OVERCOMING SUFFERING
Why Christians Suffer

“I [God] kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal:
neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand.”
Deuteronomy 32:39 (KJV)

 

When we come to Jesus for salvation, he puts a hedge around us so that nothing can touch us without his express permission. (Job 1:10-12.) He adopts us into his family exactly as we are. But then he begins to clean us up. Our attitude should be, “Lord, take away anything that is displeasing to you.”

We are made of the dust of the earth. (Genesis 2:7.) In the curse put on the serpent (Satan) in the garden of Eden, God said, “dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life:” Genesis 3:14b. That’s us! He cannot touch the divine part of our nature, born in us at salvation; but he has a legal right before God to feed on the dust in us (our flesh/Adamic nature). “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.” James 1:13-14.

When we give in to temptation, we suffer the consequences. If we eat too much, we get fat. If we drink too much, we open ourselves to ungodly spiritual influences. (That’s why alcohol is often called “spirits".) If we indulge in sexual sin, we are exposed to disease. These are the natural outcomes of disobeying God’s directions for our lives. “God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13b. We cannot blame God when we give in to temptation, but we should run to him for cleansing and forgiveness. “Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season;” Hebrews 11:25. “For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing. For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust,” 1 Peter 3:17-18. “Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin;” 1 Peter 4:1.

The Refiner’s Fire

God is a refiner of silver (redemption) and of gold (divinity). We cannot offer a sacrifice to him in righteousness without being refined first. (Malachi 3:2-4.) The refiner grinds the ore into small pieces with pressure. Then he puts the ore into a pot on the fire. As it melts in the heat, the impurities float to the surface. He skims them off and stirs the pot, which brings up more dross. The fire is stoked up, and the process is repeated–repeatedly–until no more impurities come up, and his face is reflected perfectly and without blemish in the surface of the pot.

God’s dealings with us are not for the purpose of injuring, destroying, or even diminishing us. They are simply meant to remove anything which gives a less-than-perfect reflection of our Savior. To be like him in every detail is our goal.

When a person has a cancer, bad tonsils, appendicitis, an ingrown toenail, or a myriad of other problems, he goes promptly to the physician to have it removed. He does not scream frantically, “Oh, why is the doctor doing this to me: What have I done to deserve to be cut on like this? Why do I have to bear this awful pain?” NO! Instead, he thanks the physician for delivering him from something evil; he pays him a handsome fee; and then, he goes to share with his friends all the details of how he was delivered from this evil in his life.

Anything in our lives that comes between us and God must be removed. It need not be something evil in-and-of itself; but, if it is blocking us from a closer relationship with our Lord, it needs to go. He wants us to know him as well as he knows us. Do you think there are things about you even God doesn’t know? You are only fooling yourself! God wants to show us what he sees so that we become willing to have the impurities removed. He does not force us into anything. He wants us to choose him. He loves us enough to let us go if that is our choice. This choosing is not a one-time-for-all, but a continual willingness to walk in the fire, to endure chastening at the hand of a loving Father. (Hebrews 12:5-11.) For he chastens us “for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.” Hebrews 12:10. “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18. God is Holy! Have you ever thought about what that means? He is a consuming fire. (Malachi 3:2, Hebrews 12:29.) To draw close to him we must be willing to have anything unholy consumed, so that only the pure remains.

When a person moves to a different climate, he suffers for a while from the difference. Then he becomes acclimated. Thereafter, he can go about his work without undue attention to the weather. As we see over and over the deliverance and cleansing that trials bring to our lives, we can begin to rejoice that God is working in us, and then ignore the trials as we go about our work.

God’s purpose is not to make life easy or pleasant for us, but to build godly character qualities into us. Character comes from facing difficulties and overcoming them. For committed Christians who are striving for maturity, the strongest trials come just BEFORE major steps forward. (It is darkest just before dawn.) In the middle of the hottest trial or suffering is the time to “look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.” Luke 21:28b.

Just because we do not see what God is doing, does not mean he is not working. It only means we are looking in the wrong direction. We do not have to be aware of his moving; he is moving. “But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.” 1 Peter 5:10.

“And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The Lord is my God.” Zechariah 13:9.

When we accept that God is using our suffering to purify–not punish–us, we can move our focus from the trial to God. As we remove our attention from the pain and concentrate on other things, the pain becomes less important–not necessarily less painful. As we begin to cooperate with God, often the trial is over sooner. One of my prayers has been, “Lord, let me learn this lesson this time. I don’t want to go around this one again.”

Learning Obedience

Jesus learned obedience through suffering. (Hebrews 5:8, 2:10.) He “also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow in his steps:” 1 Peter 2:21. He is our pattern of obedience, and of behavior, and for living. “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you; But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.” 1 Peter 4:12- 13. “If we suffer, we shall also reign with him:” 2 Timothy 2:12. “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” 2 Timothy 3:12. Persecution comes from the world and from Satan in all areas, including our bodies. (Job 2:4-6.)

For Others

There is another reason Christians suffer–for others. Jesus suffered and died to pay for our sin. We cannot add anything to what he has done for us! But we can offer our suffering to God as a sacrifice “for others". (Colossians 1:24.) “For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ. And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation,” 2 Corinthians 1:5-6. We enter into “the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;” Philippians 3:10. In our suffering he comforts us, and we are able to share that comfort with others. (2 Corinthians 1:6-7.)

Let us stop giving the enemy credit for what God is doing, and begin to “count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” James 1:2- 4.

  • “Rejoice evermore.
  • Pray without ceasing.
  • In everything give thanks:
    for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”
    1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.
  • “Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.”1 Thessalonians 5:24.

October 29, 1992

MARANATHA! AMEN!