Many have an erroneous idea of what “chastening” means. We think, perhaps, that it represents God as having a big stick in His hand and knocking us about all the time. You have only to make a mistake and down comes the big stick! That, of course, is a wrong conception of our Father, and is not what the word means at all. The word “chastening” just simply means “child training.”
It is not a sign of love for your child if you never train him. While training does, of course, mean correction, and sometimes using a stick, the idea is to do everything necessary to make that child a responsible man or woman. It is a poor kind of adult who can never take any responsibility, whom you can never be sure of, who is not reliable and who always has to be told what to do and what not to do. The idea of son-ship in the Father’s mind is to have people who are absolutely reliable and responsible, who know in their hearts what is right and what is wrong (Heb 5:14—NC), and do not have to be constantly told.
Chastening, or child-training, has to do with son-ship (or daughter-ship—NC). We should always look at our difficulties in the light of this! It often seems that the life of the believer is more trying than any other life, and more troubles (though we need not to allow problems to become troubles—John 14:1—NC) come to us than others. Our Father does not excuse His children from troubles, but, whether we recognize it or not, and whether we like it or not, these difficulties and troubles which come to us are to train us for something and to develop in us the spirit of son-ship; that is, to develop our spiritual intelligence and ability.
“Christ in you” is unto our being “conformed to the image of His Son” (Rom 8:29). It is to work in us that which has been perfected by Him. It is the whole realm of our being made Christ-like, having all the faculties and features of the Lord Jesus, which are resident in the new life received at new birth, brought to maturity. Every spiritual virtue will be nurtured and developed; love, meekness, fondness, gentleness, intelligence, etc. so that we are not just theoretical Christians, but real ones, spiritually responsible and accountable.
This, however, necessitates much discipline; what is called “chastening.” This discipline, or child-training, employs many forms of adversity and trial, has the effect of bringing to light what we really are in ourselves, and it is an ugly picture. Our own features do not improve as we go on. We know ever more what poor, wretched, and deplorable creatures we are, and—but for the grace of God—hopeless. But something is being done deep down which will show itself in due time to the glory of our Father.
We are born of God, and are sons in the Son by right of our birth from above; but how true it is that the course of our spiritual experience seems to be deeper and ever deeper baptisms of death—His death—in order that more and more of the power of His resurrection may be known by us and manifested in us (Phil 3:10—NC). There seems to be cycles, or tides, of death and life, and while each cycle or tide seems to compass our end more completely or to leave us at lower ebb that ever, there comes with ever-increasing fullness an uprising of spiritual life and knowledge. Thus while the death overpowers “the old man,” we live increasingly by the life, “the new man,” upon which—and upon which alone—the seal of God rests.
-T Austin Sparks