January 7, 2011

Evil & Suffering XX: Chastisement & Correction

Potential Reasons For Existence of Evil & Suffering V:

Discipline is necessary and vital to anyone who is trying to correct errant behavior. Because God loves us he sometimes punishes us for our disobedience. These punishments sometimes manifest in the form of difficulties and hardships that result in pain and suffering. It is a chastening by God to mend our spirituality and help us to mature in our faith (Proverbs 3:11-12). In a way we should probably be conscious of the fact that we suffer and endure pain because (1) it shows us that we are still alive and (2) because we have a God that loves us, it shows he is still active in our lives and has our spiritual well-being as the primary concern for us. To take Mark 8:36 and put a little twist on it to be relevant to this entry…”What good is it for us to go through life without pain and having endured nothing only to end up happy (or so we think) but spiritually dead and damned?” If God loves us we should expect trials and tribulation in our life and it may or may not be inflicted on us in the form of moral or natural evil and could also entail suffering (Howard, 147).

It is important here to quote and expound on a particular passage in Hebrews that speaks directly to discipline from God and its implications for the disobedient of God. Please note that this passage is directed to the people of God, so yes, God will allow suffering to enter the lives of His own people.

And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: "My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son."Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. (Hebrews 12:5-12)

So what do we learn from this passage? We are not to make light of the Lord’s discipline because it is done out of love. The discipline of a believer is done to combat sin and the effects of sin. As Christians we should endure hardships as discipline because if we receive none then we essentially have no Father for we would be illegitimate sons (or daughters). We should probably be checking ourselves to see if we are even in the faith at this point. As we respect our earthy fathers, we should also respect our heavenly Father for He does this for our own good. In verse 10 we see the critical statement: “that we may share in His holiness”. As believers, we know that God is punishing us and allowing suffering to make us more like Him and to help sanctify us-to make us more holy. Here we see that we need to be driven down before we can be lifted up. We again begin to see the concept of being humbled to be exalted. We see the Kenosis of Philippians 2 and we see the mind of Christ (Carson 64-65).

We also begin to see the need for the transaction that Jesus completed on the cross also. The Crucifixion was pain and suffering inflicted on Jesus in place of us to save us from our sin. Not only this, it was also Christ taking the punishment, pain, and suffering for our sin. The transaction/redemption that took place that day at Calvary served a multitude of purposes including salvation and atonement for sin, fulfillment of Scripture (prophets), and all the other reasons stated in the Bible. Underlying most of them are the idea that this was punishment or pain and suffering that was duly deserved by mankind but taken on by Christ. The end result is bringing glory to God and salvation to mankind. How? The sinless and innocent God-man who was totally deserving of triumphant exaltation and praise had allowed Himself to be lowered to obscurity and criminals death. He took the blame, punishment and pain/suffering for the sin so that they would be deemed justified in the eyes of the Father. It pleased the Father to crush the Son. Having done this selfless act He is lifted by the Father to the highest of positions.

Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. ~Isaiah 53:10

Although this passage in Hebrews does not state what type of hardships and disipline we should expect, any brief perusal of Scripture will produce a substantial list of hardships. They include things such as war, plague, illness, disease, affliction, broadly defined or nebulous hardships that can enter a person’s life such as Paul’s thorn in the flesh, bereavement, loss of status, direct personal opposition, etc. Regardless of where it is at in Scripture, suffering is not downplayed or whitewashed. If anything it is brought to the forefront where it can most clearly be seen. We see this vividly in the suffering of God’s people as portrayed in Jeremiah and Lamentations. We also see in the Psalms not only psalms of praise and joy but psalms of lament, complaint and excessive supplication from a contrite and broken sinner(s).This vividly evident in Psalms 6:6 “I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping.” Out of this morose tome comes a reward to David from God in Psalms 6:9-10, “The LORD has heard my cry for mercy; the LORD accepts my prayer. All my enemies shall be ashamed and greatly troubled; they shall turn back and be put to shame in a moment (Carson 69).

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