Our Struggle against Sin
These Hebrews were facing trial and tribulation from those outside the church. They were being pressured to conform to the expectations of the world. It would have been easy to justify doing so: “I can’t afford to lose my job. I have to feed my family, don’t I?” “Do you remember last time when we lost everything (10:32-34)? Do you want that to happen again after we’ve just got back on our feet?” “Is this what we signed up for? Constant harassment, threats, loss of livelihood, possessions, and even our lives? Is this what God requires? Is this what following Jesus Christ means? Is this worth it?” It’s easy for us to sit back in our comfy armchairs and say, “Why yes. Christ is worth it.” But we (Americans) don’t know what it means to suffer like they did—not that we should desire suffering, mind you—we just don’t know. But one day we very well might know.
So in the meantime, God disciplines us. Yes, disciplines us. I once heard someone say that God punishes the wicked but disciplines His children. The point that person was making was that God’s disciplining His children was always redemptive—which is what the Preacher says here: “[Our fathers] disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness.” Did you hear that: “That we may share His holiness.” And as far as God is concerned, that is the most important reason to save us: To make us like His Son that we may be with Him throughout all eternity. God’s wants a people, but that people must be a holy people if He is to have them. And because we are still sinful after having saved us, He must continue the work of sanctifying us, and that is through discipline. The metaphor of the earthly father disciplining his children is thus very fitting, for a good father does so out of love to see that his children forsake foolishness and embrace right living. And no father is so loving as our God.
By subjecting ourselves unto the Father’s discipline, we show our love for him, just as a child shows his love to his father by subjecting himself unto his discipline. And it is through such voluntary and free subjection that we live. And let us not forget, “If we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged” (1 Corinthians 11:31); in other words, if we disciplined ourselves, the Lord would not have to be so “rough” with us sometimes. So let us submit ourselves unto the Lord by reading and meditating on His word and applying it to our lives. It is sharper than any two-edged sword and able to cut right through our defenses, and that is exactly what we need (4:12).