Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Some Chastening on Chastening Part 2

By S. Michael Durham

Often chastening, or discipline, is seen as a negative thing. It is always viewed within the context of pain. Anytime something bad happens, we immediately presume we have disobeyed the Lord and He is chastening us. Should correction be the only way we understand the discipline of God?

In our previous post, I made the case that natural consequences and chastening are two different things. I stated and explained two reasons: 1) discipline distinguishes between the Christian and non-Christian. Since both Christians and non-Christians can receive bad consequences for their own actions or another’s, consequences by themselves are not discipline. 2) All bad things are not discipline. If I lock my keys in my car I shouldn’t deduce God is punishing me. I can deduce I did a stupid thing and the consequence is I can’t open my car door.

But there is a third reason why we should distinguish unpleasant natural consequences from chastening. It is that most discipline from the Lord is not correctional, but is character building and instructional. Instruction is also a part of discipline. Our heavenly Father is always instructing us. Instruction is occurring even when correction isn’t. The word discipline comes from the word disciple. A disciple means a person who learns from a teacher. The word can be translated “pupil.” So, you can see that instruction is not just a part of discipline – it is all of it. Even correction is to be instructional.

Two evidences that chastening can occur in your life without being correctional or the result of disobedience are found in Hebrews 12. The first evidence is the persecution of the Hebrews to whom the author was writing. The Hebrews were having a difficult time because they were being persecuted for their faith, and the author to the Hebrews calls their persecution “discipline.” It was not sin in their lives that brought this discipline, but rather righteousness. They were not being disobedient, but obedient – and for that reason they were being persecuted.

Second, I present as evidence Jesus Christ the Lord. Listen to the writer of Hebrews:

For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin. And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: “My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him” (Hebrews 12:3-5).

The author encourages the disheartened Christians by reminding them that Jesus also endured chastening. Surely, there is no debate about Jesus’ obedience! He was the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. And yet, He too received scourging, literally. The word scourge is the same word used to speak of the terrible beating that was administered to Jesus by a Roman whip, “Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged him” (John 19:1). Hebrews 12:6 says that God “scourges every son whom He receives.” Jesus was no exception. But by it, He was helped, even though He was already morally perfect. Again, the same author says of Jesus, “though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered” (Hebrews 5:8). What’s my point? Jesus was chastened and yet He was perfect, without sin. Thus chastening must not always be about correction. Jesus didn’t need correcting but He was chastened. His discipline was instructional. Again Hebrews 5:8, “He learned . . . by the things which He suffered.” And so do we.

All discipline is not correctional, but not all pain is correctional either. There is another practical point to be made. It is the goal of the enemy to discourage us when we endure pain and suffering. If our immediate response to adversity is to think, “there must be sin in my life and that is why I am going through this,” then we are apt to miss God’s purpose in adversity. It will be easier for Satan to convince you that something is wrong with you, which makes his job easier to persuade you that God really doesn’t love you. How? Because it puts the basis of your relationship with God on your performance.

I’m convinced that most of us have some “prosperity gospel” mixed in with our theology. We are not that far astray from Job’s comforters after all. Way too many good Christians think to an unbiblical extreme that says, “If I’m doing fairly well pleasing God, then life will be easy, but if life is not easy I must not be doing too good a job.” You see God’s favor based upon your discharge of Christian duty.

God’s love for me is not based on anything I have done or will ever do. His love for me is squarely resting upon the Lord Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul says that we are “accepted in the Beloved.” Yes, discipline will occur when I disobey, but it will also occur when I have not disobeyed. And even when I have disobeyed, God’s discipline is not because He loves me less or because He thinks me a problem child. We’re all problem children. Don’t base God’s opinion of you based on your circumstances good or bad. You will be misled either way.

Finally, not all of discipline has to be painful either. The act of receiving instruction is not always painful. Often it is quite enjoyable. Whether it be studying the Bible or listening to a sermon, instruction is being imparted and that is discipline. The conclusion is simple—because God loves us, He teaches us, using both pleasure and pain.


  1. Thanks Pastor, this has been most helpful!

  2. Pastor Durham,

    This 2-part series has chastened me. (pun intended).

    It was really edifying and instructive!!