When God Chastises
Charles Naylor, 1941
No one likes to be chastised. Any child would rather be petted than punished. The children of God are no exception to this rule. But as discipline is needed in the life of the child—so it is needed in the life of the Christian. The child who disciplines himself sufficiently, does not need very much parental discipline. In the same way, the Christian who properly disciplines himself, may not need God's discipline. But who among us properly disciplines himself in every avenue of life? All of us have spiritual blemishes and imperfections, and I suppose all of us are blameworthy at various times and to various degrees. Therefore we are told that God "chastens every son whom he receives." Again it speaks of "chastisement, whereof all are partakers."
It is, therefore, the common lot of Christians to receive chastisement from the Lord.
This chastisement may come as direct reproofs from the Spirit, and these are sometimes sharp and stern. Sometimes they are tender and appealing. However they may come from the Spirit, we should not allow ourselves to be crushed nor discouraged by them, for God "deals with you as with sons."
We are shown in various places how God sometimes uses men to scourge people; and again circumstances, failures, disappointed expectations, slights, losses, mistreatment, and scores of other things are used by God to work out that discipline which is necessary for our souls.
His purpose is to correct us, to instruct us, and to make us partakers of his holiness. God does not find pleasure in chastising us. He does not do it merely as a punishment. He does it as a discipline, having in view an outcome that is desirable to him and profitable to us.
Though God disciplines in love, we must not expect to receive his chastisement without feeling its effects. No chastisement, Paul tells us, is joyous for the present. We may expect to suffer, when God chastises us. Sometimes he may take away from us something very much desired, just as the parent must deprive his child of some pleasure for his good—that he may be profited and be more greatly blessed in some other way.
The goal of the parent is to bring the child up in the way that it should go, to develop in it a character such as it needs for its future life.
God's goal with us is the same. Much must be left unsaid, but one thing we should keep in mind: the fact that he chastises us does not prove that we are not holding a proper attitude of service and submission toward him. His chastisement proves we are his sons—so we should not be cast down nor disquieted. We should receive his chastisement with submission.
In Job 34:31-32 we have some very good advice as to how we should respond when the Lord chastises us. Let us notice this scripture carefully: "Surely it is fit to be said unto God, I have borne chastisement." "I have borne chastisement"; that is, I have submitted to it. I have not rebelled against you. I have not murmured or complained. I have not grieved or lamented. I have not grown stubborn or self-willed.
This is the attitude we should adopt at such times. The speaker in Job recognized that it was God's hand which had smitten; therefore, he did not resent it.
We are told to humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God. How often people resist God's chastising! Sometimes they complain and murmur. Sometimes they accuse God. Sometimes they rebel. Sometimes they become sullen, and resent it as some children resent punishment. Such children miss the good that would be in the discipline for them, if they met it properly and submitted themselves to it.
We must meet God's discipline with humble hearts, uncomplainingly, unresistingly, recognizing that it is his hand of love which chastens. Sometimes we forget that behind the difficult circumstances, is God. We are too prone to separate God in our thoughts, from the things that happen to us in life. Many of his chastisements are not recognized when they come. His hand is not seen in them. We take it for granted that things just happened that way—when often God made them happen thus for our good and for his glory.
Instead of being cast down and lamenting or being discouraged, we should look behind the circumstances or behind the words of reproof and see the tender heart that prompts it and the faithful love that has smitten us. Then we should bow in humble submission and endure chastening as a loving son. This is often the test of our humility, and of the sincerity of our submission.
After we have reached the place where we can say, "I have borne chastisement," what is proper for us to say next? What attitude shall we adopt? Listen to the words of the scripture, "I have borne chastisement, I will not offend any more." I will not offend any more. Here is the purpose to be obedient. Here is the determination that the future conduct shall be superior to the past. If God's chastisement does not bring the soul into this attitude, then it has failed in its purpose, and the soul that adopts any other attitude is doing injury and injustice to himself.
Paul reproved the Corinthian church. When he wrote them again he exclaimed, "What eagerness to clear yourselves!" They had taken his reproof to heart. They had profited by it. They had adopted a better course. Now he can rejoice in them.
So when we say to the Lord, in our chastisement, "I will not offend any more," we have adopted the very attitude that he purposed for us to adopt, an attitude which will be a blessing to our soul.
There is something else that follows too. "That which I see not—teach me." That is, instruct me that I may more fully follow your will. Reveal to me how I may live closer to you and more worthily before you. Teach me how my obedience may be more full and my service more acceptable. I need your instruction. I open my heart to you. Reveal your truth to me. This implies not only a willingness to be instructed, but a willingness to be obedient and a heart responsive to the revealed will.