Monday, November 15, 2004

Heb 12:6-7 ESV For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives." (7) It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?

Riding back from work one day the person I carpool with mentioned some financial misfortune that he believed was the chastisement of God. Well, being the skeptic that I am, I immediately said that you couldn't know whether it was God, or whether it was just a coincidence. I mean, bad stuff happens all the time. For starters, wasn't it Job's friends who were guilty of inaccurately pinning Job's misfortune as punishment for sin?
This calls into question whether God chastises at all, due to the simple reason that if we don't know whether it is just misfortune or chastisement then it is not chastisement. We could just continue on writing off every bad happening as mere coincidence while God seemingly gets nowhere. Now, certainly there are people who do just that, but that does not prevent God from ultimately revealing Himself.
In any case the question must still be asked, "how do we know?" How do we know whether a negative situation in our life is divine chastisement or just bad luck, maybe even bad karma.
It helps to think of the opposite side of things- God's blessings. Now the same Christian who might write off chastisement would be eager perhaps, to take a blessing at face value. When we think about blessings, we realize that they are answers to specific needs and desires in our lives. Is it coincidence or is it divine blessing? So you see the same question could be asked here.
Logically we've gotten nowhere. It could be said that both "blessings" and "chastisements" are mere coincidences. However, looking at the fact that "blessings" are quite similar to "chastisements" in how they seem coincidences to us, prepares us to answer the question by looking at who God is:

1Co 13:12 ESV For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

We do not see God now; but we shall see Him "then":

1Co 13:9-10 ESV For we know in part and we prophesy in part, (10) but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.

The perfect comes when we shall see Him face to face, as we see each other here and now- the resurrection. If we as Christians have God for our Father, then we have an unseen Father. Now imagine this: what if your parents could not be seen? You might say, "I am hungry," and a plate of food would appear in front of you, as if by magic. You might hit your sister, and then suddenly you feel the sting of a swat or a force moving you into the corner for some time alone. Coincidence? No, because you know who is there.

So it is with God. Because He cannot be seen at this time so much of His direct action in our lives could and can be written off as coincidence. For those who don't believe in a personal God who cares about individuals, this is a totally proper conclusion. However for the Christian, as we see God's hand IN MEASURE to our own life circumstances we know Who is there. He is an unseen Parent. This helps us to distinguish between mere circumstance and God working, that we see a fair and balanced God (sorry Fox!) bless us in direct proportion to our needs and desires, and chasten us in direct proportion to our unrepentant sin.

Sometimes it is more evident than others, because we can't see Him. It leaves us guessing sometimes. More often than not the witness of the Spirit will step in and confirm the truth of the matter. One day we will see Him face to face and we will know.

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