Encouragement for Suffering

LifeLink Devotional

Monday, November 12, 2018

Hebrews 12:4 – 8  In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.  And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.” Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons.

The subject of encouragement we have been studying in these devotionals is essential if we are going to endure the hardships we all experience in life. The writer of Hebrews expresses the connection between encouragement and endurance when He writes about both in today’s Scripture passage. Make sure you have read it.

If the average person who calls himself a Christian was asked how he knows he is a son of God, he would probably not come up with the answer described in today’s Bible verses. Granted, it is not the only answer, but it is a significant one. In addition to the more common responses like “I obey God’s commands” (1 John 5:2), “I love the brothers and sisters in Christ” (1 John 3:10), and “I hate sin” (1 John 5:18), we should also be able to say that we know we are a child of God because He disciplines us. It may not be the first response we think of, but it is significant because the Bible has encouragement connected with it.

Hardship is a universal fact of life. Everyone suffers in one way or another – sometimes in more than one way at the same time. How are we supposed to be encouraged when we are so deeply affected by suffering?

There are two critical principles we must understand. First, God addresses us with words of encouragement as His children. And second, we must consider the possibility that some of our suffering is disciplinary in nature.

There are basically two types of suffering: that which is caused by the consequences of our own sin; and that which is caused by our stand against sin.

The Christian who sins is disciplined by God because God loves him as a son, and wants his behavior to change. This is corrective discipline. The Christian who struggles against sin and then suffers for it is also being disciplined. It is not corrective discipline but rather constructive discipline. His character is being constructed to be the character of Christ.

Both types of discipline are for our good, and it is good for us to submit to both of them. Later in this passage in Hebrews we read this: God disciplines us for our good that we may share in his holiness. 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.

Consider suffering in the context of the maturing process that should occur in all Christian’s lives. As a father and a grandfather, I would not be satisfied if my children and their children stayed at the level of needing corrective discipline. As they grow and mature, there should be less correction and more construction of character. A much higher level of intimacy is achieved between parent and child when construction of character is being accomplished.

That is to be the model for our Christian walk as well. As we grow in our faith, there should be less sin to struggle with and more strength to struggle against sin. Then we will experience the depth of intimacy with Christ that He said is possible. We will understand the fullness and abundance of life that He promised.

Do not be satisfied with sin. Do not consider it a necessary reality of human existence. You do not have to live with sin and its consequences. You can grow up into a Christian who struggles against sin rather than with sin. You will still have to endure hardships, but they will not be riddled with guilt and shame.

Sinful choices will bring painful consequences and shameful experiences.

Sacred choices may result in painful consequences which the world intends to shame us. But we have One who has given us a model to follow. 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. 3Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (emphasis mine).

Be encouraged. God speaks words of encouragement to you as His child. He loves you and wants you to correct what’s wrong and grow in the character of His Son. If you are sinning and suffering for it, God is disciplining you because you are His child so that you can grow up. If you are struggling against sin and suffering for it, God is disciplining you as His son to make you just like His Son. Do not grow weary of the discipline. Do not lose heart. You are being trained to share in the holiness of God. That’s good!

Pastor John