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Just Thinking

I Was Just Thinking … About the Blessing of Chastening

According to Deuteronomy 28:47, we are to serve the Lord with joyfulness and gladness of heart, “because of the abundance of all things.” My initial response is that I know of no one, myself included, who has an “abundance of all things.” Everyone senses deficiencies in some part of our lives. Nevertheless, according to this verse, God assumes that his people do have an abundance of all things. How can that be? The answer, I believe, becomes evident when we remember two things that are true for us as God’s people.

The first is that each of us has a considerable number of blessings. 1 Samuel 12:24 tells us to con­sider what great things the Lord has done for us. The well-known gospel hymn exhorts us to “count our many blessings.” I’ve found it helpful to write down my blessings in a list occasionally. Being con­fronted by such a list written out in front of me makes it impossible for me to overlook God’s blessings.

By far our greatest blessing is the assurance that God has forgiven all our sins. The Bible makes it abundantly clear that we are justified if we have believed, that is, if we have banked our hope on God’s promises. No doubt we all have our times of despondency when we let the distressing things we see in the visible world draw our attention away from what God has promised. But God forgives even this sin of unbelief as we confess it to him.

Sometimes we may wonder if our faith is great enough for us to receive the blessings God has promised. But even a tiny mustard seed of faith is sufficient to remove mountains (Matthew 17:20). Consequently if, in the midst of our doubts and fears we have any confidence at all that God will keep his promise, then we have that mustard seed of faith. (And one can always muster a seed of faith!) Since that tiny mustard seed can remove mountains, then on the basis of only a very small amount of faith, we are completely authorized to have the joy of the full assurance that things will be for us just as God promises. In this way the problem of whether we have enough faith vanishes. No blessing compares with the joy of this full assurance that God is with us.

The second thing to remember is that each of us has been struck down with the most dreadful affliction. Jesus indicated that all people, in their natural state, have such a demonic disposition that it is appropriate to call them “sons of hell” (Matthew 23:15). This becomes apparent by observing how natural it is for us to embark on the prideful quest of getting others to love and appreciate us. When we are born again to faith in Christ, we then commence a lifelong convalescence of overcoming those behavior patterns that stem form this prideful quest, so that we make progress toward finding all joy in God’s love for us and in seeking to love others.

Part of the treatment which our Great Physician prescribes as necessary for convalescing from our dreadful illness is to undergo “much tribulation” (Acts 14:22). Thus, Paul had to experience so great a time of adversity that he even despaired of life. But this was so that he might learn not to trust in himself but God who raises the dead (2 Corinthians 1:9). Only through various chastenings, which in themselves are always grievous and not joyous, are we able to exercise our faith. Those who do not rebel against chastenings—but use such occasions for exercising faith—these people experience the peaceable fruit of righteousness (Hebrews 12:11).

This, I believe, is the chief reason why we should give thanks in everything (1 Thessalonians 5:18). All that befalls us is God’s will; it’s part of his loving plan for healing us of the loathsome disease of being sons of hell. We should therefore respond positively to adversity by using it as an occasion to undergo the therapy involved in exercising our faith.

When we see that our difficulties are a part of God’s love to us (along with our blessings), then it becomes clear how all of us do indeed have an abundance of all things. Let us then serve the Lord with joy and gladness as Deuteronomy 28:47 commands. We need to remember also that should any of us persist in resisting God’s cure, then as verse 48 says, God will send enemies against us whom we will serve in the want of all things, until we are destroyed.

Daniel P. Fuller

April 1976

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