Part 1: Introduction
Do Christians experience chastisement from God? What about suffering? There are different ideas about these topics, and I expect these ideas to come up in the future, so I think it is worth looking into.
There are multiple perspectives and teachings about the chastisement of God and suffering in the life of a Christian. I would like to find reconciliation if possible or at least increase my own understanding.
For example, should a Christian feel shame? Is this chastisement? Some say that when we feel shame for sin, Satan is tempting us to lose faith or to doubt our salvation while accusing us before God, therefore we should ignore those feelings of shame and instead trust in the blood of Jesus that covers our sin and forgives us. Some say that we should ignore any idea of God’s chastisement because Jesus took our chastisement upon Himself on the cross.
Some say that when we feel ashamed for sin this is the Spirit convicting our hearts and we should listen so that we are not as a fool who despises correction. Some say that God chastises those He loves, and though chastening does not feel good, we should try to be thankful for it and after it is done, we will see the good result.
Sometimes chastisement is a form of suffering, but not all suffering is God’s chastisement. What about suffering in general? Jesus teaches that we should expect suffering, but He also provides many blessings in this life.
Some say that God is love, therefore any bad thing that happens to us comes from Satan and not God. Some say that God only wants good things for us (with an understanding of “good” in terms of a pleasant life).
Some say bad things happen to us when we anger God and good things in life indicate God’s blessing and approval (again “good” in terms of a pleasant life).
Some say that bad things happen regardless of our sin because we live in a fallen world, and these things happen independently of our sin or God’s will.
Some say that God is in control of all things, and He allows bad things to happen to us for our good.
Some say that bad things happen to us so that the glory of God is revealed, and this has nothing to do with the sin we have committed.
Some say that suffering is part of living a Christian life, and we should consider it a blessing to suffer for the name of Jesus.
Some say that we should not suffer in this world because God has not appointed us to wrath.
I think there is truth to all these ideas, but we must consider some things if we want a more well-rounded view.
I want to spend some time considering chastisement and suffering by looking to scripture and personal experience in comparison to the various ideas I have heard taught.
Part 2: Should Christians Expect Chastisement?
Should Christians expect chastisement from God? This can be a confusing topic. As Christians, we are counted as righteous before God through the blood of Jesus. Our sins are paid in full and we are forgiven. There is also a scripture in Isaiah 53 stating that Jesus bore our chastisement. Here is an excerpt:
3 He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
4 Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.
Jesus endured the chastisement of God on our behalf. What about scripture that indicates a reasonable expectation of chastisement for a Christian, such as that in Hebrews 12? Here is an excerpt:
2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
3 For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.
4 Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.
5 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:
6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.
7 If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?
8 But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.
9 Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?
There is also this scripture in Revelation 3 addressing the church of the Laodiceans:
15 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.
16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.
17 Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:
18 I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.
19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.
20 Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.
We might also think about this teaching of Jesus in Luke 12 regarding faithful and unfaithful servants:
45 But and if that servant say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken;
46 The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers.
47 And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.
48 But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.
First, what does it mean to be a Christian? Of course, we believe in Jesus. We believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died for our sins, rose from the dead, and is sat down on the right hand of God. We believe that through faith in Jesus, we are passed from judgment into life eternal.
We are also given this understanding: through Jesus, we are joint heirs and adopted sons of God. If we are to be sons, should we not expect some chastisement? It would seem so. However, God is a good Father. As sons through faith in Jesus, we are not His enemies. He loves us, and so He will correct us. His correction can be difficult, but it is not unjust or unbearable.
Jesus bore that which was unbearable, and He helps us bear all things including the chastisement we endure as sons of God.
What sort of chastisement should a Christian expect?
Consider how a just man would chastise his children. We should have some idea of what good parenting looks like. If we who are faulty can correct our children in a just and effective manner, how much more can God?
When we are new babes in Christ, we learn of His undying love. We are forgiven, we approach God in awe, and we want to learn what faith in Jesus means. As we learn to move about, we stumble and fall. God picks us up, time and time again in love. We also experience some corrections.
As we continue to learn and grow, God expects more from us, therefore the chastening can increase if we were to go astray, but He also knows our hearts and He knows what we need. If we are trying sincerely and trust in Him, then our correction could be minimal. However, the further our hearts turn away from Him, the more severe the correction may need to be.
There is much we could think about. In any case, I believe that chastening is part of the Christian life; however, we know that the Lord does not chastise us as enemies but as sons. He is loving, merciful, and wise. He knows us individually and He knows precisely what we need.
Sometimes we feel a soft conviction in our heart. Sometimes we feel great shame and sorrow. Sometimes we have an ongoing struggle, but we admit our fault and trust in Jesus to forgive and help us overcome, therefore we have faith instead of shame and sorrow. Sometimes the Lord removes things from us, and this can include small comforts or a large-scale overturn of our world.
How do we receive the chastisement of God?
