Agonizomai: Heb 12 - 08 - Christ - Proving His Love and Grace Through Our Tribulation

Friday, May 07, 2010

Heb 12 - 08 - Christ - Proving His Love and Grace Through Our Tribulation

Heb 12 - 08 - Christ - Proving His Love and Grace Through Our Tribulation

Heb 12:8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons

If familial discipline proves sonship then, by the same token, the suffering of the saints is evidence of salvation. How often the worldly view turns this concept on its head! The Pharisees of Jesus’ time would have always been quick to equate suffering with being under God’s special disfavour. For the saints it is precisely the opposite - it is the sign of His deep, abiding and eternal love.

One has only to remember the story of Dives and Lazarus to see that the outward appearance means nothing. The Jews would have thought of Dives as blessed with wealth, fine clothing and sumptuous provisions. Lazarus, on the other hand, seemed cursed. He was weak, beggarly, poor, sick and unable even to keep the disgusting unclean dogs from licking his sores. How God must have been angry with him! Not so. God loved Him with a love that brought him all the way to heaven.

But only faith can perceive this. Only faith moves, dwells and sees in the realm of the spirit. And it does so by the light of God in Jesus Christ. Worldly values and worldly sight bring worldly perceptions and wrong conclusions. To the worldling, personal tribulation is a disaster to be avoided and mourned at all costs, and an occasion for self-pity; the tribulation of others, however, is judgement upon their inferior morality. But to the godly, tribulation is the hand of God purifying his beloved children. This is why the church flourishes under persecution and languishes in times of blessing. God achieves two things in bringing tribulation to the saints. He builds up the saints and He purifies His church by running off the pretenders.

But see! The writer has a better hope for the Hebrew believers. Their troubles are the sign of God’s chastising love. If they dwelt in peace and contentment, if they were made at ease in the world, then they would not be sons, for it would be a sign that God didn’t care. It would indicate that God had left them to their sin, or that they were never truly His to begin with.

Does this mean that the believer should court tribulation and persecution? Of course not! Neither does it mean that we should despise those who have the world’s goods. It simply means that we should look for the hand of God in all that befalls us and, when such things cannot be avoided by the normal means to hand, or by applying the means of grace, then we are to say with the faithful, "It is the Lord, let Him do what seems good in His sight." And then to receive and rejoice in His discipline, with thanksgiving.

We don’t yank the reins from God’s hands and decide for ourselves how we should suffer, for that would not be a cross. It would be a self-made and self-directed glory. (Yes, men - even unregenerate men - can be willing to suffer or to die for entirely the wrong reasons). No - we rather submit ourselves to His hand and await His sovereign will as we live by seeking Him. We watch and wait, for He is always "coming". But do we see Him? And when He comes, does he find the faith on earth? Does He find it in us?


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