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The Lord Disciplines Encourages Us

Hebrews 12:6 (ESV) … “For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”

Having reproached his congregation for forgetting God’s Word, the writer of Hebrews calls for their attention in a special word of encouragement that addressed them specifically as God’s children. This is taken from the Greek rendering of Proverbs 3:11, 12. Verse 5 represents verse 11 of Proverbs 3, which clearly warns those undergoing hard times of two opposite pitfalls of disdain and dismay regarding divine discipline.

Regarding the perils of disdain, “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline” (v. 5b). The fact is, many who experience the unpleasantness of discipline choose to remain indifferent as to its significance. They vaguely intuit that they are experiencing discipline, but refuse to meditate upon what it might mean. They make light of it—they blow it off! It is better not to think too much about one’s hardships, they say to themselves, or they might have to do something about them. Better to just ignore them. By refusing to consider their deep waters, their lives remain perpetually shallow.

The other pitfall is dismay - “and do not lose heart when he rebukes you” (v. 5c). Far from being indifferent to discipline, there are some who are overwhelmed by it all. They are paralyzed—just as the runners described in verse 3 came to “grow weary and lose heart” and collapsed on the track. Such giving up is inexcusable because none of God’s children will ever be tested beyond their strength (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:13).

So we see that when disciplined we must not afford ourselves either the luxury of disdain or of dismay. Why? Because discipline is the telltale sign of being loved by God and in family relationship to him - “because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and punishes everyone he accepts as a son” (v. 6). In other words, if we cop out in respect to the Lord’s discipline either by disdain (making light of it) or dismay (fainting away), we are turning our back on the personal evidence of his love and relationship to us. Discipline is the divinely ordained path to a deepening relationship with God and a growing love with him. It is the only path! Thus to refuse discipline is to turn our back on growth and love. Therefore we must heed God’s words of encouragement to us—especially as they are given in the following verses, which are an elaboration of Proverbs 3:11, 12.[1]

[1] Hughes, R. K. (1993). Hebrews: an anchor for the soul (Vol. 2, p. 169). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

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