Sometimes God sends a brother to rebuke us and help us along and sometimes He speaks to us directly in spirit. Sometimes God sends an enemy.
It all depends on what we need according to our spiritual maturity, the time we are living in, and the purposes of God for each individual and for the world at large.
For those who are given much and have much required of them: Do not lay your burdens on others.
Though we all inherit eternal life, we do not inherit equal portions. God expects more from some, so He will correct some more thoroughly than He would another. This is one of many reasons why we are instructed to correct each other in the spirit of meekness.
We should protect those who are frail in the faith and encourage growth as much as is possible while remembering that Jesus is merciful, and we all bring forth differing amounts of fruit. We do not always know what state of growth another is in or how far God intends to take them.
A little good fruit is pleasing to the Lord, and we should not squash it. “A bruised reed shall he not break, and a smoking flax shall he not quench.” We should dare not offend the little ones who believe in Him. We should dare not beat out fellow servants. We should live in peace and patience, lest that which we were entrusted with is given to another.
For further clarification of this idea, visit this article: To Whom Much is Given, Much is Required
The variables pertaining to chastisement for a Christian are vast because we are individuals and Jesus is not a judicial system but our personal Lord and Savior.
In any case, we know this: God is just and merciful. Those whom He loves as sons receive what is good for them. Sometimes what we need is difficult and painful emotionally or physically, but all things work for our ultimate good: resurrection from the dead and an everlasting inheritance.
Chastisement can feel like a form of suffering, but sometimes we suffer for other reasons. Sometimes we suffer for the name sake of Jesus, not because of some wrong we have done. Such suffering helps us to grow, brings glory to God, and is an honor given to us rather than a form of correction or punishment. In the next article, I want to talk more about suffering apart from that which we endure through chastisement.
Part 3: Should Christians Expect Suffering?
Suffering is not easy to think about, so it is understandable that many would shy away from the topic. Even so, we all suffer. This life is full of difficulties. Rather than denying the reality of Christian suffering, we should consider suffering as an expected part of Christian life. In so doing, we can find strength in Jesus to endure all things.
One of the most important ideas pertaining to suffering is this: all things are working together for our good. This includes suffering.
Romans 8:28 – And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
What might God’s purposes be for Christian suffering?
Suffering is part of life in this fallen world; however, the fall of mankind does not rob God of His sovereignty. Even when we seem to suffer for no reason, we can rest assured that God has a purpose behind every hard thing we endure—and most importantly, His purposes are good.
We live different lives and have different purposes in God, therefore the suffering we endure can vary. The resulting good purposes of God vary also. However, there is one good result of suffering that all Christians have in common: everlasting life as adopted sons of God through faith Christ Jesus.
As partakers of the adoption, Christians take the name of Jesus onto themselves. We defend His name. We grow up into His name. Most often, this entails some form of suffering.
Philippians 1:29 – For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake.
Think about it. Let it really sink in. As Christians, all things we suffer are for our good as we honor the name of Jesus and as we grow up into Him.
Whether we endure suffering at the hands of others, whether we endure chastisement from God, whether we endure temptations or struggles against sin, whether we live through disasters, illness, loss of loved ones, or any form of suffering a person might encounter in this world, suffering has a positive effect. Suffering draws us closer to God. Suffering makes us better servants of those who suffer. Suffering makes us more like Jesus. Suffering for His name brings glory to God.
We don’t always respond to suffering as we should. Sometimes we complain when life gets hard. Sometimes we become afraid, sorrowful, and angry. Jesus knows our weaknesses, and He is merciful to us. He forgives us, just as He forgave His disciples. Remember Peter. He denied Jesus, but Jesus did not deny Him.
Didn’t Jesus say that those who deny Him would be denied by Him? He did, but let’s consider what this might mean. We all deny Him in small ways, and He forgives us. He makes us stronger. Lord willing, we will not deny Him in large ways, and we get there by learning not to deny Him in small ways.
There are those who deny Jesus in small ways without regard for the Name they lay claim to, and Jesus will deny them. He will say to them, “I never knew you. Depart from me you who work iniquity.” That is not the fate of any sincere Christian who strives to honor the name of Jesus and grow up into Him.
Knowing these things, let us continue to suffer for the name of Jesus, both as we defend what He stands for and as we endure the working of the Lord in us.
In all suffering, we can find comfort in the sovereignty of God and in the sacrifice of Jesus.
No evil would have power over us unless it was first given by the Father. If the Father has ordained it, then the evil we endure is for our good. If the Father has ordained it, then we know that Jesus will help us to endure it.
Jesus endured the wrath of God on our behalf, so the suffering we encounter is not that of judgment, but that of life. Jesus endured suffering so that He can comfort us through our suffering, and He makes all things bearable—even though many things feel unbearable at the time.
