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Jack Graham - Training Ground


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    Jack Graham - Training Ground
TOPICS: Going the Distance, Struggles, Hard times, Perseverance

The book of Hebrews is all about this race that we're running, and that we would endure, that we would persevere, that we wouldn't quit, go back or give up, but that we would go onward and upward to maturity and ultimately when we see Christ face to face. So we're in this race. It's one of the reasons, when we read the passage that we're about to look at in Hebrews 12, that I personally lean toward the Apostle Paul as the writer of Hebrews. Now we don't know who wrote Hebrews. We know God the Holy Spirit gave it, breathed it out. God's Word is the inspired, breathed out, living word of God, inerrant and infallible. This is why God's Word lives.

Hebrews tells us the Word of God is active, living; it's alive, sharper than a two-edged sword. I never show up here without my sword if we're going to fight spiritual battles. And neither should you in your own life. But this Book is breathed out by God. You know why this Book lives? Because the breath of God is in it. Human authors were inspired, but not just inspired in a human sense, they were inspired by God, so God's breath in this Book is alive forevermore. Isaiah 40:8, "The grass withers, the flower fade, but the Word of our God shall stand forever". The Word of God lives. So, in that sense it doesn't matter who the human author is but you know from other passages that Paul was a sports fan. And the great arenas of the ancient world, the great stadiums where they cheered on the contestants and the competitors, these great arenas, Paul was familiar with them. Maybe even attended some of these great events because he spoke of these so often.

And he said, "When you run", and this is in Corinthians, he said, "When you run, run to win"! Don't just go for the participation trophy. You know, just show up and you participate. You know, you know when you talk about "back in the day" that you're old, right? But back in the day, you know, if your little team won, maybe we got a snow cone. Now everybody gets a trophy; everybody gets a medal; everybody gets a cheer. All right, so be it. But we want more in the Christian life than the participation trophy! Run, compete and win! Again, Paul, he ran. He said, 1 Corinthians 9:27, "I bring my body under control, under discipline, so that having preached to others, I myself might be sent to the bench unless I control my life and control my mind, my body". He said, "I bring this under the discipline of the Lord".

When we raise our children, we're to raise our children in the discipline of the Lord, in the training of the Lord. And what we're going to see in this passage that the disciplines of God really is training us, growing us into full stature, maturity in Christ. So, let's read it, beginning in verse 3: "Consider him", that's Jesus, only Him, "who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted". If you're thinking about quitting, if you're thinking about going back or giving up, remember Jesus, who didn't quit on you. When every ounce and inch and fiber of His soul and His body was screaming to quit, when He was nailed to a cross, it was not the nails that kept Him there. They were mocking Him, saying, "Come down if you're the Son of God". He refused to come down because nails did not hold Jesus to the cross; God's love, His love for you nailed Him and held Him to the cross!

So, look at Jesus, consider Him, think about that when you're going through struggles. "And in your struggle", verse 4, "against sin", we are in a battle, a struggle with the world, the flesh, the devil, "you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? 'My son'", and this is right out of Proverbs 3, quote: "'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".

Now just pause right there for just a moment cause you need to hear this upfront. God is treating you as His child. If you are a son, a daughter of God then you will be disciplined, trained by the Lord. But this is never about judgment for the child of God. I can hear some of you thinking out loud right now, you're thinking, "Well, here we go". One of those messages, God's gonna get you for that, all the rules, all the restrictions. This is why I don't come to church, because they just beat you up. God will never judge His children. If you are a child of God, "Whom the Lord loves He chastens and scourges every son, chastises every son". Every child of God, your judgment is already past at the cross.

Romans 8:1, "There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus". So chastisement is not condemnation! Discipline is not judgment! God judges the world. God judges unbelief, but as His child you will never be judged! Thank God for that! But you will be disciplined, trained as a child of God. Why? That you may grow stronger in adversity and mature through your discipline. He's treating you as a son; He's treating you as a child. "For what son", back to verse 7, "what son is there whom his father does not discipline"?

