It is hard to be loved by perfection. As a virtuoso pounces upon the keys of a piano determined to summon forth its most resonant sounds; as a sculptor furiously chips away at a large piece of marble intent on releasing the image of beauty that hides within it… so also does the Creator lay His hand upon our lives determined to lift us to our spiritual potential. It is hard to be loved by perfection.
I. The Father’s Affection for His Children
“The Lord disciplines those he loves … God is treating you as sons” (Hebrews 12:6, 7).
A. The Bible paints many portraits of God and how He relates to humankind.
- 1. He is the Creator, we are the creatures.
- 2. He is the Sovereign, we are His subjects.
- 3. He is the Shepherd, we are His sheep.
B. But the greatest biblical model of the divine-human encounter is that of a Father and His children.
- 1. He is the commanding Father (Deuteronomy 14:1ff).
- 2. He is the protective Father (Exodus 4:22-23; Deuteronomy 1:31).
- 3. He is the providing Father (Luke 11:1-13).
- 4. He is the forgiving Father (Luke 15:11-32).
C. The idea of God’s “Fatherhood” owes its origin to the patriarchal culture of biblical times.
- 1. The Jews of Jesus’ day lived in a world dominated by the influence of fathers.
- 2. When the author calls God their father, to his readers this meant that He was a benevolent authority figure who acted toward his children in sovereignty and love. A father disciplines his children because he loves them.
II. The Father’s Correction of His Children
“Endure hardship as discipline … God disciplines us for our good” (Hebrews 12:7, 10).
A. Why do the righteous suffer? The Bible does not ignore this question. In fact it offers a number of possible answers.
- 1. We live in a fallen world (Genesis 3:14ff; Romans 8:18-25).
- 2. We are “tested” by suffering (Job 2:8-12; 3:3-10; Zechariah 13:9; 1 Peter 4:12ff).
- 3. We are “matured” by suffering (James 1:2-4; Romans 5:3-4).
- 4. God can be glorified in our suffering (John 9:1ff).
B. These Hebrew Christians are being persecuted by a world hostile to their faith (v. 4; 10:32-34).
- 1. The author says that God is using this persecution to chasten his children and to bring them to spiritual maturity.
- 2. This is suffering as a negative means to a positive end. God is permitting and even employing their suffering to summon forth holiness, righteousness and peace.
Only a fool would pretend to understand suffering fully and only a sadist would claim to enjoy it. But this at least can be said. There is in the struggles of life a catalyst for spiritual development which no other force can supply. Pain has the power to summon forth from us that which we find most difficult to surrender—uncompromising faith in God and unqualified love for God.
C. S. Lewis describes the role of suffering in the life of the believer as “soul-making.” It is the shaping of the Christian with the hammer and chisel of adversity. Lewis also said “God whispers to us in our pleasures; speaks in our consciences; but shouts in our pains.”