Text: Hebrews 12:5-13 January 18, 2009.
1) It helps fruit trees: Mr. Lester was discouraged by the lack of fruits on his grapefruit tree. His neighbor told him he needed to whack the trunk of the tree a few times with a board. Apparently there is some truth in this unusual method of encouraging growth. Garden expert says that at times, flowering hormone in a tree may get stuck and no flowers appear. Carefully whacking the tree a few times may cause small bruises in the bark, but it certainly will stimulate growth and fruition.
2) It helps Christians: When troubles come into our lives, we sometimes feel as if we have been hit broadside. We may have bruises in our hearts and wonder: why is this happening to me? One possibility is that God is using a painful experience to get our attention for changes. Another possibility may be by getting whacked, it helps to clear up whatever is stopping the flow of life inside of us so we may grow. When the early Christians were going through hard times, Paul told them that chastening “yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness.” (Hebrews 12:11)
SOME FACTS ON GROWTH:
1) Growth is in God’s design: After the first couple of days in creating the natural world, God began creating growing things on the third day such as vegetation, seed bearing plants and trees that bear fruits and seeds according to their kinds. Then on the fifth day, God created creatures in the air and the sea. Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number.” (Genesis 1:11-22) When God finally created man and woman, He blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number, fill the earth and subdue it.” ()
2) Growth is a sign of life: Beside obvious signs of movement and metabolic process, the most common sign of life is growth. We see this in babies, plants, trees, animals and all living things. If there is life, there is growth. We expect growth in all living things. Anytime a living thing stops growing, its status of being a living thing begins to wane.
3) Growth is also a duty: From the moment God created the living things in the Bible to the time when Jesus was on earth, living things were expected to grow and bear fruits. When a living thing doesn’t fulfill its duty to grow and bear fruit, it becomes a liability and loses its usefulness. In the parable of the unfruitful fig tree Jesus told in Luke 13:6-9, that tree was facing its fate because it didn’t fulfill its duty. Growing and fruit bearing are not options to living things. They are duties must be fulfilled. No one will keep a non-growing tree or plant.
4) Growth sustains continuation: Growth to fruition is the sure way to sustain continuation of species. From trees, plants to birds and animals to human, God installed in all of them ability to grow and bear fruit from which the specie sustains its future. This is true in personal life, spiritual life and life of churches. There is no substitute to growth and fruit bearing to guarantee the continued future and usefulness.
SOME HINDRANCES TO GROWTH:
1) Planted in bad soil: In the parable of “seed sowing” in Matt. 13:1-9, Jesus stressed the importance of the soil in relation to the growth of the seed: good soil helps good growth. Plants planted in bad soil will have difficult time to survive, much less to grow and bear fruits. Same principle applies to Christians. If followers of Jesus choose to live in worldly environment, adopt their life style and follow their value system, they may not have the best soil for their spiritual growth. “Do not love the world or things of the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (1 John 2:15)
2) Choked by hearts desires: In explaining the parable, Jesus gave us another reason why some Christians are not growing: “The seeds fell among thorns and are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures and they do not mature.” (Luke 8:14)When plants are surrounded by thorn, worries, ruches and worldly pleasure, they are choked, over covered and shadowed so they won’t be able to grow. Look at what are the people and things that are surrounding you, occupy your hearts and attention. Are they the kind helpful to your Christian growth or hinder the growth.
3) Separated from the sources: When Jesus taught His disciple the secret of growth and fruit bearing, He urged them to remain connected with Him at all time. “I am the vine, you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers. Such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.” (John 15:5-6) Separated from the Lord, the source of spiritual supplies, is the sure way to become withered and rendered useless. Remain means keep connected.
4) Dropped out of the race: If a plant is removed from the garden, the process of growth and fruit bearing is terminated. Paul gave us an excellent example of being persistent when he testified “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. There is in store for me the crown of righteousness the Lord will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:7-8) To drop out of the race, the Christian walk, pursuit, dedication and service, is another hindrance that stops the growth we all want and need to. Victory is never an easy goal. Dropping out is never an option.
DISCIPLINE FOR GROWTH: (Hebrews 12:5-13)
1) The discipline of love: “And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons. My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline. Do not lose heart when he rebukes you because the Lord disciplines those he love and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.” (12:5-6) When disciplines come to us, we tend to see God as a merciless judge who has little or no compassion to our failures. But God wants us to know that He disciplines us because He loves us, wants to see us learn the lesson and change our course of life for the better.
2) The discipline of children: “Endure hardship as discipline, God is teaching you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. (12:7-8)Disciplining children is one of the most important duties of parents. Parents who neglect their duty of discipline will eventually ruin the lives of their children and bring shame and heartache to the family. God is our heavenly Father and He will fulfill His duties in disciplining us, His children.
3) The respect of discipline: “Moreover, we all have human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to Father of our spirits and live!” (12:9)When we are under God’s discipline, we need to have the proper attitude: submission and respect. God will never make a mistake in disciplining us. He always has the right reason and the best purpose when He finds ways to change and correct us. We need to respect Him and trust His way.
4) Discipline for our good: “Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good that we may share in His holiness.” ()God will never discipline us for his purpose but ours, for our good. He wants to be more like Him, more holy in his character. Discipline is like a cleansing process. It may hurt us but it cleanses us from the filthy mess in our life and our hearts.
5) Discipline is training: “No discipline seems pleasant at the time but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of peace and righteousness for those who have been trained by it.” (12:11)If you want to be the best, you have to receive the most strenuous training. This is true in sports, military, education and all others. Training is never easy or enjoyable. But training is a process to change us, mold us and strengthen us for better, higher and more successful. This is true in spiritual growth.
6) Discipline for strength: “Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees.” (12:12)Anyone who participates in regular exercise understands the relationship between training and strength: the more you do, the more strength you get. There is no shortcut. Discipline is a must in training to gain strength. Those who may do exercise once in a long while in easy ways will never gain the strength they desire: no pain, no gain. We often admire strong Christians who have strong faith and power in time of trial because they had been trained before.
7) Discipline and healing: “Make level paths for your feet so that the lame may not disabled but rather healed.” (12:13)With proper attitude, discipline can be a healing process. When life and soul are ruined by sin, we suffer wounds in our life, family, relationship and spiritual growth. God allows discipline come to us not just for cleansing but also for healing of our souls. We will be made whole through discipline of God.
1) Is your life barren? Barren means fruitless, non-productive. No life should be that way. God intends every life to be fruitful and useful here on earth and in heaven. Do a self-examination checklist to find out the reasons that may block you from being the best you can be. Don’t just sit there and cry, do something.
2) Are you under discipline? If you are going through hard time, you may be under God’s discipline. By now you should know that it is good for you and you should know how to handle the training process. God promises us strength to sustain trial and discipline. Do not be afraid nor sink into doubt. Hang on to the hands of God He will lead you to a higher grounds.
3) Be all you can be: Don’t walk through life all by yourself. Seek God for help and He will bring you to His side. Confess your sins and ask Him to forgive you. Give Him the key to your heart and allow Him to change you for better, higher and stronger. He will never fail and neither will you.