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            In God’s sovereign plan, all Christians cannot escape but experience an amount of suffering.

 

I.                    Suffering in the plan of God.

Q1: What was the most recent piece of bad news that really bothered you? Why did it made you so upset?

Q2: What is the most challenging aspect that you can recall from your own past experience of adversity? Who was so its difficult?

            Tragic news, disaster, death, violence… people were almost compulsive in seeking reasons for suffering.  It is natural to want to know the direct earthly causes and motivations that lead to sad, troubling or tragic occurrences. On the other hand, most people are shy away of loking beyond the temporal to find the spiritual answers to life’s more difficult events.

            Most Christians however, will realize that God’s sovereignty has a role in all events- from the most pleasant and easiest to accept to the most traumatic and hardest to understand.

 

            Jesus Predicts Hostility from the World. From the Upper Room discussion, read: John 15:18-19. Such statement were reinforced later in His ministry during the Sermon on the Mount: Matthew 5:10-12.

 

            Why Does the World Hate Us?

1.      Because we Oppose the World. We are only dwellers, and Christians are not part of the world.  In John 15, the term “world” mean cosmos and refers to the evil system of sin in the world, and Satan being the head of the system. Disguised as an “Angel of Light” (2 Cor. 11:14), Satan presents his world system as a false religion.

2.      Because it Hates Christ. Jesus said in John 15:20, as excerpted from this verse “… If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.” This second aspect should bring happiness to Christians. If we receive persecution in this world because we represent Jesus, we experience the fellowship of His sufferings. In Acts 5:41,the disciples after being flogged by religious authorities, rejoiced for being worthy to suffer shame for His name.

3.      Because it does Know God. John 15:21, Jesus says, “But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me.” Such ignorance with God has contributed greatly to horrible spiritual and moral degradation, unawareness of truth, and hostility to what is right. Consider this first century picture of Athens: Acts 17:22-23, “And Paul stood in the midst of Areopagus and said, ‘ Men of Athens, I observed that you are very religious in all aspects. For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, “TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.” What therefore you worship, you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim you’”.

Why is Suffering Part of the Plan?. So far, this Chapter do not deals suffering as the result of the persecution, but is something true believers may expect to experience. Jesus predicted this troubles in His life( John 16:33), and the  apostles supported Him in this teaching (2 Tim. 3:12, 1 Peter 4:12) Eve these statement are faithfully accepted as true, searching Christians still ask why and how(?); to one degree of understanding, based on one’s level of maturity, can be answered under one-encompassing reality- that reality is the sovereignty of God, which, when rightly understood and properly embraced, serves as the foundational lens through which Christians may see all the truths in Scripture more clearly. (Gen. 18:25; Isaiah 55:9).

Lessons Learned From Suffering. Knowing that any suffering experienced by believers is part of God’s overall sovereign plan provides its own comfort. However, as with any aspect of truth in the Christian life, intellectual knowledge is not an exact parallel to experiential knowledge (James 1:25-27; 2:14-17). Testing the validity of what believers profess is one of the fundamental reasons God allows suffering (Job 23:10).

1.      Lessons of Faith. It seems clear that the foremost reason God tests us through suffering is to test the strength of our faith. Genesis 22:1-2, in the authors, estimation, is the severest trial any human being ever faced.

2.      The Lessons of Humility.  We should realize that a second reason God sends trials is to humble us. He uses suffering to remind us not to think more confidently of our spiritual strength than we should (Rom. 12:3). 2 Cor. 12:7 illustrates Paul’s experience over Satan, and keeps him exalting from exalting himself.

3.      The Lesson of Rejecting Materialism. Matthew 6:24 reminds us that no one can serve two masters; Mark 10:17 speaks on the status of rich in love on money. Because materialism can be such a stumbling block for believers, a serious reflection of these matters leads to a third reason for the Lord bringing us trials: to wean us away from worldly things. It can been my observation that most Christians, as the years by, will attribute less and less significance to the temporal things they’ve accumulated. At one time, those things were the most desirable in life, but they gradually lose that status as a believer becomes are that they cannot solve major problems or alleviate great anxieties.

