Hardship and Discipline vs Punishment.

Hello Everyone,

After attending Bible study on the night of January 20, 2016 after my job interview, I felt I should share our lesson with you as it is very important.  I know this might just be the basics of God’s Word, but then nothing is more important to any discipline than their basics.  My Bible study teacher and I studied Hebrews 11 and 12 and we discussed the relationship that faith has with hardship and God’s Discipline.  We came to the conclusion that God uses hardships to not only increase our faith, but to prepare us for future events that will have major impact on our lives.

In Hebrews chapter 11, there is a phrase that is always repeated or rather emphasized which is, “By their FAITH,…”  We are being told that even the biblical patriarchs did not accomplish what they did on THEIR own strength, but rather GOD’S Own Strength.  In chapter 12, the words “Hardship, Discipline, Sonship, and Blessing” are emphasized throughout the passage.  Why must Christians endure hardships?  Why does God sound so harsh?  Does God secretly hate us?  The answer is that God is not being harsh nor does He hate us.  God allows us to experience hardships to produce spiritual endurance within us.  Nowhere in the Bible does God promise us easy lives, which is why pursuing an easy life is a delusion.  This is backed up by the Bible when it mentions us being put through God’s Refining Fire.  Just as gold or silver is refined (or made pure) through fire, so are we made pure through struggles.  Here is a link on verse’s about God’s Refining Fire: https://www.openbible.info/topics/refiners_fire.
What does faith in an unseen God have to do with hardships or even discipline? The answer to this question can also be found in Hebrews chapters 11 and 12.  God uses hardships to not only test our faith, but to strengthen our relationship with Him.  If I had to put it out in a mathematical formula, it would look something like this: Hardship + Discipline= Endurance + Faith= Respect + Trust+ Love= Meaning+ Hope.  For those of you who detest math like I did during high school, here it is in a nutshell.  When one undergoes hardship and discipline from God, it is meant to produce endurance and faith in God.  With endurance and faith in God, we gain a respect, trust, and love for Him and for those around us.  With that respect, trust, and love, we realize that everyone’s lives (including our own), whether good or bad, has meaning (due to God having a special purpose for our lives) and we also gain hope for the future when Jesus Christ returns.  According to Hebrews chapters 11 and 12, by faith, we can accept hardship as God’s discipline (which is an expression of His Love), when we have faith.  If God didn’t Love us, then He would leave us to stagnate spiritually and not mature or grow, which means when hardships arise, we will be woefully unprepared.  This also ties in with Jesus’ parable of the seed sower from Mark 4:1-20.  If you accept God’s Discipline, then you are like the good soil that yields an abundant harvest.  If you cast aside God’s Discipline then the True Word of God does not take root and just like the rocks, the sun, and the thorns, the struggles we face daily can also strangle our faith if we allow them to.  To read the exact passage here is a link: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Mark%204:1-20.

 

I thought about martial artists and how their masters teach them.  Many times their masters may seem harsh and the students go through many hardships to hone their skills, but later on after the lessons are over, those students feel more confident and prepared for real life confrontations or situations.  However, those who don’t bother to pay attention to what their master is teaching them, will not know how to react when confronted outside.  In an almost similar manner, God uses hardships not just to test our faith, but to increase it and to help us grow as HIS children so that we can face the future with faith in God.  Those who refuse God will stagnate and will not be prepared for future hardships.  This best explains what the Gospels mean about “finishing the race”, which is not a physical race, but a spiritual one or rather the Race of Faith in Daily Life. The hardships of the early Christians were seen as training for their lives of Testifying to the Word of God so that not only themselves, but also others may enter the Kingdom of Heaven.  Here is a link providing different verses on the Race of Faith in Daily Life: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Acts+20%3A23-24%2C1+Corinthians+9%3A23-25%2C2+Timothy+4%3A7%2CHebrews+12%3A1-3&version=NIV.

 

But what happens when we don’t have faith in God, especially during those hardships?  During Bible study I thought of an excellent question, “What’s the difference between God’s Discipline and Punishment?”  My Bible study teacher revealed to me that God’s Discipline does NOT necessarily mean punishment.  As the passages mentioned that no discipline is pleasant at the time so we tend to believe that discipline is punishment.  However, here this is not the case.  My Bible study teacher gave me a story about his uncle and teenage cousin.  His uncle wanted his cousin to learn the bus system, so he gave him the directions to get home from his school and left him at the bus stop.  Most people who saw him at the bus stop would think his father had punished or even abandoned him, but if they knew his father gave him directions, they would realize his father was preparing his son to be an independent man.  The same goes for our relationship with God.

 

The Israelites were supposed to follow a designated path through the desert during Exodus that should have taken about three weeks.  However, due to their lack of faith, they spent forty years wandering in the desert.  This was a punishment.  If only they had stuck out their brief hardship than suffer a worse punishment as we do many times. When we are accepted by God, we will still face hardships where we can be disciplined to grow, especially in faith.  However, when we doubt God, we usually end up assuming our hardships are God’s punishments and make them even worse by doing so.  In conclusion, I learned that being jealous of those who reject God and have seemingly “easy” lives is meaningless as they are stagnating spiritually, while God is preparing HIS children for the future so they can stand covered with the Blood of their Savior Jesus Christ in front of God’s Judgement Throne and, with God’s Divine Approval, receive citizenship to enter God’s Holy Kingdom, which cannot be shaken or destroyed.  So while it may seem that other people may live an easy life while you experience hardship, remember (this applies to me as well) that God is training you so that you will be prepared for when He returns and those who choose to stagnate in disbelief will be unprepared when they will finally face hardships without help from God.

Key Verse: (Hebrews 12: 28) “Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe…”

One word: As a good student, we should always strive to continue learning, serving, growing, and loving as children of Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

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