Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. (Hebrews 12:3-4 ESV)
And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls! In this all-out match against sin, others have suffered far worse than you, to say nothing of what Jesus went through—all that bloodshed! So don’t feel sorry for yourselves. (Hebrews 12:3-4 MSG)
I love the paraphrase in The Message. I need to memorize it, so I can repeat the phrase “don’t feel sorry for yourselves” over and over. I’m currently experiencing some physical challenges. A surgery that was supposed to improve my quality of life didn’t turn out exactly as planned. The current result is a little discomfort and a change in daily routine. Long-term there will be more surgery and another recovery process. Apparently, the surgery also caused an outbreak of shingles.
I’m learning several things through these challenges. The first is that I don’t have to look far to find people who are experiencing even greater challenges and responding with joy in their relationship with Jesus. The second is that I’m incredibly blessed because my shingles experience has been annoying, but not debilitating. I’m grateful for God’s grace, because what I’m experiencing is not what I deserve. Dave Ramsey’s cliché expression “better than I deserve” sounds a little trite and corny, but it is true. I’m doing far better than I deserve. The third is that I can’t even begin to comprehend what Jesus endured to make a way for me to begin to understand what love is.
And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “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.” (Hebrews 12:5-6 ESV)
This whole letter is written to a suffering church. They are enduring persecution. Things are not going well from our perspective, and they seem to be experiencing things that they don’t deserve. I can’t help connecting what they are suffering with the discipline the writer refers to. Remember, this isn’t punishment. The word in Greek is the work used for the training that children receive. Unfortunately, we’ve connected the two in our minds, so we tend to respond negatively when we hear the word discipline.
Anyone who desires to become excellent in any skill knows that discipline is required. An old article on Stephen Curry notes that he takes 2000 shots a week with the result that his hands are calloused and rough. Some of those shots have to hurt. That’s discipline and the result is a joy to watch. Curry chooses that discipline to achieve a specific result. There are disciplines we all choose to achieve a specific result. What we rarely choose are the things that involve pain and suffering. We rarely choose the situations that stretch us beyond what we think we’re capable of handling. That’s where God steps in. Whether you believe he causes suffering or allows suffering makes no difference. The objective is the same, as is the choice. God’s objective is to grow us to be like Jesus. Our choices are to trust God and endure the suffering, or to not trust God and search for a way to escape the suffering. Which will you choose today.
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (Romans 8:28-29 ESV)