If you are left without discipline, you say, "I love my children too much to discipline them". No, you don't love them enough to discipline them. Hard work; it's holy work to properly discipline our children. Because I assure you, if you do not discipline your children, someone else will. They will have to because you'll raise a rebel if you don't discipline your children. And the Bible's clear on that. More to come on that. If you're left without discipline even the discipline of God. God has no privileged children, pampered children. His love is not a pampering love; His love is a purifying love! So, if you're not disciplined what's true? Verse 8, "If you're left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons".

You say, "Well, I never, I don't think I've ever been disciplined". Be afraid! Be very afraid because God lovingly disciplines His own. So, if you are "quote" getting away with things. You know, "I'm just living my own life without God. I don't, you know. God never does anything to me". Be afraid, because you stand and face, not of discipline but indeed, judgment. Verse 9, "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"? The way to live is to not resist or reject discipline from God, but to embrace it and live! "For they disciplined us for a short time", that is, our parents, "as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness".

The purpose of life is not only your happiness, but your holiness! "For the moment", verse 11, "all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it". Thus, "Training Ground". What does this mean? First, God's discipline is protective. Every parent who cares about his child wants to protect that child. There're safety issues involved. You tell your children stay out of the street, not because you want to ruin their good time but because you want to keep them safe. We're saying to our children don't hurt yourself.

So, God has rules, boundaries. I was watching our little four-year-olds, the two twins in our family, grandchildren, and granddaughter Piper, they were playing on the four-year-old T-ball team. Now that's a hoot, really, to watch little kids! And so they have to learn all these rules. And one of the first things you have to teach them is which base to run to because if you're not careful they'll hit the ball and run to third base! So you teach a child to have fun and enjoy the game by playing by the rules. Often children are miserable in life because they don't know the rules! They don't have parents to show them in love the rules, the boundaries of life so people grow up without boundaries. So, the rules, the restrictions, the commandments that we find in the Bible, these are protective, as is God's discipline.

Have you ever wondered why you seem like you're in the waiting room in life, that your prayers are not being answered, that you're not getting what you want? It could be that God is putting you in a waiting place, even in the penalty box because there's something greater, there's something better for you or you're going in the wrong direction and He wants to hold you up and stop you from hurting yourself. That's the protective disciplines of God. The best example I can think of is Moses. Moses grew up as a prince of Egypt. He was a Hebrew child rescued out of the Nile River, raised in the house of pharaoh, but when he became 40 years of age, after 40 years living as a prince in Egypt, he chooses sides. He chooses the side of his people and he thinks he's going to deliver his people.

And what did he do? He looked this way, he looked that way, when he saw an Israelite being abused, a Hebrew being abused by an Egyptian he killed the Egyptian. Ran right around the will of God, ahead of the will of God for his life. And so, I guess he thought he was going to kill every Egyptian, but, of course, that was impossible. So now he's a fugitive. And he lives the next 40 years of his life on the run, on the lam, hiding in the wilderness. And he's assumed, I'm certain, that his life was over and that he was destine for the desert for the rest of his days. He was a nowhere man, living in a nowhere land. That's Paul and John, not the apostles, the Beatles. He was a nowhere man and going nowhere in his life. But all along, think about it, God was preparing His man in the wilderness. Because he would spend the next 40 years of his life, the last 40 years of his life shepherding, leading the children of Israel out of Egypt and through the desert to help them endure this experience in the desert, he was God's man at the right time.

With God timing means nothing, but timing is everything. So with Moses, as with you, there's a time to know and do the will of God; there's a time to wait on God. You know what waiting is? Waiting is refusing to fix things yourself! You've been trying to fix things; you've been trying to do things all on your own like Moses. But it's not working, and you end up in the wilderness spiritually if you're not careful because God is training you and wants to prepare you for something greater. Somebody said Moses spent the first 40 years of his life learning to be a somebody as a prince in Egypt, the next 40 years of his life learning to be a nobody as a Nomad in the desert, and the last 40 years of his life learning what God could do with a man who had learned the first two lessons.

