Elder Goh Kee Tai
God instructed Christian fathers to bring up their children 'in the nurture and admonition of the Lord ' (Eph 6:4) with the rod of correction to restrain them from sin and ruin (Prov 22:15).It is a spiritual process which begins early in life through instructions and obedience of God's law for their temporal, spiritual and eternal well-being (Deu 6:4-9). The value of divine discipline is emphasized in God's word: 'Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell ' (Prov 23:13,14).
A godly father disciplines his son for his follies, faults and wrongdoings. He would not neglect his duties in correcting him with the hope that it may deliver him from harm and untimely death (Prov 19:18). He diligently trains him by words and deeds. It pains his heart that he has to discipline his disobedient son who has to bear the unpleasant punishment for a season. It is done out of love for the benefits and ultimate good of the one whom he loves. On the other hand, if there is no chastening, it is an evidence of hatred rather than love for his son: 'He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes'(Prov 13:24).
Likewise our heavenly Father restrains His children from sins by suitable corrections: 'Thou shalt also consider in thine heart, that, as a man chasteneth his son, so the LORD thy God chasteneth thee. Therefore thou shalt keep the commandments of the LORD thy God, to walk in his ways, and to fear him' (Deu 8:5,6). The Lord chastises or disciplines His children out of love for their own good where there are sins of omission or commission that deserve divine correction the purpose of which is to restrain their sins; to put down self, pride and arrogance; to awaken, revive and restore them to Him in repentance.
Chastisement could be administered in various forms of affliction, pain and suffering.
Chastisement of love for a genuine son
Not all chastisements are alike, but none of His children are exempted. Every chastisement is appointed by God in His infinite wisdom. He never sends afflictions because He takes pleasure in grieving His children. It is not in the way of divine wrath and justice for punishment of sin of unbelievers. Our heavenly Father does not chastise His children like that of an earthly father who often disciplines quite arbitrarily as it seems good to him according to his own pleasure (Heb 12:10). God's rod of correction is designed by Him as an acknowledgment of His paternal care, kindness and love for them: 'For whom the Lord loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth' (Prov 3:12).It is for their good, for a holy purpose.
Every son of His is subject to correction and reproof and He will scourge him if necessary, with the highest degree of chastisement which may even result in physical death (1 Cor 11:30): 'For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth' (Heb 12:6). However, He does not over-punish (2 Cor 2:6-8). God's chastening of His children is proof of the genuine relationship between our heavenly Father and us for we are His true sons unlike illegitimate ones abandoned by their earthly fathers. He would not be a delinquent Father and abandon them alone to walk in the broad and easy way to destruction. If God assumes indifference to their sins nor rebuke their sinful ways, that would equate them to illegitimate children: 'But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons' (Heb 12:8).
Only those chosen in Christ and purchased by His blood can be recipients of God's peculiar paternal love. They are a special 'peculiar people' (Deu 14:2). On the sinless Son of God was laid the iniquities of the world: '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 ' (Is 53:5). Such is God's love - everlasting and unchangeable far greater than that of earthly fathers (Mt 7:11).So, it really pains the heart of God if His child strays from the path of righteousness.
Chastisement is grievous
No form of chastisement is pleasant or joyous, but grievous for the moment (Heb 12:11). The rod of correction brings sorrow, tears, pain and agony. It can cause so much bodily pain, mental anguish and discouragement that we are compelled to groan, it being burdensome (2 Cor 5:4). King David was deeply distressed and extremely grieved, sorely vexed physically and mentally when chastened by God for his sins: 'I am weary with my groaning; all the night make I my bed to swim; I water my couch with my tears' (Ps 6:6), 'There is no soundness in my flesh because of thine anger; neither is there any rest in my bones because of my sin...I am troubled; I am bowed down greatly; I go mourning all the day long...I am feeble and sore broken: I have roared by reason of the disquietness of my heart' (Ps 38:3,6,8).
Submission under chastisement
We ought to submit to the chastisement of God when we go astray into the dominion of sins of the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life (1 Jn 2:16) and our transgressions not to walk in His strait and narrow path of holiness and righteousness. We should humble ourselves with contrition of heart under His mighty hand and bow to His sovereign will: 'we have had fathers of our flesh which correcteth us, and we give them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of the spirits, and live?' (Heb 12:9). We ought to have no cause for murmur nor bitterness of heart. Rather, we must be spiritually discerned that we deserve God's visitation. If a particular sin is the cause for divine chastisement, we should quickly repent of it and pray for His pardon, grace and mercy (Rev 3:19; 2 Sam 11:1-27 ;Ps 51:1-4).
Do not despise chastisement
It is sinful and foolhardy to despise God's chastisement. We should not trivialise nor disregard it as an insignificant matter that it occurred by chance and unworthy of our attention. We should not spurn the admonition of God and consider it as mean, intolerable and unnecessary. Instead, we ought to have awful regard for it, esteem it and acknowledge the hand of God in it. It certainly is worthy of our profound concern and attention. We ought carefully to reflect on every divine chastisement that comes into our lives, thus acknowledging His Lordship, wisdom and righteousness in His dealings with us and submit to His holy sovereign will with joyfulness of heart patiently enduring the chastening (Heb 12:7).
Do not be weary under chastisement
Our heavenly Father deals with us in love with His paternal rebuke, correction or instruction but not condemnation. He has no pleasure for our souls perishing in hell. In chastening us, our patience, endurance and piety are severely tested. We must not faint under the rod of correction: 'My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him' (Heb 12:5). In other words, we must not be weary, despondent, and be overwhelmed by nor sink under the onerous weight of His rod.
When God's hand is heavy upon us, remember He is in complete control. When our minds dwell on the Lord and His word, He will sustain and comfort us despite our hearts being burdened with difficult and worrisome thoughts (Ps 94:19).Though being chastised, we would still receive His peace as we remind ourselves that He is afflicting us for our waywardness to restore us to Himself. We ought to fix our eyes on the spiritual blessings and not on the punishment. He regulates His discipline in the best manner in accordance to what He ordered. His grace is all sufficient even in chastisement.
Spiritual blessings from chastisement
God's chastisement is designed for our ultimate blessedness to be like Him in holiness for the present life and for eternity. Through the discipline of divine chastisement, God's children are taught and sanctified and the reward is the 'peaceable fruit of righteousness', which render us fit to be partakers of His holiness, glory and righteousness (Mt 5:48; Heb 12:11) - of His divine nature, more godly and holy, more pure in our heart, more dead to sin and the world, more Christ-like, a better witness and living testimony for Him as light and salt of the world (2 Pet1:4;1 Pet 1:15,16; Mt 5:13,14).
Divine chastisement is removed once it has accomplished its purpose when the dross and the filth of sin has been purged . We learn more of our character hitherto corrected and restored to fellowship with God by His pardoning grace and mercy. We learn and experience precious lessons of humility, self-denial and resignation to His will under His chastening.
Not all afflictions are due to divine chastisement for sin. Divine chastisement is a sanctification process by which a believer is sanctified and made more conformable to the holiness of God (Heb12:10). It serves to mould, refine and build up Christ-like humility and holiness. It removes all unfruitful works of the flesh, sin and alienation from God and His will .Thus, through it all ,God's chastisement aims at more spiritual fruit of righteousness. It is a privilege only of God's children and the outcome is all spiritual blessings. (Ps 94:12). Amen.