I cannot help but write down a few definitions about faith that comes to my mind as I read through Hebrews 11: “acting upon, through belief, on what God said.” “You must believe to receive.” “It is an active participation with the divine will of the Creator.”
Chances are these definitions have come from some variations that I have been taught over the years. But can we really know about the faith in God through simple definitions? Or should we just stop with the diddle dawdling and go with it, and experience it? I will say that I have found that when God asks me, or wants to direct me in something, it always challenges my own fears, my preconceived notions and what I think might be best, even what I might have been taught by another. This is mainly the best way I have found that I know God leading me to walk in faith.
In Hebrew 12, after an amazing speech about the faith of the Patriarchs in Hebrew 11, the writer states, “Therefore”. This is, “for that reason; because of that; on that ground”, in other words on what they have done through faith (Merriam Webster), the writer goes on to say that, “since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
As it continues, we find the author writes about discipline. We should take a closer look at this word. In America the word discipline has carried a negative concept over the years. It can mean to be disciplined as in corporeal punishment, such as spanking, or sitting in a corner with a dunce cap on your head. To others it is to discipline yourself toward a goal, an achievement, or to a way of living. Both are not very fond of, but those who use this device to train themselves into a pattern, such as taking care of their body, or even pursuing a career, or bettering their hobby, understand this concept better. It so happens that in the letter to the Hebrews, this word is only mentioned 3 times, in verses 5, 7, 11, of chapter 12. In the NIV, the word ‘discipline’ is used, which is probably the word we consider to be used the most in my first example. The KJV uses the word ‘chastening’, that I believe is used in our first example of the word ‘discipline’. So we ask, “Is the word that is used in Hebrews our first example, or the second?” Surprisingly, it is the second. In the Strong’s Dictionary it says:
From G3811; tutorage, that is, education or training; by implication disciplinary correction: – chastening, chastisement, instruction, nurture.
Regardless of the way it is used, its basic concept is to be a way of retraining yourself out of one way of thought and into another: whether through training yourself in some act or even getting a thump on the hand. Although I’m sure we all know someone we would like to thump on the head.
So we see this idea of discipline. It even correlates with what Paul wrote in first Corinthians about no longer thinking like a child and acting like a child, instead he began to think like an adult, and act like an adult. This discipline is a transitional retraining of our hearts and minds. It involves what we think to even how we choose to react to how others make us feel and think, and even if we accept those feelings and if we allow them to control us. In other words, taking responsibility for our actions and not blaming someone for our feelings or even how we chose to treat them. Let’s continue on into chapter 12, it’s a gem.
Verse 7 talks about enduring hardship as discipline. So if discipline is about retraining our minds, what is it we are disciplining ourselves out of? What is it that Christ has come to set us free from? The effects of sin, the power of the enemy, to now have the power to no longer be subject to the sinful nature. How exciting is that? And what did he set us free for? Freedom. So in the words of the writer, strengthen yourselves, and “do not make light of the Lord’s discipline.” Do not think because you are going through hardships that God doesn’t love you, or somehow you’ve lowered your defenses and the enemy has gained some strong foothold into your life. Look at love first, not the enemy.
We now come to a more difficult aspect of the chapter. Let’s ask this first: If we really do believe after hearing, why would we fall away? But then hearing does not really necessitate believing. In either case, if you hear something, let alone the gospel of Jesus Christ, you have the choice of accepting or rejecting it. Yet, the letter to the Hebrews was written to believers in Christ, not to those who did not believe. So the matter is not about losing salvation, as the enemy has caused quarrels among believers for many years with this doctrine, but as this part of the letter highlights, it is about rejecting what we have already received if we say we believe after hearing. But the writer encourages us! Do not reject your inheritance rights for some simple or exciting doctrine which appears to satisfy you in some way, or go back to living the life you had because of some brash comment someone said, this takes you away from the pure teachings of Christ and who he is. In the end, you might have given away your inheritance rights; you rejected your sonship you gained through Christ. You did not come to a mountain that is to make you fearful, but a mountain that is your home! (Hebrews 12:14-28). If you are going through difficult times right now, or you are not sure what the Christian faith is about, read this part of Scripture and pray. And ask yourself this, as I have asked myself many times when testing my faith, “Do I really believe?” Let this question be a reaffirming yes!