Hebrews 12:7-11 (NKJV) 7 If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? 8 But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. 9 Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. 11 Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
In our quest to know the Father we have looked at various aspects of his nature as revealed in his Word. It is important to know that God is a good Father. Just as any human father wants good things for his children and provides those things as he is able; our heavenly Father wants good things for us and he has no limitations in his ability to provide. Certainly, the most important thing he has provided is salvation through Jesus Christ. However, his covenant also makes a way for us to walk in health, prosperity, peace, joy and victory.
We would like to believe he just gives us those things. Like every father, God also wants us to be productive adult believers in a world that desperately needs to see him for who he is. Just as a truly good father provides more than blessings to his children, our heavenly Father adds discipline and training to his relationship with us. He loves us as we are when he finds us. He will never love us more. He also loves us too much to leave us as he finds us. Since we are his children, chastening, discipline and training, must be a part of our relationship with him.
Last time we saw that God chastens every child that is really his. We must not despise this process. It will do more to make us the kind of productive, stable and healthy person than any of the blessings that come with being his child. We must not be discouraged by it. He chastens us to train us and make us more like him. Even when his chastening is painful, it is for our good not our destruction.
Chastening means discipline through punishment. We pointed out that today we often equate punishment with abuse. They are not the same. God is not an abuser he is a father and fathers discipline and even punish to help their children become the people they need to be.
Good parents chasten in many ways. They may speak harshly to their children to make sure they understand that something is wrong. They may withhold privileges but never necessities. I still believe that the rod of correction is an important tool of parenting. In Western culture today, it is considered a terrible thing to physically punish children. I teach all over the world that our culture, wherever we may live, must be subject to the Word of God not the other way around.
Proverbs 22:15 (NKJV) 15 Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; The rod of correction will drive it far from him.
It is never right to abuse children in any way, especially physically. It is necessary to be sure that we discipline them so that foolishness will not overtake them. Proverbs 23:13 gives us another viewpoint. I will quote it from the Amplified Bible as it makes it a little clearer for our modern ears.
Proverbs 23:13 (AMP) 13 Withhold not discipline from the child; for if you strike and punish him with the [reedlike] rod, he will not die.
I did not want my children to die young. Today we see children dying from things like gang violence and drunk driving to aids and suicide. Can we afford to reject the wisdom of the Bible and risk the lives of our children by not doing our God ordained job? God certainly will not leave us without the love that is expressed in discipline.
When does discipline become abuse? Hebrews make this very clear. In verse 10 we see that earthly fathers chasten as it seems best to them. I did the best I knew how to do as a father when it came to disciplining my children. I was not perfect. Although I do not think any of my children would say they were abused, there were times when I punished because of my own flesh. I was annoyed by their behavior and I just wanted it to stop. This is not good discipline and when chastening comes from that motivation it can lead to abuse. I will go so far as to say that abuse always comes from selfish discipline.
God’s chastening is never from a selfish motivation. When he tells us, either personally or in his Word, that something is wrong it is not because that thing annoys him. It is because he knows better than we do what will bring life to us and what will bring death. His chastening has only one motivation. That is to bring the highest blessing and greatest productivity to us. We must trust that. The more we cooperate with what God is asking from us the quicker we learn and the easier his chastening will be.
This verse also is saying that earthly fathers do not always know the best way to discipline their children. I raised six. Some of them required a harder hand before they would respond. Others melted at a look. Chastening is not a one size fits all process. We need to learn our children and how to deal with them as people. God knows us better than we know ourselves. He created us and he knows what types of discipline or chastening is right for each of us.
Verse 11 makes a statement that is both obvious and important. No chastening is joyful in the present. He clearly states that it is painful. That is just the way it is. It is designed to produce in the future. If we yield to it we will reap the fruits of righteousness in life. Nevertheless, chastening is a part of the love of the Father and without it we are not his children. He wants a bright future for all of us. It is his desire to bless us but he will not withhold chastening when we need it.
When we ignore God’s chastening we may find ourselves sick, impoverished or discouraged. We may lose relationships. We could even die as a result of ignoring God’s dealings. Religion tends to equate the results of ignoring the dealing of God with the dealing itself. They are not the same.
We discipline our children in the hopes that they will avoid something much worse in the future. God is no different. If a child is in a car accident because he or she did not obey the things I tried to teach them about driving, the accident is not discipline. It is the result of ignoring discipline. Discipline is when I take away the privilege of driving when I see bad behavior. It may include a rigorous lecture on what they did wrong and why it was wrong. The accident is not the chastening.
God does not chasten with the difficulties of life. He will certainly take the opportunity when some bad thing happens to reinforce what he has been trying to tell us all along. The bad thing is not the chastening. How does God chasten his children? I believe there is a process he uses. There is a progression of things that applies pressure to convince us that one way is wrong and another is right. In our next meeting, we will look at this process. Understanding it will help us cooperate with it.
Chastening will never be pleasant. If we understand what God is doing, it will be one of the most important and effective things that God will ever do for us. Blessing is wonderful but rarely changes us. God’s grace provides forgiveness and access to relationship with the Father. Chastening helps us be the happy, healthy and productive person the Father created us to be.