So, some of the training that you may be going through right now has to do with waiting or preparing for something else. You want to go; God says no. There is the discipline of delay, the discipline of disappointment and the discipline of detours in your life. Don't go outside of the will of God or you will find yourself back in the training zone. You know, God wants something better for us. Every good parent wants the best for their children. The problem is sometimes we don't know how to do that. That's why you've got this whole thing with helicopter parents. You know what a helicopter parent is, right? Just hovering and smothering over their child, overprotective, overparenting the child. The goal of parenting is to help that child grow, not to do it for them.

And now we've got this new designation for parents. Have you heard it? It's called lawnmower parents. You know what a lawnmower, or a snowplow parent, you know what that is? You know what a snowplow, lawnmower parent? It's that parent that's always out in front of the church mowing or out in front of the children mowing things down, clearing the way, getting rid of all the obstacles so their children behind them will have it a whole lot easier. So, you have this big scandal called "The Varsity Blue Scandal". There are a couple of celebrities, along with other wealthy people were caught in a 25 million dollar cheating scam to get their kids in college whether they deserved to be there or not, whether they had the academic credentials or the athletic credentials, they were paying people off to get their children in.

Now that's an extreme example, of course, but I see it, it happens all the time. With parents. It's that mom. You know your child leaves their water bottle at home and so what do you do? You go home and get the child's water bottle and bring it to them. God forbid that the child could go one day without their water bottle. No, what you ought to do is let your child be thirsty. The next time they'll remember to bring their water bottle. Don't do it for them. Or if that parent that, you know, is always trying to manipulate the system to get their child on that select team or to get that child on the stage in the play or in the choir, whatever.

It's parents clearing the way, making it easier. It's that parent that when the child gets in trouble at school, you know, the child's never wrong. Little darling is always right so we go and we yell at the principal or get upset with the teacher because we want to make things easier for our kids! That's a fail as a parent. Because the goal is to teach your child physical, mental, and emotional stability and strength. And our children have to go through a few things without us helping them. There's a time to help, but there's a time to let the child experience some discipline. And that's important. God will discipline us and let us go sometimes and face some obstacles and face some problems in order that He might teach us and train us through the adversity.

Secondly, God's discipline is corrective. When you read these verses here clearly, it's about training but it's also about correction. He talks about chastisement which is a word for punishment. It even describes pain. And at times God's discipline can be painful. Now I want to say God may hurt you in order to help you, but He will never harm you. Remember, He loves you, but He will choose to correct you. Think about Jonah. All these stories in the Bible are examples to us. So Jonah, he ran in the wrong direction, running away from God. He was the first chicken of the sea because he disobeyed God and he was swallowed by that great fish, and that's quite a correction, I would say. That's a big course correction. And Jonah in the belly of that fish, repented, and turned his life around by trusting in God and obeying God, and then God used him mightily in the city of Nineveh.

Another perfect example is David, a man after God's own heart. David, he loved God; no question about that. You can't write these psalms, these great psalms, you can't lead a nation like the great King David without being a great man, a godly man. He's the one who wrote, "Who will ascend unto the hill of the Lord? He who has clean hands and a pure heart". He wrote all that. And yet, David committed the terrible sin of adultery and then he set up a friend, a warrior in his army for murder. And then for the next year he spent those days hiding it, trying to hide it, trying to cover it. The same man who said, "If I regard iniquity in my heart, God will not hear me". If I cherish sin, if I keep it as a pet, if I hold on to my sin. As the Hebrew writer said, "The sin that clings so closely to us, David said God will not hear me". He knew all that! And yet he sinned big time. And he spent a solid year trying to hide it, but he was miserable. He was a broken man.

