The Problem of Suffering Part 2

The Problem of Suffering


(Part 2)

 

How Can We Respond to Suffering?

 

We’ve discussed some of the causes of trials, suffering, hardship, and physical distress.  While some of this suffering comes to us because of our identification with Jesus Christ, we also know that suffering is the lot of every person on earth—even if one is unsaved.  At this point, probably you have been examining your own life in light of what we have seen.  Now you may want to ask, “What can I do about the trials I am facing?  How should I respond to them—and how can I solve them?”  Consider the following points.

 

First, become totally convinced that the Scriptures are true and have at least some of the answers to our suffering.  The Word of God is inspired of God, through the Holy Spirit, and can help us to understand His ways in the world (cf. 2 Tim. 3:15-17; 1 Peter 1:20-21).  The Scriptures are the foundation to our understanding this matter of suffering.  We read, “The unfolding of Your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple” (Psalm 119:130).  We look to the Scriptures for light in understanding how we should respond to personal suffering.

 

Second, God doesn’t choose to resolve all perplexities in life. Since God is God, He doesn’t have to answer all of our questions about why we and others suffer.  “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law” (Deut. 29:29).  This means that God allows some life problems to remain “secret” but He also reveals enough that we might believe and obey Him.  It is far more important to submit to God than it is to have all of our problems solved and questions answered.  We must remember that God didn’t even explain to Job all of the reasons for his suffering and loss.  Neither will the Lord reveal all to us—at least while we are on earth.

 

Third, we must have an unshakable faith in God in the midst of our trials. This was Job’s attitude.  As we read through this book, we are made to realize that this man of God was righteous yet He didn’t have the background of why he had to suffer his dreadful illness or suffer the loss of his children and possessions.  But in the midst of his excruciating suffering, Job cried, “Though He slay me, I will hope in Him” (Job 13:15).  This righteous man determined to trust and hope in God even when he didn’t have all of the answers to his suffering.  David had the same attitude.  He writes, “My soul, wait in silence for God only, for my hope is from Him” (Psalm 62:5).  Again and again in the Psalms, we read of this attitude of trust and hope in God even when the writer could not understand his plight or trial.  Remember also that the men and women of faith in Hebrews 11 were ones who suffered greatly, but they endured by faith in God!

 

Fourth, you may need to make major changes in your lifestyle to correct or minimize physical problems and suffering that you experience.  If your car broke down, you would need to repair it and not continue to abuse it if you expect it to keep functioning.  Likewise, if you have done anything to bring upon yourself physical suffering, look for ways to change your condition.  If you have encountered other trials—whether mental, financial, or material—look for ways to correct the causes of these trials.  Ask wise and trusted elders in the faith for their counsel on how you can change your lifestyle to overcome your present trials.  Be willing to humble yourself to seek this advice and then be willing to make the effort to change—if, in fact, the advice is Scriptural and wise.

 

Fifth, we must repent of any sin that contributed to our suffering. As we noticed before, at least some of our hardship comes from our own failure to obey the Lord.

 

  • If we have a wrecked car because of speeding, carelessness, drinking, or drugs, we must repent of this sin.

  • If we have a degenerative disease or some other physical malady because of gratifying our appetite and eating harmful foods or non-nutritious foods, we must repent of this.

  • If we have contracted some STD (even AIDS) through fornication, adultery, or homosexuality, we need to repent of this immorality.

  • If we have developed heart disease or diabetes through obesity or lack of exercise, we need to repent of this irresponsibility.
  • If we have brought suffering on our spouse, children,  parents, or other family members, because of our selfish ways and sinful attitudes and actions, we need to repent of this sin.

  • If we have brought suffering and shame on our family because of criminal behavior and were consigned to jail or prison, we need to repent of this sin.
  • If we have harmed our body because of playing violent sports, or working on a dangerous job, or doing a foolish act of some kind, we need to repent of this.

  • If we have physically harmed our family by feeding them harmful “junk” foods, or smoking in their presence, or doing some other injurious activity, we need to repent.

     

These are examples of the many things we may have done that have brought present suffering on ourselves or others.  In all of this, we need to repent.  This means to have a change of heart and mind that issues in a change of behavior.  “Repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away” (Acts 3:19).

 

Sixth, we need to forsake or turn from all sins that have resulted in personal suffering for ourselves or others.  Not only must we repent of sin, we need to forsake it.  “He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion” (Prov. 28:13).  John the Baptist or baptizer (the immerser) declared, “Bear fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matt. 3:8).  Paul the apostle’s mission was to open the eyes of those in sin, “that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance” (Acts 26:18, 20). 

