God Lovingly Corrects Us (Hebrews 12:5-11)

God Lovingly Corrects You (Proverbs 3:12; 2 Corinthians 12:7; Hebrews 12:5-11)

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH on Sunday, April 30, 2023

The train chugged its way through Indiana at twenty-four miles per hour. That doesn’t seem like a frightful speed. That is, until you take into account how long it takes to stop a 6,200-ton train… and what lay upon the tracks ahead.

“That’s a baby!” yelled Robert Mohr, the attentive conductor.

The engineer, Rodney Lindley, had thought it was a small dog, but the thatch of blonde hair and the colorful clothes made it all clear.

Emily Marshall, a child of nineteen months, was playing on the rails. She had strayed from safety as her mother picked flowers in the garden.

It was all chaos and shouting at the controls of the train. The engineer hit the brakes, but there was no way the train could stop short of disaster. Mohr, forty-nine and a Vietnam vet, had to think quickly.

He threw open the door, moved along a catwalk to the very front of the engine, and leaned precariously forward, steadying himself with one arm as Lindley continued to pull frantically at the brake. The train slowed to about ten miles per hour—still much too fast. Lindley said, “It felt like we were just eating up the rail, going faster and faster.”

As the great locomotive approached, Emily heard the noise and sensed danger. “She sat up and watched us for what seemed like an eternity,” said Lindley. Then she began to crawl off the rails, but not fast enough. Just as the train was about to go over her, Mohr, at the leading edge of the locomotive, stretched out one leg as far as he could and, like a field-goal kicker, booted the baby over the edge and down the soft embankment. Then he leaped down, picked up the crying child, and comforted her.

Emily came out of the near fatal experience with cuts on her head, a chipped tooth, and a swollen lip.1[1]

We know how deeply grateful the mother was—remorseful, too, I’m sure. But I wonder if that little child truly comprehended how blessed she was that a stranger with a big foot kicked her down a hill. She was trying to play, there was a lot of noise, and suddenly something jarred her and sent her tumbling like Jack and Jill. It hurt!

Perspective makes a difference. What seems hurtful from one vantage point can, when seen in full perspective, turn out to be an act of compassion. That’s how it is with discipline and correction. Sometimes we have to hurt a little now, so we won’t hurt a lot later. Some lessons come only through tears. We know this as parents; we also need to know it as children of God.

What brand of love would keep that conductor from rescuing a happily playing child on the grounds that a good boot is rude and painful? What brand of love would have kept your parents from scolding you for not doing your homework, since scolding would have put a damper on a pleasant dinner? As Lewis points out, the willingness to administer pain to prevent a greater harm is a mark of true love.[2]

We are talking about God’s love for us.

Today my theme is:

God Lovingly Corrects You

Please turn to Hebrews 12:5-11.

  1. The Lord disciplines those He loves (Hebrews 12:5-7).
    1. Let’s talk about the context of this passage.
    2. Hebrews is written to tell us who is to brew the coffee, he is, he-brews.
    3. No, seriously, Hebrews is a New Testament letter written to encourage Jewish believers to persevere in the faith.
    4. The writer is encouraging them to fix their eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-2).
    5. These Jewish people had become Christians and then faced suffering. Some were in prison.
    6. The audience’s social situation can be inferred from commands to “remember those who are in prison” and who are “mistreated” (13:3). Timothy himself had just been set free (13:23). Indeed, the author of Hebrews commended his audience for their former endurance of persecution, for their compassion on those in prison, and for having “joyfully accepted the plundering of your property” (10:32–34).[3]
    7. They are being exhorted to stay the course.
    8. That fits with these instructions.
    9. Look at Hebrews 12:5–7 (ESV)

And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?

     “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,

nor be weary when reproved by him.

   For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”

It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?

