QUESTION: In what ways does God chasten His children? How can His child realize God is chastening him?

Answered by Eugene P. Vedder, Jr.

ANSWER: God is almighty and all-wise, while at the same time He is an all-loving Father to His children – those who have received His Son, Jesus Christ, as Savior and Lord. Since God is God we cannot in any way restrict Him as to how He may chasten His children. But let’s reflect for a moment on how the Bible uses terms like chastening, children and sons.

Hebrews 12 tells us how God as Father chastens us as His sons. Interestingly, while we who have believed are both His children and His sons, this chapter speaks of Christians as sons. In the First Epistle of John all believers are called “children,” viewed as having been born into God’s family. “Little children” indicates growth and differentiates, or distinguishes, them from young men and fathers. When Scripture calls believers “sons” it views them as those who have a measure of maturity and responsibility. In those instances where the Bible speaks of God “chastening,” it is speaking of training and disciplining. This may, if need be, involve punishing, but punishing is not the primary object of chastening.

A father chastens his own children and not children who belong to others. In this sense chastening begins early in life. A baby needs to be loved, fed and cared for with kindness in many ways, but we do not usually speak of chastening babies or very small children. As the child grows, chastening, child training or education becomes an important part of its life, and a wise parent carefully chooses the ways he or she trains up his or her child (see Prov. 22:6). We chasten as “seem[s] best” to us, which is during a relatively short period of time (Heb. 12:10 NKJV). Our Father chastens us, His sons, “for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness” (v.11). This chastening is really education meant for our good, and it does not have to be painful or unpleasant.

Chastening normally begins with a word: “My son, hear the instruction of your father, and do not forsake the law of your mother” (Prov. 1:8). Sometimes even a look will convey the message. God speaks to us through His Word, the Bible. If we listen to what He tells us the result will be pleasant and good. God in His grace may speak one, two or three times (Job 33:14,29) – and sometimes even more! He speaks through His Word, and His Spirit may bring things to our remembrance – often to our conscience. Oh, that we might listen and learn. “The Lord turned and looked at Peter, then Peter remembered the word of the Lord … So Peter went out and wept bitterly” (Lk. 22:61-62).

If a word or look is not sufficient, our heavenly Father may apply stronger measures. In my own case as a boy the next thing would be my father applying the rod, often saying, “He that will not listen must feel.” God has many ways to apply the rod. Doubtless this is what our questioner is asking about.

There will be consequences for wrongs; sometimes they may be physical. When David sinned by numbering the people (2 Sam. 24; 1 Chr. 21), God allowed him to choose from three options. He may not give us a choice, but if He does it is wise to leave the decision to Him.

In 1 Corinthians 11:29-32 we see that the consequence of sin may be sickness or even premature death, sometimes happening to someone else. An accident, injury or overdose – there are many ways by which we are reminded that the wages of sin is death. The sick person in James 5:14-16 seems to have realized that his illness was the result of some sin in his life that needed to be confessed. Not every illness is necessarily our Father’s chastisement, but it is good to be sensitive to what God may be saying to us – not only in unusual situations, but in every situation we encounter in life.

How can we realize that God is chastening us? This is not an easy question to answer. The Lord Jesus sets before us an example in Matthew 11. He keenly felt His rejection in Galilean cities where He had labored much and sadly had to speak of the judgment that awaited them. Yet “at that time Jesus answered and said, ‘I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight’” (vv.25-26). In 2 Samuel 16:5-13 David, when fleeing from his son Absalom, was being pelted by Shimei with stones, dust and wicked curses. But he would not let Abishai kill Shimei. “Let him alone, and let him curse,” he said, “for so the LORD has ordered him.”

It is well for us also to accept all things from the hands of God our Father and ask Him to show us what He would have us confess or learn from them. “We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28). The closer we walk to the Lord, the more readily we will understand what our Father is seeking to accomplish in us and for us by His chastening. He wants to guide us with His eye but, sad to say, He must often resort to bit and bridle instead (Ps. 32:8-9).

How good to be reminded that the fact that God chastens us is a proof that He loves us and He considers us His sons. Let’s not despise His chastening nor be discouraged by it. Rather, let’s endure it and submit to His training of us through it.

Author: Sebastien

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