One time my wife Ema and I were spending the night as guests at someone else’s house. After we woke up from a restful sleep, Ema asked if I could go downstairs and make her a cup of coffee. I went down and made the coffee just the way she liked and carefully brought it back upstairs to her side of the bed. I then smiled, held out the cup to her and said, “Here’s your coffee.” I didn’t realize that I was holding out the cup right where Ema needed to move her arm to sit up. When she moved, her arm hit the cup, and fresh-brewed coffee spilled all over the bed.
Life is full of hard moments, whether it’s spilling coffee or something heavier like losing a loved one. Often in those difficulties our hearts ask what God is doing, even whether God is disciplining us for something wrong we did. After all, we are aware that hard circumstances, such as illness, can be God’s chastening for sin (1 Cor 11:29-30; Acts 12:23). Israel frequently experienced chastening from God in the OT because of evil, like through military defeats, famines, or plagues. Many scriptures also affirm that God’s blessing follows those who walk in righteousness (e.g. Prov 3:33). So then, if life goes wrong, should we assume God’s disapproval and look for unconfessed sin?
Ah, but the Scriptures say more! There are also many examples in the Bible of those who suffered greatly or continually even though they did nothing wrong (David, Job, Jesus); sometimes suffering came about specifically because of righteousness, not evil! Moreover, the Bible mentions wicked persons temporarily escaping the calamity their actions deserve (Eccl 8:14). God even specifically denies that the hardship certain people experienced was because of their great sin (Luke 13:1-5; John 9:1-3). Really, to assume that all difficulty is due to sin and all blessing is due to righteousness is to embrace a form of the prosperity gospel, which is not biblical.
The truth of the matter is exactly as Pastor Babij preached on Sunday: Christians experience hardship for multiple reasons, not simply as chastening for sin. No Christian will be exempt from hardship (John 16:33), but all hardship suffered by the Christian is being used for good and is a mark of God’s love, not God’s hatred or abandonment (Rom 8:28-29; Prov 3:12). Yes, sometimes difficulties are due to sin, and if we are aware of ongoing sin in our lives and then encounter consequences of those sins, we should thank God for his corrective love and repent! But sometimes our troubles are given instead to prevent us from falling into sin or to instruct us in greater righteousness.
In a sense, then, if we ask in any trial whether God is disciplining us, the answer is “yes,” though that discipline is not always corrective. On the morning of that spilled coffee, I sought to remind myself and my wife of this truth after we both realized what had happened. I turned to her and said, “I guess the training starts early today,” and we started to clean up.
Heb 12:11, All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.
Questions to Consider:
1. If you’re a Christian, how do you view your current trials? Is your view based on faith or mere feelings?
2. Though God promises that all trials work for the good of Christians, what about for non-Christians?
3. How should God’s pattern of disciplining his children inform how Christian parents discipline their children?