The nature of God's chastening in the lives of born again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ presents a great challenge to our understanding and interpretation.
Unlike the discipline of human parents or authorities, our Heavenly Father's rod does not visibly or audibly identify itself for what it is. How, therefore, do we know we are being chastened by God? This question requires much Biblical consideration because not all negative experience in our lives occurs as the result of our Father's discipline. Believers experience pain and loss for a variety of reasons according to Scripture. We live in fallen world of trouble and difficulty. People sometimes treat us unjustly and painfully. Our spiritual enemies are often allowed a lengthened leash to inflict trouble upon us. We suffer in order to identify with others, and to be prepared to minister to them. And yes, we do sometimes hurt and lose because God administers His loving rod as a corrective measure. How then can we know and recognize that the troubles we face are in fact the discipline of God?
Maintaining a heart aware of the possibility introduces the Bible's answer to this vital question. When trouble comes, we must consider that the rod of correction may be the cause of whatever difficulty we face. It also may not, and let us again emphasize that not all pain and loss in our lives occurs as as the result of God's chastening. But some does, and failure to consider the possibility may keep us from experiencing the correction our Father intends to accomplish. Conversely, being open to the possibility makes it far more likely we will know the nature of our challenges.
In light of this acknowledgement, we proceed to prayerful communication with our Lord about the troubles we face. "Father, if this difficulty be your chastening, I want it to have the directing and re-directing influence it is intended to have. Therefore, as David prayed, Search me and know my heart. Try me and know my thoughts. See if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting" (Psalm 139:23-24). Such honest and open determination to submit ourselves to God's perfect way leads to the strong possibility that we will know if we are indeed hurting in order to be reproved and restored.
Still, we will hear no voice or see no visible evidence of God's rod. However, by His Word, His Spirit, and His church, our Heavenly Father will doubtless illuminate us to both His chastening, and the reason for it as we humble ourselves before Him. The matter primarily involves awareness and attitude more than the technical aspect of how we will recognize chastening. As we better understand the Bible's plain teaching in this vital matter, and humbly submit ourselves thereunto, we will know when our Father's love administers His corrective rod...
"If any man will do His will, He shall know of the doctrine."
"My son, despise not the chastening of the LORD; neither be weary of His correction: for whom the LORD loveth He correcteth; even as a father the son in whom He delighteth."
Tomorrow: the nature of God's correction continued; how He corrects