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10/20/97 God’s discipline is evidence of his faithfulness, prof says

LOUISVILLE, KY (BP)–The chastening activity of God in the life of believers demonstrates his faithfulness, Old Testament professor Paul House preached Oct. 16 at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
“None of us want to be disciplined, but none of us want to be undisciplined,” House said in a chapel message based on Lamentations 3. Having joined the seminary faculty in 1996, House also serves as editor of the Louisville, Ky., seminary’s theological journal, The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology.
Describing Lamentations as an example of “the biblical writers way of singing the blues,” House said the third chapter offers a theological antidote for seminarians despairing under the crushing weight of household sickness, academic rigors, financial woes and/or spiritual grogginess.
While the topic of the chastening activity of God is often avoided, House said it actually magnifies God’s faithfulness. “God is righteous and he will judge our sins. He will punish for a redemptive purpose,” House said.
Even as the rebellion of Israel resulted in the utter destruction of Jerusalem, the discipline of a faithful God may be roused by the sins of a believer, House warned. Lamentations chapter 3 teaches, House noted, God’s discipline manifested in physical, emotional, financial and spiritual crises.
“The Lord sometimes allows us to be afraid, sometimes allows us to enter into dark situations, sometimes allows us to feel the pangs of guilt,” he said.
Believers who find themselves in the darkness of pain may be assured they are not alone, House argued, referencing the trials of such towering figures of Christendom as Martin Luther and Charles Spurgeon. “We are disciplined so we can understand our hope comes from God,” House proclaimed. “Our security is in him.”
God’s discipline in the spiritual lives of his children may teach seminarians that academic rigor and prayerful devotion cannot be isolated from each other. “The Lord God can speak to you as you read your assignments,” he counseled students. “The Lord your God can speak to you academically as you pray in your devotional life.”
House pinpointed the famine for the Word of God detailed in the Book of Amos as a most fearful consequence of spiritual rebellion. “If we are cut off from the God who reveals, we are a desperate people indeed,” he said.
Even those not enduring discipline for their own personal sins can be thankful for the painful obstacles placed before them. “The Lord is faithful to discipline us,” House said. “Not only because he knows what else is coming, not only he knows we must all face the final enemy death, but because we must all leave a witness of the God who is faithful to discipline us.”
God’s faithfulness is not limited to his chastening, House argued, but can be seen in his sustaining care for his creatures. “How does God sustain us?” he asked. “First of all, by helping us understand it is he who sustains us. The issue here is not how hard we grit our teeth and bear on. The issue is not solely how many other people come to our aid. The issue is who God is. God’s character is the issue.”
House exhorted believers in despair to reflect on the covenant compassion of their God. “We find comfort as God sustains us in the Scriptures,” he said. “As he sustains us through the reading of example after example who suffered as we did and received God’s sustaining power.”
This hope is found not only in God’s sustenance during the believers’ earthly sojourn, he asserted, but in “God’s promise of the life to come, of the resurrection from the dead, of eternal life in Jesus Christ. We have these promises from a God who never lies.
“The author of Lamentations knew that God’s wrath was temporary,” House said. “But his compassions were permanent and they are renewed every day.”

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  • Russell D. Moore