Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 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.
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.”
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? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 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? 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. 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 returned to heaven and that one day He will return in order 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 will be marked by difficulties and even the discipline of God. Which is why the author of Hebrews tells us to “Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself” (Hebrews 12:3 ESV). That 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 glorified, resurrected 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. The gossip spread that He was illegitimate. 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. To others He was a form of entertainment or a means to an end – either for healing or even a free meal. His life ended in death. His ministry appeared to be a total failure. But through it all, He was 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, His time spent on earth in human form. During the thirty-plus years Jesus spent on earth, He was experiencing something He had never had to experience 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 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 if it required His own death.
But most of us have not had to suffer to that point. “In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood” (Hebrews 12:4 ESV). Very few of us have had to experience what Jesus went through. But 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. In the same way a human father would lovingly discipline or correct his son, God disciplines us because He loves us. He has out 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 wants 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 while we are going through it, we must always remember the future outcome: “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. Our holiness is His goal (1 Thessalonians 4:3). Paul, in his letter to the Christians in Rome, 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 characters, and as we see our character being changed, it strengthens our hope. And in the end, our hope in the promises of God will not disappoint us. The day is coming when all our suffering, trials, testings, and lessons in discipline will be over. We will graduate, so to speak. 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).
We must constantly focus on Jesus, remembering what He endured and where He is. He suffered, but He was glorified. He was crucified, but brought back to life. He came to earth, but returned to heaven. And one day He is coming back to get us. When that day comes, our days of suffering, discipline, testing and trials will be over. Which 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). We must keep our eyes on the prize. We must constantly remind ourselves that where Jesus is is where we belong. This world is not our home. We truly are just passing through. 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.