"If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?" — Heb. 12:7.
ALL CHASTENINGS are testings, but all chastenings are not necessarily punishments. We should judge of the purpose of our experiences by self-examination, that we may ascertain whether in our conduct there has been something out of harmony with the Father's will. In every case our experience is a test of our loyalty of heart—as to our willingness to learn the lessons which the Lord is seeking to teach us and our recognition of the source from which they come.
The trials and difficulties of the consecrated child of God are not to be esteemed as the results of Divine carelessness or indifference in regard to his interests, but rather as the outworkings of Divine providence in his behalf. Those who can see the matter from this viewpoint are thus enabled to learn some of life's most helpful lessons, and are thereby prepared for the glorious future which God has arranged for those who faithfully carry out their Covenant of sacrifice.
Ordinarily the word chastisement is used to signify correction for wrongdoing. But in the Bible, it is especially used to convey the thought of discipline or instruction in righteousness. Sometimes we use it in this way in the ordinary affairs of life. If we sin, we receive punishment indeed. But those who are trying to do right are continually receiving discipline of the Lord. There is a purpose in this training, or chastisement. The Church is learning how to build character pleasing in the Father's sight, to be well qualified for particular service; and discipline is the means employed for that instruction.
If a man were about to train a dog for the circus, he would first choose the right kind of animal for that special service. He would not think of selecting any chance poodle that might come to hand, but would find a dog that was capable of being taught. In carrying out his course of instruction, he might find it necessary to chastise the dog in order to teach him some trick. This would not mean that the animal was bad, surly or vicious, but that there was no other way by which he could learn. An animal that was being fitted to guard the house would not need the same training that was necessary for the dog that was to perform in public. The watch-dog must know how to guard property; but the animal that is to jump through hoops, etc., must be trained carefully by those who have in mind his future career.
So with the Church. They need practical lessons in character-development of a very high order, and consequently they are receiving experimental knowledge such as no other creatures in the universe receive. Because they are trying to live righteously, trying to please the Heavenly Father, they are being chastened for instruction, that they may be fully conformed to the Divine will, that they may lay aside their own preferences, that they may not do their own will, but that of the Lord.
Such experiences are not for mankind in general. Such experiences were not given to Adam. He was required to live merely in harmony with his environment and to be obedient to the Heavenly Father. Such experiences are not for the angels. They are required merely to live righteously, to avoid sin and to use their bodies in harmony with the Divine purposes of their creation. They occupy such positions as are natural to them. Therefore the angels have never required chastisements.
SUFFERING DEVELOPS CHARACTER OF A HIGH ORDER
With those, however, who are to be associated with the Redeemer and ultimately to be exalted to the Divine nature and glory, it is necessary that they make special manifestations of loyalty, of self-abasement and of self-sacrifice. What was true of Christ is also true of the Church, which is His Body, and which He purchased with His own precious blood. (Col. 1:24; Acts 20:28.) We are called to follow in His footsteps; hence every son whom the Father receives is chastised.—Heb. 12:6, 7.
Every child of God will need chastening. If we wander from the paths of righteousness, we are chastened to bring us back; but even if we did not wander, we should still need chastisement, that we might learn obedience. Our Lord Himself learned obedience by the things which He suffered. (Heb. 5:8.) Of St. Paul the Lord said, "I will show him how great things he must suffer for My name's sake." (Acts 9:16.) The Apostle was put through disciplinary experiences because he was a favored child of God.
We revert to our illustration of the dog under training for a special purpose. The dog must yield himself submissively to his teacher. Another dog that was watching the process by which the one was being trained might think that he was suffering unnecessary hardship, and might feel that if it were himself, he would assert his rights and not suffer so much. But in the end the trained animal would prove to be the more valuable, for the one that had escaped the suffering would remain only a commonplace dog.
So it is with the Church. There are people who say of us, "Those who endeavor to do God's will suffer more than do those who do not try; we do not care to undertake any such experience." These people may succeed in having fewer trials in the present life, but they will have blessings of a lower order in the world to come, when the faithful Church will be glorified with her Lord and Head.
These experiences with trouble are the very tests of character necessary for our development. The reason why some of the consecrated will get into the Great Company is that they have not had enough determination—enough strength of character. In the time of trouble, such will either develop that strength by faithfulness under severe trial or they will go into the Second Death.
The Great Company class are loyal in heart or they would not be in that class. But they are willing to compromise; and because of this willingness to do so, they weaken their character. In order to be overcomers they must develop this element of character at any cost.
Let us be thankful that we are of those who appreciate the privilege of being trained in the School of Christ—of suffering with Him now and of reigning with Him by and by. In this school we are learning valuable lessons of experience. Here we receive chastisements, many of which are not punishments for sins, but preparation for the work of the next Age. Let us remember that unless we are willing to learn these lessons and to endure hardness, we shall not be prepared to enter into the eternal glory.—2 Tim. 2:3; I Pet. 5:10.
All things are ours; for we are Christ's and Christ is God's, and God called Christ to these glorious experiences. (I Cor. 3:21-23.) Whoever does not appreciate the spiritual joys can hardly be expected to endure the present training with patience and thankfulness. We must see something of "the glory that shall follow" (I Pet. 1:11) in order to realize the necessity of the vicissitudes of the present trial time.