Trial versus Chastisement
by Wayne D. Turner
So, why do good people have trouble? The classic picture of trial is that of Job. While Job's friends are convinced that the only reason people have trouble is because they have angered God with their conduct, we find out that in Job's case, that turns out not to be true. As a matter of fact, we know from chapter 1 that God refers to Job in verse 8 as "a perfect and an upright man." While Job's trial is the most severe seen in scripture, one should not lose sight of the fact that Satan brought the trial with God's permission. Job's trial is culminated with a new view of life and God when he says in Job 42:5-6, "I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes." It would appear that while Job was righteous before God, he lacked a complete realization of God's nature until his trial was complete. Job's trial strengthened his relationship with God and added maturity to his walk with God.
Rather than trial, sometimes believers experience trouble in their lives because of the chastening hand of God. In that case, Satan does not bring on the trouble; God does. Chastisement of believers from God can be found all through the Old Testament right into the New Testament. Moses himself was chastised in Deuteronomy 32:48-52 as a result of his disobedience in Numbers 20:11-12. He was told at that time that his chastisement would result in not accompanying Israel into Canaan; he died on the east side of the Jordan. The Old Testament is full of believers who were chastised because of their disobedience to God.
In the New Testament we see both chastisement from God as well as trial from Satan. Paul clearly identifies his personal trial in II Corinthians 12 when he says in verse 7, "...there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me..." It seems clear that Paul's "thorn" was an eye ailment, derived from his comment in Galatians 4:15, "...if it had been possible, ye would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me." Conversely, Paul is clear in I Corinthians 11:29-32 that certain people at Corinth were weak, sick or dead (verse 30) because of their sin. Verses 31-32 cap off Paul's discourse by saying, "For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world." These verses are clear. These certain Corinthian people defied God, declined to repent (judge themselves) of their rebellion themselves and were therefore judged by God resulting in chastisement (as seen in verse 30) without any involvement from Satan. Hebrews clearly identifies this process of chastisement in Hebrews 12:6-8, "For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons." Chastisement is God's way of dealing with disobedience in believers just as it is for a natural father dealing with disobedience in his son. This is a fact of scripture.
So, what's the source of your trouble? Is it trial or chastisement? Job's friends are convinced that he is being chastised for wrongdoing - either with or without Job's own knowledge. However, Job knows that he has not sinned before God and has nothing to confess. He maintains his innoncence throughout the whole book. Here's the scriptural reality: God does not chastise believers in a state of ignorance; their wrongdoing will be obvious to them, and they will understand that they are being disciplined by God. After all, is that not the model of a good natural father disciplining his son? God does not include the adversary, Satan, in his chastening; it's all God according to I Corinthians 11:30-32 and Hebrews 12:6-8. Satan only has a hand in trial.
Here's the differentiation: Chastisement comes directly from God for correction while trial comes from Satan with God's permission for character building.
Consider the following verses regarding trial:
As you can see from the verses listed above, trial is necessary in obtaining Christian maturity. Here's a valid analogy. How did you learn to drive a nail with a hammer without hitting your thumb and fingers? Answer: By hitting your thumb and fingers. The adversity (pain) of missing the head of the nail caused you to be more patient. That's what trial is! Trial is our controlled exposure to the enemy which trains us to be mature believers and counselors.
If you would like more detail on trial (adversity) in the Christian's life, click here to read the article on Trial, Testing and Temptation.