Joy during chastening
This is part 5 in our study of the fruit of joy. In the twelfth chapter of the epistle to the Hebrews there is a longer passage dealing with God’s corrective discipline. The word “chastening” or “chastisement” appears 7 times in this passage.
To set the stage, in chapter 11, the writer of Hebrews has just recounted the faith “hall of fame” heroes. He lists them by name, mentions a thing or two about them, and then concludes by saying that they all died in faith, but they did not receive the promises before they died.
It was God’s plan that they would not go on to perfection in immortal bodies without us having lived in mortal bodies also and having our opportunity to complete the race simultaneously with them. Then Paul (presumably the author of this epistle) continues:
Hebrews 12:1 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,
Run with what? Run with patience. Why would we need to run with patience? Because it is going to seem like the bad stuff never ends. So it would be helpful if we had the grace of patience, wouldn’t it?
I have to make a confession. Because I realize that God has “snookered” me. I don’t know how He knew it, it was like He could read my mind or something. But you see, in a half-joking, half-serious manner, I would tell people never to pray for patience because God will certainly answer your prayer and bring all kinds of trials your way in order to develop patience in you. Jesting aside, our Father, of course, does design for each of us our own unique path to learning patience.
Anyhow, some time ago, as I was going through the list of the fruits of the Spirit in order to decide which one to do this teaching on, I consciously avoided the topic of patience. I was saying in my mind: No, not yet, Lord. Let that patience thing wait awhile, okay? And so I said to myself: “Joy! That’s a great one! Who doesn’t want joy in their life? That will be a fun topic to teach about; it’s so positive, and uplifting, etc.”
That’s what I mean by “God snookered me.” God hustled me. He came in through the back door. Who would have thought that you cannot teach about joy without getting into chastenings and trials and long-suffering and forbearance and patience and perseverance? Okay, thank you, Father. I stand corrected…and ashamed…of trying to avoid the inevitable training…and all for my ultimate good! Why are we—or at least why am I that way?
You see, as we examine the structure of these two chapters of Hebrews, we find that Paul has just elaborated on the various trials and hardships of the heroes of faith, and then he begins this chapter by talking about us believers and how we need patience to run our own race, and in this next verse, he gives the example of the Savior and the suffering that He endured. Let us pay particular attention to how He endured it.
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.
Because Jesus kept his eye on the goal of resurrection—both His and ours—He was enabled to endure the cross.
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.
So Paul says that when we get the notion that we can’t endure anymore and we become weary and want to give up, then just look to the example of Jesus and what He suffered willingly on our behalf, because He didn’t deserve one speck of that pain. He did it all for us.
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?
Of course, our earlier illustration of the child taking cookies is a simple example of this principle. The parents discipline the child, perhaps administering corporal punishment, and we know that it is done out of a motivation of love for the child, not meanness or anger. So it is that our heavenly Father deals with us.
But do we as parents spank or otherwise punish the children of the couple down the block or in the next state? No. Why not? Because they are not our children. We do not love them in the sense that we love our own. And further, we are not responsible for their correction and discipline, are we? Which leads us to verse 8…
8 But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.
Since we are all sinners, we all suffer chastisement at one time or another. This means that there is never any reason for any of us to judge another in our hearts or ever say anything to anyone else along the lines of “Oh, well, that’s easy to see that brother or sister so-and-so is being chastised for their sin of such-and-such.”
Number one: how presumptuous on the part of any who would judge like that. Do we ever know all the circumstances? No. This is where the Scripture is applicable which adjures us to “judge not lest ye be judged.”
Secondly, even if our presumption were true, it is the opposite of Christian love to think evil of that person, because really what we are thinking is “well, they’re just getting what they deserve.” It smacks of spiritual pride. Take heed, brother/sister, lest ye also fall.
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?
10 For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.
By the way, that word, pleasure, has nothing to do with pleasure in the sense we think of it today which would give the sense that a father derives some kind of perverse pleasure from administering punishment.
The word pleasure there actually has to do with discernment and judgment, meaning that the father corrects the child as he judges is appropriate to the offense.
“that we might be partakers of his holiness.” Holiness is godliness. Holiness is being set aside for God’s purposes. Holiness is living righteously and pleasing to the Father. We are chastened so that we may grow towards perfection.
11 Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.
The secret of living joyfully while enduring chastening is in remembering the principles outlined in this passage in Hebrews, that God disciplines those whom He loves and that the ultimate result is that we exhibit the peaceable fruit of righteousness. And when we can maintain joy during chastening, then we need not hang our heads and say: Oh, woe is me.” Or put another way:
12 Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees;
13 And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed.
14 Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:
When we undergo bad times, it is either chastening or trials of faith. Of course, sometimes it can be both. That concludes our brief discussion of chastenings. Next, we shall discuss the trials. (To be continued.)