The discipline of God
Scripture Reading: Heb. 12:4-13
Let us consider Hebrews 12:4-13, point by point.
Verse 4 says, “You have not yet resisted unto blood, struggling against sin.” In this verse the apostle said that the Hebrew believers had struggled against sin. But even though they had suffered much, gone through great trials, encountered various problems, and met with much persecution, they had not yet resisted unto blood. If we compare these sufferings with that of our Lord, they are quite light! Verse 2 tells us that the Lord Jesus despised the shame and endured the suffering of the cross. What a believer goes through is far less severe than what the Lord went through! The Lord Jesus despised the shame and endured the suffering of the cross unto the shedding of blood. Although the Hebrew believers also suffered some shame and endured the cross, they had not yet resisted unto blood.
What should a person expect after he becomes a Christian? We should never put a false hope before the brothers. We should show them that we will encounter many problems. However, God’s purpose and meaning are behind all of them. We can expect many trials and tribulations, but what is the purpose and meaning behind all these trials and tribulations? Unless the Lord grants us the privilege of becoming martyrs, we will probably not have the chance to resist and struggle against sin “unto blood.” But even though it is not a resistance unto blood, we are nevertheless resisting! Why do these things happen to us?
Verses 5 and 6 say, “You have completely forgotten the exhortation which reasons with you as with sons, `My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor faint when reproved by Him; for whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives.'”
The apostle quoted Proverbs in the Old Testament in this portion of the Word. He said that if the Lord disciplines us, we must not regard it lightly; and if the Lord reproves us, we must not faint. A believer should adopt these two attitudes. Some regard difficulties, sufferings, and God’s discipline as insignificant matters. They do not think much of them and easily allow God’s discipline to slip by. There are also some who faint when they go through the Lord’s reproach and fall into His hand. As Christians they feel that they have suffered too much hardship in their environment and that it is too hard to live the Christian life. They expect their way to be smooth. Their thought is on entering the pearly gates and walking on a golden street wearing fine, white linen garments. It never occurred to them that Christians would experience all kinds of difficulties. They are not prepared to be Christians under such circumstances. They faint and waver at the difficulties along the way. Proverbs shows us that both of these attitudes are wrong.
God’s children should not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord. If the Lord disciplines us, we have to pay attention to it. Everything the Lord measures to us has a purpose and meaning to it. He wants to build us up through our experiences and environment. All of His discipline is for the purpose of perfecting us and making us holy. All of His discipline works His nature into our nature. As a result, we become disciplined in our character. This is the purpose of the Lord’s discipline. He does not discipline us without reason. He disciplines us for the purpose of making us vessels. The Lord does not allow suffering to come to His children without a cause. We do not suffer for the purpose of suffering. He does not give us tribulation simply to make us suffer. The purpose in all our suffering is that we would partake of God’s holiness and nature. This is the goal of discipline.
Many children of God have been Christians for eight or ten years, yet they have never given serious consideration to God’s discipline. They never say, “The Lord is disciplining me. He is dealing with me, chastising me, and molding me into a vessel.” They do not see the purpose of God’s chastisement, dealing, and carving work. They go through their experiences capriciously. They are not bothered by what they see today; they let it slip by. They are not bothered by what they see the next day; they are not concerned about what the Lord’s will is, and they disregard it time after time. To them it is as if God purposelessly allows people to suffer. Please bear in mind that the first reaction of God’s children should be to respect and honor God’s discipline. The first thing we should do when we experience something is to find the meaning of our experience: Why have things happened this way? We must learn to respect and honor God’s discipline. We should not regard it lightly. To regard it lightly is to be careless about it. It is to say that God can do whatever He wants to do and that we must simply go through these experiences mindlessly and aimlessly.
On the one hand, we should not regard the discipline lightly. On the other hand, we should not make too much of it. If the Christian life became nothing but a story of suffering and frustration, it would be too much of a discouragement to us. This is to make too much of our discipline. We must learn to accept the discipline of the Lord and to see that His discipline and reproach are always meaningful. At the same time, we must not be discouraged by discipline.
