David Jeremiah - God Loves You When He's Correcting You
Quite often, when you talk about the love of God to people, they will say, "Well, you know, I don't know if I believe all that love of God stuff. Look what's going on in my life. I've been through a divorce, I lost my house, I lost my job after all these years. How can a loving God allow that kind of stuff in my life? If God really loves me, why doesn't he keep me from all of that? Why does he let this happen to me"? And you've heard that too, some of your friends have asked you that. Well, I want to share with you today that God really loves you, he always has, he always will, and he loves you even when he is correcting you. The Bible tells us that there are occasions when God allows discipline in our lives.
There are three basic reasons why discipline comes to us as Christians. Sometimes, God allows discipline to punish us. You say, "God punishes us"? Yes, he's a Father. When we do that which is rebellious, disobedient to him, if we do not correct it ourselves, God will get our attention. But sometimes, God has to deal with us. And that's true, that's what we do with our children. When they don't behave, we punish them. Sometimes, God disciplines us to punish us. Sometimes, God disciplines us to protect us. On an occasion, in the New Testament, we read this about the Apostle Paul, "Lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure".
Now, read that carefully, and you'll discover that Paul got a thorn in the flesh not because of something he did. He was given a thorn in the flesh to keep him from doing something, that he shouldn't do. God had given him some incredible revelations, some heavenly revelations, and God said, "Paul, you're in jeopardy of getting a big head. You're in jeopardy of becoming arrogant and proud. So that you don't do that, I'm going to give you this sandblasting that you weren't expecting". And Paul said God did that not because of something he had done wrong, but in order to keep him from doing something that he shouldn't do. Sometimes, God disciplines us to punish us. Sometimes, he disciplines us to protect us. But most often, God disciplines us to purify us. And that's what the text in Hebrews 12 is all about.
Here, we are going to learn that God sometimes deals with his children in a disciplinary way to bring them to a place of purity and holiness, that He desires for them. If you examine that in your life, you will discover those times when you felt things were not good, and things were tough, and things were hard, that if you look back, usually it was during those times that you grew in your relationship with Christ. God is after that goal in our lives. Those are the reasons for God's discipline. Let's talk for a moment about the reality of it. Notice what it says in verses 6 through 8, "'For whom the Lord loves he chastens, and scourges every son whom he receives.' If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons".
Now, what the writer is saying here is two things. Number one, the presence of God's discipline in your life proves that you are one of His sons or daughters. Isn't it interesting that the very thing that causes us to question God's love is the very thing that we ought to look to as the proof of God's love? Isn't it true, when we're going through stuff and we're feeling the sandblasting in our lives, we say, "Well, how can God love me if he lets this happen to me"? No, no, no, you don't have it right. The very fact that you're going through this is the evidence that God really does love you, and he's treating you like one of his children. In fact, the Scripture says that he does this to us as sons. And the word that he uses in the text is a word for not little kids, but grown sons. As we grow in our faith, as we become mature adults, if we've been Christians for a while, we shouldn't be surprised when we experiencing chastening in our lives. Now, notice that the opposite is also true. The writer says the absence of God's discipline proves, that we are not His sons. "But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are ilegitimate and not sons".
Let's just stop and think about this for a moment. If God were to give birth to us spiritually, and then abandon us, he would be no more than a cosmic deadbeat father. But he does not do that. He gives birth to us into salvation, and then he continues to father us along the way, and guide us and direct us and help us in our growth, as any human father who's walking in the path of God would do. And speaking of the reality of his discipline, this has to be one of the most obvious statements in the Bible. Look at your Bible, at verse 11, "Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present". Can I get a witness? "No chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful". How honest is the Word of God. The Word of God says when God is sandblasting, when God is chastening, when God is disciplining, it doesn't feel good. We don't like it, we resist it, all of us understanding that if chastening were pleasant, if it were attractive, it would have no impact on us. Chastening is grievous, it's painful, it hurts. It is never easy to appreciate discipline at the point of impact, amen?
But there's a word in the text, don't lose it, write it down again, draw a circle around it, here's the word. It's the word "afterwards". But afterwards, that's where the blessing comes. It doesn't come at the point of impact. The blessing of discipline comes afterwards. Isn't that the way it is with our children? I mean, nobody likes to discipline their children. I mean, they wail, and cry, and make you feel awful. But afterwards, hopefully it's better. Afterwards, you hug them, and love them, and tell them how much they mean to you, and that you don't want them to be the way they are, and afterwards is benefits. So, the reasons for the discipline of God in our lives are three: sometimes to punish us, sometimes to protect us, sometimes to purify us. And the reality of God's discipline is this. If you have it, you're a son; if you don't have it, you're not.
