Beckett: Facing Trials – Why Do We Suffer? Chastisement

1 Peter 1:6-7, Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.

Hebrews 12:6 says, “For the Lord disciplines the one He loves and chastises every son whom He receives.” God does not chastise those who are outside the faith. He may punish the wicked, but He does not chastise them. He chastises His children, but He does not punish them. Chastisement and punishment are not the same thing. It may feel like punishment when God is chastising us, but we also felt we were being punished when our own earthly parents chastised (disciplined) us. That is only because we lacked wisdom. Likewise, when God chastises us and we perceive it as punishment, we are lacking in wisdom. Our parents’ chastisement was always for our own good. The dictionary defines “chastise” as to “rebuke or reprimand severely.” So, in chastising us, God is simply correcting our poor behaviour, like a father to his son or daughter. Punishment, however, is just an infliction someone causes upon you in order to pay for an offence you made—punitive damages, if you will. God doesn’t work like that towards His children, only to the wicked. As God’s children, He may choose to chastise us for our own good, much like your own earthly father or mother or guardian chastising you for your failures and indolence versus other kids’ wrongful behaviour. Those kids don’t belong to your parent because they’re in a different family, so he doesn’t chastise them, and such is the same with those outside the faith—they aren’t God’s children because they belong to the family of Satan.

First John 3:9-10 says, “Everyone who has been born of God does not sin, because His seed remains in him; he is not able to sin, because he has been born of God. This is how God’s children—and the Devil’s children—are made evident.” Now, it is easy to misinterpret this passage. It is not saying God’s children are incapable of sinning, although it appears that way. After all, even though we’re God’s children, we still sin. St. John is saying the one “born of God”—those who are baptised in the Holy Spirit—does not make it his life’s trade to sin. The child of God does not make it his life’s priority to live in sin, as the children of the Devil do (e.g. the homosexual lifestyle, a murderous lifestyle such as ISIS or serial killers, promiscuous individuals, etc.). God’s children are not free from acts of sin, but the child of God does not commit to be a servant of sin, but rather a servant of God and His holiness. Christians are not impeccable; they are simul iustus et peccator (simultaneously saint and sinner). Sin lives within us, but the Christian is justified by faith (Romans 5:1; Galatians 3:24). John is not speaking of sinless perfection but of a life imputed with Christ’s righteousness.

Anyway, I’m not saying God’s chastisement is always the case when we face trials; I’m just saying it’s one of three possibilities.

Stay tuned for next time when I discuss the second of three reasons why we may suffer: God to prepare us.


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