I EXPERIENCED DIFFICULT TIMES. WAS GOD CHASTENING ME?
by Shawn Brasseaux
“I have experienced a season [years] of feeling chastened. I was never certain if it came from Satan or God. I have been a Grace believer since about year 2000 and I follow and respect your teaching, as well as other fine grace teachers; but I still don’t fully understand why I had the horrible experience of guilt and shame, thinking God was angry with my past sins. Few if any pastors/teachers have been able to solve my predicament. Over time I have felt the oppression was now over, and I don’t suffer bouts of fear and anxiety anymore. I work daily to spread the Grace message on the internet and the ‘voices’ that had oppressed me during those terrible years have ceased. Can you give me any explanation of what I have been through?”
Friend, I am sorry to hear of your bad experience. I do not have all the details of what happened to you (and I am not going to ask you for them), so I cannot make a full assessment to fully explain it. Still, here is what I have experienced in my own life and what I have had others tell me about their own similar issue and the solution. I am sure that many others who read this will be able to benefit from the verses contained herein. I think we can give them some peace of mind as to what happened with them as well. By the way, we do have a more in-depth study, “Does God chasten us when we sin?,” linked at the end of this article. You can find more information there.
Our flesh (sin nature) does quite well in “chastening us.” We love to “beat ourselves up” with guilt, even if it is false guilt (the “deceitful” heart of Jeremiah 17:9). If we have had an upbringing in some strict denomination or religion—that is, legalistic churches—the memories of past sermons or homilies can cause us to live in a fog, to live in some manmade fantasy. Perhaps we constantly heard, “God is going to get you if you do not listen to Him, if you do not give to Him, if you do not go to church, if you do not confess all your sins,” et cetera. We are then led to believe that the reason why we are sick, or depressed, or poor, et cetera, is because God is angry with us or getting even with us because of some unconfessed sin. (That is how He dealt with Israel, Deuteronomy chapter 28 and Leviticus chapter 26). Maybe that is why you “feel” like it was a chastening. Someone might have told you that all your life in some religious circle, that God punishes us when we fail Him in the Christian life. Our flesh always gravitates toward religious duty, and it will naturally “beat us up” if we do not have our minds on the grace teachings that Jesus Christ gave us through the Apostle Paul.
Sometimes, people who have come out of a lifestyle of depravity (drugs, alcohol, prostitution, murder, theft, et cetera) and come to Jesus Christ by faith, they are still haunted by their mistakes. God does not shield us from the temporary consequences of our actions. He only shields us from the eternal penalty of hellfire. Thus, we will naturally experience pain or suffering as the result of mistakes. This is not chastening, God directing punishment toward us, but us reaping what we have sown. Remember, regardless of dispensation, we will always reap what we sow, more than we sow, and later than we sow. Galatians 6:7-8 reminds us: “ Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.  For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.”
Today, people feel God is getting even with them for past mistakes. Again, however, it is a failure to remember that Israel’s Scriptures do not apply to us. They are confusing the consequences of their sin with God judging them for their sin. There is a big difference. Let us explain.
IF GOD REALLY WANTED TO JUDGE US FOR OUR SINS
If God really wanted to judge us for our sins, the problems we have in life would pale in comparison. The ultimate form of God’s wrath against our sin is hell and the lake of fire. If God really wanted to judge us for our sins, we would have no relief… ever. When you experience a flat tire or other car troubles, an unexpected hospital stay, a job loss, the death of a loved one, a major natural catastrophe, and so on, that is far from the wrath of God. God is not out to get sinners, today! God is out to get sinners saved today! Friend, if you get nothing else out of the Bible, get that! If God were out to get sinners today, no one would be alive. He would wipe us all out! If God were out to judge nations for their sins today, not a single nation would remain. He would wipe them all off the map! We know, however, that dispensational Bible study precludes God’s wrath from operating today.
Let us see what the Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 1:12-16: “ And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry;  Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.  And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.  This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.  Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.”
There is one primary theme operating in this the Dispensation of the Grace of God. Know what it is? GRACE! It is grace not wrath! Saul of Tarsus (the Apostle Paul before salvation) was Israel’s leader and the world’s leader against Jesus Christ. He literally hated the name of Jesus of Nazareth. In the early part of the book of Acts, he imprisoned, tortured, and murdered Messianic Jews. God’s wrath could have literally crushed Saul of Tarsus and whisked him off to everlasting hellfire! As we just read, he was “a blasphemer, a persecutor, and injurious”… but he “obtained mercy,” because he “did it ignorantly in unbelief” (verse 13). Saul instead experienced “the GRACE of our Lord [that] was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus” (verse 14).
Saul’s worthless ministry was finished, permanently suspended. Now, he would be the first member of the Body of Christ. Saul would be the prime specimen of God’s longsuffering. Why has God’s wrath not yet fallen on this evil world? Look at Paul the pattern! The program that allowed Paul to escape God’s wrath is now operating today, that others may also escape that impending wrath. What wonderful truths we discover in the Bible when we just use the Bible God’s way!
As Paul wrote in Romans 11:30-32: “ For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their [Israel’s] unbelief:  Even so have these [Jews] also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy.  For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.” God has concluded all peoples—all nations—“in belief, that he might have mercy upon all.” Mercy is God holding back His wrath, wrath we do deserve. Grace is God giving us His blessings, blessings we do not deserve. As 2 Corinthians 5:18-19 says: “ And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;  To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.”