Verse 6 says, “`For whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives.'” This is a quotation from Proverbs. It reveals the purpose of the Lord’s discipline.
God does not have the spare time to deal with all the people of the world. He disciplines only those whom He loves. He disciplines us because He loves us. He disciplines us because He wants to make us vessels. God has no time to discipline everyone in the world, but He disciplines His own children because He loves them. Therefore, discipline is God’s provision of love. Love arranges the environment that we should be in. We call this arrangement His discipline. Love measures everything that comes our way. It orders the things that we encounter in our daily life. This measurement is His discipline. Discipline is for our greatest profit and for bringing us to the loftiest goal in God’s creation.
“And He scourges every son whom He receives.” All those who are disciplined have the ground to say that they are received by God. Scourging is not a sign of God’s rejection; it is a proof of His acceptance. I say again, God does not have the time to deal with everyone; He wants to spend His time on the sons whom He loves and receives.
Once you become a Christian, you should be prepared to accept discipline from God’s hand. If you are not His child, God will let you go. He will allow you to live an undisciplined life and walk your own way. But once you have accepted the Lord Jesus as your Savior, once you are born of God and have become His child, you have to prepare yourself for His discipline. No father has the time to discipline another man’s child. Whether his neighbor’s son is good or bad is not of his concern. A good father, however, will always discipline his own son in a definite way. He will deal with his son strictly according to guidelines that he has set in his mind. He will not discipline his son in a mindless and haphazard way. He will train his son according to a few objectives, namely, honesty, diligence, long-suffering, and noble aspirations. The father puts together a certain curriculum to discipline his son. He molds his son into a certain character. In the same way, since the day we were saved, God has been arranging a curriculum for us. He wants us to learn certain lessons so that we will be conformed to His nature. He wants us to be like Him in many things. This is why He arranges, disciplines, and scourges. His goal is to make us a certain kind of person.
At the very beginning of his Christian life, a child of God must realize that God has prepared many lessons for him. He has made many provisions in the environment and has ordered many things, experiences, and sufferings for the purpose of producing a certain kind of character and disposition. This is what God is doing today. He wants to build up a certain kind of character in us, and He does it by ordering all kinds of circumstances to come our way.
The minute we become Christians, we have to realize that God’s hand is guiding us in all things. The ordained circumstances will come, and the scourgings will come. As soon as we get off the right way, His scourges will be upon us and will goad us back to the way. Every child of God should be prepared to accept God’s disciplinary hand. God disciplines us because we are sons. God does not waste His time on others. He has no time to discipline those who are not His beloved sons. God has no time to reprove those who are not yet accepted as sons. Scourging and discipline are expressions of God’s love and acceptance. Only Christians can have a share in God’s scourging and discipline.
What we are receiving is discipline; it is not punishment. Punishment is for the retribution of one’s mistakes, while discipline is for the purpose of education. Punishment comes because we have done something wrong; it responds to the past. Discipline is also related to our mistakes, but it is something for the future. Discipline bears an element of the future; it has a purpose. We have been called into the name of the Lord today; we belong to Him. Now we must be prepared to allow God to make us vessels of glory to Him. I can say with much confidence that God wants every one of His children to glorify Him in certain areas. Every child of God should glorify Him. However, each one does it in a different way. Some will glorify Him in one way, some in another way. We glorify God through different circumstances. As a consequence, God is glorified in a full way. Everyone has his own part and his own specialty. God wants to create a certain kind of character in us for the purpose of glorifying Him. No one is exempt from God’s disciplinary hand. Such a hand works to accomplish the things of God. We have never seen a child of God who was exempt from His disciplinary hand.
It is indeed a great loss if God’s children do not understand His discipline. Many people live a foolish life in the eyes of God for many years. They have no way to go on. They do not know what the Lord wants to do in them. They walk according to their own will and wander in a wild, unrestrained, and aimless way through the wilderness. God does not operate this way. He is a God of purpose. He does things for the purpose of molding a specific character in us so that we may glorify His name. All discipline is for the purpose of bringing us on in this way.
