Receiving Correction From God
Study No. 116
Recently, a close friend prayed that God would correct him. Soon thereafter, he broke out in a grievous sickness from the sole of his feet to the top of his head. He felt like Job under the heavy hand of the Almighty. This man learned some valuable lessons. He received correction from God. How well do we respond to correction from Heaven?
Jeremiah 10:23-24, "O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps. O Lord, correct me, but with judgment; not in thine anger, lest thou bring me to nothing."
Like children, we need correction, even though it is painful. Remember to pray for correction with mercy, with measure, lest the Almighty crush you to pieces.
Jeremiah 30:11, "For I am with thee, saith the Lord, to save thee: though I make a full end of all nations whither I have scattered thee, yet will I not make a full end of thee: but I will correct thee in measure, and will not leave thee altogether unpunished." [See also 46:28.]
Psalms 38:1-6, "O Lord, rebuke me not in thy wrath: neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure. For thine arrows stick fast in me, and thy hand presseth me sore. There is no soundness in my flesh because of thine anger; neither is there any rest in my bones because of my sin. For mine iniquities are gone over mine head: as an heavy burden they are too heavy for me. My wounds stink and are corrupt because of my foolishness. I am troubled; I am bowed down greatly; I go mourning all the day long." [See also 6:1.]
Donít Despise Correction
Some professed believers donít want to be corrected. They despise correction, because it hurts. How we respond to correction goes a long way to showing our true status before the Eternal.
Hebrews 12:5-11, "And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby."
Where does correction come from? If the Savior, Paul, Peter or Moses appeared before us and corrected us of numerous sins and faults, we might be very receptive to the message and take heed and repent. Yet what about correction coming from our antagonists, those who disagree vehemently with us, who oppose us spiritually? "Well," you might say, "why should I listen to my enemies? Why should I listen to their distortion of the truth about me? They are against everything I am doing. What they say could not be correction from God."
The truth is, even if the statements against you are not true, and you take them as if they might be true, and act accordingly, you are receiving correction. Yes, correction can even come from your enemies! We shouldnít despise it when it comes, no matter from whom!
Stay Away From This Man!
Recently, the leader of a church organization, an evangelist, wrote about a certain lay member: "He departed [from our church] because he presumes to be the judge of what is right and wrong. He knew no respect for the ministry . . . . In the area of his endeavor, it is absolutely contrary to everything ordained of God. He was never a minister or ordained to any responsibility. What he is doing now is presumptuous . . . . In no way would I be in his shoes. A terrible indictment is forthcoming from God . . . . What a condemnation awaits those who have no fear of God."
Anyone in their right mind would stay away from such a person described above. Such a self-appointed usurper comparable to Simon Magus should be put out of any law abiding religious assembly.
Guess what! I am the lay member decried by this church leader! I donít consider this minister my enemy, but he certainly is vitriolic against me. The above indictment is only one out of many that I have received, some milder, some even stronger. How do I respond to this kind of "correction"? File 13? No!
Is This Correction From God?
The "best" (or "worst," depending upon how you look at it) criticisms I file in clear plastic page protectors and look at them often. These hot zingers are anything but items I am proud of. They provide constant prayer reminders. I am reminded to pray to the Eternal asking Him to cleanse me of my sins. Also, I am reminded to pray for the person making the judgment or indictment against me. This correction, valid or invalid, is nevertheless useful.
If I did, or didnít do, everything that people say I should, or shouldnít do, I would do nothing. However, I would then be criticized for doing nothing.
Common Threads, For Our Good
Most of the criticisms I receive have to do with Giving & Sharing, and my writing and distributing religious articles. You might be receiving correction about different things. "You never talk to me" says your wife. "You always spend too much money on clothes" says your husband. "The only way I can get your attention is to do something bad" says your child. "You donít interact well with others on the job" says your employer. Can you hear these sort of things now?
Even if you donít receive letters consigning you to gehenna fire, you are receiving corrections and criticisms constantly. Do you listen to this feedback, or dismiss it as unwarranted static? Receiving correction from God is not being paranoid. It is listening. It is self-examination. Notice the common threads of criticism or persecution directed at you. Is there any validity to it at all? In most cases, there is at least some validity. Turn it over to God. Respond to critics like Joseph, "You intended to cut me to ribbons, but God intended it for good" Genesis 50:19-20 (my paraphrase).
