you didn’t learn a thing from it. You didn’t think about it. You didn’t ask why. You didn’t really care.
The second response is to faint. To ekluō, is to “out loose”. The picture is of loosening a bow string making it useless. With people the term is translated as “grow weary” or “faint”. This is the person who just wants to give up when things are hard.
Is This Discipline?
If I am facing trouble in my life, is it discipline from the Lord? The author doesn’t give me any kind of test to know if the hardship is discipline or isn’t. He simply says to “Endure hardship (suffering) as discipline”. The idea is to stay under (hupomenō) the discipline (paideia – tutorage) by not giving up on your faith.
This is a way of thinking about the suffering you face. There are false teachers who view suffering as a sign of failure. They say you should not suffer (except perhaps persecution). But the scripture says that we should think of our suffering as a teacher, a tool in the hands of God to train us.
He says we should see this suffering not as evidence of failure but as evidence of true son-ship. In the Roman world an illegitimate son had no inheritance rights. Who is going to bother training him? But a true son will be trained, disciplined and taught.
Is my struggle with Dercums Disease discipline from the Lord? I don’t know. But I do know that I can think of it as such. I can see it as evidence of my relationship to God.
This is exactly what Paul did when he contemplated his own suffering. He said his thorn had a purpose. To keep him from becoming puffed up.
If the goal of life is to know Christ more deeply then I would have to commend sickness to you. When your body fails you and your strength is gone you have nothing to lean on but Christ alone. To survive you will have to lean. This of course does not mean that your sinful nature is gone. You will still struggle with sin but this tutor is relentless.