Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:11)
As children, didn’t we always resent and question the statement that our parents were ‘doing it for your own good?’ Not much has changed. We still, as His children, question the reasoning and wisdom when chastened by God. We still resent having to go through times of discipline in order to alter our lifestyles, habits, and priorities. As I meditated on this, I thought of the old stone statues, laboriously carved out by hand, and which are simply astonishingly beautiful works of art. We don’t see the tiny chips and strokes that lovingly crafted a ‘David’ out of a hunk of rock. We see only the perfect finished product, the remarkable likeness captured by the master sculptor.
Being chastened by God is like being the stone beneath the sculptor’s chisel.
No doubt, if that hunk of rock could feel or speak, it would have bitterly complained at being subjected to the chisel. Yet that was the only way that the sculptor could ‘release’ the perfect statue. He had to chip away the stone to remove the excess and shape the figure ‘hidden within.’ Without the infinite patience of a devoted hand, those masterpieces of sculpture wouldn’t exist. They would still be stone blocks. Their potential would never have been realised. That is the essential characteristic of being chastened by God. He does it to release the ‘real’ person within us.
Without the transforming power of God at work in us, we would remain simply hunks of rock or clumps of clay. We would remain buried in the baggage accumulated through a lifetime in this world. We would remain imperfect, and would never be what He intended us to be. Knowing that doesn’t make the ‘sculpting process’ any less uncomfortable or painful, but it does provide the encouragement to endure. The reality is that, if we were more willing and quicker to recognise and change the things in our life that need changing, we wouldn’t need to be chastened by God.
But we’re all rather like our own children, who all have to be taught from an early age how to behave, speak, and interact. We don’t have to teach them to lie. They learn to do it all on their own, thanks to the fallen nature in all of us. We do, however, have to teach them to be honest and to value honesty. We have to teach them not to steal, not to bully others, and to respect others. The same applies in our relationship with our heavenly Father. None of us will hesitate to chasten our children if it’s necessary and when it’s for their own good. When chastened by God, it’s because we need it and usually because we haven’t learned that particular lesson on our own or are unwilling to do so.
To be chastened by God is a good thing in that it produces the right results and is a measure of His abiding love for us. Instead of our instinctive response towards frustration, impatience, and resentment, we should be quick to acknowledge that our own reticence has led to the chastening. If we didn’t need it, He wouldn’t do it. Hard as it is, when we come to a place when we can admit this and be honest with ourselves and with God, when we can repent and accept His teaching with humble hearts, we will discover the beautiful truth of ‘afterward’ that is revealed in today’s verse.
Righteousness – the kind that is God-given – is a remarkable blessing. It is the place of walking in God’s favour, and it is the very nature of Christ. That is the incredible promise from a loving, devoted Father to His children. Afterward, we will enjoy the nature and privilege of His Son. It is an incredible privilege that the God of the universe should love us so much that He desires that we wear His righteousness. Like the prodigal son who returns home in humble repentance, we are clothed with a righteousness that we can never achieve for ourselves. We don’t have to earn it or work for it, or even deserve it, because that is beyond our ability. We simply have to surrender and, if chastened by God, acknowledge our limitations and be willing to accept His work in us.
Growing spiritually is simply ‘growing up’ into spiritual maturity, something that will never happen without being chastened by God on occasion. The more difficult we find it, the more of self is still operating. The self-life is the recalcitrant child in all of us. It’s focused on me and on what makes me feel good. It resents being chastised by God and will usually resist every inch of the way until realization finally dawns that fleshly response is futile. Even then, there is often a period of sullen acceptance before we finally acknowledge the necessity of the chastening and the good results it produces. Often, we look back on these difficult times and wonder why we held out so long. That’s the vagary of human nature.
If we can only take hold of the promise of ‘afterward,’ we will shorten the time of being chastened by God considerably by finding joy in it. On the surface, this seems entirely contradictory, but the Bible tells us to give thanks in all things – even chastening. If we can hold fast to the promise of what comes afterward, we can rejoice that even the hard times are part of the evidence that God loves us, His children, and is willing to do whatever is necessary to bring us to the place of righteousness in Christ. It’s the joy of the Lord that is our strength. When chastened by God, if we can find it in our hearts to respond with joy, we can be sure that the moment will soon pass and we’ll be the better for it.
It’s significant that righteousness is a ‘peaceable’ fruit. Our Father is not one who bullies or abuses us. His chastening is always gentle and loving. His hand is firm, not cruel. His voice is remonstrative, not hurtful. It is often our response – anger, resentment, and frustration – that wounds us most. If we look back to the times when we were chastened by God, we will see that our fleshly response caused us more pain and discomfort than the actual circumstances. With the righteousness that follows afterward comes His perfect peace – the sure and certain faith that we walk in His favour. That is a peace that the world and the flesh can never offer. It is a peace beyond measure that is born out of the assurance of His love.
Father God, thank You that You truly are our Father, our Abba, who chastens us in order to teach us righteousness. Help us not to resent Your work in our lives. Grant us the grace to be humble and repentant, to see and to hear quickly so that we can move through to the righteousness You have promised us will come afterward.