Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore, let us go forth to him outside the camp, bearing his reproach. For we have no continuing city here, but we seek one to come.
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“They, for just a short time, disciplined us as it pleased them;
but He, for our benefit, that we might partake of His holiness.
Now, no discipline, for just that moment, seems joyous, but grievous;
however, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness
in those who have been trained by it.
Wherefore, ‘Straighten up the listless hands and the feeble knees,’
and make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned aside,
but let it be healed instead.”
From a 2006 sermon by Pastor John on Slander.
Carnally-minded people whom Paul described as “natural men” frequently speak of what God will or will not do. One such man, a professor of the New Testament, once declared to us seminarians that God would never take the life of an innocent child. When this brilliant but foolish theologian told us that, King David came to my mind, and what God did to his new-born baby after the prophet Nathan confronted David about his adulterous affair with Bathsheba:
13. And David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord!” Then, Nathan said to David, “The Lord has put away your sin; you will not die.
14. Nevertheless, because by this deed, you have caused the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, the son that is born to you will certainly die.”
15. And Nathan went to his house. And the Lord struck the child that Uriah’s wife bore to David, and he was very sick.
. . .
18a. And it came to pass on the seventh day, that the child died.
God is not a big one of us, and His ways and His thoughts are so far beyond us that without His help, we cannot comprehend them. God will do whatever He pleases to do, without regard to what humans think He should do. In a parable, Jesus described God as “austere” (Lk. 19:21—22); Peter warned us that the trials God appoints for us can be very difficult and confusing (1Pet. 4:12); and the author of Hebrews went so far as to say that God “scourges” His children (an extraordinarily painful event) and that only those who humbly submit to the scourging will be saved in the end (Heb. 12:6).
James did say that God does not tempt anyone (Jas. 1:13), but in context, what James clearly meant is that God does not tempt anyone with evil. For example, God tempted, or tested, Abraham (Gen. 22:1), but what He tempted Abraham to do was good, not evil.
Old and New Testament writers alike made it absolutely clear that God tests His people (e.g., Jer. 17:10; 1Thess. 2:4), and the Psalmist even revealed that the opposite of being tested by God is to be hated by Him (Ps. 11:5). James also said that when those who are being tried by God resort to evil, it is not that God has led them into sin but that they have yielded to the ungodly desires of their own fleshly nature (Jas. 1:14). In other words, it is not that the test God gave them was too hard (that is never the case — 1Cor. 10:13); rather, it is only that they failed the test.
You can overcome anything you face in this world because your heavenly Father, who loves you with all His heart, designed that trial for you, knowing you could overcome it. Yes, at times, He has more confidence in our ability to overcome than we have, but He is always right. You can win. You are going to win. Nothing can separate you from your heavenly Father’s love and care. Every creature in heaven is on your side, and best of all, God and His Son are on your side. You will be tested, but after you weather the storm, you will know God — and yourself — better than you ever have known Him. That will make you a happier and wiser person than you ever were before, and when that happens, you will feel a very deep joy, and gratitude for the awful test that you had to go through.
God is looking for fruit from you. And if you bear fruit, Jesus said the Father would prune you, so as to enable you to bear even more fruit. That may sound harsh, but Jesus added that if you do not bear fruit, the Father would cut you off completely (Jn. 15:2). This means that you are going to be cut on, one way or the other. You are going to be cut on or be cut off.
Those who bear fruit to God earn the blessing of receiving another level of holy discipline; they have earned the privilege of being scourged and perfected. He scourges every son who will be judged worthy to escape eternal damnation. Every child of God who will be saved in the end will have submitted to His scourging — after they had borne good fruit! Every one of them! If you never receive that kind of scourging, it is because God considers you to be a bastard (Heb. 12:8). He will not even consider you to be a son because you did not receive the Father’s correction. When Israel failed to receive correction, God commanded Jeremiah not to pray for them anymore (Jer. 7:16). Tender-hearted Jeremiah must have kept on praying for Israel after God told him to stop because God had to tell him at least twice more not to pray for them any longer (Jer. 11:14; 14:11).
If you receive no correction from God, you get no comfort from God. If you receive His correction, He has oil to pour on your wounds. As the prophet said, “He has wounded us, and He will bind us up” (Hos. 6:1). “The wounds of a friend are faithful,” said Solomon (Prov. 27:6), and Jesus is the friend who sticks closer than a brother (Prov. 18:24). How precious to have your wounds bound up with the balm of Jesus!
When your wound is bound up by Jesus, you find that you have a submissive, grateful attitude similar to my father’s attitude after he had been scourged by God with cancer. He often referred to the disease as “that blessed cancer” because he felt that he would not have been prepared to meet God in peace had he not been afflicted with it. “Uncle Joe” Murray was the same way. He looked back on the days of his affliction as a good time, when his fellowship with God was perfected. Given sixty to ninety days to live by physicians, no one on earth could help him, no matter how much they loved him. Nobody on earth could do anything, either for him or against him. He was altogether in God’s hands. God had him all to Himself, with Uncle Joe’s future in the balance. And when Uncle Joe met God’s expectations, an angel came to him and anointed him to be healed, and Uncle Joe’s sixty-to-ninety-day death sentence was transformed into thirty-seven healthy, happy years!
I know how it feels to be in a place where no one can help you. You can feel the love that people have for you, and their desire to help, but when God puts you in that place, there is absolutely nothing anyone on earth can do. God may give them credit for wanting to help, but He will not allow them to do a thing. It is you, alone with God, where the hottest fires burn and the greatest amount of dross is burned out of your soul. However, as lonely and hard a place as it is, it is still a very good place for God to have you, for it will make you cry out to God as you never have before. It will make you spend some nights on your knees, but when God has gotten the fruit from you that He is looking for, when you have done the will of God to His satisfaction, when the heart is perfected, you will lift your battered head and say from the heart, “Thank you, heavenly Father, for loving me enough to have put me through that.”
Of course, those who do not humble themselves and render to God the desired fruit will become bitter at what they went through. They will always see themselves as victims and will never be able, from the heart, to thank God for their trial. But every person who accomplishes God’s purpose for the trial will end up thanking God forever for every bit of the suffering He put them through. There will be no bitterness in their souls. They were scourged, but in their time of hurting, they gave God what He wanted from them, and in His presence, they will be full of joy and peace.