Proverbs 29:1, "He, that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy."
Develop a tender, compassionate mental relationship with those who are your worst critics and persecutors. "Ah, come on now," you may say, "that is religious fluff fluff." No, it is real. "And the LORD turned back the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his [criticizing, nagging, fault-finding] friends" Job 42:10. Most people donít have the guts to lay it on the line and say or write what they think. They keep it inside and pretend all is well when it isnít. Sometimes you have to do this to avoid controversy and keep the peace. However, we should appreciate someone who is open and above board. We should use their criticisms, even if totally invalid, or expressed in a hurtful or harmful way, to initiate character improvements in our lives, with the Eternalís Holy Spirit.
Hereís an example: Someone said to an adult friend many years ago, "You'll just follow your father." They meant that he would blindly follow whatever his father told him to do. That was not true, but they thought so. So my friend "worked" on this "problem" to make sure it was NOT true.
When I was in grade school, my classmates would laugh and ridicule me because I stuttered. No doubt I had a problem. I couldnít even say my name without difficulty. So I worked on the real problem. Today, it is not licked 100%, but I donít worry any more when giving a speech or on the job training lecture. When I hear of the blasphemies of certain silver tongued religious orators, how they utter false prophecies and false doctrinal lies, I realize what a blessing this "handicap" has been. It is better not to have the ability to speak words smoother than butter. Not being a gifted speaker has been for my good, even the ridicule.
Flattery Worse Than Condemnation
No, I am not talking of masochism. Criticism is not fun to receive, nor can the true believer be one to relish giving it to others. However, if you have to choose between receiving flattery or condemnation, the latter does you more good.
When someone flatters you, they are probably in reality seeking to ensnare you.
Proverbs 29:5, "A man that flattereth his neighbour spreadeth a net for his feet."
Proverbs 28:23, "He that rebuketh a man afterwards shall find more favour than he that flattereth with the tongue."
Psalms 12:2-3, "They speak vanity every one with his neighbour: with flattering lips and with a double heart do they speak. The Lord shall cut off all flattering lips, and the tongue that speaketh proud things."
Proverbs 26:28, "A lying tongue hateth those that are afflicted by it; and a flattering mouth worketh ruin."
I Thessalonians 2:5, "For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloak of covetousness; God is witness."
In the last days, there shall be many "in the church" who are flatterers:
Daniel 11:32,34, "And such as do wickedly against the covenant shall he corrupt by flatteries: but the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits . . . . Now when they shall fall, they shall be holpen with a little help: but many shall cleave to them with flatteries."
How to Give Correction
The person who can, when it is called for, give proper correction to others, is quite likely the person who can receive correction from others without "blowing his stack." When should you give correction to others? How should it be given?
Romans 12:3, 10, 16-21, "For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith . . . . Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another . . . . Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits. Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good."
Donít think that you know it all. In a given situation, you may not have all the facts, and in a fit of rashness, "correct" someone else for a "problem" that does not exist. Use wisdom. Strive to live at peace with others.
Romans 14:1, "Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations."
Donít argue with others. Sometimes you may have to overlook the weaknesses of others.
Romans 15:1-2, 14, "We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification . . . . And I myself also am persuaded of you, my brethren, that ye also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another."
The only way we are able to admonish others to their edification is to be full of goodness, kindness and love for others.
Hebrews 10:24, "And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works."
Some brethren "provoke" their fellow brethren, i.e. they are contentious, always looking for a difference or a problem. Instead, we should provoke others to good works.
James 3:1, "My brethren, be not many masters [teachers], knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation."
Not everybody in the church should go around correcting or teaching others. We ought to teach ourselves first!
Matthew 7:1-5, "Judge [condemn] not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brotherís eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou [be able to] see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brotherís eye."
When you correct others for the same or similar problem that you yourself have, your message is lost due to inconsistency. Donít judge others harshly, or the Almighty will judge you just as harsh. Approach correcting others with fear and trepidation.
John 7:24, "Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment."
This is difficult for human beings to do, because we often donít see the whole picture.
James 5:19-20, "Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins."
Suppose someone is disfellowshipped from the church, and you help to restore such a brother to the faith. Such an act of true brotherly love will result in hiding a multitude of the erring brotherís sins.
