Although they have been saved by grace, God’s redeemed still have the depraved nature within them (Jer. 17: 9). There is much corruption even in the best of saints. In their unguarded or careless moments, they can fall into the snare of sin: “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. 15 Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death” (Jas: 1: 14-15). When believers sin, God their Heavenly Father will often apply the rod of discipline to turn their hearts back to Him.
o God smites us in love
Discipline in any form, even by our earthly parents, is never pleasant. Hence, we often find it hard to accept God’s correction. When we are chastised, let us remember that our gracious heavenly Father smites us in love. Even as He corrects us, He will not cause us hurt or harm.
God’s chastisement is a clear sign that we belong to His family: “For whom the LORD loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth” (Prov. 3: 12). God disciplines those He truly loves: “For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth” (Heb. 12: 6).
“An undisciplined child is an unloved, neglected and miserable child. No wise and good father would wink at the faults in his own children; how much less our heavenly Father whose love is perfect” (Bible Witness: March-June 2015).
o God smites us for our profit
Though God’s chastisements cause us pain and grief, they work together for our temporal and eternal good: “Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby” (Heb. 12: 11). Our heavenly Father corrects us “for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness” (Heb. 12: 10). Discipline is also God’s loving way of guiding His children safely to their heavenly home.
o Different rods
God afflicts His children in various ways. He does not apply the same rod to all of us. Neither does He use the same measure of correction for each one. Knowing the evils that are found in our depraved nature, God administers the right dose of discipline that will best remove the corruptions within and turn us back to the path of righteousness.
“His training is no random work. It is carried on with exquisite skill. The time and the way and the instrument are all according to the perfect wisdom of God. The fittest time is chosen,
just the very moment when discipline is called for, and when it would be most profitable. … The instrument which will be surest yet safest, most effectual yet least painful, is brought into operation. For all is wisdom in the discipline of God” (When God’s children suffer – Horatius Bonar).
The Lord may allow losses, disappointments, heartaches and hardships to come into the lives of some of His children. Perhaps ease and prosperity have dulled their spiritual senses and made their hearts cold and indifferent to the things of God. Perhaps they have disregarded God’s will, or have clung too tightly to the things they love.
God may afflict others with bodily infirmities. The sick bed sets one alone with God. “We are taken into His private chamber, and there He converses with us face to face. The world is far off, our relish for it is gone, and we are alone with God” (ibid). One afflicted saint shared this testimony: “If it were not for pain, I should spend less time with God. If I had not been kept awake with pain, I should have lost one of the sweetest experiences I ever had in my life.”
In ill health, all our props are taken away; we must now lean solely upon God. We are cast wholly upon Him that we may learn that He alone is our Sufficiency. Through sickness, God teaches us that He is also glorified through our suffering.
For yet others, God may take away a loved one. To be bereaved is one of life’s deepest sorrows. The pain of parting from someone whom we love dearly is hard to bear. But God has His purposes for His grieving children. The loss of a cherished one reminds us that the coming of the Lord draws nigh, and stirs in us a yearning for our Father’s house and the blessed reunion there. While we wait for that happy day of reunion with our loved one, we devote ourselves to live for the Lord and to wait patiently for His coming.
Often, bereavement brings us back to the solemn realities of life. Consider the words of the wisest of men: “It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart” (Eccl. 7: 2). (… to be continued)