Let's talk about the reaction to God's discipline in our life, how should we respond to this? Verse 5 says, "And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons, 'My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him". Now, the writer is reminding his readers of something they have apparently forgot. He says, "And have you forgotten the exhortation"? What was the exhortation? It's a quotation from Proverbs 3:11 and 12, a very famous verse to the Jewish people. They knew this verse, probably had committed it to memory, but how many of you know you can sometimes be so familiar with a verse of Scripture that you forget it had something to do with you? And they had forgotten the exhortation not to be discouraged when discipline came. And then the writer tells us that we should be careful that when we are going through the discipline of God in our lives, that we react to it in the proper way. You can be indifferent to it. It says, "My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord". The word "despise" means don't take it lightly. Don't blow it off. Don't act like it's not important. Don't allow yourself to miss the benefit of this time.
The writer tells us that we're not to react in this way. We are to remember that whom the Lord loves, he chastens. And chastening is not judgment, it's discipline, directed to his own children because of his love. God loves you, he always has, and he always will. And in the midst of the discipline you feel in your life, you must not forget that. Nothing is more important for you to remember when you're going through the stuff than to remember that this is an evidence of God's love in your life. You can be indifferent to the discipline of God. Here's where most of us get caught, though. We aren't indifferent to it, we're intimidated by it. Notice, "Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by him". While there are some who are indifferent to discipline, for every one who's indifferent, there's a hundred who are intimidated. They faint under the adversity that touches them. They don't know what to do. They are totally just overwhelmed by the things that happen in their life.
I think David had a moment like this as he was writing one of his psalms. Psalm 42:11, he said, "Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God". David was saying, "I'm overwhelmed by what's going on," whatever it was when he wrote that psalm. Please understand, men and women, that God's discipline is given to help us and not to hurt us, to build us up and not to tear us down. So, the very fact that God is dealing with you, that you are feeling these things in your life, that you're going through this stuff in your life, it's an evidence to you, it should be an evidence that God loves you so much, as we have often said, he accepts you as you are, but he loves you too much to leave you that way. So, he's going to work on your life. He's going to allow some sandblasting to get rid of some of the filth and dirtiness that we pick up in this world, and restore us to the place where he wants us to be.
We can be indifferent to God's discipline, and we can be intimidated by it. We can even be ignorant about it. We can not know what the Bible says, and there are many people who go through life, never understanding why God allows anything like discipline in their life. They just have been ignorant of it. They haven't read the Bible. If you read the Bible, you don't have to be ignorant. If you read the Bible, God will tell you how this all comes to be. And many people who I know, they don't understand that God holds their breath in his hand, and he owns all of their ways, Daniel 5:23. When we get into adversity, and we haven't studied it ahead of time, it's almost impossible for us to gather ourselves together and comprehend what it's all about. God wants us to know what he's up to in discipline.
So, don't be indifferent to it, don't be intimidated by it, and by all means, don't be ignorant of it. But the Scripture says, be instructed by it. Here in the text, it says we can be trained by this. We can be submissive to it, we can refuse to take it lightly, we can enter into it with surrender and joy. And we can remember that whom the Lord loves, he chastens. In the midst of his little writing, the writer of Hebrews gives us a little illustration, the rationale for God's discipline. Notice verses 9 and 10: "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? For they indeed for a few days chastened us as it seemed best to them, but he to our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness".
Now, here the writer is saying, "Let me just give you a little illustration," and he uses a play on words. Actually, the word "human fathers" is fathers of the flesh, that's what it says. And a little bit later on down in the text, he talks about the Father of the spirit. So, he's talking about two different kinds of fathers, the fathers of the flesh, and the fathers of the spirit. He's talking about human fathers and our heavenly Father. And he's saying, "Let me try to explain the heavenly Father to you in terms of human fathers". He says our human fathers are fathers of the flesh. They disciplined us when we were growing up, and we look back and give them respect. Any right-thinking adult who's had good parents in the past, who cared enough to discipline them on their way up, will look back and say, "I'm very grateful that I had parents like that".
Let me give tribute to my parents today. I had parents who disciplined me. I knew there was a line. I didn't often cross the line, but if I did, I was reminded not to do it again, amen. The board of education was applied to the seat of knowledge. And I respect my parents for that. How many of you know that today, it's so easy not to do that in our human families? I read an article this week that, while we don't allow spanking anymore, spanking has been replaced in the family by shouting. And they've done a study about this among families, that we no longer touch our children, we just yell at them. If you don't think that happens, if you don't think that happens, you haven't been around some families, maybe at the ballpark or places where you hang out with them. Nobody wants to do anything to restrain their children, so they just yell at them.
