“And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says, ‘My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son’” (Hebrews 12:5–6).
Despite all the strongholds God has smashed, despite all the positive growth and good fruit God has produced, in my life, I still fear that I grieve the Holy Spirit at times. When I think of suffering for Christ, my mind generally drifts to struggles that come along with things like religious persecution, but there are other kinds of suffering. The suffering related to turning from sin and temptation to repentance, for example, and this suffering, as with any other form, comes with the territory of being conformed into the image of Christ Jesus. So I consider He who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that I may not grow weary and lose heart, because I have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in my striving against sin. Too often, I forget this exhortation offered in Hebrews that addresses me as His son. “And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says, ‘My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son’” (Hebrews 12:5–6). And what joy this encouragement brings me, for I am but one son, among many sons and daughters.
There is a struggling side to the Christian life as well as a restful side. Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29). Paul told the Philippians, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6–7). Peter instructed the elders in 1 Peter, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen” (5:6-11). Jesus said, “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us’” (Luke 13:24-25). And at the end of his life, Paul said in 2 Timothy, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (4:7). Keeping the faith is a fight to be fought, and a race to be run. We are called to strive and endure, and yes, even agonize, but in God, we find refuge; we find rest.
Consider Paul’s words to the Corinthians, “Even if my letter made you sorrowful, I don’t regret sending it (even though I felt awful for a moment when I heard how it grieved you). Now I’m over-joyed—not because I made you sad, but because your grief led you to a deep repentance. You experienced godly sorrow, and as God intended, it brought about gain for you, not loss, so that no harm has been done by us. God designed us to feel remorse over sin in order to produce repentance that leads to victory, but the sorrow of the world works death” (2 Corinthians 7:8-10). Paul explains the mystery of the pain of discipline and godly sorrow, which leads to repentance, and then to the ultimate victory and peace that results. No wonder popular biblical imagery is firing pottery in a kiln; life sure does feel a lot being cooked in a kiln sometimes. Just think of Paul, then Saul, one day before he encountered Christ on the road to Damascus, then think of all that the Lord accomplished throughout the rest of the apostle’s life; let that sink in for what it’s worth.
I know people who have experienced, or may still be experiencing, pain and heartache on a level that I cannot fathom. I know people who suffer from debilitating diseases. I know people who have been raped. I know people whose children were taken from them too soon. And each of the people who come to mind have at least two things in common. Each of them knows Jesus Christ, and each of them is a conqueror! To my knowledge, their pain didn’t mysteriously disappear; I’m not convinced that pain ever does completely go away, on this side of heaven, yet against all odds, good fruit continues to flow from each of them; it can’t be stopped! The fact that your world can be falling apart all around you, be filled with sorrow, maybe even bouts of anger, yet at your core, in your spirit, you still have peace; that has to come from heaven. Therefore, what do I have to fear? What can be done that God does not permit? No, it is you, Satan, who should fear; fear Him who is in me. “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). You may knock me down devil, but you can’t keep me down, not for long. Woe to you and to all of your works. I’ve seen your powers and principalities shudder in the presence of the Lord first hand; a sight it was indeed! The Lord is preparing His children for even greater things long after you’re less than a mere memory.
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