2002-09-20 - Suffering, Part 1
Encore from 1998-01-02
Sometimes we seem to have the idea that if we are suffering, if things are not going smoothly for us, we are not in God's will. In actuality, the opposite is often true. This is really bad theology. After all, take a look at some of our fellow sufferers - Paul, Peter and our Lord Himself. None of Jesus' suffering was brought on by Himself, and some of Paul's and Peter's suffering occurred because they were doing the right things.
Sometimes God lets us go through trials, to teach us, to refine us, to strengthen us.
(Rom 5:3-5 NRSV) And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
And And some suffering is inflicted by Satan, in hopes of discouraging us and leading us off the difficult, narrow path. If we are trying to do things God's way, the evil one certainly isn't going to make things easy for us, is he! Sometimes we - I know that I do! -- underestimate Satan's power. The Bible tells us that we should expect difficulties. Jesus was unequivocal about this. He didn't say, "you may have trials and sorrows." He didn't say, "if you stray off the right path, you will have trials and sorrows." Nope. He says "You will have many trials and sorrows."
(John 16:33 NLT) I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.
In fact, all Christians should expect suffering.
(1 Pet 4:12-13 NLT) Dear friends, don't be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, be very glad--because these trials will make you partners with Christ in his suffering, and afterward you will have the wonderful joy of sharing his glory when it is displayed to all the world.
So how are we to deal with them? A friend of mine taught me to ask God in every situation - whether a difficult situation or an easy one - "What can I learn from this?" A professor of mine told us that we learn more from our failures than from our successes.
In addition, we are to thank God in the midst of the situation.
(1 Th 5:18 NLT) "No matter what happens, always be thankful, for this is God's will for you who belong to Christ Jesus." Paul didn't say "if things are going your way, be thankful." He said "no matter what happens," be thankful.
Next week, we will continue our look at suffering. I hope you all have a blessed weekend.