When we claim that God never convicts us of our sins, most of the people think we are saying that God is oblivious to our sins. He never corrects us nor rebukes us, and the passage from Hebrews 12 pops-up in their mind as a proof that we are wrong.
5 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; 6 For whom the Lord loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives.” 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. (Hebrews 12:5-10)
To understand the chastening of the Lord we must first understand the character of God. (Nahum 1:7)
16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. (James 1:16-17)
This Scripture says that if we are convinced that God ever varies from giving good and perfect gifts, we are deceived! Verse 16 says that every good and perfect gift come from our Father; this means that nothing good or perfect comes from anywhere else. Then, verse 17 says that there’s no variation in that fact— which means that nothing other than good or perfect gifts come from Him. There’s not even a hint or shadow of something different that could possibly come from Him. Speaking of shadows:
God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. (1 John 1:5)
God’s character and ways are black and white. There is no gray area. If it’s gray, that means there’s some darkness there. That means it can’t come from Him, because “in Him there is no darkness at all.” If every time somebody gets sick, you have to wonder if it’s from God or the devil, or whether it’s His will or not, then that’s become a gray area— As such, you can say clearly that it’s not God. In Him is no darkness at all.
God is always good. So if He is good He is not sending evil to correct you. How does God deal with our present sins and shortcomings, then? Does He convict us? Does He correct us? Is there a difference?
Here’s a simple test to see how well you understand this: What comes to mind when you hear the word correction?
Do you think of a mistake that needs to be punished? Do you think of the “rod of correction”? If you do, your thinking is influenced by the old covenant (Proverbs 22:15).
In the Old Testament the word for “correct” can mean “to chastise with blows.” It means to apply the proverbial rod to the seat of learning. In grown-up terms it means plagues and punishment sent in response to sin. At least that’s how David understood it. (Psalm 39:10-11)
Under the old covenant the chastisement of the Lord was sometimes fatal. Thank God that “the chastisement for our peace was upon him” (Isaiah 53:5). Jesus died for our sins so that we don’t have to. This means we need a completely new definition of correction.
In the new covenant the word for correction means “a straightening up again.” Isn’t that wonderful? It’s not “straightening up for the first time” but “straightening up again.” This implies all is not lost.
Sometimes when we discuss the idea that God is not currently pouring out judgment on people, and does not use sickness and disease to correct, teach, or develop us, some ask, “What about the ‘chastening’ or ‘discipline’ of the Lord?” So let’s define “chastening,” the way the Bible does. The Greek word, “paideia,” which is translated as “chastening,” means:
- “ the whole training and education of children…”
- “whatever in adults also cultivates the soul, esp. By correcting mistakes and curbing passions…”
The only other times the word is used outside the passage in Hebrews 12, it is translated as “nurture”(Ephesians 6:4), and “instruction” (2 Timothy 3:16).
So the Greek word paideia, then, means “training… education… cultivation… correcting… curbing…” and “nurture… instruction”—as would apply to children. Please note that “violence,” “cruelty,” and “torture” were not found in the definition. We can’t include sickness into the definition of chastening without ultimately accusing God of child abuse… So if sickness isn’t the tool God uses to teach, cultivate, correct, nurture, and instruct us, then who or what is? How has He told us He will do these things?
Who is Our Teacher?
Tribulation is not our teacher—it is sent by Satan to cause us to stumble! Troubles are designed and used by Satan to steal the Word of God out of our hearts and render us useless in advancing God’s Kingdom. (Mark 4:14-19) How does he do that? By stirring up a situation that forces us to either believe God’s Word or ignore it.
The Bible tells us very clearly that the Holy Spirit is our Teacher—not sickness, disease, tribulation or disaster. Do you think that God agrees when we say that all the others do a better job than the Holy Spirit does?
