Submit to God’s Correction
“And have you forgotten the divine word of appeal and encouragement in which you are reasoned with and addressed as sons? My son, do not think lightly or scorn to submit to the correction and discipline of the Lord, nor lose courage and give up and faint when you are reproved or corrected by Him; For the Lord corrects and disciplines everyone He loves, and He punishes, even scourges, every son whom He accepts and welcomes to His heart and cherishes. You must submit to and endure correction for discipline; God is dealing with you as with sons. For what son is there whom his father does not thus train and correct and discipline?” Hebrews 12: 5-7 (Amplified Bible)
In my last blog post I spoke about the need for us to overcome evil with good, mostly discussing the attitude we should have when evil comes to us and the response we should make to this evil. I now want to discuss the fact that sometimes what we may perceive as evil, or what may come to us as extremely painful and difficult, may actually be the disciplinary hand of our loving Father in heaven.
For some Christians, this truth of the Lord’s correction, discipline or punishment is either confusing to them, not understood, or perhaps overlooked or ignored. They consider any personal repercussions from their sin to have been already dealt with, stating that all of their sins, past, present and even future, are “under the Blood of Jesus” and therefore already forgiven and forgotten (that Jesus took their punishment for them for all of their sins). As a result of this view, they mistakenly think that they would never experience any negativity resulting from their sin, especially not directed towards them from the Lord.
I want to be very clear on this. I believe that the Lord is extremely merciful regarding our past sins, especially those that were committed while we were in ignorance, before coming to the light of the truth of salvation in Jesus. Remember that our past sins had placed us under God’s wrath, separating us from His presence, and placing under eternal judgment, awaiting eternal damnation. Jesus’ blood has redeemed us from that condemnation. The Lord also recognizes that we were functioning in ignorance and have now been enlightened to the truth, and therefore disciplines us accordingly. I believe that in most cases he deals with us gently, and even restores much of what we had destroyed through our sinful lifestyle.
We must be very careful, though, regarding present and future sin in our lives. Yes, there is a provision for forgiveness in Jesus’ blood, but we must humbly confess our sins to the Lord and request forgiveness, and we must be careful not to impose upon His mercy, taking for granted His provision for forgiveness.
“Or do you presume upon the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience? Do you not know that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? Romans 2:4
We must also recognize, that although we will be forgiven in the sense that we will still be accepted as a child of God and part of His kingdom with our names in the book of life, the Lord will still correct us, discipline us, and punish us regarding our sin. This correction will not be pleasant!
“For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant; later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:11
Jesus took upon Himself the punishment that we deserved, that is, death. We still need what is required for our sanctification, and this includes correction, discipline and punishment. This is for our training and purification, for our own good, and is carried out by our all wise and loving Father in heaven.
The Scriptures teach the following lessons regarding the Lord’s correction:
- Recognize that some of the hardships that have come into your life could be the Lord’s correction. Use your discernment and conscience to help in this determination.
- Submit to God’s correction knowing that He is doing this for your own good
- In time the correction will end and will produce in you the fruit of righteousness
- Do not take sin lightly, but understand that God’s discipline is to be feared.
Let’s also look at the life of David for an example of how we should think and act during a time of the Lord’s discipline.
David, while king of Israel, had sinned, committing adultery with Bathsheba, and then killing her husband when she became pregnant. David was confronted by Nathan the prophet about his sin, repented and was forgiven by the Lord. Nevertheless, there were consequences for this sin, as you can see from the account in 2 Samuel 12:
“[Nathan said] Thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your keeping, and gave you the house of Israel and Judah. And if that had been too little, I also would have given you much more! Why have you despised the commandment of the Lord, to do evil in His sight? You have killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword; you have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the people of Ammon. Now therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised Me, and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’ Thus says the Lord:’ Behold, I will raise up adversity against you from your own house; and I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel, before the sun.’ So David said to Nathan, ‘I have sinned against the Lord.’ And Nathan said to David, ‘The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die. However, because by this deed you have given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, the child also who is born to you shall surely die.’” 2 Sam. 12:7-13
As a side note, please don’t be fooled into thinking that because we are now in the New Testament age of grace that God will not deal this way with our sin. We can be forgiven, as David was and did not die as a result of his sin, but will still face the hand of God in correction or punishment. Consider the story of Ananias and his wife Sapphira in the book of Acts (New Testament) who died (seemingly struck down by God) when they lied about a donation of property that they made to the group of Christians with Peter (see Acts 5). As a result of this a great fear came over the church, as I believe God intended this and He desires to have a godly fear among His children regarding His discipline, correction and punishment.