In our Dispensation of Grace, God is not imputing the world’s trespasses unto it. He is not judging nations today. Instead, He is offering all the peoples of the world to come to Him by simple faith in what His Son did for them at Cavalry’s cross. That wrath prophesied in the Bible is momentarily stayed, delayed. This postponement in Israel’s program puzzled Israel’s apostles, even after they heard Paul talk about the new divine revelations he had received from the risen, ascended, glorified Lord Jesus Christ. While it was still hard to believe, Israel’s apostles had to admit that prophecy was indeed interrupted. That wrath that Jesus Christ was to bring, the wrath that they had been preaching for years prior, that wrath was delayed. Paul was the proof that God was saving sinners instead of judging them.
The Apostle Peter wrote in 2 Peter 3:15-16: “ And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you;  As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.” As Peter learned, God had given Christ-rejecters in Israel (and all those pagan Gentiles) yet another chance to escape that wrath. Peter wrote in verse 9: “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”
Paul was first to be saved into the Church the Body of Christ. As God operates our Dispensation of Grace, grace, love, mercy, and all longsuffering will dominate, thereby delaying divine wrath! Oh, friends, dear readers, if you are not sure of having eternal life and a home in heaven, may you not delay another second. Come by simple faith in Jesus Christ’s shed blood, His death, His burial, and His resurrection as sufficient payment for your sins (1 Corinthians 15:3,4). Follow Paul your pattern!
THE SOLUTION TO “FEELING” CHASTENED—MEMORIZE SOUND PAULINE VERSES!
Okay, so, returning to your original issue. The Devil wars in the minds of us Christians. You can see 2 Corinthians 10:3-5. The key is to have sound Bible doctrine in order to defend yourself against the wicked wiles of the Devil!
As Christians, people who trusted exclusively in Jesus Christ as our personal Saviour, Father God has “accepted us in the beloved,” Christ Jesus (Ephesians 1:6). “If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31). Remember Romans chapter 5: “ But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.  Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.  For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.  And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.” Father God settled the sin issue at the cross, for Jesus Christ was our “propitiation” (Romans 3:25). He was the fully-satisfying payment for our sins. God has no controversy with us Christians, His children, for Jesus Christ was punished instead, and Jesus Christ enough.
Whatever we suffer, it is not God doing it, but us experiencing the results of our mistakes and others’ mistakes. Satan will use that to his advantage. Our flesh also loves to feel guilty, that we have a pity party, feeling sorry for ourselves, making ourselves and our failures the issue instead of focusing on Jesus Christ’s success on Calvary and the victory He secured for us there! Notice how “who” is the first word of Romans 8:35. Satan uses dire circumstances (verses 35-39) to distract us from remembering Jesus Christ and the love for us He demonstrated at Calvary. Satan certainly uses the lost world (especially lost relatives, and political and religious leaders) to discourage us.
Romans 8:35-39: “ Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?  As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.  Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.  For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,  Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Throughout the Bible, the Devil used people to discourage God’s prophets and apostles. Just look at what happened throughout the book of Acts, how the Jewish religious leaders (the apostles’ brethren) and the Roman government worked together to hinder the Lord’s work, imprisoning and killing apostles and disciples. As long as Satan has us focusing on all of that, we do not walk in our identity in Christ, and we do not function as God intended us to function (that is how Satan hinders God’s work).
For future reference, notice how Paul experienced severe depression in 2 Corinthians 1:3-10, especially verses 8-10. He was referring to the riot in Ephesus in Acts chapter 19, where he could have literally been killed by a mob. Satan had distracted him and his ministry co-workers for a time by using those unbelievers, but Paul and the others eventually remembered to trust God, that He has the power to raise us “from the dead,” speaking of how when we are exhausted, at our wits’ end, wanting to give up because of opposition or problems, God can restore our strength (as someone would recover from a fatal illness). Paul learned not to trust in himself, but in God, who has fully equipped us in Christ to handle all of life’s problems, whether good or bad (Philippians 4:11-13). We are strong, not in ourselves, but in Christ (2 Corinthians 3:5).
No, whatever difficult times you were experiencing, they were not God disciplining you. He corrects us through His written Word, and to have Him communicating to us outside of His Word through circumstances is to deny the completed revelation of Scripture. If God were really after us for unconfessed sin, none of us would have a moment’s peace. We have plenty of things in our past that we do not even recognize as sin. It is good to know that you have come out of that experience. I do not think any of us will ever fully know what happened (whether to you, or to me, or to other Christians), so do not get too burdened in trying to figure it all out. Just leave it at the cross.
If I had to pinpoint the likely source of your experience, however, this would be my conclusion. The flesh always works in tandem with Satan’s goal. Satan wants to distract us from Jesus Christ’s finished crosswork, where all guilt and shame belong. As long as Satan can have us think about denominationalism, fleshly things, human tradition, our failures/guilt/shame, et cetera; we will forget the doctrine God wants us to remember (see 2 Corinthians 10:3-5). Again, it is truly a battlefield of the mind! As long as our flesh keeps dredging up guilt and shame, we are defeated, for our minds have disconnected from the doctrine of Calvary, where all guilt and shame are to be sent by faith. What we need to do is “walk in the Spirit,” and when we think like the Holy Spirit has designed us to think (remembering God’s Word to us through Paul, all about our identity in Christ; see 1 Corinthians 1:30-31, for example), we will not fall into the trap of flesh-walking and flesh-thinking (Romans 8:1-15). This is the key to recovering quicker mentally and spiritually the next time we have difficult times. Hope that helps! 🙂