I recently posted two different questions:
Is God good to us when we are good?
Does God allow bad things to happen to us when we are not good?
When you think about it, you have to answer both questions the same, because both are based on the same scale of our behavior. If God only blesses us when we are good, then He would have to punish us when we are not good. Many of you commented, some based on opinion, and others quoted scripture. My aim here is not to get into or pull people into heated debates with each other. As a matter of fact, I discourage that. My intention is to bring some clarity to some viewpoints and perceptions that are wrong. Over the years, I have grown in understanding by what I call, “connecting the dots.” The Bible refers to this process as seeking and finding, but regardless when you do this, your understanding becomes clearer, and the “mystery box” that we like to throw much of the bible into is thrown open, and we realize that many things are crystal clear when we dive in and seek.
First I want to address some of the comments that were similar. Many quoted Romans 3:10 which says; as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; (ESV)
Paul wrote this, and I love Paul’s approach when he presents the gospel. He is probably the most brilliant evangelist of all time because he looked at the culture around him and found a way to tie the gospel to what was happening. Now I am a big advocate for rightly dividing old covenant and new covenant because when you mix the two, and try to apply both at the same time, the end result is confusion and frustration. It is easy to assume that everything written in the New Testament is new covenant application, but in Romans 2 and 3, Paul is talking about how God saw us under the old covenant. Paul does this as a set up to share the gospel, which he does, starting in Romans 3:21. If you read verse 20 and 21, you will clearly see the distinction between old and new as he transitions into sharing the good news that righteousness has now been revealed. 2 Corinthians 5:21 and all of the new testament declares that through the cross, we have been made righteous. If you don’t see the distinction Paul is making, it sounds like he is contradicting himself, but obviously he is not, he is simply proclaiming the gospel by explaining what the cross made available to us.
Another common response to the question concerning God allowing things to happen when we are not good was simply this; “Remember Job.”
Many view the book of Job as the book of suffering, but in reality, the book of Job is actually a book of blessing. I’m not belittling what Job went through, it was horrible, but most Bible scholars believe that the suffering in Job’s life that is recorded took place in about a 9 month span. They also believe that Job was about 70 years old when Satan began his attacks, but afterwards lived another 140 years, and was blessed with twice as much as he had before. We want to take 9 months of suffering in a life-span of over 200 years and think that God has ordained a life time of suffering for us. The idea of living a life of suffering and taking it on unnecessarily is nothing more than false humility. I will not get into too much of that 9 months of severe suffering, but the idea that Job was perfect and did everything right is not correct. We have the overview of what was going on, but Job did not. He clearly thought that God was killing him when in fact every attack came from the enemy. Job also made a statement that often gets overlooked when covered in sermons and lessons, which was, “The thing I feared the most has come upon me.” Fear and faith cannot co-exist. We will choose one or the other, but both cannot be at play at the same time. Fear over faith will always open us up to attacks.
Another response I saw was, God disciplines his own.
This is based on Hebrews 12:6, which says, For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”
I have heard preachers talk about God taking us out back and giving us a good beating. I remember as a kid thinking that this sure seems like a warped sense of who God is. Over the years, I’ve realized that our definition of “Discipline,” is often based on how we were disciplined. Other kids who were abused from an angry parent who justified their abuse by labeling it as discipline have a completely different definition of discipline. When you have a word that can be interpreted in so many ways, you want to look at two things; original text, and context. Often times this will bring much clarity.
Since the book of Hebrews was to Hebrews, we can safely assume that the original text was in Hebrew. The words discipline and chastisement are taken from the original Hebrew word, Bikoret. This word has two meanings:
To deeply scourge (used to describe the scourging of Jesus, that would often kill it’s victims before they could be crucified.)
To deeply inquire into someone’s life
The disciples, whose titles come from the word discipline were not scourged by Jesus (definition 1), but definition number two accurately describes how they were disciplined. Jesus deeply inquired into every aspect of their lives.
The King James Version actually uses the word, “Scourges”, and quite honestly given the two meanings of the word, I believe they chose the wrong one. We deserved to be scourged and crucified, but Jesus stepped in and took that punishment for us. This is an important point that I hope you remember. God does NOT punish us for our sin. ALL punishment, ALL wrath, and COMPLETE payment for the wages of our sin was put on Christ and nailed to the cross. Quite simply, if we still get punished for our sin, then the cross was not enough to satisfy God. If that were the case, we are all doomed because God’s plan was flawed. The purpose of the Holy Spirit that indwells us is called the Counselor, the Comforter, and the one who empowers us. Knowing the role of the Holy Spirit, let me say this; There is a mental disorder known as Munchausen Syndrome where a parent will intentionally make their child sick, sometimes by malnutrition, or even poisoning them, so they can step in and offer the cure, making themselves the hero. This makes the child dependent, looking to them as the savior of their lives. When no one else could help, mom saved me. It is sick. I’ve only seen this personally one time in my life, and I can tell you that mom had her child taken from her, and in my opinion should have gone to prison. If we realize how twisted this is, how could we think that God would hurl confusion at us, and then step in to be our Counselor, or hurl disaster at us so He can step in and be our Comforter? Are you starting to see how warped our perception of who God is can be? Misperception on this level will affect every aspect of our relationship with God. How can we come boldly to the throne and ask for anything if in return we might get is poison? I mean, after hearing a preacher tell me what a dirty, undeserving wretch I am as a believer, I might think I deserve the poison.
The fact of the matter is, there are many things that come at us in a fallen world, that is not coming from God. We also face consequences for choosing sin when we are well aware of the consequences. Consequence is not punishment, although it can sometimes feel like it. Remember, the punishment for our sin is paid in full.
Getting back to the context in Hebrews 12 concerning discipline, look at the analogy here and many other places when it talks about us being in a race. When an athlete is being trained, they are being coached and are living under discipline. They can step away from that disciplined diet, and eat whatever they want, but they will not run the race as well. They can choose to not train under the discipline of a trainer, but they won’t run as well. This is how a trainer disciplines an athlete, and quite honestly, this is in line with how we discipline our kids. We are preparing them for a successful, abundant life, and that requires the same type of discipline that a well-trained athlete. Set your eyes on the prize and run. When you hit a hurdle, don’t stop and focus on the hurdle, keep your eyes set and run! This is what Paul meant when he said to not to focus on the sin that so easily besets us. It’s just a distraction, keep running! If you stop and worry about how you hit the hurdle, or if you knocked it over, trying to set it back up and make it right, you will not finish the race. Keep running! Sin has no power over us, it is merely a distraction. Keep running!
Now let’s look at how or if God rewards our good behavior. This is a much shorter explanation.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places – Eph. 1:3
All blessing have been made available to all who believe. Abraham believed God and his belief was why he was counted as righteous. If Abraham’s righteousness had been measured or rewarded on the scale of good and bad, he would have not been counted as righteous. This is the common theme throughout scripture. I say this, and it often gets weird looks in church, but what you believe is more important than what you do.
I heard a great preacher recently say this concerning God’s discipline that is also called training. Training is for our future, not punishment for our past!
Keep seeking, keep training, and no matter what….keep running!