Believers Dealt with as Sons
James Smith, 1859
"The Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son. Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it." Hebrews 12:6-11
Afflicted believer, listen! To you is this passage of God's holy word addressed. You have many trials, many temptations, and are at times ready to complain. But what are your trials, when compared with some that have gone before you? Read the preceding chapter of Hebrews, and see what faith enabled some of the Lord's people to do, and to suffer. And those directly addressed, were stripped of their property, expelled from their homes, and exposed to very painful privations. They suffered for Christ. They suffered with Christ. They suffered out of love to Christ. Their sufferings were not by 'chance', nor merely of men—but the hand of God was in them, and they are told that by appointing, arranging, and limiting their sufferings, God is dealing with them as with sons. Beloved, as believers in Jesus, we are sons of God. What an honor! Let us try to get a little profit for our souls out of the passage, by considering—
First, The RELATIONSHIP.Sons—sons of God! Those whom he has adopted by his sovereign grace, and regenerated by his Holy Spirit. By adoption—he put us among his children; by regeneration—he communicated to us his nature, and so constituted us his children. For as we receive a human nature from our natural parents, so we receive a divine nature from the Holy Spirit. "That which is born of the flesh—is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit—is spirit." We are not more the sons of our natural fathers by generation, than we are the sons of God by regeneration.
Our natural parents stamp their image upon us—and we resemble them; and our heavenly Father stamps his divine image upon us—and we resemble him.
As his children, he lays us in his bosom, manifests his love, and thus endears himself to us. He instructs us by his paternal voice, speaking to us by his providence, by his Word, by his ordinances, and by his Spirit. He nourishes and feeds us at his table, which is constantly spread, with milk for the babes, solid food for the young men, and savory meat for the aged brethren.
He leads us by his Spirit, who conducts us . . .
from self—to the cross;
from the world—to the Church;
and from earth—to heaven.
Every child is the object of special and unintermitted care, and is designed to perpetuate his name and honor both in earth and in heaven.
Being his children we are his heirs, invested with the unsearchable riches of Christ, and appointed to the possession of his infinite wealth.
Being thus the children of God—we must expect to be treated as his children; and being minors, and many of us mere babes, we must expect to be treated as mere children. We will look therefore—
Secondly, at the TREATMENT.God is dealing with you as sons—as sons who need discipline, as we all do.
Some of us are conceited—and our pride must be humbled.
Some of us are obstinate—and our wills must be subdued.
Some of us are wayward—and we must be made meek and tractable.
All of us are ignorant—and require to be taught, and there are many lessons, which we would never learn—but by 'the rod'.
The Lord therefore deals with us wisely, according to our nature, disposition, and circumstances. Different children need different treatment—but all need chastisement, and therefore all receive it; for our heavenly Father never spares the rod, to the spoiling of the child.
"He deals with us as with sons."
Sometimes he corrects by withholding from us, and then we are not indulged with his presence, with the tokens of his love, and the sweet assurance of his favor.
Sometimes by taking away what we highly prize, it may be a beloved child, a wife, a husband, or the friend that is as our own soul. Or, it may be our health, our wealth, or our ability actively to serve his cause.
Sometimes by setting us difficult tasks, as he did Abraham, when he required him to sacrifice his son; and Jonah, when he commanded him to go and pronounce the doom of Nineveh.
And sometimes by putting us to pain, sending bodily disease, or mental anguish, so that at times we choose strangling and death rather than life.
In all our trials, troubles, afflictions, and crosses, God is dealing with us, and dealing with us as with sons. Let this truth bo impressed on our minds, and be ever uppermost in our memories. Illegitimate children may be left unpunished—but legitimate children are always corrected.
Observe, then, tried and afflicted Christian, your heavenly Father loves you and notices you, therefore he corrects you. He sees that you need it. That you would be ruined without it, and consequently out of pure love he sends it. Your Father intends to make you wise, holy, and useful. Solomon tells us, that the rod and reproof give wisdom—but the child left to himself brings his parents to shame. Our apostle assures us that God does not afflict us for his own pleasure—but for our profit, that we may be partakers of his holiness. And we well know that it is the wise and holy believer, who is the useful man.
As therefore the rod prudently used makes wise and holy, and as the wise and holy are useful—then if God intends to make us wise, holy, and useful, in dealing with us as sons, he will often use the rod. Your Father uses the family rod, not a new one, your brethren have all felt it before, and many are smarting under it now. As says Peter, "Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed." Again he assures them, "your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings."
Few of God's children ever entered heaven, without carrying the marks of the rod with them; for the Lord will visit our iniquities with the rod, and our transgressions with stripes. Let us then accept the chastisement of our heavenly father as a proof of his love, and seek above all things else its sanctification; for if we accept of his chastisement, and improve it, it is a proof of sonship. Whenever we feel the rod, may we repair to our father's throne, inquire the cause, and seek grace to overcome it. For when the child falls on his knees, with the tear glistening in his eye, and with tremulous voice begins to confess his faults, and ask for pardon—the rod soon drops from the father's hand, and the kiss that testifies that all is forgiven is imprinted on the cheek. O for grace to believe, and realize under all our afflictions and trials, that God is treating you as his own children!