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How and why we suffer and what to do about it.


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A Biblical Perspective On Suffering


Introduction: 1. Suffering is a reality Hurricanes- Katrina Terrorism - 9/11 Disease - Cancer, arthritis, etc. Poverty Death Persecution


2. There are several misconceptions of suffering when related to God... Questioning God’s Sovereignty: “There are things beyond God’s control” Questioning God’s Justice: “God is unfair” Habakkuk 1:13 You are of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on wickedness. Why do You look on those who deal treacherously, and hold Your tongue when the wicked devours a person more righteous than he?


Questioning God’s Mercy: “God must be punishing me” Upon a reception of a prestigious reward, comedian Bob Hope responded, “I don’t deserve this, but then I have arthritis and I don’t deserve that either.” This cancer/accident is payment for my sins in the past? Life has been good thus far, this must be the equalizer? Stillborn baby-punishment for past infidelities? Sometimes God chastises us for our sins (Heb 12), but that is not the only reason for suffering John 9:1-3 1 Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. 2 And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, Neither did this man sin, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him. `


Questioning God’s Love: “God doesn’t care for me” 3. These misconceptions, which are on the forefront of the thinking of most, show the necessity to grasp a biblical perspective for God’s purpose for suffering . Ecclesiastes 7:14 In the day of prosperity be joyful, But in the day of adversity consider: Surely God has appointed the one as well as the other, So that man can find out nothing that will come after him.


I. Peripheral Reasons For Suffering A. Suffering Reminds That We Live In A Fallen World Romans 8:20-22 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; 21 because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. B. Suffering Causes Us To Long For The Redemption Of God Romans 8:23 Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.


C. Suffering Contrasts The Results Of Sin With The Mercy Of God James 5:11 Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord—that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful. D. Suffering Contrasts Man’s Sin With God’s Goodness Genesis 50:20 You meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive Romans 8:28 All things work together for good to those who love God


II. Parallel Reasons For Suffering A. Suffering Is A Calling From God To Reflect On Christ’s Response To Suffering 1Pe 2:19-20 For this is acceptable, if for conscience toward God a man endureth griefs, suffering wrongfully. (20) For what glory is it, if, when ye sin, and are buffeted for it, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye shall take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. 1 Peter 2:21-23 21 For to this you were called , because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: 22 “Who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth”; 23 who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; *Vocational Suffering (Latin root of vocation means “to call”)


Robert Murray McCheyne: “Some believers are very surprised when they are called to suffer. They thought they would do some great thing for God, but all God permits them to do is to suffer. Just suppose you could speak with those who have gone to be with the Lord; everyone has a different story, yet everyone has a tale of suffering. One was persecuted by family and friends...another was inflicted with pain and disease, neglected by the world...another was bereaved of children...another had all these afflictions. But you will notice that though the water was deep, they all have reached the other side. Not one of them blames God for the road He led them; ‘Salvation’ is their only cry. Are there any of you, dear children, murmuring at your lot? Do not sin against God. This is the way God leads all His redeemed ones.” Someone asked C. S. Lewis , “Why do the righteous suffer?” “Why not?” he replied. “They’re the only ones who can take it.”


B. Suffering Is A Privilege To Share In Christ’s Suffering To Reveal His Glory 1 Peter 4:12-14 12 Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; 13 but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. 14 If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified. Philippians 1:29 For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake C. Suffering Is The Extreme Call Of Discipleship: To Follow Christ In Suffering...


Dietrich Bonhoeffer said : "To endure the cross is not tragedy; it is the suffering which is the fruit of an exclusive allegiance to Jesus Christ." Mark 8:34-35 34 When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. 35 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. J ohn 15:20 Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. Matthew 10:25 It is enough for a disciple that he be like his teacher, and a servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they call those of his household!


1 Thessalonians 3:2-3 2 and sent Timothy, our brother and minister of God, and our fellow laborer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you and encourage you concerning your faith, 3 that no one should be shaken by these afflictions; for you yourselves know that we are appointed to this. Romans 8:16-18 16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. 18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. 2 Timothy 3:12 Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. All 12 disciples died in martyrdom or in imprisonment for their faith Vance Havner- “At the Nicene Council, an important church meeting in the 4th century A.D., of the 318 delegates attending, fewer than 12 had not lost an eye or lost a hand or did not limp on a leg lamed by torture for their Christian faith.”


III. Productive Reasons For Suffering Biblical Pictures Of Production Through Suffering Painful childbirth produces life (Jer 4:31; Jn 16:20-22) Strenuous farming produces harvest (Jn 12:23-28; Gal 6:7-8) Disciplined training produces excellence (Jer 12:5; Heb 12:1-11) Heated furnace produces pure gold (Dt 4:20; Job 23:10; 1 Pet 1:6-7) Pruned plants produces more fruit (Jn 15:2) BLOODY CROSS PRODUCES SALVATION Chinese Proverb: “The gem cannot be polished without friction, nor man perfected without trials.” (New Man, March/April 1997, p. 18)


A. Suffering Transfers Our Reliance Upon The Pillars Of Self, Others & Things Unto The Pillar Of The All-Sufficient God 2 Corinthians 1:9-10 Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead, 10 who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us, Dave Dravecky , who lost his arm as a result of a break while pitching: “Looking back, [my wife] Jan and I have learned that the wilderness is part of the landscape of faith, and every bit as essential as the mountaintop. On the mountaintop we are overwhelmed by God’s presence. In the wilderness we are overwhelmed by his absence. Both places should bring us to our knees; the one, in utter awe ; the other, in utter dependence. ” ( When You Can’t Come Back )


Gleason Archer: “God permits suffering in the life of the believer in order to strengthen his faith and purify his soul. It is precisely when the props are knocked from under us that we find ourselves cast upon God. The more we are deprived of the temporal supports for our earthly happiness, the more we are driven to the Lord for our comfort and support. The more we walk through the valley of darkness, the more aware we become of the reality of His presence.” ( The Book of JOB , p. 20) 1Pe 5:7 Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.


