We know that not all trials and hardships come as a direct result of personal sin in our lives or in the lives of others. Sometimes the wicked prosper. Jeremiah wants an answer to this problem. He asks in Jeremiah 12:1, “Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all who are treacherous thrive?” Job, the righteous sufferer, asks God the same question with a more challenging tone. In Job 21:7-9 he asks, “Why do the wicked live, reach old age, and grow mighty in power? Their offspring are established in their presence, and their descendants before their eyes. Their houses are safe from fear, and no rod of God is upon them.” For Job it all came down to the same thing that it must come down to for us. “Can I trust God, even when it doesn’t look like it?” He finds conclusion in several passages. “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” or “The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

As young children we are under the complete control of our earthly fathers. They can do just about anything they want to us. My father used to say, “I brought you into this world and I can take you out of it.” He didn’t mean that of course, but the level of control our parents had over us as young kids is nearly absolute. My father spanked me once for something that my sister did. How unfair is that? Later in life, she finally admitted it to my Dad and he apologized. Rita was in her 40’s and Dad didn’t think he should spank her now. Anyway, we’re disciplined in the physical realm by parents who are not perfect. God is the perfect Father. In his efforts to lead us to repentance, Jesus said in Matthew 5:48, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Our heavenly Father is perfect. Let’s look at Hebrews 12:9-10 and pull all these thoughts together. It says, “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.”

Wesley understood the point I was trying to make when he explained that our earthly fathers “…chastened us as they thought good – Though frequently they erred therein, by too much either of indulgence or severity: but he – Always unquestionably, for our profit, that we may be partakers of his holiness – That is, of himself, and his glorious image.”[1] The writer of Hebrews wants these truths to make us better. He wants us to trust God as Job did. He wants us to believe Paul’s statement in Romans 8:28, “all things (good and bad!) work together for our good.” There is no question that we will suffer trials in this life. That’s a given. The only thing we must watch is our attitude towards them. Fleming says, “Children submit to their parents’ discipline. In the same way Christians should submit to their heavenly Father’s discipline. His purpose is to use their trials to make them into the sorts of people that he, in his superior wisdom, wants them to be (9–10). Such experiences may be unpleasant at the time, but those who have learnt a right attitude towards their troubles will benefit in an increasingly fruitful Christian life (11).”[2]

[1] John Wesley, Explanatory Notes upon the New Testament, Fourth American Edition. (New York: J. Soule and T. Mason, 1818), 614.

[2] Donald C. Fleming, Concise Bible Commentary (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 1994), 568.