One of the greatest difficulties in a believerís life is the experience of suffering trials and times of affliction, especially when it is difficult to understand a reason why. Sometimes the reason may be obvious to an exercised soul, but there are also times when reasons are obscure and one finds it difficult to discern the purpose for the experience. Then the question comes to oneís heart, "Why is this happening to me?" especially when the individual has been seeking to live for the Lord with spiritual exercise and faithfulness. Such questions are not uncommon and are certainly not wrong if asked in the spirit of seeking to understand Godís purpose in our lives.
It is beneficial for us to remember that when we were saved, we entered a pathway of education, a course of study that is based, not only on what we know through study, but much more upon what we learn through experiences. Lifeís experiences are not a haphazard series of occurrences that have no purpose! As in any course of education, there is a carefully designed pathway of developmental experiences through which learning is reinforced and tested by trials to determine and develop our lives according to the design of the Master. There are many great and practical spiritual truths we begin to understand, or we may even boast that we know from personal study of the Scriptures, but we do not actually know them until we have experienced the reality of having tested and proven them in our daily lives.
Our Bible is filled with examples of those who God tested according to their personal stage of spiritual development so that they might produce more fruitfulness for God, more correspondence to His will and purpose. We remember that the Lord told His disciples in John 15:2 that the purging experience the vine undergoes is not purposed to hinder fruitbearing, but to enable the vine to produce more fruit. This is the lesson we learn from the lives of every - man or woman of faith who began in this school and continued to progress through the lessons learned at the hand of God. Actually, Hebrews 11 is a record of the schooling and performance of those individuals to whom God is calling our attention so that we might profit from their experiences and follow the same pattern. Our day and need is no different, so we will profit to recognize that we are also in a school of discipline, not always easy (Heb. 12:11), but always profitable and for the glory of God.
MEANING AND FORMS OF DISCIPLINE
Every believer experiences discipline in some form in his life. It is a proof of the fatherly care of God for His children (Heb. 12:8). The ones addressed in this passage had endured much affliction expressed in manifold forms. They needed to be encouraged to remember the exhortation of Proverbs 3:11-12 and to realize that those experiences proved the reality of their new relationship with God. So do we in our lives! Discipline certainly doesnít mean God is displeased with His children. Neither is discipline always in the form of suffering. The word used in Hebrews 12:5 is a word that includes every aspect expressed toward the training of children. It includes all the varied ways through which God works in our lives including instruction, counsel, exhortation, warning, discipline, correction and chastening. This may be experienced through:
1. Control and correction by those set over us, beginning in the home with our parents, and continuing, to include the elders God has raised in local assemblies. It may also include others in positions of authority over us.
2. Circumstances of life including various adversities or trials. These may be in the form of a difficult employer or other person with whom we work or live. It may be the loss of health involving sickness, such as has been the experience of many genuine men of God. For example, when W. R. Lewis, a very godly man who served the Lord with "Echoes of Service" missionary magazine, was 23 years old, he experienced a hemorrhage in a lung and then later another one, so that he spent his life after the age of 30 mostly confined to his bed. However, from that bed and in a weakened state, he continued his normal work along with his service to the Lord and the assembly.
3. Antagonism and reproach related to Christ because of testimony, such as opposition from others, loss of advances in career or employment, or physical imprisonment (experienced, for example, by G. Bull in Tibet during the beginning of the Chinese Communist occupation of that country and that experienced by many believers in some parts of the world today).
4. Loss of material possessions, physical necessities, or employment. Some of Godís people have unexpectedly experienced the loss of house and property through disaster, or have suffered the loss of their job. This can be a means God uses to draw them into closer dependence on Him and appreciation of those things that are spiritual and eternal which can never be lost.
5. Accidents, as we term it, or unexpected happenings in our lives. There is really no "accident" in the lives of Godís people. There are many methods, (and many more than are listed above) and God uses what is needed to develop His purposes and to produce the character He desires to see in each one of His children.
It may startle us to realize that God is far more interested in our spiritual state and development than in our physical well-being or welfare in this world. We often place our priorities on the latter, when God is emphasizing that, at all costs, His desire is to see us progress spiritually. In order to accomplish this goal, He may touch every physical aspect of our lives.
(To be continued)