However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. (John 16:13)
A huge difference between the Old Testament and the New Testament is that now God lives inside the Believer! He doesn’t have to bring all kinds of situations and tribulations and external circumstances to try to get a message through our thick heads. He doesn’t have to bring sickness or pain to our bodies. God doesn’t have to get through to us from the outside! He has moved right into our hearts, become one spirit with us (1 Corinthians 6:17), gave us the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16), and now He just gives us reminders, bears witness with our hearts, and communicates with our inner man! (John 14:26; Romans 8:16)
How Does God Teach, Correct and Develop Us?
Hebrews 12:9–10 explains, “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? 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.”
These two verses make a comparison between “fathers of our flesh,” or our earthly fathers, and “Father of spirits,” our heavenly Father. “Fathers of our flesh” discipline our flesh, while “Father of spirits” disciplines us in our spirits, through His word.
God does not send or allow physical pain, sickness and disease to develop our faith, or to conform us to the image of Christ, He uses His Word! Remember when we looked up the Greek word for“chastening;” and one of the two times it was used outside of Hebrews 12, it was translated as “instruction?” That occasion shows us clearly that God teaches, corrects and develops us with His Word:
16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
God uses His Word—not sickness—to teach us, chastise us, correct us, and instruct us about right relationship with Him. Sickness doesn’t help us become more holy. The Holy Spirit uses the Word of God to wash off all the junk the world piles on top of our new, Christ-like nature. (John 15:3; Ephesians 5:25-27)
It’s the Word that does this, not sickness! And disease does not help us mature and look more like Jesus. The renewing of our mind by God’s Word does. (Romans 12:2). Through the meditation of the Word of God, our thinking is trained to line up with the mind of Christ. As our minds are renewed to think like God through the promises in His Word, we understand more of our new nature, and more and more we become partakers of Christ’s nature in us. (2 Peter 1:4)
Some will admit that maybe sickness is not sent to “teach” us; but then say that maybe God ordained it to “mature and perfect” us—to develop our character. Sickness was not sent to perfect us, Jesus was—and He did it by reconciling us to God through His finished work! (Hebrews 10:14; Hebrews 13:20-21)
Disease is not the developer of our faith. Jesus is! He requires no assistance from the works of the devil!God perfects us through Him. When I believe God enough to obey Him, my faith automatically grows and becomes effective.
…looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith,… (Hebrews 12:2a)
Jesus created faith, gave it to us, and He alone perfects it. You might say, “Yes, but in order for faith to grow, we must have a challenge to face.” True, but even if it is sickness that fills the role of “challenge,” it is still the Holy Spirit that teaches us, never the sickness.
Disease may be a circumstance in which we find ourselves. We may need to exercise our faith to overcome the disease, and consequently our faith grows stronger through the victory. But God is the one to be credited for teaching us, and for giving us the tools to overcome. The devil is responsible for the sickness.
God does not create the problems He wants to solve. He does not create the challenges He equips us to conquer. In other words, God does not make someone sick, and simultaneously hand us the name of Jesus, faith in His name, the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, the anointing, the gifts of the Spirit, Kingdom authority, and a command to „heal the sick”… just so we can go conquer a problem that He Himself created…
The writer of Hebrews goes on to say that when God disciplines us, we know that we are sons, not illegitimate, that we are loved, and that we will live and profit (Hebrews 12:8–10). Chastening of the Lord, then, does not refer to God causing accidents or illness to happen to us, for if God disciplines you with death, sickness and disease, how will you “live” and where is the “profit”?
So, God’s correction is always motivated by love for us. (Revelation 1:5-6)
I’m not diminishing the seriousness of sin. Your sins can kill you. I’m saying God does not deal with us as our sins deserve (Psalm 103:10). Rather, he deals with us on the basis of love. Your sin is not the issue. You are the issue and you are the apple of your Father’s eye.
We have been raised to beware sin, to resist sin, to run from sin, to overcome sin. With so much emphasis on sin, guilt, and shame, is it any wonder so many of us are sin-conscious instead of Christ-conscious?
Make the choice that releases His life into your situation. Typically this will mean lifting your eyes off your sin and onto Him. It’ll mean praising Him for His goodness instead of harping on about your badness.