The apostle quoted Proverbs when he wrote to the Hebrew believers. In verse 7 the apostle explains the quotation from Proverbs in verses 5 and 6, saying, “It is for discipline that you endure.” This is the first New Testament explanation of the subject; it is a crucial word. Here the apostle shows us that endurance, suffering, and discipline are the same thing. God is disciplining us. The apostle shows us that this disciplining is the same as our endurance. It is for discipline that we endure.
Perhaps some will ask, “What is God’s discipline? Why is He disciplining us?” Verses 2 through 4 speak of enduring the cross, despising the shame, and resisting sin, whereas verses 5 and 6 speak of discipline and scourging. What is the relation between these two things? What are the discipline and scourging in verses 5 and 6, and what are the shame, affliction, and resistance against sin in verses 2 through 4? Verse 7 is a conclusion of verses 2 through 6. It shows us that what we endure is God’s discipline. Thus, suffering, shame, and affliction are God’s discipline. Although our resistance against sin is not unto blood, the pain and tribulation are nevertheless part of God’s discipline.
How does God discipline us? His discipline has to do with whatever He is bringing us through and whatever He is charging us to endure. Do not consider God’s discipline as anything else. God’s discipline is what we endure every day, things such as harsh words, an unkind face, a sharp tongue, an impolite retort, an unreasonable criticism, unexpected troubles, various kinds of shame, irresponsibility, infractions, and other more serious problems arising in the family. Sometimes it may be sickness, poverty, affliction, or difficulty. We encounter many things and endure many things. The apostle said that all these are God’s discipline! It is for discipline that we endure.
The question today is: What kind of response do we have when others give us an ugly look? If their look is God’s discipline, how should we react? If our business fails because others have forgotten to do something for us, how should we react? If the poor memory of another person is God’s discipline to us, what should we do? If we become sick through another’s infection, how should we deal with it? If things turn sour through various misfortunes, what do we say? If things do not go our way because God’s discipline is behind them, what should we say? Brothers and sisters, the response to all these things makes a great difference in us! We can consider everything in our environment as being a mere encounter; this is one kind of attitude. We can also consider it to be God’s discipline; this is another kind of attitude. The words of the apostle here are very clear. He says that it is for discipline that we endure. Please do not consider all these things to be unendurable. They are God’s discipline. Do not conclude foolishly that they are mere coincidence. We must realize that God daily arranges these things and measures them for our discipline.
Verse 7 continues, “God deals with you as with sons.” God deals with us as with sons. “For what son is there whom the father does not discipline?” What we experience is God’s discipline. Today all discipline comes to us because He deals with us as with sons. Please bear in mind that discipline is God’s way of honoring us, not afflicting us. Many hold the wrong concept that they are disciplined by God because God wants to torture them. No! We are disciplined by God because God is honoring us. He deals with us as with sons. For what son is there whom the father does not discipline? Discipline is God’s honoring of us! We have become God’s sons; therefore, we must be disciplined. God disciplines us in order to bring us to the place of blessing and glory. We should never think that we are tormented by God. For what son is there whom the father does not discipline?
We see a big contrast when a person understands that what is happening to him is of God; he will have a different view toward his experience. If someone hits me with a cane today, I may argue with him or snatch the cane from him. I may break it and throw it back in his face. I have not done him any injustice in doing this. However, if my Father chastises me with the cane, can I snatch the cane, break it, and throw it back? I cannot do this. On the contrary, we feel somewhat privileged that our Father would discipline us. Madam Guyon said, “I will kiss the whip that chastises me! I will kiss the hand that buffets me!” Please remember that this is the Father’s hand and the Father’s rod. This is different. If it were some ordinary experience, we would not miss anything by rejecting it. But this is no ordinary encounter; this is God’s hand and God’s chastisement, the goal of which is to make us a partaker of His nature and character. Once we see this, we will not murmur and complain. As soon as a person realizes that his Father is the one who is dealing with him, his feelings change. Our God is dealing with us as with sons. It is a glory that He disciplines us today.