Matthew 18:15-17, "Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican."
Few will follow the Bible way to resolve conflicts between brethren. Instead of first going to the offending brother alone, they go to the minister, or to other brethren and spread slander against their brother. I have certainly failed in this area.
Luke 17:3-4, "Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him."
Come on, can we really live by this scripture? Yes, we are expected to do so. What if a brother sins the same sin against us seven times in the same day and each time repents, do we have to forgive him all seven times, for surely he is rebellious, or just plain stubborn? Yes, we do have to forgive him, willingly, without reservations. Some folks say the Bible laws of Sabbath, Holy Days, Tithing, etc. are too harsh and bondage. However, the above verses are much more difficult to obey.
II Timothy 2:24-25, "And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth."
In meekness we should instruct others who oppose themselves. This is how to handle conflicts with others of differing views.
Titus 3:1, "Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work, To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men."
Galatians 6:1-4, "Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one anotherís burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself. But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another."
Hebrews 12:14, "Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord."
Ephesians 4:2-3, "With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."
Colossians 3:12-13, "Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye."
Proverbs 28:13, "He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy."
Proverbs 27:5-6, "Open rebuke is better than secret love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful."
Psalms 50:16-23, "But unto the wicked God saith, What hast thou to do to declare my statutes, or that thou shouldest take my covenant in thy mouth? Seeing thou hatest instruction, and castest my words behind thee. When thou sawest a thief, then thou consentedst with him, and hast been partaker with adulterers. Thou givest thy mouth to evil, and thy tongue frameth deceit. Thou sittest and speakest against thy brother; thou slanderest thine own motherís son. These things hast thou done, and I kept silence; thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself: but I will reprove thee, and set them in order before thine eyes. Now consider this, ye that forget God, lest I tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver. Whoso offereth praise glorifieth me: and to him that ordereth his conversation aright will I shew the salvation of God."
I Samuel 15:23, "For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, he hath also rejected thee from being king."
Let us not reject correction and reproof, from any source.
Willingness to Admit Error
A willingness to confess error when corrected is a mark of the true believer, and also a sign of the existence of the true Church.
When Herbert W. Armstrong began learning Godís Truth, it was revealed to him "a truth, a subject, a teaching, or a doctrine at a time." He wrote in the February, 1972 Tomorrowís World, "I did not get it all perfectly at the beginning. I had, on occasion, to confess I had been in error, and to correct it." We should all be so willing to confess and forsake error, when the evidence we were wrong is insurmountable.
Mr. Armstrong explained, "There were at least two occasions when I was accused by hostile women, bent on discrediting me, of error. On more thorough research, in these two instances, I discovered I had unknowingly been in error ó and they were correct. Humiliating or not I openly and publicly corrected these errors at once." This is a tremendous example we should follow today.
Recently, a false prophet predicted certain events would occur by such and such a date. He even printed them in a California newspaper. When the events did not transpire, one would think that the honest thing for him to do would be to pay for additional advertisements in the same newspaper, confessing his errors.
Let us all be willing to confess our errors.
We Need Correction!
There is a basic human spiritual need for correction. Our natures, which are not normally in harmony with the Eternal, must be corrected, straightened out, set in line to the mold of our Maker.
Proverbs 3:11-12, "My son, despise not the chastening of the Lord; neither be weary of his correction: For whom the Lord loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth."
Proverbs 10:17, "He is in the way of life that keepeth instruction: but he that refuseth reproof erreth."
Proverbs 15:10, "Correction is grievous unto him that forsaketh the way: and he that hateth reproof shall die."
Let us not refuse to receive correction.
Jeremiah 2:30, "In vain have I smitten your children; they received no correction."
Jeremiah 5:3, "O Lord, are not thine eyes upon the truth? thou hast stricken them, but they have not grieved; thou hast consumed them, but they have refused to receive correction: they have made their faces harder than a rock; they have refused to return."
Jeremiah 7:28, " . . . This is a nation that obeyeth not the voice of the Lord their God, nor receiveth correction: truth is perished, and is cut off from their mouth."
Laodiceans refuse to receive correction, they are blind and cannot see the hand of God in the correction they receive.
Revelation 3:19, "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent."
Godís Word is full of correction. Correction comes from many sources. How are we receiving our correction from God?
II Timothy 3:16-17, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works." W
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