Often people wonder if painful or disruptive events are permitted by God to correct or discipline us.

But how does God discipline His children?

We know God does correct His children. That’s just part of loving us. Hebrews 12:7-11 points out that our earthly fathers correct us according to the flesh. But our heavenly Father corrects us in our spirit man with His Word because He is the Father of our spirit. Jesus said that what is born of flesh is flesh, and what is born of spirit is spirit (John 3:6).

To find out how He corrects us, we can simply look at 2 Timothy 3:16-17: “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.”

Clearly God uses His Word to correct us. Part of our challenge has been caused by not distinguishing the dramatic differences in God’s correction under the old and new covenants. The two cannot be compared.

In the Old Testament times, God had to communicate on the physical level, in the sense realm. Spirit-level communication was out of reach until Jesus finished the redemptive work and the Holy Spirit came to live in man.

But even in the Old Testament, God never afflicted mankind with disease or anything of the curse. Satan is the thief who steals, kills and destroys. God brings life and blessing.

Under the old covenant, when a man stepped out from under God’s protection, Satan attacked.  He used physical harassment to distract and destroy mankind. But the old covenant child of God had no clear revelation of Satan. So it appeared to mankind that God was punishing him for breaking His laws. In error, man credited God for the harassment.

But everything is different under the New Covenant, or New Testament. We now have the gift of the Holy Spirit to help us hear God and understand His Word. Satan is still up to his old tricks, using the five things listed in Mark 4—afflictions, persecutions, cares of this world, deceitfulness of riches and lust of other things—to draw man away from the Word. God counters by using His Word to bring us above the trials of this world. He gives us the Holy Spirit to teach us all things, to guide us into all truth, and to show us things to come.