Verse 8 says, “But if you are without discipline, of which all sons have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons.” Remember that discipline is the proof that one is a son. God’s sons are those who are disciplined by Him, and those who are without discipline are not His sons. A person has no proof that he is a son of God if he is not disciplined by God. The proof that one is a son is the discipline he receives.
All sons have become partakers of discipline. Every child of God needs to be disciplined, and you are no exception. Unless you are illegitimate, one who is adopted or bought, you must accept the same discipline! The apostle’s word here is strong. All sons have become partakers of discipline. Do not expect to be treated differently if you are a son of God. All sons have become partakers of discipline. Everyone is treated the same way. Everyone who lived in Paul’s time or Peter’s time experienced this. Today this is true for everyone in every nation throughout the world. No one is exempted. You cannot take a way which no other child of God has ever walked. No child of God has ever taken a way that is free from discipline. If any child of God is foolish enough to think that there can be smooth sailing in his living and work and that he can be spared God’s discipline, he is saying that he is illegitimate, that is, one who is adopted. We must see that discipline is the sign and proof that we are God’s children. Those who are without discipline are illegitimate; they belong to other families and are not members of the household of God. If God does not discipline us, it means that we do not belong to His family.
Let me mention something that I once saw. It may not be that profound, yet it serves as a good illustration. Five or six children were playing rambunctiously together; their bodies were covered in mud. When the mother of three of the children came, she spanked her children on their hands and forbade them to dirty themselves again. After she spanked them, one asked, “Why did you not spank the others?” The mother answered, “They are not my children.” No mother wants to discipline other people’s children. It would be terrible if God did not discipline us! Those who are without discipline are illegitimate, not sons! We have truly believed in the Lord. Since the first day of our Christian life, chastisement has been coming our way. We cannot remain a child of God yet be spared discipline. We cannot receive the sonship of God without receiving chastisement. These two things go together. We cannot receive the sonship without accepting the discipline! All sons must be disciplined, and we are no exception.
Verse 9 says, “Furthermore we have had the fathers of our flesh as discipliners and we respected them; shall we not much more be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live?” The apostle pointed out that the fathers of our flesh discipline us and we respect them. We acknowledge that their discipline is right, and we accept it. Shall we not much more be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live?
This shows us that the matter of sonship leads to the matter of discipline, and discipline issues in submission. Because we are sons, there is discipline; since there is discipline, there must also be submission on our part. God orders everything in our environment for the purpose of teaching us. It walls us in so that we have no choice but to take His way.
We must obey God in two matters: One is to obey God’s commandments, and the other is to obey His discipline. On the one hand, we have to obey God’s word, that is, His commandments. We have to obey all of God’s ordinances written in the Bible. On the other hand, we must subject ourselves to God’s arrangement in the environment. We must obey His discipline. Often, obedience to God’s word is enough. But there are times when we have to subject ourselves to God’s discipline as well. God has ordered many things in our environment, and we must gain profit and learn lessons from these things. This is the profit God has ordained for us. He wants to lead us to the straight path. We must learn to obey not only His commandments but also His discipline. Obedience to God’s discipline may involve a price, but it puts us on the straight path.
Obedience is not an empty word. Quite a number of the brothers ask, “What should I obey?” The answer to this question is simple. We may think that we have nothing to obey, but when God disciplines us a little, we immediately think of ways of escape. It is strange that many people seem to have no commandment to obey! Please bear in mind that when God’s hand of discipline is upon us, that is the very time we have to obey. Some may ask, “Why do you not call God’s hand the hand of guidance? Why do you call it the hand of discipline? Why do you not say that God is guiding us all the way, rather than God is disciplining us?” God knows how terrible our temper is, and we also know. There are many people to whom obedience will never come without proper discipline.
We should know the kind of person we are in the eyes of God. We are rebellious and stubborn by nature. We are like naughty children who will not obey unless their father has a rod in his hand. Every one of us is the same. Some sons will never obey unless they are rebuked or scourged. They have to be spanked before they will pay attention. Please bear in mind that this is the kind of person we are! We pay attention only when we are spanked. If we are not spanked, we turn our face the other way. This is why discipline is absolutely necessary. We should know ourselves. We are not that simple. Even a spanking may not change us that much. The apostle showed us that chastisement is for the purpose of humbling us and making us obedient. He said, “Be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live.” Submission and obedience are indispensable virtues. We must learn to obey God and say, “God, I am willing to subject myself to Your discipline! Whatever You do is right!”
Verse 10 says, “For they disciplined for a few days as it seemed good to them.” Often parents discipline their children in a poor way, because they act and discipline according to their own whims. Not much benefit will come out of this discipline.
“But He, for what is profitable that we might partake of His holiness.” This is not a discipline driven by temper nor a discipline that is merely a punishment. No discipline or reproach of God is merely a punishment; it is educational in nature, and it is there for our profit. The purpose of discipline is not just to hurt us. The hurt produces something; it is there for a purpose. He does not punish us simply because we have done something wrong. Whoever thinks this way is altogether in the realm of the law and the courtroom.
What is the benefit of such discipline? It is to make us partakers of His holiness. This is glorious! Holiness is God’s nature. We may say that holiness is also God’s character. It is for this that God uses many ways to discipline His children. From the time we believed in the Lord, God has been disciplining us. He disciplines us with the view that we may partake of His holiness, His nature, and His character. The Bible speaks of a few kinds of holiness. The holiness in Hebrews specifically refers to God’s character. For Christ to become our holiness is one thing. For us to be sanctified in Christ is another thing. The holiness spoken of here is something wrought into us; it is not a gift. It has to do with our constitution. This is something we have been emphasizing for years. This means that God works something into us in a gradual way. The holiness here is a holiness that is constituted through His discipline, something constituted through His scourging and daily, inner working. His discipline and operation are for the purpose of making us partakers of His holiness.
After we suffer a little chastisement, we partake of His holiness. After we suffer more chastisement, we learn more holiness. If we remain under God’s discipline, we will gradually realize what holiness is. If we continue under God’s discipline, there will be a gradual constitution of holiness into our character. If we stay under God’s discipline all the way to the end, we will become holy in our character. Nothing is more crucial than this! We must realize that the result of discipline is the constitution of God’s character into our being. All discipline has results, and we should reap the fruit from all of them. May the Lord be merciful to us so that His discipline, whenever it is upon us, may produce a little more holiness. May it result in more holiness, in more lessons learned, and in more constitution of God. Holiness must continually increase in us!
After we accept the Lord and become God’s children, He daily arranges many things in our environment to discipline and chastise us. All these things are lessons to us. Time after time these lessons come to us for the purpose of adding His holiness to us. We need much discipline before God can work out a holy character in us! In the eyes of God we have only a limited number of years to live our Christian life. If we neglect God’s discipline, and if it does not produce the needed effect in us, our loss will be an eternal loss indeed!
God not only gives us His holiness as a gift, but He also wants us to partake of His holiness through His discipline. He wants us to be constituted with His holiness; He wants to wrought holiness into our being little by little. Carnal persons like us require years of discipline from God before His holy character and nature can become ours. We need all kinds of blows, situations, guidance, frustrations, urgings, and chastisement before we can partake of God’s holy character. This is a great matter! God does not merely give us holiness as a gift. This holiness must be wrought into us. God has to constitute us with His holiness!
This is one distinctive feature of salvation in the New Testament. God first gives us something, and then He works the same thing into us. He constitutes us with the same thing little by little. When we have both aspects, we have full salvation. One is a gift from Christ, and the other is a constitution of the Holy Spirit. This is a distinctive feature of the New Testament. One is a gift, and the other is a constitution. Among all the crucial things in the New Testament, there is this clear statement: God is making us partakers of His holiness through His discipline.
Verse 11 says, “Now no discipline at the present time seems to be a matter of joy, but of grief; but afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been exercised by it.”
Here the apostle draws special attention to the words at the present time and afterward. It is a fact that one does not feel happy at the time of discipline, but grievous. Do not think that suffering is wrong when you experience God’s discipline. Discipline is surely a suffering. The Bible does not say that the cross is a joy. It says rather that the cross is affliction. The cross brings us suffering. The Lord despised the shame for the joy set before Him. This is a fact. The Bible does not say that the cross is a joy; the cross is not a joy. It is always a suffering. It is not wrong to grieve and feel afflicted when we are disciplined.
But we must learn obedience. Only through obedience can we partake of God’s holiness. Discipline indeed is not a matter of joy “at the present time.” Instead, it is grief to us. This is not surprising; it is in fact quite normal for us to feel this way. Our Lord did not consider the trials a matter of joy when He passed through them. Of course, we can make it a matter of joy. Peter said that we can exult in various trials (1 Pet. 1:6). On the one hand, they are a suffering. On the other hand, we can reckon them to be a joy. How we feel is one thing, and how we reckon is another thing. We can feel grieved, but at the same time, we can reckon it to be a joy.
A child of God should fix his eyes not on the present but on the future. Pay attention to this sentence: “Now no discipline at the present time seems to be a matter of joy, but of grief; but afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been exercised by it.” Do not look at the suffering you are going through now. Instead, look at the resulting peaceable fruit of righteousness.
Jeremiah 48:11 says, “Moab has been at ease from his youth;/And he is settled on his lees/And has not been emptied from vessel to vessel;/Nor has he gone into exile. Therefore his taste remains in him,/And his scent is not changed.” Are you clear what this is saying?
This is the problem with many who have not passed through trials. The passage describes those who have never suffered any chastisement or sufferings before the Lord. The Moabites had been at ease from their youth. They experienced no suffering or pain. What did such ease produce? They became like wine settled on its lees. If a person brews liquor from grapes or other kinds of fruit, the wine surfaces to the top, while the lees settle to the bottom. The wine floats, while the lees sink. In order to clear the wine, it has to be poured from vessel to vessel. If the lees remain at the bottom, sooner or later they will spoil the taste of the liquor. In making wine, a man must first allow the grapes to ferment. After the grapes ferment, he transfers the wine from one vessel to another. If he is not careful, he will pour the lees out as well. This is why he has to pour carefully. But one pouring is not enough; some lees are bound to escape into the other vessel. This is why he has to do this again. A second time may still not clear the lees, and he has to pour the wine into a third vessel. He has to keep pouring until no lees are left in the wine. God said that Moab had been at ease from his youth and had settled on his lees. He had not been emptied from vessel to vessel, and his lees always followed him. One must be emptied from vessel to vessel if he wants to do away with the lees. He has to be poured out again and again until one day the lees at the bottom are gone. Moab was full of lees; although he was clear at the top, he was not emptied at the bottom. Those who have never gone through trials and chastisement have never been emptied from vessel to vessel.
Often it seems as if God is digging a person from his roots. A brother may experience God’s uprooting through his consecration; everything that he owns may be completely uprooted. A brother may experience God’s uprooting through his sufferings and trials; he may be stripped of everything he has. This is to be emptied from vessel to vessel. God’s hand will crush us thoroughly. He does this in order to clear away our lees!
To be at ease is not a good thing. Brothers and sisters, God wants to purify us. This is why He disciplines and scourges us. Never consider ease and comfort to be something good. Moab’s ease caused him to remain Moab forever!
Here are some sobering words: “His taste remains in him, /And his scent is not changed.” Because Moab was not emptied from vat to vat, from pot to pot, and from vessel to vessel, and because he was never disciplined and dealt with by God, his taste remained in him and his scent never changed!
Brothers, this is why God has to work on you. He wants to take away your taste and change your scent. God does not want your own taste and scent. I once said that many people are “raw” because they are still in their original state. They have never changed. You had a certain kind of taste before you believed in the Lord. Today you may have been a believer for ten years, yet your taste is still the same. Your scent remains the same as it was before you believed in the Lord. The word scent in Hebrew means “smell,” which is the flavor of something in its original state. You had a certain smell before you were saved. Today you have the same smell; there is no change in you at all. In other words, you have not experienced any of God’s constitution and carving.
God’s discipline is indeed precious! He wants to uproot us and to empty us from vessel to vessel. God disciplines us and deals with us in many ways so that we may lose our original smell and yield the peaceable fruit. The peaceable fruit of righteousness can be translated as “the peaceable fruit, which is the fruit of righteousness.”
Please remember that the fruit is peaceable. A man must be at peace with God in order to obtain this fruit. The worst thing one can do is to murmur, to lose his peace, and to rebel during times of discipline. One can be grieved by the discipline, but he should not murmur or rebel. The problem with many people is that they have no peace. This is why we need the peaceable fruit when we are under discipline. If you want the peaceable fruit, you must first learn to accept the discipline. You must learn not to fight with God or argue with Him. The peaceable fruit is the fruit of righteousness. Once you have the fruit of peace, you have the fruit of righteousness. This is why the apostle said, “The peaceable fruit, which is the fruit of righteousness.” Peace is righteousness. If the inward fruit is peace, the outward expression is righteousness. If you have the fruit of peace within, you will spontaneously partake of God’s holiness.
I hope that none of us would be like Moab, who was at ease from his youth and who had settled on his lees. He had not been emptied from vessel to vessel and had never gone into captivity. Therefore, his taste remained in him and his scent was not changed. Some have been Christians for ten or twenty years and have remained the same throughout this time. They have not accepted any of God’s dealings and have not subjected themselves to them. Thus, their taste remains the same. If our scent remains the same for ten or twenty years, it means that we have never yielded any peaceable fruit before God and have never been constituted with a holy character. Our hope is that God would constitute us with something, something called a holy character.
Hebrews 12:12-13 says, “Therefore set straight the hands which hang down and the paralyzed knees, and make straight paths for your feet, that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather may be healed.” Sometimes it seems that discipline makes the hands hang down and the knees paralyzed. But the apostle told us not to be disheartened. The hands may hang down and the knees may be paralyzed, but there is the fruit of peace and the fruit of righteousness.
Do not think that after a person suffers much hardship and discipline, there is nothing more to be done. After we are disciplined and scourged, we need to set straight the hands which hang down and the paralyzed knees. Discipline and scourging will yield the fruit of peace. This fruit of peace is the fruit of righteousness. If a person is at peace with God, he will have righteousness. As soon as we calm ourselves down and submit to God, everything becomes right and proper. As soon as we humble ourselves, we become constituted with a holy character. The fruit of peace is the fruit of righteousness. Do not set your eyes on righteousness. Just consider whether or not you are at peace, and whether or not you are obedient and pliable. If you are pliable and obedient, and if you are at peace, you will surely be constituted with holiness. Please bear in mind that even though you may have endured many trials and experienced many hardships in the past, there is still the need for you to set straight your hands which hang down and your paralyzed knees.
At the same time, you need to “make straight paths for your feet.” Today we can say that we have somewhat passed through this way. We are presenting this way clearly before you. “That what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather may be healed.” Those who are falling behind do not need to be put out of joint any longer; they can be healed and join the others who have passed the same straight course. If a person goes through trials and humbles himself under God’s mighty hand, he will find his character constituted with holiness. He will also lead many to this straight course; they will no longer be put out of joint but will be healed.
If a brother is before us and he veers off, his deviation may discourage others from finding the right course. This is why we must be obedient ourselves. We must bear the fruit of peace ourselves. This will not only ensure that we are on the right course, but also will open up the right course for others to follow. All the lame ones can take this way; they can all be healed. I recall the lame man in Acts 3. When his feet were made strong and he began to walk, he stood up, walked, leaped, and praised God. A lame man was healed, but there are many lame ones in this world today. They can all be healed by the straight course we take. We must open a way for all the brothers to follow.