4.      The Lessons of Eternal Hope. God send of trials is to call us to a greater realization of our eternal hope. 2 Cor. 4:16-18 speaks of Paul own experience. Consider a passing away of a loved one or a believer, Romans 8:18-24.

5.      The Lessons of First Love. Deut 13:3, Matt 22:36-37, Jesus brings this matter of first love into sharp focus. Therefore, if you want otbe completely obedient to Christ, there wil be times when you need to push aside any and all appeals from family members that should keep you from giving first priority to Him. God might call upon you to make that most difficult of choices to test your loyalty. He wants you to pass the test, even as Abraham did, and thereby prove that He is you first love.

6.      The Lesson of God’s Blessings. Philippians 2:8-9 affirms Jesus Christ being exalted. Because Jesus was fully man as well as fully God, He was not exempt from pain and hardship while on earth. He was called the suffering servant (Isaiah 53), and because of obedience, was exalted by God.

7.      The Lesson of Empathy with Others. One thing all people can appreciate is the ability of others to identify with and understand their particular life situation, problem, unusual experience or suffering. Whether its spending time in the hospital and having the doctors and nurses understand the pain you’re having, or dealing with a disaster and having a sensitive friend know just what you’re feeling as you battle the pressure, it is reassuring when others can empathize you. Luke 22:31-32, shows how Jesus reveled His empathy to Peter.

8.      The Lesson of Enduring Strength. The Christian is in constant warfare (John 17:9-19; Eph. 6:10-18). God places us in a difficult situations to refine us grow (John 15:1-2). As we move from 1 trial to another, our spiritual muscles are exercised, strengthened, and become more useful. This whole process builds our spiritual endurance, which makes us all effective in future ministry.

 

II.                  Get to Prepare for Suffering.

Natural disasters are more frequent than ever- or so it seems. All natural disasters are beyond the powers of men and women to predict or control with any precision. Certainly specific actions can lessen the impact of the calamity once it begins, and a measure of general predictions exists so we can anticipate some events. But it is seemingly conceded that natural disasters are unexpected “acts of God.” The extend and severity of the suffering that results from this disasters is also quite unanticipated; therefore, most natural upheavals are beyond our control and in God’s hands.

            The key to preparedness in Christian context is to know the foundation of truth upon which be build our lives. If we are disobedient to walk loyally to the narrow path of discipleship, sufferings and trials will surprise and defeat us. 

            Suffering Comes with Discipleship:

1.      The Servant Is Not Above his Teacher. Matthew 10:24. In the first phrase, we assumes the disciple chooses his teacher, and in the second phrase, we assume, the master buys his servant. Christ is simply saying that the first principle of discipleship is that we must submit ourselves to Him. Our wills are prominent in the disciple-teacher relationship- we choose to learn under the direction of a teacher; Christ’s sovereignty is prominent in the in the slave-master paradigm- He chooses us to be His servants. That is the basic duality inherent in the doctrine of salvation. In either case, it is obvious that we are to be submissive.

2.      The Servant Is Not Afraid of the World. As a genuine followers of Jesus Christ, there is no reason to fear anything. Prov. 29:25: The fear of man brings a snare, but he who trusts in the Lord will be exalted”. 2 Tim. 1:7-8 God did has not given us spirit of fear, but of power, love and discipline…” Matthew  10: 29-31 gives us strong antidote to fear.

3.      The Servant is Prepared for the Worst. Dedicated, wholehearted followers  of  Christ will not be surprised by the worst of possible adversity or suffering, even if it takes the form of opposition from the whole families. Matthew 10:38-39 speaks of it. For those who are converted from an unbelieving family, persecution can be real and the struggles are great. N those cases, the ones you love the most and with whom you should have the closest earthly relationships can often seem to be your worst enemies.

Discipleship Deflects Suffering. Preventive spiritual maintenance is implicit in being prepared for the unexpected and having a mind -set that accepts the basic of discipleship before sufferings and hardships happen.

1.      Discipleship React with Grateful Prayer. Phil. 4:6 speak not to anxious on anything, but to put everything is prayer instead.

