December 12, 2006
"Christian, has not God taught y by His word and Spirit, how to read the shorthand of His providence? Do you not know that the saints' afflictions stand for blessings?" —Gurnall
"Full pardon of sin, and the hope of an eternity of pure and perfect felicity, are such amazing expectations, as might seem to render us absolutely indifferent alike to poverty and riches, pain and ease, obscurity and renown." —John Angell James
"If we have the Kingdom at last, it is no great matter what we suffer on the way to it!" - Manton
Paul began his exhortation to endure the chastening of God, by quoting a verse from the third Proverb, but after the initial quotation he continues to expand, to build upon the foundation, to go deeper still than the initial scripture, revealing the true blessing that the chastening of God is, as well as what it means to be without chastening.
I realize there are some who dispute the veracity that the book of Hebrews is a Pauline epistle, but this is not the purpose of this study. I for one, believe as most early church fathers believed, that indeed the book of Hebrews was penned by none other than the apostle Paul, for although it differs from the other Pauline epistles in content, perhaps with the exception of the first epistle of John, the way in which the person of Jesus is lifted high, the reverence with which His sacrifice is approached, mirrors the heart of Paul from all his other writing. Having said that, we return to the topic, which very few modern preachers are willing to expound upon, or even voice their opinion on, namely the chastening of God, for it is an uncomfortable topic, one that contradicts the very basis of the newfound doctrines of opulence and excess. Often the ways of God are counterintuitive to human nature, and this is one of those times. For while the flesh revels in the idea of living a life of ease, absent of conflict or resistance, absent of hardships and trials, the spirit welcomes these things for it knows they work together that the flesh may be subdued and mortified.
Hebrews 12:7, "If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten?"
As a child I was not overly disobedient or rebellious, at least I don't think I was, but I did have my moments. I remember one such moment, when my mother sternly warned me not to go into the strawberry patch, as she was going to the neighbor's house to get some milk. The reason she told me not to go into the strawberry patch was not because she didn't want me to eat strawberries, but because rather than eating them, I liked throwing them against the wall of the house to watch them splatter. Sure enough, after mother left, I walked to the front yard, got into the strawberry patch, and began throwing the biggest, ripest strawberries I could find against the wall. I guess my concept of time was a bit off, because just as I was winding up to throw the last in a long line of strawberries, I heard my mother's voice say sternly, 'put the strawberry down.' I obeyed, and hanging my head walked back into the house, knowing what was coming.
In our family, my mother was the disciplinarian, and looking back, it seems like she didn't miss many opportunities to discipline. This time was no exception. She took the switch off the windowsill, ordered me to turn around, and proceeded with the spanking. As tears filled my, I thought I would try the guilt angle, and looking up with the most sorrowful expression I could muster, I asked in a pleading voice, 'why are you doing this to me?' Without missing a beat, or allowing my question to affect her swing, she replied, 'because you're my son, and I love you.'
Although the spanking was not pleasant, one profound thing happened due to its occurrence, I never again went into the strawberry patch, nor did I ever again throw any sort of fruit against the house. I had learned my lesson.
Too often when God chastens or rebukes us, rather than endure it, we rebel against it, we think it unjustified or unwarranted. When we look upon chastening as God's scalpel of grace, that removes the sin from our lives that we may truly live, we will learn to endure it, for the knowledge that we will be the better for it, will be well established in our hearts.
Sin must be removed from us at all cost, and whatever it takes for God to pluck us from the path of deception He will do if He loves us. We must be rescued from those things in our lives that hold us captive, and in order to accomplish this, God will use a variety of means. One of these means, surely the last and most unpleasant is the rod. Even if God must resort to using the rod, may we be wise enough not to despise it, but rather to embrace it.
In order to know where we stand with God, what sort of relationship we have with the Father, we need look no further than whether or not He deals with us as sons. Before settling on the present title for this study, I thought about calling it, 'God's dealings with His sons', for truth be told, chastening and rebuke is reserved for His sons, those whom He has received. All that is good in our lives, all the grace in which we have been shrouded thus far, all the light of truth that has overwhelmed us, they are all God's ways of dealing with us, and these ways are just, merciful and full of love toward us. God deals with us in His ways, that we may reach that point of total consecration and sanctification, and often times His ways are unpleasant for the flesh.
Due to our own disobedience of God's holy Word, due to our own indifference to His will, He is compelled to use harsher methods in dealing with us. It is man that forces God's hand to bring out the divine scalpel, and cut out the sin that has fused itself to us, that we may regain our spiritual health, that we may once again learn to hear His voice, and not only hear it, but obey it. If God would not use these means to cause us to turn away from evil, we would readily continue our descent toward death and destruction. I will be repeating this line often, for it is the essence of the message: it is love that compels God to correct and rebuke, for His desire is that none perish. In order to understand the magnitude of the tragedy that is the human condition, we must understand that if a soul perishes, it is because it willfully rejected the truth, it willfully rejected grace, it willfully turned its back on the God who would have readily restored, and received.
A wise man of ancient time once said, that God's reason for dealing with us harshly, His reason for chastening, is not to punish the sin, but rather to cause us to turn away from it, to bring us to the place of repentance. The man who sins, and knows he is sinning, and yet is not corrected, rebuked or chastened, is among all men most pitiable. As true children of God, we should never fear rebuke, or despise chastening but rather, we should despise the sin that begets other sins. Correction strengthens the soul, refreshingly reminding that it is loved, received, and accepted.
There is, as has always been a tight bond and symmetry between suffering and the love of God, between suffering and victory over sin, between suffering and sanctification, between suffering and glory. When God allows correction to come upon us, He is attempting to teach us lessons of eternal ramifications. Discipline is an integral part of parental education, proof of the bond between God our Father, and we His children.
