(5) To develop reverence for God as Father. The argument of Hebrews 12 is: as we reverenced our fathers who corrected us: “Shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits and live?” Just as well trained children love, honour and appreciate the training of their parents, and speak of them with affection and reverence; so the children of God should, much more, love, honour, praise and adore their loving Father for all His gracious dealings, His providing hand, His protecting care and His sustaining grace and His wise and loving discipline. No wonder the child of God sings:
“How good is the God we adore!
Our faithful unchangeable friend:
Whose love is as great as His power,
That knows neither measure nor end!”
It is as “the Father” that God seeks worshippers to “worship Him in Spirit and in truth” (John 4). Thus His discipline over us produces within us the necessary reverence for Him that is esssential to true spiritual worship. This, in turn, is the Christian’s highest occupation for which he has been divinely fitted by God’s saving grace and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and thus constituted a priest unto God (1 Pet. 2:4-9). Careless parents who have neglected the essential training of their children, thereby lose the respect and reverence that would have been theirs had they fulfilled their responsibility to them. This can never be true of our Father in Heaven. He loves us too much to let us go on our own way, unrebuked, for this would cause us to lose our reverence for Him and bring loss and shame to us.
(6) To produce from those exercised, the peaceable fruits of righteousness. “No chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruits of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby” (Heb. 12:11). Three things are here affirmed regarding this discipline of the Lord.
(a) The painful character of it. It is described as being “not joyous, but grievous.” It is anything but a pleasant thing to the flesh to be under the disciplining hand of God. The child whose disobedience has merited chastisement from its parents finds the experience very grievous, if its loud cries and many tears are any indication of this fact! Though the punishment was deserved it was anything but delightful, as many of us can recall, who were fortunate enough to have parents who believed and practised the scriptural mode of training children: “Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying” (Prov. 19:18).
A man who attained to a high position in life was asked the secret of his greatness. He replied: “I owe it to two great factors: first, I was brought up at the knees of a devoted mother, and second, across the knees of a determined father!” It has been well said that a child’s character can be improved by a pat on the back; particularly if that pat is administered often enough, hard enough and low enough! A Christian mother, left a widow with a large family of boys, so reared them that each boy not only became a Christian but also a preacher of the Word. When asked the secret of her success she replied, “I attribute it to much prayer and the use of a thick hickory stick which hung on the wall underneath the motto: ‘I need thee every hour!’ “
Job found that the discipline through which he passed was indeed a grievous experience. He did not know the cause for which these calamities had been allowed to come upon him: the loss of his property, family and health. But in the midst of his sore trial he cried: “He knoweth the way that I take: when He hath tried me I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10). Joseph also was allowed to pass through a painful experience of suffering. He was sold by his brethren into slavery, falsely accused by a wicked woman and sentenced to a term of imprisonment. Truly, it was not a joyous but a most grievous experience for him. Nor could he see, at the time, the purpose for which these things had been allowed to take place.
The trial of a Christian’s faith, love and obedience is not a welcome one, but he may rest assured it is a necessary one, or it would not have been allowed. Paul, by the Spirit assures the believer, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28). Happy indeed is that child whose parents love him too much to let him have his own way!
(b) The peaceable fruits from it. This is only realized “afterward.” It was the peaceable fruits of the “afterward” that God had in mind when He permitted the discipline, for “Known unto God are all His works from the beginning of the world” (Acts 15:18). We are told that “God blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning” (Job 42:12). He emerged from his grievous experience to bless the hand that guided and bless the heart that planned. Joseph came forth from his training as a slave and a prisoner to take his place as second only to the king in Egypt, and to enjoy for many long years, “the peaceable fruits of righteousness.” David confessed: “It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn Thy statutes” (Ps. 119:71). It is in the golden light of the “afterward” of the peaceable fruits that we can appreciate the necessity for the grievous chastening. We can learn more by our hindsight than our foresight. J. Southey, commenting on Matthew 7:9, once remarked: “The Lord’s answers to prayer are infinitely perfect. Eternity will show that often when we were asking for a stone that looked like bread, He was giving us bread that, in our short-sightedness, looked like a stone.”
All God’s dealings with His people are for their ultimate good for we are told: “Though He cause grief, yet will He have compassion according to the multitude of His mercies. For He doth not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men” (Lam.
3:32-33). The Christian learns far more from his bumps than from his books. William Cowper, the Christian poet of a century ago, expressed it concisely when he wrote:
“Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds you so much dread,
Are big with mercy, and shall break
In blessings on your head.
His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.
Blind unbelief is sure to err,
And scan His work in vain,
God is His own Interpreter,
And He will make it plain!”
(c) The necessary condition with it. “To those who are exercised thereby.” Many a Christian when passing through a period of chastening cries, “How can I get out of this?” How much better it would have been if he had asked, “What can I get out of this?” Spiritual exercise, on the part of the believer, is therefore an essential condition if he is to appreciate the good which God had in mind when permitting the experience.
Therefore the need for the exhortation: “Despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of Him” (Heb. 12:5).
“Not ‘till the loom is silent,
And the shuttles cease to fly,
Shall God unroll the canvas,
And explain the reason why.
The dark threads were as needful,
In the Weaver’s skillful hand.
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned.”
There is always the danger that a Christian instead of being exercised before God, becomes resentful and embittered as he experiences the chastening hand of his Father. This results in a loss of communion with its consequent joy and fruitlessness. There are many Christians today whom God has had to put on the shelf, as being of no further use to Him because of this very thing. Perhaps some financial reverses, or the sorrow which comes from the loss of a loved one, or the loss of his own health has caused him to rebel against the will of God.