“Cease to hear instruction, my son, and you will stray from the words of knowledge.”
The Christian life is a process of continuous learning. It is a life-long journey of growth and transformation. Solomon exhorts us here to keep going, growing, and learning. To stop learning is a big mistake.
Hebrews 12 in the New Testament also exhorts us to be persistent in responding to the Lord’s teaching and correction: “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.” (Hebrews 12.5-6)
This is an echo of the book of Proverbs. Don’t take the Lord’s teaching lightly. Don’t dabble. Take your spiritual growth seriously. Don’t get tired or weary. It is a process. A journey.
“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? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.” (Hebrews 12.7-8)
We have a heavenly Father who seeks to teach us and train us, and it is our responsibility to endure. To stay on-path. Developing strength, skill, and wisdom in any area of life requires relentless perseverance. It is especially true in our Christian walk.
“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? 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.” (Hebrews 12.9-10)
A respectful child listens and responds to the teaching and training of their earthly father. How much more should we listen and respond to the teaching and training of our heavenly Father!
The Hebrews passage tells us the Lord’s purpose for training us: That we may share his holiness. In other words, that we may become more Christlike. That we may more fully develop the image of God in us. That we may become more like the person that God created us to be.
“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.” (Hebrews 12.11)
The training process can be uncomfortable. But keep in mind it is productive discomfort. That is the nature of building strength, skill, and wisdom. The old nature with its impulsive habits does not easily give up its grip on us. We must train diligently under the Lord’s guiding hand and the Spirit’s indwelling power if we are to put off the old nature and put on the new nature. We must push through the discomfort and build new habits that reflect our new nature in Christ.
The Greek word for “training” in Hebrews 12.11 is gumnazo, from which we get our word gymnasium. Much like our time, gumnazo was the word used in the Greco-Roman era to describe where and how athletes trained for competition. It was the place and process for building strength, speed, and stamina.
Gumnazo in Hebrews aligns with musar in Proverbs. Skillful living is learned through disciplined training. It is the process of getting wiser and more skillful every day by learning to consistently apply God’s principles to your life.
“Keep hold of instruction (musar); do not let go; guard her, for she is your life.” (Proverbs 4.13)
Athletic training is hard work, and it is focused on a goal: competing and winning. Same for the Christian life, except our competition is the old nature, the fallen world, and the ancient Enemy. Hebrews tells us that the Lord trains us so that we will yield the peaceful fruit of righteousness. In other words, so that we will live and work rightly.
Let me close with several questions.
- Are you disciplined in your training for the Christian life?
- Are you submitting to the Lord’s teaching and training?
- Are you embracing the productive discomfort of putting off your old nature and putting on your new nature in Christ?
- In what specific areas of your life or work do you need to be more disciplined about getting better?
Trust God, do the work, get better.