the suffering saint

February 6, 2016

200514520-004

 

We cannot think of a single instance of believers wanting to quit the Christian life that does not relate in some way to suffering. This point is especially true in our modern, feel-good society. A person grows weary or is disappointed by what is required of him. Endurance, perseverance, and patience all require that a person suffer at some point, but suffering certainly does not feel good. As the writer of Hebrews put it, “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful” (Heb. 12:11). Therefore, many Christians want to quit the race when they begin experiencing some pain or discomfort. The second half of Hebrews 12:11 goes on to say, “Yet to those who have been trained by it [discipline], afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.” Suffering is an inevitable part (though not all) of the Christian life. If suffering is not handled with endurance and faith, a believer will be tempted to drop out of the race.

 

Because suffering, if not properly understood and handled, often leads to an early exit from the race, we must look at suffering from the perspective of God’s Word. The Bible teaches that God, being good, did not directly create evil. Instead, evil entered the universe through God’s rebellious creatures. However, now that evil has entered God’s creation, He sovereignly uses evil for His own good purposes (Gen. 50:20; Exod. 3:18–20; Prov. 16:4; Rom. 8:28). God is in control of all evil, and the suffering that we experience in this life He will use be used by God to help us mature into Christlikeness.

 

The greatest example of how God turns evil into good is seen in the death of Christ. First Corinthians 2:6–9 tells us that those people who were involved in crucifying Christ did it out of an evil motive. However, Scripture also informs us that this was something “which God predestined before the ages to our glory” (1 Cor. 2:7). The death of Christ resulted in the greatest of all blessings to mankind—our salvation from sin. Paul goes on to explain that God kept certain aspects of His plan a secret because had the rulers of this age understood it, “they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (v. 8). This passage further explains that future blessings are included in the plan of God that He has not yet revealed but that are going to be worth waiting for. The implication is that just because we cannot understand everything that God is doing in our lives at the present time, including the suffering, does not mean that God has no glorious purpose in store for us. The Bible teaches that there is a divine purpose behind all of the suffering that evil brings upon God’s children.

Scripture reveals at least four reasons why Christians suffer.

1. Christians suffer because of the curse resulting from Adam’s fall. Christians, like all of the rest of humanity, suffer under God’s curse upon creation as a result of the fall of Adam into sin (Gen. 3:8–24; Rom. 5:12–21). This is the broadest purpose behind moral and physical evil and suffering. Those who have suffered the loss of a loved one (especially if it was sudden and unexpected) or have been associated with someone with birth defects have experienced firsthand the effects resulting from Adam’s fall. This kind of suffering and pain is not part of God’s original creation, but it is something resulting from man himself. Sometimes Christians realize this fact but still react bitterly toward God because He could have prevented the loss of a loved one but did not in their specific case. Although God is gracious, we should realize that God is also fair and just in His dealings with us. We just have to trust Him in these kinds of matters. Scripture recognizes the abnormality that Adam’s sin has brought upon the human race and teaches that our only hope is in God’s plan.

 

2. God disciplines His children and uses adversity to produce spiritual maturity. This is probably one of the primary reasons for Christian suffering (Heb. 12:3–15). When we respond to these experiences with patience, we learn what it means to be conformed to Christ (Col. 1:24; James 1:2–4; 2 Peter 1:5–8). Anyone who has ever been involved in athletics knows that disciplined workouts are required, not because the coach is angry at his players but because players must have a competent endurance level to compete in a game. The same is true of a soldier who is preparing for combat. Similarly, training in righteousness requires the tough exercise and discipline of learning to follow God’s will instead of our own selfish and often lustful feelings, regardless of the pain that might be involved in crucifying the flesh. But this kind of discipline produces the godly characteristic of perseverance needed to finish the race.

3. Some Christians suffer in a hostile world because we are identified with Christ. Jesus made this truth to His disciples in His farewell address to them in the Upper Room: “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:18–19). People who have not trusted Christ as their Savior from their sins have an innate animosity toward Christ and His people when they are challenged about their relationship to God. Often, they take out their hatred toward Christ on His messengers. Christ is telling every believer that we can expect this type of response. In a sense, this behavior is normal, so we should not be surprised when it occurs. Our goal should be to respond to this kind of suffering the way the early disciples did as recorded in Acts 5:41: “They went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name.”

4. Christians sometimes suffer that they might be to all creation of God’s grace. They are a testimony to angels (Eph. 3:10), other Christians (2 Cor. 1:3–6; 4:8–12), and non-Christians (1 Peter 2:12–20; 3:13–17). When we respond to suffering and hardship properly, that response can be an encouragement to other believers of the grace of God. We can be an encouragement and not a detriment to others, as Paul explains: “If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer” (2 Cor. 1:6).

 

Suffering serves to show us the condition of our heart, our response is indicative of our nearness or alienation to God. “Draw near to me and I will draw near to you.” Suffering might be the only tool that God has to draw us near, if we are to enamored of the world.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

God bless all you wonderful folks that have been praying for those on our prayer list and for all the encouragers, blessings.

 

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