Should we find ourselves living in times of great trouble, we know that God is in control. We know that all suffering we endure is given to us by God. We know that all suffering we endure is for the name of Jesus. We know that the name of Jesus is the only name by which we can be saved, so though we suffer, we are not defeated. Jesus strengthens, He gives us peace, and He is our great hope. We will live with Jesus forever, and all suffering will one day come to an end.
Revelation 21:3-7 – And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.
And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.
And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.
He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.
Chastisement and Suffering Part 4: Final Thoughts
In this article I want to address some of the ideas mentioned in Part 1 of this series that I forgot to elaborate on.
Should Christians feel shame? Is the feeling of shame a form of chastisement from God?
A Christian might experience some form of shame before turning to Jesus, but once we have received mercy from God and forgiveness of sin should we continue to feel shame? I think it depends on the person. For some, shame is a nearly crippling force in their life already. Finding forgiveness from Jesus is a much-needed relief that makes a person free and able to begin a journey of healing from pains of the past. For others, a little bit of shame can be productive because it fosters humility, zeal for righteousness, and compassion.
In any case, a Christian is not bound to shame. In Jesus, we will move past all shame as we learn to trust in Him better. We learn that He knows everything about us, and He loves us anyway. He intends good things for us, and so when we make a mistake or struggle with sin, we can approach Him boldly and without shame. However, if we were to make a large mistake that brings dishonor to Jesus, then some feelings of shame might be appropriate. It depends on the individual circumstance.
Is shame a form of chastisement? The Lord convicts our heart of sin as His Spirit shows us the truth of our state and the truth of what God’s will is. I think the shame that follows is a natural human emotion, not something that God places in us as a form of chastisement.
God is love and He only wants good things for us. When bad things happen, Satan is to blame. Is this true?
I believe that the scriptures paint a picture of a fully sovereign God. I believe that God created Satan for a purpose, and God knows everything Satan will ever do—just as God knows everything we will ever do. God inhabits all time and all things are made by Him, upheld by Him, and fully known to Him. All things are created for His purposes, and the scriptures reveal that His purpose in creation is to “bring many sons of God to glory.”
All things, including Satan, were created as part of God’s plan to bring up His sons in Jesus Christ. All things, including Satan, are ultimately working together for our good.
Therefore, it is true that God is love and He wants good things for us. However, God’s ways are not our ways. What He deems good for us in the long run might be a form of evil in the short-term. Enduring difficulties teaches us to love righteousness, to hate sin, to lean on Jesus, and so much more.
When bad things happen to us, it is because God is angry with us. Good things in life indicate God’s blessing and approval. Is this true?
Sometimes we suffer because of chastisement. This is true. Sometimes we suffer for the namesake of Jesus and not because of any wrong we have done. If we do well, then God will bless us. This is also true. However, the blessings of God can vary a great deal depending on His purposes for each person.
Some blessings come in the form of prosperity that man deems good such as financial stability, but the most important kinds of blessings we look for are those of the Spirit. We want to find greater meaning in our Christian walk and greater service—and sometimes that means our blessing is found in suffering and poverty in this world. Many servants of Jesus have suffered and many more will suffer, not because they have done wrong, but because they are blessed.
It is a shame when we esteem so-called servants of God as blessed and approved because of their prosperity and popularity in this world when the opposite is usually the truth of the matter.
God has not appointed us to wrath; therefore, a Christian should not expect suffering. Is this true?
It is true that God has not appointed Christians to wrath. However, He does appoint us to chastisement and suffering. It can be easy to confuse the two, but they are not the same. The wrath of God is judgment and condemnation of the wicked. The chastisement of God and the suffering Christians endure brings life, not death. For context, go to 1 Thessalonians 5.
Christians have always suffered and died for the faith. Some have suffered extraordinary persecution and pain.
In the West, we are used to living in a largely Christian-friendly society. That does not mean that we are owed such an existence. In-fact, Christianity is built for persecution and hardship. Jesus teaches us to expect suffering, but He also teaches us that in Him we find the strength and the peace necessary to endure all things.
Here are additional scriptures not mentioned in Parts 2-3 that informed my view on Christian chastisement and suffering:
2 Corinthians 7:8-11
8 For though I made you sorry with a letter, I do not repent, though I did repent: for I perceive that the same epistle hath made you sorry, though it were but for a season.
9 Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing.
10 For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.
11 For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter.
Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:
2 By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
3 And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience;
4 And patience, experience; and experience, hope:
5 And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.
18 If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.
19 If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.
20 Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.
21 But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake, because they know not him that sent me.
These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended.
2 They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service.
3 And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me.
40 And to him they agreed: and when they had called the apostles, and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.
41 And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.
42 And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.
7 But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.
8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,
9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:
10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;
11 If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.
1 Peter 3:13-17
13 And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?
14 But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled;
15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:
16 Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ.
17 For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing.
1 Peter 5:8-10
8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:
9 Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.
10 But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.
16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:
17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.
18 For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
8 And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive;
9 I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.
10 Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.