What is chastening?
Now that we are Christians, we can expect all rainbows, sunshine, and smooth sailing in our lives, right? Isn’t that what the Bible says? Actually no. The Bible says we should expect tribulation from the world, and chastening from the Lord. Though God’s chastening is for our good, we rarely identify it as something pleasant. So what is chastening?
The good of chastening.
By the way, when we refer to what is good, is that our definition of good, or God’s?
Consider the idea that our idea of good and God’s idea are not always the same. At times, they may be very different. But God knows what is best for us.
So, what is good for us? And how does God get us from here to there?
As God sees fit to mold, shape, and correct us when (and if) He feels it necessary – a process we spoke of last week called sanctification – He takes steps, He employs measures and methods that challenge us, purify us, all to make us more like His Son (2 Corinthians 3:18).
Almost immediately after posting my last article, readers and friends of mine commented on how I had left out the tough parts; the truth about, and the importance of the hard times. I knew I had left the edges too smooth.
That method of correction God uses on us – His discipline of us – is what is referred to as chastening. Sometimes God will use very difficult times in our lives to teach and shape us into who He wants us to become. He wants us to be more like His Son, Jesus.
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” (Hebrews 12:5b-6)
This verse is found in the book of Hebrews, but in it, the author is quoting Solomon (of whose story I am a huge fan) from Proverbs 3:11-12.
The promise of chastising.
As the purveyor of the Saved for Later platform, I especially want to offer some food for thought. To the seekers or the recently saved out there who may have been lured into the faith with promises of prosperity or who expect a nice car, job or home, like someone they met at church, that is not a promise in the Bible.
It may only be a coincidence. It may be something far worse. It is not what Jesus promised would be in store for us.
On the contrary, Jesus promises exactly the opposite.
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
The questioning of chastening.
Strangely, though Scripture tells us to plan on hard times and hatred from the world (Mark 13:13), coupled with eager temptation from the enemy (see Matthew 4:1-11), some have managed to build a case on the inverse; that God is showering Christians with the finer things and Satan is graciously leaving us alone. Paul warns us to avoid these unbiblical ideas.
See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. (Colossians 2:8)
Then there is the question that if there were a God, or if He actually cared about us, why would He allow suffering?
Why would He give that job that I so desperately needed to that other guy? He’s not even a Christian?
Why did God introduce her to me and not have her love me the way I love her?
Why did God give me these things only to take them away?
When we commit ourselves to God, we are (hopefully) saying that we want Him to be Lord of our lives. But then we immediately complain that we don’t care for His choices for us.
Admittedly, God’s will can be a tough pill to swallow sometimes, whether it be His doing, or not doing something. So we question it. We grumble. We would have done it differently.
The way that we would have “done things” (if it were our decision) leads some to expect Jesus to hand out winning lottery tickets or keys to sports cars. Others expect to meet the loves of their lives, land their ideal job, make better money, or have all they need to retire. Where did those things come from in the Bible again?
This is not all to say that a Christian’s life is absent of blessings. The opposite is true. It just isn’t full of good times and champagne exclusively. Some work still needs to be done in us. Why else would Jesus have had to die on the cross?
The Holy Spirit, Jesus’ “Helper,” is at work in Christ’s followers. He is chastening us. He is shaping us and molding us to be less like who we were, less like the world, and more like God’s Son.
I do not pretend to understand the mind of God. I find it simpler to believe though that He may sow a better field in someone that has difficulties or challenges with a particular sin by using those very same challenges to… you know, challenge us. Not to lead us to temptation. But to deliver us from that evil.
In my own experience – before I was saved – my biggest two go-to sins were pride and greed. I defined myself by my material belongings and my toys and had myself to thank for them, not God.
When I was an atheist, I secretly hoped there was no God. That would have made life so much easier.
Once my personal lenses of sin, my scales (Acts 9:18) were removed from my eyes (by the Holy Spirit), the truth of the Gospel and of God’s Word became obvious for me. Then I was imparted with God’s gifts; faith, a hunger for His Word, and a hunger to share His Word with other new Christians.
Prosperity, for some, becomes an expected reward while we are here on earth. It is often sold to us by certain religions or religious leaders. In the process, we only wind up with either an idol disguised as a blessing from God, or a reason to doubt God when we don’t get our way.
If we do experience blessings in the form of wealth or prosperity, we must remember that the Holy Spirit can use those things to chasten us also. A better job and more money can do as much to shape us (or test us) as a season of want.
The tools of chastening.
King David knew God’s blessing. He also knew God’s chastening. He praised God for it in song.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. (Psalm 23:4)
David knew, and teaches us, that God does not keep us out of the valleys. He lets us stroll right on in there, but He remains with us while we do. For that reason, we should not fear evil. Rather, we should have hope.
He was also aware of God’s chastening tools; His rod and His staff.
The shepherd’s tools were what he used to keep his flock in line. He would guide his sheep with his staff and discipline them with his rod.
The Lord is our Shepherd (Psalm 23:1). And David teaches us that we are to be grateful to our Shepherd both for His blessings, as well as His guidance and discipline.
I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. (2 Samuel 7:14-15)
In the New Testament, the Apostles also prescribe a perspective of joy for our tribulations (Romans 5:3, 12:12; 1 Peter 4:12-13).
In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:6-9)
As we mature as Christians, we will become better at reaching for – or leaning into – God during our times in the valleys. This is another benefit of chastening. This is what God truly wants.
Spiritual maturity will also teach us not to be surprised or disappointed when God does not give us the things we want. He already gave us His Son… and everlasting life. Shouldn’t that be sufficient?
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Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.