Bible Questions?

What is the difference between trials and chastisement?

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When we experience trials, hardships, and pain, we often wonder if this is God’s chastening or a period of testing in our lives. To answer that question, you need to understand the difference between the two to better understand your particular situation.

A trial is a situation where someone is examined by “testing”. For example, when God tests the genuineness of your faith through trials and troubles. 1 Peter 1:6–9 (ESV): In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 

Sometimes, the Bible refers to these as adversaries or tribulations, but they have similar meanings. God may allow trials and temptations in our lives in His sovereignty, but they are used to change and transform our character, faith, and holiness in Him (Jas. 1:2-4; 1 Pet. 1:7). It is important to note that Jas. 1:13 tells us that no one should claim God is tempting them because He cannot be tempted by evil nor tempt anyone. 

Instead, He may allow it to happen in your life. 1 Cor. 10:13 tells us that there will be temptations, but He will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear and will help provide a way out so we can endure it. Amen!

On the other hand, chastisement means to bring correction, which could be through punishment, discipline, and any number of negative consequences, even to the point of death (1 Cor. 11:30) due to sinful activity. In Heb.12:3-11, we are told not to regard lightly the disciple of the Lord and not to grow weary of it because it results from His love for us and because we are His children. In fact, it goes on to tell us that we are illegitimate children if we have not participated in His discipline and that all His children have faced it (Heb. 12:8).

So, when we sin, we can always expect Christ’s righteous discipline. Rev. 3:19 says, “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.”

So, the difference is that trials test the genuineness of our faith and build us up in holiness and righteousness through endurance in the faith, whereas chastisement results from sinful activity in our lives. As a loving Father, God will bring Fatherly discipline and correction to bring us back to faithfulness in Christ. 

To determine your particular situation and why you are going through specific struggles or pain, you will need to take time to examine yourself. 2 Cor. 13:5 says, “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!

When you are going through a particular situation in your life, examine yourself and determine if there is anything sinful in your life that is displeasing to God and not worthy of the gospel. If the answer is “yes,” then whatever situation you are going through could be a chastisement and discipline from the Lord. Repent of those sins and seek God’s help through His Spirit to help you walk in a manner that glorifies and honours God. 

If you find there is no particular sin in your life, then it could be a period of testing your faith. The truth is that scripture asks us to rejoice through this type of testing because, according to Jas. 1:3, it produces steadfastness and when it has had its full effect that we may be perfect and complete lacking in nothing, 

Finally, the truth is that all children of God are to go through some testing and suffering in this world; it is 100% guaranteed because Acts 14:22 says, “…strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.

The difference is that one suffering is due to sin in a believer’s life, while the other is due to being a believer in a fallen, sinful world in which our faith is being perfected, and we are being made holy for His eternal Kingdom.

1 Pet. 3:17 tells us, “For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.”

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