The wise man, the man who has grown to spiritual maturity knows to endure chastening, for it is God's way of dealing with His sons, and he not only endures it, but welcomes it, whenever the Father deems it necessary.
Hebrews 12:8, "But if you are without chastening of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons."
When contemplating, or debating whether or not chastening is of God, the above-mentioned verse, in my opinion is the final authority on the topic. Not only is chastening of God, but we are told by the holy Word of God, that a life absent of God's chastening, makes you illegitimate, and not a true son of God. It would be wise to reread this verse, until its true ramifications are settled and established in our hearts.
All of God's sons are partakers of chastening. Not some, not a certain percentage, but all, for all have needed correction at one point or another, all have needed a rebuke form time to time. The fact that all God's children are partakers of correction is a natural law, as immutable as the law of gravity.
It is anything but an encouraging sign, when a man who calls himself a believer, a child of God, is spared chastening and correction, because it means that he is not as yet, a true son of God, for once again, all of God's legitimate sons are partakers said chastening. Those God loves, He chastens and rebukes, that He may not have to judge them on that day when all will stand before Him, and before the white throne of judgment.
Revelation 3:19, "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent."
Every father disciplines his own child. No man goes to his neighbor's house, to discipline that man's children, or stops someone walking down the street with their child, asking if he can discipline said child. If God disciplines us, it is His way of attempting to awaken our conscience to the fact that we are His children.
The chastening were receive from God from having wandered off the narrow path, is the means by which the relationship with Him can be restored, for to the humble heart chastening brings repentance. Sin destroys man's relationship with God, and with the body of Christ, and because His desire is to be one with Him, He rebukes and chastens us that we may recognize our offense, and turn away from it.
Whenever God's rod of rebuke and chastening comes upon us, it is a reason to be thankful, for there is no greater symbol of His love toward us, of His desire to bring us to that place of spiritual health and maturity, to heal us and restore us unto Himself, that He may perfect and complete the work He began in us.
Psalm 73:2-5, "But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled; my steps had nearly slipped. For I was envious of the boastful, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. For there are no pangs in their death, but their strength is firm. They are not in trouble as other men, nor are they plagued like other men."
If you think you are the only one who has witnessed the prosperity of the wicked, or believe that it is some new thing that has only been discernible in this present age, I urge you to read the entirety of Psalm 73, a psalm written by Asaph, a priest who headed the service of music, whose mind was vexed, and whose feet had almost stumbled at seeing the presumed injustice between the wicked and the righteous. Seeing all that was transpiring around him, with a grieved heart, he even came to that place wherein he said to himself, 'surely I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocence. For all day long I have been plagued, and chastened every morning.'
Asaph believed, as many believe today, that being a servant of God, cleansing one's heart and pursuing righteousness, is the means by which we attain ease and comfort in this life. What he discovered however, is that the closer He got to God, the more he washed his hands in innocence, and cleansed his heart, the more he was chastened, and brought low. To the human mind, it was reason for concern, a painful thing, for while he was continually chastened, he saw the wicked prosper all around him, and his heart began to ask how could this be?
It was not until he went into the sanctuary of God, it was not until he sought the face and mind of God, that the revelation came to him, and Asaph understood their end, the end of the wicked. In the final verses of this psalm, Asaph realizes the eternal scope of existence, that we live this present life in order to obtain the life to come, and in the most eloquent of words he concludes his assessment of the final end of the wicked by saying, "for indeed those who are far from You shall perish; You have destroyed all those who desert you for harlotry."
I once heard a story of a young college student who had given his heart to God, approaching his elderly pastor, with a serious look in his eye, and saying, 'I have been reading the Bible for some time, and there is something with which I have taken issue. I find it odd that the curse God placed upon the serpent was to eat dust all the days of his life. If God made the serpent able to nourish itself with dust, it would seem to me, that it was more of a blessing than a curse, because the serpent would never grow hungry, he would always be able to eat. Ca you explain this?'
The elderly pastor thought for a moment, then as though the revelation had come to him on the spot, smiled and said to the young man, 'yes, I believe I can explain away your dilemma. You see God told man that with the sweat of his face he would eat bread, because in his times of need, man would return to God and ask for help; He commanded the woman to bring forth children in pain, that she would run to God and ask for mercy. In this way, man, God's creation, remained connected with its creator, and would be able to return to Him, to seek His face, to restore communion and fellowship. The serpent on the other hand, the cause of the evil, was given all he needed, that he would never again address God in any manner. It is thus with the wicked who prosper, and who have turned their hearts away from God.
God deals with us, just as a father deals with his sons. We are his children, and because he loves us, he disciplines us when we do evil, or when we persist in doing evil. For a good and solid education, some form of discipline is absolutely necessary, whether a simple rebuke, or a chastening. If we are spared rebuke, if we are spared chastening, it is the Word that tells us, we are illegitimate, and not truly sons of God. Countless multitudes cross the thresholds of sanctuaries throughout the world every Sunday, who sit in the congregation of the sons of God, but who are not sons of God themselves. If we are truly sons of God, we must know our Father. We must know His voice, His will, and even His hand of correction and reproof upon us.
No, not all who suffer are sons of God, nor is suffering the proof thereof, for even criminals suffer, but they suffer because they have committed a crime. It is when we have cleansed our hearts, washed our hands in innocence and still endure chastening, that we know it is God's loving reminder to draw closer to Him. Chastening reminds us of who we are, of our true worth in the eyes of God, and knowing this, we welcome it, for every stripe brings us closer to our heavenly Father, and every hardship causes us to cling to Him ever more tightly.
With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.