Thursday, January 14, 2010

A Thought About Suffering Part III

As promised in our last post, I want to share with you seven more reasons that God not only allows suffering, but why he has graciously given suffering to us as a gift. This is certainly not the type of gift that we would naturally desire, yet it is sometimes the best gift that we could receive.

There certainly is nothing new in this post that most of us have not already considered or experienced. It is good as Peter said:

“…I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have, I think it right, as; as long as I am in this body to stir you up by way of reminder…I will make every effort so that…you may be able at any time to recall these things.” (II Peter 1:12-15 ESV)

Once again let me say that the following reasons are not original with me. They are taken from notes of sermons I have heard, from research in sermons and series I have both preached and taught. These suggestions come from various pastors, authors, books, and even from internet articles. I give the ultimate credit to God for His glory and truly give credit to the many pastors, authors, bible teachers who have over the years added these viable hints of why our glorious, loving, omnipotent, and merciful God allows us to experience the most physical, emotional and spiritual pain possible.

We are called to and given the gracious gift of suffering in order….

To Be Humbled by God
II Corinthians 12:7

Periodically we forget just who we really are. We are warned not to think more highly of ourselves than we should but we forget. God often uses trials or tribulations to remind us that we are always to be dependent upon Him. Trials show us that we really are fragile vessels in need of God’s grace and care. Pride is a terrible thing and the Word tells us that God hates it. If necessary God will allow suffering in our lives to “snap us back to reality.”

To Demonstrate that that God's Grace is all we need
II Corinthians 12:9, II Timothy 4:20.

The most difficult type of suffering or trial is when we are walking with God and there seems to be no reason for our suffering. You know what I mean, we have “checked” ourselves carefully, we are not being disciplined for sin, or we haven’t done something foolish with consequences, or we went through these fourteen reasons and haven’t found the right one.

There are times God just wants to show us how sufficient He really is. There are times God is simply saying, "Trust Me, I will meet your needs; My grace is sufficient for you." This is difficult to understand because we feel that all suffering needs to be explained. We don’t like to think that our God whom we perceive to be loving and kind would allow something such as pain to enter our lives simply to show us how sufficient He is, yet it is possible.

To Purifies us
I Peter 4:1-3, Job 23:10.

Just like Silver or Gold we as God’s children posses dross or impurities. We are mixed with the residue of sin and behavior from the vestiges of the old nature that was crucified yet remains. Just like Silver or God which requires extreme temperatures to melt its properties in order to remove the impurities, God turns up the heat on each one of His children in order to do the same.

To bring glory to God
John 9:1-3; 11:3-6, 9:1-3, Job 13:15

I admit that this reason is the most difficult for me to grasp. There is no doubt that God is worthy of all glory and glory derived from anything source. This suffering allows the character and nature of God to be reflected or displayed in our lives through pain and suffering.

The most amazing story to me is found in John 9. Jesus and the disciples encounter a man who had been born blind. In keeping with the “philosophy” of their day, they asked the question, “Who sinned that this man was born blind? Was it him or was it his parents?” Jesus told them that neither the man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind to display the works of God.

Can you imagine what must have gone through the man’s mind as he heard Jesus reply? I can – “You mean I have never seen my parents face, a sunrise or sunset, a flower, colors, or the rain cascading down on a grassy hillside just so God could display his work?”

It seems so strange that our suffering brings glory to God. Suffering allows us to display the magnificent character of God in our lives for others to see and to desire.

To Drive us to greater depths in His Word
Psalms 119:71, Colossians 3:16.

Suffering certainly can drive us to God’s Word. We are driven to it to look for comfort, help, and even answers. We can get sloppy about our devotion to Scripture and its place in our lives for spiritual growth.
I remember once when the trial of unemployment overtook me in 2001. After the first day of shock and surprise, I was driven to James in order to learn more about trials in chapter one. However, it was a great reminder that I had been ignoring God’s word for quite some time. That trial and others have caused me to pay more attention to God’s Word.

Let me add, you cannot make a deal with God. Being driven to the Word, giving it great attention, or spending time in it will not end the trial or suffering nor will it insulate you from future suffering. Suffering drives us to the Word in order to draw us closer to God and to facilitate growth.

To Demonstrate that Suffering or Trials are God’s Prerogative
I Peter 4:19, Acts 9:16, John 16:33, II Corinthians 12:8-9, Isaiah 55:8-9, 30:20

God is absolutely sovereign. This is a concept that the human heart unaided by God absolutely hates. Apart from God’s grace we hate to admit that God is in control. There is no doubt that Scripture teaches that His ways are different and higher than our ways.
It may be painful and even unexplainable but we are not in charge. Our Sovereign God--who controls all things and knows all things--has determined that for our good and His glory we shall suffer.

To Maintain our thoughts On Spiritual things
Romans 8:22-23; Colossians 3:1-2; II Corinthians 4:17, Hebrews 11:32-40

We are not citizens of this world. We are only passing through as pilgrims or sojourners. It is our responsibility and privilege to continually be looking forward and upward. We face the problem of growing weary of the journey and becoming enamored with this present world. God will bring suffering into our lives in order to wake us from the stupor of placing our affections on things in this world and to remind us that our affections are to be on spiritual things.

Suffering causes us to be reminded of spiritual priorities. This life is so short; here today and gone tomorrow and nothing in it will last. There is no spiritual or eternal value in this world other than the opportunity of magnifying the glory of God’s marvelous character. Suffering gives us perspective by reminding us to maintain our thoughts, hopes, and expectations on spiritual things rather than temporal.

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