I’ve often heard it said that God doesn’t “punish” people. But is that really true? And if it is – does that mean we shouldn’t expect consequences for our poor choices? As a parent – I know that I must step in and correct my children’s behavior when necessary to help them learn not to repeat it.
God is most certainly gracious and merciful, yet he is also holy and just. As our Father, it seems only right that he would want to correct our undesirable behaviors. So does he punish us?
But I, the Lord, search all hearts and examine secret motives. I give all people their due rewards, according to what their actions deserve.” (Jeremiah 17:10 NLT)
He repays people according to their deeds. He treats people as they deserve. (Job 34:11 NLT)
Yikes! That sounds like punishment to me. And since the punishment for sin, any sin, is death – punishment for what we deserve is an eternal bummer.
BUT – God offered an alternative to that eternal punishment when he sent Jesus to take it for us through his death on the cross. And to be victorious over it through his resurrection.
So does God punish? Yes. But can we escape it? Hallelujah – yes we can! By believing that Jesus came and offered the only way out, and by asking him to be our personal Savior.
But escaping eternal punishment, eternal separation from God, does not mean that we will escape the consequences for our bad choices. This is where God’s discipline comes in.
Discipline is different than punishment. Discipline is about correcting a behavior. Bringing into obedience through training. And the Bible clearly states that God disciplines his children in love.
In this all-out match against sin, others have suffered far worse than you, to say nothing of what Jesus went through—all that bloodshed! So don’t feel sorry for yourselves. Or have you forgotten how good parents treat children, and that God regards you as his children? My dear child, don’t shrug off God’s discipline, but don’t be crushed by it either. It’s the child he loves that he disciplines; the child he embraces, he also corrects. God is educating you; that’s why you must never drop out. He’s treating you as dear children. This trouble you’re in isn’t punishment; it’s training, the normal experience of children. Only irresponsible parents leave children to fend for themselves. Would you prefer an irresponsible God? We respect our own parents for training and not spoiling us, so why not embrace God’s training so we can truly live? While we were children, our parents did what seemed best to them. But God is doing what is best for us, training us to live God’s holy best. At the time, discipline isn’t much fun. It always feels like it’s going against the grain. Later, of course, it pays off handsomely, for it’s the well-trained who find themselves mature in their relationship with God. (Hebrews 12:4-11 MSG)
So don’t be crushed when you experience consequences. Allow them to change you. Pay attention to the consequences God allows in your life. See them as a reminder that you’re heading off the path and turn around. Remember that it is because God loves you and wants the best for you – now and eternally – that he even bothers to correct you.