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How do you know the difference between a "trial" in the Christian life, and God "chastening" you?

q.gif (1639 bytes)   My wife and I are both Christians and we have a very good marriage and wonderful children who have also been saved and baptized. It just seems that every time we turn around things are going wrong in our life. We know that Christians are supposed to suffer hardships, and we understand that life on earth is anything but easy. But how do you know the difference in God testing you, punishing you (even though you can't figure out why) or Satan just having fun? It just seems that every time we take three steps forward, we get knocked back five. We have both prayed about this and even asked our pastor and Sunday school teacher. They tried to answer this question only to confuse us more.

a.gif (1659 bytes)   Your question starts out, “My wife and I are both Christians and we have a very good marriage and wonderful children who have also been saved and baptized.” The Book of Job starts out, “There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil. And there were born unto him seven sons and three daughters” (Job 1:1,2). From the description you gave of your family, we have two similar families here.

From the Book of Job, we know that it was not some specific sin of his own that caused Job’s trials and suffering (notice that I said some specific sin — all suffering is a direct result of sin entering into the world, but not all suffering in the life of an individual is a direct result of his own personal sin; like the case of a baby that is born addicted to drugs, because the mother was on drugs, etc.), but rather, it was Job’s righteous life that so angered Satan. Job 1:8-12 says, “And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought? Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land. But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face. And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the LORD.”

We know that this same scenario is still taking place today (that of Satan going before the Lord and accusing the believers), and it will until the mid-point of the Tribulation Period, when Satan will be cast out of the heavenly realm. Revelation 12:7-11 says, “And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.”

Satan still goes around causing trouble for believers, when he is given permission to do so. I Peter 5:6-10 says, “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.”

Such suffering normally goes in periods of time, as did Job’s. There were two specific onslaughts of Satan (which lasted for some time, like when Job said, “So am I made to possess MONTHS of vanity, and wearisome nights are appointed to me” Job 7:3). Jesus suffered especially great temptation for a period of time of 40 days and nights. Luke 4:1-13 says, “And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, Being FORTY DAYS TEMPTED OF THE DEVIL. And in those days he did eat nothing: and when they were ended, he afterward hungered. And the devil said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, command this stone that it be made bread. And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God. And the devil, taking him up into an high mountain, showed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said unto him, All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it. If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Get thee behind me, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. And he brought him to Jerusalem, and set him on a pinnacle of the temple, and said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down from hence: For it is written, He shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee: And in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. And Jesus answering said unto him, It is said, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. And WHEN THE DEVIL HAD ENDED ALL THE TEMPTATION, HE DEPARTED FROM HIM FOR A SEASON.”

Be faithful serving the Lord, and do not be discouraged. Keep asking God to show you if there is anything in your life that is displeasing to Him. If He shows you something, quickly make it right. Hebrews 11:11-13 says, “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. Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed.”  If He does not show you anything specific from His Word, then just trust Him that He is in control, and that He will also bless you in the end, as He did Job. James 5:10,11 says, “Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience. Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.”

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