Read Psalm 51, a description of what it was like for him in his brokenness, as he was bound by his sin. So, what did God do? God sent illness, God sent brokenness into his life, God sent pain into his life in order to get his attention. And ultimately God sent a prophet by the name of Nathan to point his long prophetic finger in his face to say, "You are the man". And he brought David to a time of repentance and David was later able to write that God punished him, God disciplined him through this great sin in his life, but he said He did it in order to teach me His love and His grace and His power. David paid for his sin in many ways for the rest of his life. His children went haywire. The kingdom was at risk. He wasted so much and yet personally he was able to return to the Lord. Because the Lord rebuked him and the Lord restored him. And He'll restore you if you don't run from Him. That's why it says in this passage, "Don't take lightly the discipline of the Lord". Don't blow it off, but let God do a perfect work, His perfecting work in you and bring you to right living, righteousness with Him.

Is God correcting you? God may be using this message right now. You're watching online, you're right here in this room and God is using the Holy Spirit and His Word in this message to rebuke you, and by His Spirit convict you and to bring you back to His love and His grace. You're going in the wrong direction. You can't sin and win. And because He is a loving heavenly Father He refuses to let you keep going. Now the picture of God that Jesus gave us in Luke chapter 15 is a loving father who loved his son, that rebellious son enough to let him go to a far country. And there in the far country he wiped out, he lost everything in riotous, rebellious prodigal living, but it was prodigal reckless love of God that waited on him and ran to him when that son woke up and came back to his father. Sometimes, listen to this, sometimes God will let you go into rebellion and the world will beat you up, and sin will almost kill you, but the Father is running to you and loving you. It is His love that allows you to sin in order that you may repent and come back to Him.

Now, sometimes with our children even we're enabling them, you know, by not toughening up and telling them the truth. Love your children enough to tell them the truth. You're not your child's best friend; you're their parent! It's good to raise them up and they'll return as your friend. But as long as they're in your household, teach them respect, as the Scripture here teaches. You know, in our home we had very few rules growing up with our children. One was, always tell the truth; the other was, always respect authority. And you know a lot of the other things that come under that. But the point is discipline teaches us to respect life, to respect others, to respect those who care about us, and mainly, to know and love God. So, God will use certain means in our lives to correct us. God is using His Word to bring you into His will right now.

One final thing quickly, God's discipline is instructive. In fact, The Message gives this "God is educating you". Where it says, God is training you, God is educating you. God uses pain, God uses problems, God may use illness, God may use sickness, God may use suffering to teach us. When I was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2009, I suffered through that for a while. But here's what I prayed through the whole ordeal: "Lord, teach me in this everything I need to learn. Lord, I don't want to miss anything that You want to teach me, to show me". And I believe God taught me many wonderful and important things for my life going forward. I'm grateful for His healing. And I'm grateful, not for the pain, I mean, the pain, you know you'd be a masochist if you loved the pain. So, it's not the pain you love, it's not the punishment, that hurts, but it is the purpose behind the pain. And God teaches us things through discipline.

That's what he was showing here these Hebrew Christians. Remember, they're suffering, they're in pain, they're hurting, they're being mocked! And God said all this is My discipline for you, my loving, caring disciplining of your life so that you may grow and keep growing! God used a thorn in the flesh for the Apostle Paul. Remember that? Paul, the great apostle! He said, "But lest I be exalted beyond which I ought to be exalted," he said, "God put a thorn in my flesh and it hurt". He prayed that God would remove it again, again, again, three times, but each time God says, "My grace is sufficient". God was teaching him His grace. God was teaching him to persevere. God was teaching him humility. God was teaching him through pain how to love others and be sympathetic and comforting. The Bible says, "The God of all comfort be the comfort that we are comforted enables us to comfort others".

So, God uses a test, a thorn, a tear to train us. And the ultimate goal for our good is to make us like Jesus. That's why this passage begins, "Consider Jesus, consider Him". He refused to quit on you. He was on the way to the cross, He refused to quit. When He was dying on the cross in agony, blood pouring from His flesh, He refused to come down. It was love that nailed Him to the cross and love that kept Him there. And the one that we serve empowers us to keep going. And if you're struggling, if you're on training ground right now, if you're going through something in your life, it could be preventative, it could be corrective, it could be instructive, whatever it is, don't resist it, but embrace it and accept it and honor God, and love God all the more for loving you enough to make you more like Himself. To share in (here it is) His holiness.
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