  1. This chapter begins exhorting them to fix their eyes on Jesus.
  2. The previous chapter is about those of faith in the Old Testament.
  3. Now, he quotes Proverbs 3:11-12 about God’s discipline. God is seen as speaking through the Proverb.
  4. What are we to think of the hardships we face in life?
  5. Why does God allow certain things? Why doesn’t He intervene?
  6. I think that is what the writer of Hebrews is addressing.
  7. The writer of Hebrews brings in this Old Testament passage.
  8. Sometimes discipline is punitive, other times it is training.
  9. Do not regard the discipline of the Lord lightly… TAKE IT SERIOUSLY.
  10. Don’t be weary when reproved by the Lord.
  11. The Lord lovingly disciplines us.
  12. Hebrews 12:6: The Lord disciplines those He loves. The Lord chastises every son who He receives.
  13. If the Lord loves us, we will be disciplined and chastised, but for a purpose.
  14. Verse 7 sounds strong. This whole section sounds strong. However, the preacher is comparing us with sons of God and that is a very good thing. God loves us enough to discipline us. God loves us enough to build us up.

  1. Those not disciplined are illegitimate children (Hebrews 12:8).
    1. Verse 8 is straightforward.
    2. Hebrews 12:8 (ESV) If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.
    3. David Jeremiah shares: In New Testament times, there could be no more serious charge than to question one’s legitimacy. Imagine three boys playing in the courtyard of a wealthy man’s estate. They get into some kind of mischief, and their father comes out, his face beet-red, fire in his eyes, and he drags away two of his sons by the ear. The other boy, who is also his son by a female servant, stands and watches, totally ignored. He has misbehaved, too. He even lives on the same estate. But his father doesn’t care what he does because he doesn’t consider him a true son.
    4. How that would have stung! The rejected boy would have learned that a father’s indifference is far worse than the momentary pain of chastening.

  • Our earthly fathers discipline us (Hebrews 12:9-10)
    1. Hebrews 12:9–10 (ESV) Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness.
    2. This lesser-to-greater analogy from the readers’ own childhood training shows that it is appropriate for the heavenly Father to discipline, and it calls for a response of respect and submission; as a loving Father, the Lord always disciplines his children for their good.[4]

  1. The fruit of discipline (Hebrews 12:11).
    1. Hebrews 12:11 (ESV) 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
    2. It does not feel good when we are disciplined, but when we learn something there was a benefit.
    3. Or, what about the discipline of training.
    4. I am sure that learning piano takes discipline and is difficult, but later you have a benefit.
    5. I am told that when you are learning guitar your fingers hurt, but you have a benefit and bless others.
    6. David Jeremiah: We should cherish our chastening because it is God’s way of saying, “You belong to Me, and I love you.” His discipline may anger us at times, but it will protect us, teach us, and prepare us. This is why the early church theologian Jerome is reported to have said, “The greatest danger of all is when God is no longer angry with us.”[5]

  1. C.S. Lewis had a lot to say about the pain of discipline. He noted that some of us have a shallow view of God’s correcting love:

We want, in fact, not so much a Father in Heaven as a grandfather in heaven… whose plan for the universe was simply that it might be truly said at the end of each day, “a good time was had by all.”… I should very much like to live in a universe which was governed on such lines. But since its abundantly clear that I don’t, and since I have reason to believe, nevertheless, that God is Love, I conclude that my conception of love needs correction.

As Scripture points out… it is for people whom we care nothing about that we demand happiness on any terms: with our friends, our lovers, our children, we are exacting and would rather see them suffer much than be happy in contemptible and estranging modes.2[6


1 “Kick Save: With Their Freight Train Hurtling Toward Certain Disaster, Two Brave Railroad Men Sweep a Toddler Off the Tracks,” People, June 1, 1998, accessed April 24, 2012, http://www.people.com/people/archive/article/0,,20125421,00.html.

[1] David Jeremiah, God Loves You: He Always Has–He Always Will (New York City, NY: FaithWords, 2012).

[2] Ibid.

[3] Crossway Bibles, The ESV Study Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008), 2357.

[4] Crossway Bibles, The ESV Study Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008), 2383.

[5] Ibid.

2 C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain (New York: Macmillan, 1973), 31–32, 40.

[6] David Jeremiah, God Loves You: He Always Has–He Always Will (New York City, NY: FaithWords, 2012).

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