(concluded from last month)
(7) To restore us to communion with God if the cause of the chastening was departure from God.
The classic example of this is David, whose double sin of adultery and murder brought upon him the chastening hand of God. His experiences, while being chastised, are recorded in Psalm 32 and 51. Let us mark his word: “When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long. For day and night Thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer” (Psalm 32:3-4). What a graphic description this is of deep conviction of sin! His awakened conscience screamed out its accusations and lashed him unmercifully. Well might he thank God for it, for it brought him to the place where, in deep contrition, he honestly confessed his guilt and found forgiveness. Notice what he said: “I acknowledged my sin unto Thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said ‘I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord’ and Thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin” (Psalm 32:5). “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou will not despise” (Psalm 51:17).
This has been the experience of many a child of God. The committal of some sin has resulted in God’s chastening, which led to a conviction of the sin. This was followed by contrition for the sin, which issued in confession of the sin and restored communion with God. There can be no enjoyment of communion with God while one allows unjudged and unconfessed sin in his life. How thankful we should be for God’s discipline in this regard, which brings us to our senses so that, in repentance for it and confession of it, we find restoration to the joy of salvation, communion with the Lord and fruitfulness in His service.
3. The effect of discipline.
In one word, it is for our good. Discipline may take many forms.
1. It may be illuminative. That is, to discover to us, our many faults, failings and weaknesses, which otherwise we might have never known (Deut. 11:2).
2. It may be preventative. That is, to keep us from doing something we might otherwise have done. Joseph’s experiences illustrate this form of discipline (Psalm 119:71).
3. It may be instructive. That is, to teach us to know His way, and to appreciate the good pleasure of His will. See Psalm 32:8-9.
4. It may be corrective. That is, it is brought upon us because of some wrong we have done. Proverbs 22:15 puts it well: “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child, but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.”
5. It may be curative. That is, through some discipline on the part of God, we are cured of a certain tendency to some particular course of behaviour.
6. It may be illustrative. That is, it enables the believer to see the wisdom of God’s gracious dealings with us, even as Job was made to see and acknowledge.
7. It is always purgative. That is, its purpose is to cleanse and restore. Malachi 3:3 sums it up: “He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and He shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness.”
May we, as Christians, lay to heart the profitableness of God’s discipline over His children, and learn to value every form that this discipline may take and, through it, learn to grow in grace, knowledge, strength, righteousness and usefulness to the One into whose family we have been brought, and who, as the Father, “chastens us … for our profit” (Heb. 12:10).
The last profitable thing we shall consider is:
7. A Faithful Servant of the Lord
Our Scripture is taken from 2 Timothy 4:11, where Paul, in his letter to Timothy penned a few weeks before his martyrdom, wrote: ‘Take Mark, and bring him with thee, for he is profitable to me for the ministry.” Surely no one could wish for a greater commendation than this, and from such a one as the great Apostle Paul! It will be recalled that Mark began his service for the Lord in a very unprofitable manner. After starting out with Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey, he had deserted them at Pamphylia and returned to his home in Jerusalem. See Acts 13:1-3. We are not told the cause of Mark’s failure to continue with them as their servant. It may have been fear produced by the opposition to the gospel, or reluctance to face the hardships of constant travelling. Whatever it was, it caused Mark to desert his companions and return to the comfort and security of his home in Jerusalem. On their return from the first missionary tour, when Paul and Barnabas would have set out on a second journey, Barnabas determined he would again take Mark, his nephew, with them. Paul, however, strenuously refused to do this because of his previous failure. The result was there was “a sharp contention between them” and these old companions parted company. Barnabas then took Mark with him and went to Cyprus while Paul chose a brother named Silas as his new companion, and started out on his second missionary tour (Acts 15:36-41).
Many years have passed since that first missionary journey, and “Paul the aged” is now being held in close confinement in a Roman dungeon and the day of his martyrdom is near at hand. Tradition affirms that six weeks after he wrote this second letter to Timothy, he was taken out and executed. But in the years that have elapsed since that first missionary journey, there has been a welcome change in Mark. From a timid and reluctant servant he has by the grace of God developed into a gifted, reliable and profitable servant of Christ. Paul, to his credit, is glad to acknowledge this fact and now desires the profitable companionship of Mark in the work of the Lord.
Let us concentrate on that expression: “Profitable for the ministry,” and see what elements should go up to the making of a profitable servant of the Lord. This surely should be the ambition of every believer, so that like Mark and Timothy, his “profiting may appear to all” (1 Tim. 4:15).