“So great fear came upon all the church and upon al who heard these things.” Acts 5:11
Back to David: When God’s words regarding David’s punishment came true, David’s son Absalom gathered forces against David, took over the kingdom, and threatened to kill David to secure his position as king. David was forced to flee Jerusalem to the wilderness. On his journey, David came across a descendant of Saul who began to curse him. Let’s consider David’s attitude and response to this situation:
“Now when David came to Bahurim, there was a man from the family of the house of Saul, whose name was Shimei the son of Gera, coming from there. He came out, cursing continuously as he came. And he threw stones at David and at all the servants of King David. And all the people and all the mighty men were on his right hand and on his left. Also Shimei said thus when he cursed: ‘Come out! Come out! You bloodthirsty man (or man of bloodshed), you rogue (worthless man)! The Lord has brought upon you all the blood of the house of Saul, in whose place you have reigned; and the Lord has delivered the kingdom into the hand of Absalom your son. So now you are caught in your own evil, because you are a bloodthirsty man!’ Then Abishai the son of Zeruiah said to the king, ‘Why should this dead dog curse the king? Please, let me go over and take off his head.’ But the king said, ‘What have I to do with you you sons of Zeruiah? So let him curse, because the Lord has said to him, “Curse David.” Who then shall say, ‘Why have you done so?’ And David said to Abishai and all his servants, ‘See how my son who came from my own body seeks my life. How much more now may this Benjamite? Let him alone, and let him curse; for so the Lord has ordered him. It may be that the Lord will look on my affliction, and that the Lord will repay me with good for his cursing this day.’ And as David and his men went along the road, Shimei went along the hillside opposite him and cursed as he went, threw stones at him and kicked up dust.” 2 Sam. 16:5-13
The first thing I notice in this account is that David continued to walk in the Spirit, and did not revert to walking in the flesh, even though I am sure this was an extremely difficult time for him to have his son attempting to kill him. In the flesh, he would have just seen a “dead dog” cursing him, as Abishai did, and would have agreed with his execution. Instead he recognized that this was the Lord. In his spirit he knew that God was behind the cursing from Shimei. David recognized that he was under God’s disciplinary hand, and that this cursing was part of it. He then submitted to the situation, and thought possibly the Lord would be merciful when He looked upon David’s affliction.
As hard as this may seem, we need to be in the spirit even during our times of correction. We need to recognize that the Lord is disciplining us in love for our own good. We must also recognize, as David did, that attempting to fight against the Lord’s hand could make things worse, or prolong the discipline, whereas our submission could appeal to God’s mercy and cause a shortening of the time.
David must have also recognized that the situation with his son Absalom coming against him and threatening to kill him was something that God had foretold through the prophet Nathan as a result of David’s sin with Bathsheba. He knew that this was God’s hand, and not just coincidental circumstances brought about by men. No, this was distinctly brought about by the Lord, and David knew it.
David was able to see the larger picture and put his circumstances into the proper perspective. What was the cursing of a crazy man compared to the fact that his son wanted to kill him? David kept his view of the larger situation and allowed it to influence his response. David kept this small situation in its proper place relative to his larger, more serious problems. I see wisdom in this; we could let some small, insignificant issue distract us and cause us to get “into our flesh” and negatively impact the larger, more critical issue.
What happens later is quite amazing. When the Lord delivers David from this situation with his son Absalom, while returning to back to Jerusalem to be restored as King, David again encounters Shimei, the man who was cursing him. This time Shimei is very apologetic, asking David to overlook his admitted sin against him. Abishai again wants to execute him for cursing God’s anointed. David decided to have mercy on Shimei, saying that no one is going to die on the day that he is being restored as king of Israel.
“’Shall any man be put to death today in Israel? For do I not know that today I am king over Israel?’ Therefore the king said to Shemei, ‘You shall not die.’ And the king swore to him.” 2 Sam. 19: 22-23
Once again David keeps things in perspective, recognizing that God had restored him to his position as king, and his disciplinary time has ended for now. He had mercy on Shimei, I believe, in the light of the fact that it was God who had used Shimei against David. Shimei was more of a tool at the time when he was cursing David and now offered no threat to David.
It is my hope that I will not require the Lord’s correction in the future, but I must remain open to the possibility of it should the situation arise. My desire is to keep my conscience clear and pure. For now, I continue to fear this discipline and keep my heart focused on the spiritual things, not allowing my flesh to lead me into compromise. May the Lord grant you the same strength in the days ahead until He returns.