As we journey closer and closer to God, it often happens that we are suddenly faced with some hardship, some sadness or some loss. And if we truly examine ourselves in the light of God’s Word, we will find that most of the time, the root cause has been our own wrong doing. In pursuit of fulfilling our own selfish desires, we have left God out of our lives, out of our decision-making; and in doing so, we have brought the misery upon ourselves.
God in His mercy and goodness does a big favour for us by allowing such miseries in our life. It is His way of rebuking us when we go wrong. And He does it for our good so that in the end, we may be saved. But then, the question is: How do we react to the rebuke?
A common response to God’s rebukes – Discouragement.
One of the most common responses to a rebuke coming from God is: becoming discouraged.
It is because
- First, we are not in the habit of paying attention or listening to God’s voice when He rebukes us and
- Second, we don’t understand God’s ultimate purpose behind the rebukes.
St. Paul writes in Hebrews 12:5-6,10 My child, pay attention when the Lord corrects you, and do not be discouraged when He rebukes you. Because the Lord corrects everyone He loves, and punishes everyone He accepts as a child… God does it for our own good, so that we may share His holiness.
Therefore, God’s nature is to rebuke us whenever we, who are His people and His children, go the wrong way.
But the ultimate purpose of His rebukes is that we may share His holiness.
Another negative response to a rebuke coming from God – Bitterness towards God.
This is far more dangerous and has been the cause of many to reject God’s goodness and turn away from Him. The attitude of such people is like that of Cain who said, ‘This punishment is too hard for me to bear.” (Genesis 4:13). Now what Cain said was not true. For 1 Corinthians 10:13 instructs us that God never punishes us beyond our ability to endure.
One of the main reasons why many people refuse to pay attention to God’s correction is because they want the freedom to do whatever they wish. They want to be the masters of their own lives.
Secondly, they lack humility.
They don’t like anyone telling them what to do. The result is they become very stubborn like Cain and ultimately turn away from God as we read in Genesis 4:16.
How can we benefit from God’s rebukes?
On the other hand, those who pay attention to God’s rebukes and admit their faults before Him are the ones who experience His mercy and goodness. The thief crucified on the right side of Jesus had this kind of attitude. When the other criminal was hurtling insults at Jesus, this thief corrected him saying, “Don’t you fear God? You received the same sentence He did. Ours, however, is only right, because we are getting what we deserve for what we did; but he has done no wrong.” And he said to Jesus, “Remember me, Jesus, when you come as King!” Jesus said to him, “I promise you that today you will be in Paradise with me.” (Luke 23:40-43).
Therefore, whenever we receive a rebuke from God, it is important that we focus on His goodness and mercy rather than allow ourselves to become discouraged or even worse, become stubborn.
In the Book of Wisdom 12:20, Solomon writes about God’s goodness seen even in the way He punishes the enemies of His people – You were very careful and patient in punishing your people’s enemies; even when they deserved to die, you gave them every opportunity to give up their sinful ways.
Therefore, God wants to save even those who are living very wicked lives!
That is why He says- “Do you think I enjoy seeing evil people die? No, I would rather see them repent and live.” (Ezekiel 18:23). Again, in Wisdom 12:22, Solomon describes God’s goodness seen in the differentiation He makes when it comes to rebuking His people- Yes, you punish us, but you punish our enemies ten thousand times more, so that when we judge others, we may remember your goodness, and when we are being judged, we may look for mercy.
In other words, when it comes to His people, God rebukes them gently as compared to others. And at the same time, He waits to show them mercy.
If all this while, we have been blind to God’s goodness and mercy, it is because we have been listening to the voice of the Devil. Jesus called him a liar and the father of all lies (John 8:44). On the other hand, the Holy Spirit enables us to discover God’s goodness and mercy in every gentle rebuke that we receive from Him; because He is the one, who reveals the truth about God as it is written in John 16:13).
Today, as you look back into your lives, can you, with the help of the Holy Spirit recognize some of the bad things that happened to you as being God’s gentle rebukes? Can you sense God’s goodness in them? Do you realise His purpose behind those rebukes?
Even the on-going pandemic, which is the cause of man’s own wrong-doing, can be seen as God’s gentle rebuke calling the entire world to pay attention to His voice. God has allowed such a bad thing to happen in the hope that everyone may turn to Him and be saved.
God doesn’t want us to become discouraged, or even worse, stubborn. The scripture says, “If you hear God’s voice today, do not be stubborn” (Hebrews 3:15). God is appealing to us in a gentle voice, *“Give up all the evil you have been doing, and get yourselves new minds and hearts. Why do you Israelites (substitute ‘Israelite’ with your own name here) want to die? I do not want anyone to die. Turn away from your sins and live.” (Ezekiel 18:31-32).
May the Holy Spirit give us new minds and new hearts to enable us to see God’s goodness in every gentle rebuke that we receive from Him. Let us draw nearer to God and share in His holiness.