On December 27, 1998, rookie quarterback Peyton Manning threw his 28th interception of the National Football League season (not a good thing), a total that led the league. His team lost 13 out of their 16 games and finished as one of the league’s worst teams.

On August 8, 2021, Peyton Manning was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame. He credits the hardships and failures he endured that rookie season, as well as many others he experienced in his career, as a secret that led to his becoming one of the greatest football players of all time.

The author of Hebrews presents this paradigm—failure, pain, and hardship as essential to future victory—as a way God shapes his children. Just as athletes endure crushing defeats on the field, we all face a litany of hardships: job losses, broken relationships, shocking medical diagnoses, and more. I’m sure you could make a personalized list easily.

It’s easy to mistake life’s hardships as a form of God’s retribution for our wrongdoing. But Hebrews 12 makes clear that, for Christians, difficulties and setbacks are part of our loving Father’s discipline. Under his shaping hand, today’s hardships yield tomorrow’s “peaceful fruit of righteousness.”

In defining ‘righteousness,’ Strong’s concordance of Greek words includes this statement: the “state of him who is as he ought to be.” In other words, our good Father works through pain to shape us into who he intends us to be: living in purity and integrity, bearing fruit for his glory, filled with joy and closeness to him.

This passage also indicates two important elements for us to embrace in this process: vision and exercise.

Peyton Manning endured hardship with a vision that wasn’t guaranteed. He could have continued to struggle, or suffered a career-ending injury early on. But the vision of championships and football success gave him the fuel to learn from failure and endure difficulty.

The vision we have is guaranteed: because Jesus endured the cross for us, an eternity of joy with him is promised to all who trust in him. So we can learn from failure and endure hardship with even more hope.

And, like an athlete, we’re invited to train. The Greek word translated “trained” in Hebrews 12:11 is gumnazo, from which we get the word ‘gymnasium.’ It means to exercise, vigorously, like an athlete. But unlike athletes, whose success in training is reliant upon their effort and strength, our chief exercise is to endure. We could face hardship and wilt into complaining or bitterness, poisoning any potential fruit. Or we can endure with hope, fixing our eyes on Jesus and continuing to move forward, trusting in the mysteries of his training regimen.

Lord, thank you that you love me so much that you’re willing to discipline me for your glory and my good. Please keep the truth of your loving work of transformation in the front of my mind as I face life’s pains and struggles, and help me endure them with hope and joy. Bear the fruit of righteousness in me according to your timing and will. In Jesus’s name, amen.

Throughout This Day: Consider what difficulties, large or small, lie in front of you today. As you enter into them, ponder these two questions: 1. What is one way you can fix your eyes on Jesus and endure the situation today? 2. What ‘fruit of righteousness’ might God bring from it? What fruit have past struggles produced?

Tags: Daily Devotional Hebrews 12
Photo Credit: Aron Visuals on Unsplash