2.      Disciples Are Confident in God’s Providence. Providence relates to the idea that God provides and orchestrates everything through ordinary means and natural processes to accomplish His purpose. Paul had a genuine confidence in god’s providence, whether things are easy or hard ( Phil. 4:11).

3.      Disciples Are Prepared for Satan’s Attacks. Peter 5:8-9; be of sober spirit, because Satan is like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

 

III.                Dealing With Suffering.

The primary question you ask probably as you face trials and persecution is “How will I react?”

1.      Attitude Check. Means you need to exchange your negative demeanor for a positive attitude in the midst of challenging situation.

2.      Do not Get Surprised. The best attitude through tough ordeals is to expect them.

3.      Rejoice in Suffering. Matt. 5:11-12, rejoice and be glad in account of Me.

4.      Evaluate Suffering. 1 Peter 4:15-19. Ask God for discernment to understand the suffering’s purpose and how it contributes to placing us in the center of his will.

5.      Trust God Amidst Suffering. 1 Peter 4:19: Those who suffer according to God’s will, let him entrust his soul to his Creator.

 

IV.                Benefits From Suffering.

During particular time of testing or suffering, God may seem distant or disinterested in our plight. That’s because our human emotions can override trust in God’s truth, and we can come to believe that no outcome to our present situation is desirable for us. Job, on the other hand, shows us the kind of endurance and patience that is eager to trust God and learn whatever lessons His sovereign purpose desires us to learn.

1.      Suffering Produces Fresh Joy. 1 Peter 3-7 tells of joy amidst trials resulting to a great faith, as though tested under fire. The joy does not come cheaply or as a fleeting, superficial emotion. Real joy is produced by much deeper factors than the circumstances that produce superficial happiness.  In joy, no matter what we may have endured, reveals confidence in our protected inheritance (1 Peter 1:4, 6). It means to be super abundantly happy in the richest sense- exceedingly glad (Matt. 5:12).

2.      Suffering Enhances Future Glory. Suffering has to happen as vital events in our spiritual growth process. James 1:2-4 confirm this truth succinctly. As long as we are in this world, we are called to bear suffering patiently  and see it through to God’s ultimate purpose.  That’s when we begin to see that suffering is beneficial- it is part of our final perfection and glorification.

3.      Suffering Produces True Comfort. Oftentimes when a believer’s life is shrouded by suffering and sorrow, there is a beauty of soul underneath. God allows troubles and sufferings so that He might give us much comfort and so we can comfort others also. 2 Cor. 1:3-4.

4.      Suffering Yield Greater Wisdom. Job, who appreciated the value of wisdom, hadm learned it amidst sever suffering. He had recognized the bankruptcy of his reason and even the inadequacy of other’s advice and came to understand that God’s wisdom was the source of understanding all of life and its problems (Job 28:12-20, 23-24,28).

5.      Suffering Yields True Humility. One of the most humbling, yet least regarded truths concerning suffering is that they do not exclude favorites. Disasters, accidents, crimes, diseases, economic recessions, and wars affect people of all classes. The realization that difficulty does not discriminate tends to sober and humble believers as well. Poverty  for poor Christians, can be an ongoing trial. For them, the challenge is not in realizing the humility of suffering, but in remembering that they can rejoice in their exalted spiritual position as Christians.(1 Peter 1:3-6). Economic deprivation does not detract from the glorious inheritance to be received in the next life ( Eph. 1:11-14). The wealthier Christian, on the other hand, does have the challenge of accepting the humiliation  that results from trials and suffering : “And let the rich man glory in his humiliation, because like the flowering grass he will pass away (James 1:10).

It is therefore always a challenge for believers to keep their hearts and minds focused properly though a difficult trial or time of suffering happens. In here, there is a promised learned and a reward realized…. Is this seemed so theoretical or real to you? 2 Cor. 5:7 says, “For we live by faith, not by sight”.

 

For further study: MacArthur, John Jr.: The Power of Suffering. Cook Communications Ministries, USA, 1995.

 

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April 2001.

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