Divine chastisement serves not only to stir in us a deeper devotion to the Lord, but also to rouse us from our spiritual coldness and indifference. God’s rod awakens us to our own follies and insufficiencies and enables us to appreciate the blessed benefits of His correcting hand.
In his psalms, King David testified of the blessings of divine discipline: “Blessed is the man whom thou chastenest, O LORD, and teachest him out of thy law” (Ps. 94: 12); “It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes” (Ps. 119: 71).
“How fast we learn in a day of sorrow! It is as if affliction awoke our powers and lent them new quickness of perception. We advance more in the knowledge of Scripture in a single day than in years before. We learn ‘songs in the night,’ though such music was unknown before. A deeper experience has taken us down into the depths of Scripture and shown us its hidden wonders” (When God’s Children Suffer – Horatius Bonar).
As God’s children, what is the right response to His discipline?
“Despise not … nor faint”
When facing divine correction, let us not harbour a haughty or unbelieving heart that mocks at the rod or a stubborn will that refuses to yield to God’s chastisement: “And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him” (Heb. 12: 5). Let us also not faint nor become despondent, but bear up patiently that the Lord might do His work of grace upon our lives.
When we receive God’s discipline gladly, He sanctifies the trial while it lasts, and confers His gracious favours: “Behold, happy is the man whom God correcteth: therefore despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty” (Job 5: 17). Like the psalmist David, let us thank God for the blessings of chastisement and look to the Lord for His sustaining grace (Ps. 42: 5).
Submit to the Lord
To His afflicted children, God’s rod may seem to speak of His frown or anger, but “there is not a glance of vengeance in the Chastener’s eye. It is a correcting rod, but not a destroying one. Its object is not to punish but to chasten; not to injure, but to bless” (ibid).
When suffering, bear in mind that our sovereign God has a purpose for smiting His children. Through afflictions, He sanctifies and purifies us. Let us therefore submit humbly to His correction - “… knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost …” (Rom. 5: 3-4).
Repent of our sins
Whenever God’s hand is laid upon us, pray that He might show us how we have sinned. Search our depraved heart for areas of wilful disobedience or sinful folly. Like Job, let us pray: “Cause me to understand where I have erred” (Job 6: 24); “show me wherefore thou contendest with me” (Job 10: 2). Turn from our sins and seek the Lord’s forgiveness. When chastised, we need to view God not only as our Father but also as our Teacher. We will learn precious lessons if we cultivate a teachable spirit. Let us consider our ways and make right with the Lord.
Chastisement is God’s gracious way of turning His erring children back to the path of righteousness. But not all divine discipline is well-received. Some are hardened by it, some faint beneath it, while others profit from it. Much depends on the spirit in which we receive God’s correction. Those who accept it gladly and humbly are made “partakers of his holiness” (Heb. 12: 10) and bring forth “the peaceable fruit of righteousness” (Heb. 12: 11). But those who respond negatively sink into despondency. Their faith falters and they entertain hard thoughts of God.
When we are disciplined by the Lord, let us receive it with a thankful heart. Pray for a teachable spirit that He might mould our lives for His glory and the blessing of our souls.
On our part, let us closely examine our lives. Have we become complacent in our walk with the Lord? Perhaps we have gone our own wilful way. Or perhaps we have indulged in some secret sin. Let us get right with the Lord lest He smite us to turn us from our sinful ways.