“For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant…” (Heb. 12:11a)
Man, author of Hebrews, you read my mind. Discipline is so hard!
I have come to realize that I define the word discipline incorrectly. I’ve often used it interchangeably with the word punishment.
Discipline isn’t exactly punishment. It’s more like being in a training program. (Think disciple.)
What does discipline have to do with a life at rest? Well, let’s talk about that.
The Purpose of Discipline
When I first started paying attention to my thoughts, I remember being horrified. My counselor had given me a thought log so I could see them on paper and learn to replace them with truth.
I quickly realized that becoming self-aware isn’t the same as changing. Knowing the right way and consistently choosing the right way are two very different things.
It was like entering a battle zone. I was fighting a mental addiction, thought-choice by thought-choice. And I wasn’t used to fighting.
My thought life wasn’t the only arena of battle. Making better decisions in my actual day to day life proved to be very challenging as well.
Enter Hebrews, chapter twelve.
“For the moment all discipline seems painful rather in pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” (Heb. 12:11)
I’m thankful for the Biblical acknowledgement that discipline is hard. But I’m also grateful that the discipline in and of itself isn’t the point.
Legalisticly following rules is not the purpose of the Christian life. Surrendering my moments to Jesus produces something in me I can’t produce on my own: a life characterised by peace and righteousness.
The only reason discipline is so painful is because we battle our sin nature to do it.
Maybe you are in a season where every day you recognize another part of yourself that needs to change. You feel like you are being cracked open irreparably.
Can I encourage you? God is doing something. The hard places in our hearts need to be cracked open so God can pour in His healing. Though painful, the fruit of discipline is a peaceful, righteous life.
The passage continues…
“Therefore, lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather healed.” (Heb. 12:12-13)
Let’s go ahead and face some hard facts. Our hands are drooping. Our knees are weak. There are parts of us that are lame. And those things don’t excuse us from following Jesus.
You know what this verse reminds me of?
When I was a teenager, I underwent major surgery installing a large pin and screws into my right femur. (My bone was falling apart due to a bone cyst…it’s a long story…)
After the surgery, there was a lot of pain. If I’d had my way, I would have curled up into a ball and never moved again. But my physical therapist knew that if I didn’t start moving I would never heal properly. My only real option was to move.
God asks us to do hard things.
He tells us to trust Him in the middle of storms. He has us loosen our grip on this world and live for the next. He calls us to seek Him above all other things.
He is training us to follow Him.
When we accept God’s authority over our whole world and we make hard, but God-honoring decisions over and over again, we are lifting our drooping hands and strengthening our weak knees.
You and I build up our following-Jesus muscles, one moment at a time.
God isn’t trying to torture you. He’s trying to heal you. To give you a life characterised by peace and righteousness.
Making Straight Paths
Let’s look at that last part again.
“And make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather healed.” (Heb. 12:13)
Think of the path like your life. When we are disciples of Jesus, we live to walk in His ways.
We need steady steps on a straight path.
Making straight paths has to do with focus. It’s realizing the direction God wants us to walk in, and step by step, aiming in that direction. We’re not going to do it perfectly. In fact, despair over my own imperfection is one of my go-to potholes.
Does that perfectionism pothole still tempt me? Yes. Every day. But when I see it coming on the peripheral, I brace myself, fix my eyes on Jesus, remind myself of truth, and try to keep my feet straight.
You probably have your own set of crippling potholes. Whether it is a physical temptation or an emotional one, we all have them.
You can make a straight path to Jesus from wherever you are, even if you are in the deepest ditch. Don’t listen to the lie that you are too far off track to come to God. That’s just a ploy to keep you stuck.
We walk along our path and through His strength, we practice avoiding the pitfalls that have kept us dislocated and crippled. When we find ourselves off track, we make a beeline to the throne of grace.
God is the one who heals us. We merely cooperate with His heavenly system.
What we offer to the Lord is willingness to obey. We discipline ourselves to run straight to Jesus, rather than to our vices, and surrender each step to His authority.
And as we walk, straight and steady, we find ourselves growing stronger, step by painful step, healing in ways we never believed possible.
“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. Therefore, lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather healed.”
I have this scripture written out on a notecard and it’s one I refer to often, especially when discipline feels particularly painful. It’s a good reminder of truth and it encourages me to keep walking on a straight path.