Scripture: 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 12:11 ESV
Observation: Chapter 12 begins with a familiar passage about running life’s race well, keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus—the founder and perfector of our faith. The author then builds on this foundation by urging the church not to grow weary when encountering discipline from the Lord, for our loving spiritual Father has our best interests in mind—much more than our human parents. He then reminds the church that while discipline is unpleasant, the Holy Spirit will work in us the “peaceful fruit of righteousness” if we submit to reproof and change course (above verse). With this in mind, the author concludes this section by challenging his readers to move beyond bitterness (verse 15) and buck up under the Lord’s discipline and strive to live holy lives, that they might find strength and renewal for their weary souls.
Takeaway: Given the author bases his appeal on Christ’s salvific work that has perfected our faith (verse 2) and on our obtaining the “grace of God” (verse 15), this is not a “pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps” message. Instead, he wants his readers to know that it is the Lord who initiates. Our heavenly Father rescued us from the past penalty of sin, reconciling us to him through the life, death, and resurrection of his Son (verse 2). And he will deliver us from the present power of sin through the disciplining work of his Holy Spirit.
Our part? Cooperate with the life-changing work of the Holy Spirit, who will ongoingly expose and convict us of our sinful behavior and provide an escape route that leads to peace with everyone and holiness (verse 14). And, as mentioned above, grace undergirds the entire process. Grace accounts for setbacks and reminds us that we can do nothing apart from Christ, the founder and perfector of our faith (John 15:5, Hebrews 12:2). So is transformation passive? Only to the extent that the Holy Spirit initiates. We need to die to our pride and self-reliance and trust the process, which will include those whom the Holy Spirit directs our way to support, encourage, and hold us accountable. And we need to exercise patience. The author reminds us that the peaceful fruit of righteousness comes later.
Prayer: Father God, we thank you for your abundant grace, manifested through the gifts of your Son and the Holy Spirit, that has reconciled us to you and now leads us to peace and holiness. With this in mind, when you discipline us, would you please help us to move beyond self-pity and bitterness, that we might exercise patience as your Holy Spirit matures us in the peaceful fruit of righteousness? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling