by Dennis Michelson
Introduction: Bud Wilkinson said that football is a game where eleven men needing no exercise run up and down a field all day while thousands of people who desperately need exercise sit and watch.
Sounds a bit like the modern church. The only people who profit from a visit to God's gymnasium are those who exercise while they are in it. God places us in His gym from time to time and it involves pain but it can yield peace and profit in the Christian life.
1. THE REASON FOR EXERCISE (12:11)
"Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby."
No true child of God is ever left to a cold heart and sinful life. God will send conviction from His Word. If the conviction is not heeded then adverse circumstances will follow. If the lessons in the university of adversity are not heeded then a crisis will follow.
The participants in the ancient Greek games would literally strip down to the point of nakedness. Hebrews 12:1 explains what that means in a spiritual context - "let us lay aside every weight and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and lets us run with patience the race that is set before us." The vigorous exercise in God's gym will -
2. THE REACTION TO EXERCISE (12:5-6)
- Remove Hindrances (12:1) This is the weight of superfluous flesh. We are brought back to a place of spiritual fitness.
- Reveal Weaknesses (12:1) This is the sin or besetting sin mentioned in the text.
Remember God will always run His children through their paces. While we undergo a spiritual workout there are two ways in which we can react -
3. THE RESULTS OF EXERCISE (12:10-11)
- Wrong Reaction
(1) You can despise it (12:5) At the heart of this is a hatred of God and the way He works in our lives.
(2) You can faint because of it (12:5) Our spiritual pride keeps our head held up in a high and haughty way and we grow faint. Remember what the school nurse would have someone do when they grew faint? That's right - bow your head or even better put your head between your knees. Humble yourself because God will resist the proud but offers grace to the humble.
(3) You can get bitter over it (12:15) In addition to hating God, we now hate the gym! When a small child screams "I hate you" to his parents it usually means "I hate what you are making me do." The exercise designed by God to produce blessing can also be a source of bitterness if we have the wrong reaction.
- Right Reaction
(1) Remember who you are (12:5) You are a son of God and the Lord faithfully chastens every son in His family.
(2) Remember why this is happening (12:6) Your Father loves you and wants you to be His delight. Proverbs 3:11-12 - "My son, despise not the chastening of the Lord; neither be weary of his correction: For whom the Lord loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth."
Three important results stem from Divine discipline -
- There will be hurt - Pain is inevitable after a workout.
- There will be holiness - God's purpose is to produce holiness or Christlike character within us.
- There will be happiness - A new perspective is gained in the life of a believer following discipline in God's gym. The constant pursuit in our modern culture of happiness apart from holiness is futile. Happiness is a byproduct of holiness. Without holiness no man shall see the Lord.
Divine chastisement in the life of a believer can be a source of great assurance. Since the Lord disciplines every son who gets out of line, then corrective discipline in your life is confirmation that you are one of His sheep. If you are without chastisement (when the Bible says "all" are partakers) then are you bastards and not sons.
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