Over and over again in the Book of Proverbs, we're told that if we love our children, we will discipline them. And if we're that way in the human family, the Bible says wouldn't you think that would help us understand why our heavenly Father, who has much more at stake with us than we have with our own children, that our heavenly Father would do the same thing? With all the best intentions in the world, we as human parents, we under-discipline, we over-discipline, we fail to discipline, we discipline from the wrong motive and the wrong way, at the wrong time. But God never makes any of those mistakes. God never looks back on any of his discipline in our lives with regret. He never needs to say, "I'm sorry," because God always understands. It says here he disciplines us for that which is going to be best in us. He's the perfect Father, who always measures out discipline with the right firmness and the right fairness so that his purpose and his objective is realized.
Now, what are the results of this discipline in our life? What is God going for when he sandblasts us along the way? And basically, the writer of Hebrews tells us there's three things. First of all, he wants us to receive holiness. Notice, "That we may be partakers of his holiness". The goal that our loving Father has for us is that we might be holy as God is holy. Please note this is not just holiness, this is God's holiness. The Bible says that God is holy, "Because it is written, 'Be holy, for I am holy.'" 1 Thessalonians 4:7, "God did not call us to uncleanness, but to holiness". The Bible says that we receive the holiness of God through our salvation in Jesus Christ. That's the intrinsic holiness of Almighty God. It says we are to receive that. And sometimes, we forget that's available to us, and we have to be reminded through the stuff we go through. What God wants us to be, is he wants us to be holy.
Now, I know that word has taken a lot of hits in our culture. We have holy Joes, and holy rollers, and holy everything, and it's always a put-down. But let me just tell you holiness is good. God is holy, and God wants us to be holy. We say it like this in our culture today, we want to become more like Christ. We want to become better people, holy people. There's not one thing wrong with that. There's everything right with that. And God has that as his number one goal for us when we become Christians, to grow us up into maturity unto Christ. So, through the disciplines we have in our lives, he's making us holy. Secondly, he wants us not only to receive holiness, but he wants us to reflect righteousness. Verse 11 says, "Afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness".
Let me remind you again of the priority of the word "afterwards". Afterwards, after this is all done, after perhaps a period of time has gone, after you can look back and reflect on what God has done, what happens is you become a better person. The holiness of God, which you received as a gift from salvation, begins to reflect itself in daily righteousness. You become a better person. I don't think you can go through life without any trouble, without any difficulty, and be anything close to the person that God wants you to be. And then the third thing is, he's after peace in your life. He wants you to receive holiness, and to reflect righteousness, and to radiate peace. What is peace? Peace is the absence of anxiety.
Let me ask you a question this morning, men and women. Why are we so anxious as people of God? Our anxiety a lot of times is the result of the fact that we know we're not what we ought to be. We're trying maybe sometimes to live two lives. We have our Sunday life and our weekday life. We have our at-home life and we have our at-work life. We have our double standards, we don't live holy. We're not integrated from the inside out really who we are. And the Bible says when you get holiness right and you begin to reflect righteousness, the result will be peace in your life. You'll have the peaceable fruit of righteousness.
And I've noticed, and I've heard you say it, that when we're going through stuff that we didn't anticipate, and sometimes it's really hard, you come back to me as your pastor and you say, "Pastor, I don't know how I ever got through that, but I want to tell you something, when I was going through those days, the Lord was so precious to me. He was so real to me". Let me say, is the Lord more precious, and more real, and more present at one time than at another? No, he's omnipresent, he's always present in the same level at all time. But when we go through stuff, we become aware of his presence, don't we? We become sensitized to what he's doing in our life.
And so, it is true to say that when we are being tested, God promises always to be with us. if God is with you, you have everything you need. He brings the whole package. You need strength? He's the strong God. You need hope? He's the God of hope. You need a sense of confidence? He's the God of peace. You need power? He's the Almighty, Omnipotent One. He's the God of the mountain, he's the God of the valley, he's the God of the day, he's the God of the night. There's no situation he has not mastered completely, and he brings it all to you when you're going through your stuff. He's with you. What the Bible tells us is this, "Lo, I am with you always, even to the ends of the age".
And what that tells me is what I've been trying to tell you. Whatever you're going through, don't take it as the evidence that God doesn't love you, but embrace it as the realization that you are one of his children, and he loves you. And then take hope and knowledge in this truth, he is with you. Because you see, my friends, God loves you. He always has, and He always will.