B. Suffering Strengthens Our Faith By Providing The Fire That Tempers Us Through Affliction 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. Phillip Brooks: “I do not pray for a lighter load, but for a stronger back.” Yiddish Proverb: “God gave burdens, also shoulders.”


C. Suffering Strengthens Our Character Into One Of Hopeful Perseverance James 1:2-4 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. Romans 5:3-4 And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. A child was observing a butterfly emerge from the cocoon. Noticing that it was struggling, the child assisted this painful transformation by snipping the cocoon open for this emerging butterfly. But as the beautiful butterfly emerged, instead of flying, it fell helplessly to the ground. The child’s parent explained that by trying to provide help, the child actually hurt the butterfly. The butterfly needed to struggle in the chrysalis to develop the blood flow and strength in the wings.


Our suffering is meant to strengthen us. To evade the lessons of suffering is to remove the opportunity to grow strong. In suffering, we learn patience. Patience develops our character. A developed character focuses on hope. D. Suffering Takes Our Focus Off That Which Is Temporal ...To See That Which Is Eternal 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.


E. Suffering Provides Us Wisdom For Living Ecclesiastes 7:2-4 Better to go to the house of mourning Than to go to the house of feasting, For that is the end of all men; And the living will take it to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, For by a sad countenance the heart is made better. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, But the heart of fools is in the house of mirth. 1 Pet 5:8-10 NKJV Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. 9 Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. 10 But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.


Tim Hansel: “Most of the Psalms were born in difficulty. Most of the Epistles were written in prisons. Most of the greatest thoughts of the greatest thinkers of all time had to pass through the fire. Bunyan wrote Pilgrim’s Progress from jail. Florence Nightingale , too ill to move from her bed, reorganized the hospitals of England. Semi paralyzed and under the constant menace of apoplexy, Pasteur was tireless in his attack on disease. During the greater part of his life, American historian Francis Parkman suffered so acutely that he could not work for more than five minutes as a time. His eyesight was so wretched that he could scrawl only a few gigantic words on a manuscript, yet he contrived to write twenty magnificent volumes of history. Sometimes it seems that when God is about to make preeminent use of a man, he puts him through the fire.” ( You Gotta Keep Dancin,’ David C. Cook, 1985, p. 87 )


F. Suffering Prepares Us To Minister To Others In Similar Pain 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ. George Matheson: “You cannot cure your sorrow by nursing it; but you can cure it by nursing another’s sorrow.”


G. Suffering Enables Us To Savor Our Future Transformation And Reward In Heaven 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. Romans 8:16-18 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. Matthew 5:11-12 “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.


H. Suffering Refines Us By Removing Impurities Job 23:10 But He knows the way that I take; When He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold. I. Suffering Is A Testimony To Others Who Benefit From Our Faithful Response 2 Timothy 2:8-10 Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead according to my gospel, for which I suffer trouble as an evildoer, even to the point of chains; but the word of God is not chained. Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. 1 Peter 3:13-17 And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. “And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.


J. Suffering Provides Opportunity For Ministry Philippians 1:12-14 But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. Conclusion: 1. In suffering, trust in the sovereignty of God. Job 13:15 Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him. Helen Keller : “Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it.” (quoted in Warren Wiersbe’s Why Us? , p. 14)


2. In suffering, rest in your eternal salvation. Revelation 21:4 And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” John 3:16,18 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. ... “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 3. In suffering, seek the glory of God. John 9:1-3 Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him. 4. In suffering, emulate Christ in His suffering. Hebrews 12:3 For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.


Elizabeth Prentiss , the wife of a Presbyterian minister, spent most of her adult life as an invalid, seldom knowing a day without constant pain throughout her body. Yet she was described by her friends as a bright-eyed, cheery woman with a keen sense of humor. Elizabeth was always strong in faith and encouraging to others, until tragedy struck the Prentiss family beyond what even she could bear. The loss of two of their children brought great sorrow to Elizabeth’s life. For weeks no one could console her. In her diary she wrote of “empty hands, a worn-out, exhausted body, and unutterable longings to flee from a world that has so many sharp experiences.” During this period of grief, Elizabeth cried out to God, asking Him to minister to her broken spirit. It was at this time that Elizabeth’s story became a living testimony! For over 100 years the Body of Christ has been encouraged as they sing the words penned by Elizabeth Prentiss in her deepest sorrow:


More love to Thee, O Christ, more love to Thee! Hear Thou the prayer I make on bended knee; This is my earnest plea: More love, O Christ, to Thee, More love to thee, More love to thee. Once earthly joy I craved, sought peace and rest; Now Thee alone I seek—Give what is best; This all my prayer shall be: More love, O Christ, to Thee... Let sorrow do its work, send grief and pain; Sweet are Thy messengers, sweet their refrain, When they can sing with me, More love, O Christ, to Thee... Then shall my every breath sing out your praise; This be the only song my heart shall raise; This still my prayer shall be: More love, O Christ, to Thee... Elizabeth Prentiss’s Story (from Tom White, “Living Testimonies,” The Voice of the Martyrs, July, 1998, p. 2)

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