Will Bad Things Happen to Me If I Sin?
“If I disobey God, will bad things happen to me?”
That question came from a teenager in a church youth group. My friend was leading the group and didn’t know how to answer. He went online and asked a few of us for input. I wasn’t sure what to say either. The topic sounded complicated.
The simple answer is that, yes, of course, very bad things are ahead for people who sin against God. The Bible says, “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23, NLT). God punishes disobedience. But the teen was asking from the perspective of a believer in Jesus whose sin is paid for. It was an excellent, important question. How we answer it determines how we approach Christian service, how we deal with suffering, whom we blame for our troubles—and how we feel about God.
I’ve had time to think about that question now. If I could go back, I’d answer it in four steps.
Point #1: No punishment
A believer in Jesus never receives from God the punishment he deserves, no matter how shamefully he may have sinned. Jesus took all the punishment you deserve for everything you ever might do. He died in your place. “Christ suffered for our sins once for all time” (1 Peter 3:18, NLT).
Point #2: Discipline
But a believer who sins ought to expect loving discipline from God, his Father. At the time, this discipline is likely to feel like bad things happening, even though it’s actually for your good.
Don’t confuse God’s correction with “karma,” the Eastern idea that your deeds naturally come back to reward or haunt you. God’s fatherly discipline is purposeful, wise, and kind. He has a personal plan to train you in sweet, joyful obedience—because you’re his child. “God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness” (Hebrews 12:10, NLT).
Point #3: Consequences
God’s discipline often takes the form of consequences that flow sensibly from disobeying his law. God’s law is good for you. You can expect that when you don’t obey it, the consequence will be bad things.
This doesn’t mean you can connect every sinful act, tit for tat, to a bad consequence. At first, some sins seem easy to get away with. But you’ll only maintain them for so long before they catch up to you. “Those who plant injustice will harvest disaster” (Proverbs 22:8, NLT).
Point #4: Suffering
Don’t make the mistake of trying to connect every sadness in your life to your sin. Much suffering isn’t connected to your sin at all. You live in a world marred by evil. Trials and hardships will happen to you even if you’ve been good. In fact, evil people often will hurt you because you’ve been good.
The Bible says to expect suffering for doing good. It happened to Jesus; it’ll happen to his followers. “It is no shame to suffer for being a Christian” (1 Peter 4:16, NLT).
A second question
As good as that teenager’s question was, it needs to lead to a second question: “How will I respond to the bad things that happen to me?” If those bad things are consequences of sin, the response ought to be more repentance—turning away from sin and obeying God. If the bad things are some other suffering, the response ought to be deeper faith—trusting that God’s plan is good even when he allows evil a temporary victory.
Both are great outcomes. More repentance and deeper faith are always good for us.
The challenge for most young believers, and even older ones like me, is always to remember that God is a loving Father who only gives blessings to his children. Those blessings will sometimes include unpleasant discipline for sin. They will also include trials by which our faith grows. But God is good, and everything he does for us is good. That much isn’t complicated at all.
Jack Klumpenhower is a writer and children’s ministry worker living in Colorado.