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What does Rocky have to with Hebrews?

Updated: Aug 12, 2023

Have you ever been in a public place—an airport or a restaurant—and a little kid is being very loud and unruly and his parents refuse to control him? It is really annoying…I am just being honest. How many of you wanted to tell the parents to discipline their child? I mean, that would be the right thing for them to do—to teach their child how to act in public. And if the parent did decide to bring a little training in their child’s life, would we not respect them for it? Of course.

(Ironically as I am writing [a day after I started this] in a hotel dining room, there is a child on her knees underneath my table and the parents have no concern for other people here…)

So why do we tend to misunderstand the Lord’s discipline? Why is it that we can feel completely rejected by God when he begins to discipline us? I am guilty of this. But if you read and understand these next few verses, you can see God’s discipline in a new way that will make you feel treasured, not spurned.

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. (Heb 12:7–11)

Rocky Balboa

As we talk about discipline, I think of Rocky. We tend to romanticize discipline. I remember when I saw Rocky in 1976. He is had to get ready to fight Apollo Creed the champ. Rocky is running, he is chasing a chicken in the snow. He is drinking five raw eggs. He is getting in shape…the iconic music is playing as he runs through Philadelphia. Mic, his trainer (God, in our story) is pushing him.

Now let’s use the Rocky/Mic example to look at this passage. I am no boxing expert, but if a trainer even takes you it is because he sees great potential in you. If a trainer is not hard on the fighter, it is evidence that he has not really owned the fighter as his own. Maybe he is doing someone a favor. But if a trainer is truly invested, he will treat the fighter like a real son.

No, that doesn’t mean that he is going to spoil and indulge him; it means he will train him hard. And no matter how difficult the training gets, it is for the good of the fighter. There are times when it will feel as if the trainer not only does not like the fighter, but maybe even hates him. But the fact that he is hard on him is the proof that he truly loves him. In the same way, God loves us; he sees great potential in us because he created us to stand.

Daniel 11:32 says that those who know their God will be strong and do exploits. The Hebrew actually says that they will do (exploits) and stand (firm). And this is especially applicable to our passage in Hebrews as these are Jewish believers suffering persecution. The Daniel prophecy may be referring to the Maccabees who would be forced to worship Greek gods and eat non-kosher food until they took their stand and won against the Greek-Syrian king. But it also has meaning for us today.

Respect parents

Let’s pretend for a moment that the parents of the little girl making noise and crawling under my table actually took her aside and explained that this was not proper behavior in a public place. Would we not all respect them for it? When we watch the scenes with Mic being tough on Rocky, we don’t think he is being mean—but if he was not being tough, he would not be doing his job as a trainer.

When we enter into real discipleship we enter into a family with many people who learned of God and how to trust God through suffering (discipline). Joseph was a slave and a prisoner for more than a decade before he was trained fully for his task. David ran from Saul for a decade before he was ready to be king. Daniel had many difficult decisions to make in his life as a prophet in Babylon. True discipleship means having a parent who is really going to train us.

It is for our good

Parents are imperfect—even really good ones—but God is perfect in his discipline. God training regime for us is for our good. He doesn’t want to hurt us, even though it can sometimes feel like it. And the greater the calling, the greater the training. He is preparing us to “share in his holiness” (v. 10). In others words, God is sometimes tough on us so that we can be mature enough to handle all he wants to give us.

It hasn’t tuned out well for those who come into God’s holiness unprepared. Aaron’s sons were consumed by the fire they brought to God, because it was unauthorized. And Uzzah died when he touched God’s ark.

Mic wanted Rocky to be world champ. So he had to push him! God has great things planned for you!

It isn’t fun, but it is worth it

At 11 years old, I wanted to be like Rocky. I didn’t have a chicken to chase, but I had eggs. I drank all five eggs and thus, my Rocky experiment ended. In real life, there is no iconic background music. It is not easy. I started working out, and this undersized pre-teen quit the same day I began.

Discipline is not just when God is disciplining us, but also when we bring discipline in our lives. Rocky had a choice to make. It looks inspiring when you are watching him in the movie theater, but when your muscles are burning and you are ready to throw up, it is not so fun. When I was a teen, I was on the high school wrestling team. I wasn’t bad, but I wasn’t good. I hadn’t been raised to not give up, to press in. But my teammates who went on to win regionals or even state were passionate about wrestling. They pushed themselves. I remember one practice—on New Year’s Day! I ended up in the bathroom throwing up and soon concluded that wrestling was not for me.

Of course, my life radically changed after Yeshua took over. It took time, but I went from being a born quitter to someone who learns how to focus on a goal and pursue it with passion.

So don’t be discouraged when you find yourself in a fiery trial. Seek God for wisdom. Ask him why he is allowing it to happen. What is he trying to change in you? Submit to his discipline and you will one day experience all that he has to give!

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Shalom from Israel! I am Ron Cantor and this is my blog. I serve as the President of Shelanu TV.

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