3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. 4 In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 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.
6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.”
7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. – Hebrews 12:3-11 ESV
As we live our lives on this planet, we are to fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. He is to be our focus. We must constantly remember that He has returned to heaven where He sits at the right hand of God the Father and, yet, He has promised to come back one day so that we might receive our glorified bodies and spend eternity with Him.
In the meantime, we must deal with the unmistakable reality that our earthy lives are marked by difficulties and even the discipline of God. This is why the author of Hebrews tells us to “Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself” (Hebrews 12:3 ESV). The word, “consider” is translated from the Greek word, analogizomai, which means “to think over, consider, ponder” (Greek Lexicon :: G357 (KJV). Blue Letter Bible).
In addition to fixing our eyes on Jesus and His resurrected and glorified state in heaven, the author wants us to give careful consideration to all that Jesus went through during His earthly ministry. His time on earth was anything but easy. He was the Son of God, yet He experienced rejection, ridicule, temptation, testing, and false accusations. He was considered a liar and a lunatic. He was called a “glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners” (Matthew 11:19 ESV). He was regularly accused of blasphemy. There was even a vicious rumor that He was an illegitimate child because Joseph wasn’t His real father.
His own family thought He was crazy. The Jewish religious leadership hated Him and plotted to kill Him. To many, He was nothing more than a novelty act, a traveling miracle worker who performed inexplicable, jaw-dropping signs and wonder. To others, He was a means to an end – either for healing or even a free meal.
And to top it all off, His life ended in death, leaving the impression that His earthly ministry had been a brief and abysmal failure. But through it all, He had been doing the will of His Father in heaven.
Earlier in this same letter, the author wrote, “In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him” (Hebrews 5:7-9 ESV).
Notice that the author qualifies what he says with the words, “in the days of his flesh.” He is specifically talking about Jesus’ incarnation, the time He spent on earth in human form. During the thirty-plus years of Jesus’ life, He experienced something He had never had to go through before: What it means to live life as a human being. He knew what it meant to grow tired, to experience pain, to hunger and thirst, to feel loneliness and sorrow. He regularly spent time in prayer to His heavenly Father, crying out “with loud cries and tears.” And he learned obedience through what He suffered. In other words, He learned what was required for a human being to obey God in the midst of all the pain, suffering, and temptations that come with life on this planet.
In chapter four, the author reminded us, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15 ESV). Jesus knew firsthand what it was like to suffer while serving. He knew what it felt like to experience the pain of rejection while attempting to obey the will of His Father. And He knew what it was like to obey God even when doing so would result in His own death.
But the author reminds us that few, in any of us, have had to suffer as Jesus did.
In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. – Hebrews 12:4 ESV
We have not been required to experience what Jesus went through. Yet we are encouraged to “not grow weary of fainthearted.” We are to view ourselves as sons and daughters of God, living under His loving discipline, as He molds and shapes us into the likeness of His Son. God disciplines us because He loves us, in the same way a human father lovingly disciplines or corrects his son. God always has our best in mind. He longs to see us grow in Christ-likeness and increase in dependence upon Him. He wants to see us filled with and controlled by His indwelling Spirit. He desires for us to learn to rely on and rest in Him.
God “disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness” (Hebrews 12:10 ESV), and while the discipline of God may seem painful and unpleasant at the moment, we must always remember that it will result in “the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11 ESV).
God is out to make us increasingly more holy because our holiness is His ultimate goal (1 Thessalonians 4:3). In his letter to the Christians in Rome, Paul made an interesting and seemingly paradoxical statement: “…we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame (Romans 5:3-5 ESV).
We rejoice in sufferings. Why? Because they teach us endurance, and endurance improves our character, and as we experience the change in our character, our hope in God is strengthened. In the end, our hope in the promises of God will not disappoint us because the day is coming when all our suffering, trials, tests, and lessons in discipline will be over. We will complete God’s earthly school of sanctification and experience our “graduation,” the glorification of our bodies, and the reward of our eternal state.
John tells us, “Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is” (1 John 3:2 ESV).
This is why we must constantly focus our eyes on Jesus, remembering what He endured and rejoicing in the reality of where He is. He suffered, but He was glorified. He was crucified but brought back to life. He came to earth but eventually returned to heaven. And one day, He is coming back to get us. When that moment arrives, our days of suffering, discipline, testing, and trials will be over.
This is what led Paul to say, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” (Romans 8:18 ESV). So, as we wait, we must keep our eyes on the prize. We must constantly remind ourselves that where Jesus has gone is where we truly belong. This world is not our home. It is a temporary and far-from-perfect part of our spiritual journey through which we must pass on our way to our final destination. And while the journey may at times seem difficult and the lessons of life may feel unfair, we must remember that God loves us and is transforming and preparing us for something far greater and better than this life could ever offer.
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.