Have you forgotten the encouraging words which God speaks to you as his children? “My child, pay attention when the Lord corrects you, and do not be discouraged when he rebukes you. Because the Lord corrects everyone he loves, and punishes everyone he accepts as a child.” (Heb 12:5-6 GNB)
Recently, someone asked me this question, and I felt the answer will help others along the way. Reading Hebrews 12 vs. 5-6, she asked, “How does God discipline those he loves? And how does God punish men? Ones he loves.”
The answer to this question will form the burden of our discourse today. How does God discipline and punish those he loves?
One of the challenges with understanding scriptural realities are the preconceptions we bring with us into every scriptural reading. We have listened to someone teach about one thing or the other before, and so whenever we approach that scripture, instead of letting the Spirit of God teach us, we rattle on with our own preconceptions and so we miss God’s blessed truths for our lives. Instead of allowing the Holy Spirit to teach us, we move on with our own preconceived ideas and so never get blessed or changed through his word.
Now, someone may wonder, how do I get God to teach me things personally? Maybe I encountered something from reading or studying God’s word and I needed better insight and understanding; apart from turning to another man, how do I get the revelation or insight I desire from the holy scripture?
First, you must give the Holy Spirit enough ground to work in. You can limit how much the Holy Spirit can teach you by how much latitude you gave him to operate in; and how do you give him enough grounds to operate with? Simple, read the Scriptures. I have come to know and believe that a man needs to be exposed to every single book in the Bible if that man is going to be a balanced Christian. That book of the Bible which you have not read may be the reason why you are lacking in understanding of God’s word. So, I encourage you to make a commitment to go through the scriptures cover-to-cover. You can help yourself by marking out in your table of contents any book of the Bible you have finished. Most of the Spirit’s instructions or teachings are by means of references- comparing scriptures with scriptures; but he cannot pull out of your spirit a scripture you have never read right through,or somehow encountered in a teaching at least. Do you get that?
Second, the holy scriptures are full of stories. Why? God was using pictures to illustrate truths – he is a master at that. The stories in scripture help to shed light on scriptural truths and principles which might seem quite abstract without those stories to guide us.
Finally, it sometimes helps if you have a Bible study app that gives you the Greek connotations of words. It is like using a dictionary. In fact, I prefer to use a Greek/English translation dictionary (such as the Strong’s Dictionary) to check out the meaning of words than to use the normal English translation. This is because the meaning of words evolves over time, and those Greek/English translation dictionaries are nearer to the Bible use of the word than the average English dictionary today.
This is by the way a quick lesson on the ‘practical’ aspects of Bible study.
So, how does God discipline those he loves? In answering this question, I must ask, “Are there examples of those God disciplined in the Bible? “Are there other places in the Bible that talked about the discipline of God?” What Greek/Hebrew words are translated to discipline or punish or chastise, and how do they help us to understand what God is saying?”
Jesus told the Church in Laodicea, “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.” Rev. 3 vs. 19. So, essentially, Jesus was telling them that he was disciplining them; and what was the discipline – His Word, His rebuke. The primary way God disciplines his children is through his word. Whenever we hear discipline, our mind rushes immediately to the infliction of bodily pains and all that, but the primary way of divine discipline is through the word of God.
The Greek word for ‘rebuke’ here is “elegchō” meaning to confute, admonish: – convict, convince, tell a fault, rebuke, reprove, while the word for ‘chasten’ is “paideuō” meaning to train up a child, that is, educate, or (by implication) discipline (by punishment): – chasten (-ise), instruct, learn, teach. This was Jesus was doing to the Church in Laodicea; he was disciplining them through his rebuke and words of correction. The discipline of God is not meant to kill you, rather it is meant to make you better than you used to be before, and that is what God’s word does. That is why, a times, when you are in error, the word of God comes so hard on you, convicting you of sins and calling you to repentance. This is God’s primary way of discipline- through his word.
However, for the one that God loves, if He ‘fails’ to get his attention through the primary means of discipline- his word, then you come to the secondary means – his scourging or punishment. A punishment or a scourging comes with some form of pain, by which God seeks the attention of the one he loves. Medically speaking, pain is a good thing. A man becomes dangerous if he cannot feel pain, because he may be passing through the most crushing injury and not feel it.
We must realize that pain can be caused by many factors, such as:
1. The just recompense of reward for our refusal to listen to God’s rebuke and correction. Every word of God not hearkened to has negative consequences on the disobedient – not because God is angry per se, but because there are natural consequences for every misdeed. If you refuse to listen to my rebuke about going near an electrical connection, you may get there and get an electrical shock – not because I am angry, but because shock is a natural consequence of playing with electricity.
2. Doors opened for Satan to operate. Ephesian 4 vs. 27 warns Christians not to give any place to the devil. It is possible for us to open a door for him to operate in our lives and our families due to carelessness and not listening to God’s word. This can be a cause of pain in the life of a Christian.
3. The Lord’s Discipline. It is also to be noted that the Lord Himself, as a way of judgement after long time given for correction, can also inflict pain by himself on the one he loves. Reading through Revelation 2 and 3 will reveal Jesus threatening several churches and people in churches with all manners of punishment unless they repent.
IN CONCLUSION, the chief matter in this discussion must be our attitude towards God’s chastening and rebuke. When God rebukes us through his word, we must pay attention and listen carefully to what he said. Also, we must not be discouraged. God rebukes us because he loves us. However, we have this natural tendency to be discouraged when we feel that we have too many issues around our lives, and we wonder if we will ever make it to become who God wants us to be.
We must come to realize that God is not correcting us so that we will be accepted in His family; rather, he is correcting us because he has accepted us.
This will leave us happy and rejoicing at every correction, knowing fully well that it is a proof that God loves us and that we belong to Him.
Permit the long reading.