Hardship Sermon Illustration for Pastors
Hardship Sermon Illustration: Understanding the Value of Discipline
I remember when my wife and I became true empty-nesters. As we were reallocating space, we came across photographs of our family that had been hiding in the back of a closet. One of the photos was our wedding picture which was 28 years old. You know how it is when you see pictures of yourself from previous decades? Things change. Not only do you change in appearance, but styles change. The flared pant legs and the three-inch heels with almost platform soles on the guys’ shoes aren’t too popular anymore. Hairstyles change – not that I worry about that much anymore. It can be almost embarrassing having a 28-year-old picture hanging on the wall. People say, “Who’s this with Bev? Was she married before?”
Well, we can’t do much about the picture. It is what it is. But before hanging it back on the wall, one thing we need to do is reframe it. Frames have changed as well. We can improve the look of the picture by putting a new, fresh, updated frame around it.
There is a similar process of reframing needed in our personal lives. Events occur that aren’t pleasant to experience. We look at them and say, “What in the world is this all about?” We see it as negative, hurtful, and unfair. One helpful spiritual thing we can do is to reframe difficult events. That means that though we may not be able to change the event or the circumstances, we can adjust or modify the way we look at it. And the way we look at it impacts how we feel about it. It may not remove the pain and hurt, but it helps us handle it a little better.
Specifically, let’s think about reframing hardship. It isn’t about conning yourself into thinking it’s not that bad, putting on rose colored glasses, or pretending to be Pollyanna. Rather the focus is understanding the value of hardship to the development of your personal, emotional, and spiritual life.
We need to look at the upside of hardship, not just the downside.
“And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says, ‘My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.’ Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us, and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it,” (Hebrews 12:1-5, NIV).
A key phrase we need to get a handle on is at the beginning of verse 7, “Endure hardship as discipline.”
“This is the way to look at it! Discipline?” You ask, “How is that encouraging?” The word discipline to us usually conjures up a negative picture. And sometimes these verses are used to depict God as “beating” His children to keep them in line. That is not the case. Discipline in this context is to endure hardship as training.
A little different perspective begins to form. Discipline has in mind the rearing of a child. It denotes all that is involved in the process of educating, instructing, correcting, guiding, and testing, all of which are necessary for development to maturity. It doesn’t mean, “whack ‘em.” It means to train them. These are all aspects of the personal involvement of a parent with their child to teach them, show them, and help them live righteous, responsible lives.
Hardship, however it comes into our life, is an instructive and corrective tool of God to develop us to maturity. Hardship leads to the full person He has designed us to be. And hardship tests us to see how much we are maturing.
If you’re ready to walk deeper into this subject, check back for my next blog post which will focus on three specific values of hardship in life.
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