 

Our inner heart repentance must be expressed in outward changes of behavior and relationships.  This means that those who have used tobacco must renounce and turn from this sinful habit.  Those who have been addicted to drink need to turn from slavery to the bottle.  Those who have caused marital strife, separation, or divorce, need to repent and forsake their sinful and unkind attitudes—and perhaps even seek reconciliation.  Those who have brought physical disease on themselves through diet need to renounce their lustful attitudes toward harmful foods and begin to practice good health practices.  Those who have injured another through violence and physical fighting, need to become gentle, loving and peaceful.  Those who have lost their job because of sinful irresponsibility and brought suffering to their family, need to begin to work honestly and diligently.  God will help those who sincerely repent to be transformed inwardly and outwardly (see Eph. 4:17-24; Col. 3:5-10; 1 Peter 2:1-3).

 

Seventh, if your suffering has come through the sin of another, you must not be bitter, unforgiving, and hateful toward that person—but you must commit the offense to God.  If ever there was one who should have been resentful because of gross sin against him, it was the Lord Jesus Christ.  But notice the loving and nonresistant attitude that He had in the midst of unjust suffering: “[He] committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return;  while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously” (1 Peter 2:22-23).  This is the same response we should have in the face of unrighteous suffering.  Peter explains, “Those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right” (4:19).  Read 1 Peter 4:12-19 to see how the blameless follower of Christ rightly responds to the persecution that comes from wicked people.

 

So much of our affliction comes from other people.  Just now I am unemployed because of the wicked and unjust actions of another person—yet I have told that person that I yet love him and want God to bless him.  You also must consider that load of sin that others have committed against you.  Right now, you who are reading these words are probably thinking of how various people have sinned against you in the past—sometimes grievously. 

 

Maybe your husband was unfaithful to you and violated his marriage commitment.  This has brought deep pain to your heart and perhaps financial ruin.  Your father violated your childhood and either physically or sexually abused you.  Your mother mercilessly beat you or maybe deserted you while she went after another man.  Your neighbor may have cheated you out of property.  Your best friend “stole” your boyfriend or girlfriend.  Your teacher may have prevented you from passing a course because you refused to compromise your Christian standards.  Your brother or sister in Christ may have slandered you and caused much distress among other believers.  A doctor may have failed to detect a serious disease and you now face life-long suffering because of his carelessness.  A young speeder crashed into your car and left the scene of the accident, and since then you have greatly suffered because of the injury.

 

We could go on and on with possible causes for your present injury, hardship, poverty, loneliness, distress, and suffering.  God wants you to look at the situation in light of His Word.  You must pray to rid yourself of all bitterness, hostility, and even hatred toward the person who brought your suffering.  Paul commands, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice” (Eph. 4:31).  Replace this attitude with love, kindness, gentleness, and peacefulness.  Jesus said it well: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:27-28, 35-36).  Although God may not necessarily remove your suffering, at least you can have the right frame of mind toward others.

 

Eighth, be willing to forgive the person who has sinned against you.  Some well-meaning professing Christians would say that you need to forgive all of those who have sinned against you and brought your suffering.  They cite Matthew 6:15: “If you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions” (see also Mark 11:25; Matthew 18:21-35; Luke 11:4).  In some circles, this teaching of “unconditional” forgiveness is popular.  On the other hand, Jesus said, “If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.  And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him” (Luke 17:3-4).  Our Lord does point out that we must forgive in order to be forgiven; however He points out that one is to forgive when the sinner repents, i.e., has a change of heart regarding the sin. 

 

This leads us to believe that our forgiveness of others is conditional—it is contingent on the sinner’s repentance.  Jesus prayed for the forgiveness of those who crucified him (Luke 23:34) and later they did repent and receive this forgiveness (cf. Acts 2:37-41; 3:17-19; 5:31; 6:7).  We forgive as God does—and His forgiveness is very conditional (cf. Luke 13:3, 5; 24:47; Acts 17:30-31; 20:21; 26:18-20; Romans 2:4-5).  In the early community of believers, Paul says that they must “forgive and comfort” a sinful member who repents after he has been punished and excluded from the body (cf. 2 Cor. 2:4-11; cf. 1 Cor. 5:1-13; 2 Thess. 3:6-15).  The individual Christian as well as the body of Christ forgives those who personally sin in the same way that God forgives in Christ—as a response to the sinner’s repentance.  Remember to have a loving and forgiving attitude toward those who sin against you!  Even if your offender does not repent, you can yet have a kind, loving, and generous attitude toward him or her.

 

Ninth, be very aware that the home and family can provide some of the greatest suffering in your life. In God’s plan, the family should provide a haven of sweetness in the midst of a cruel and dark work.  In reality, the home may become a place of hatred, strife, cruelty, evil, and perversion.  The question relates to whether Christ is the head of the house or not.  The song says it well:

Happy the home when God is there,

And love fills every breast;

When one their wish, and one their prayer,

And one their heavenly rest.

 

If every family member loves and serves Jesus Christ, if the Bible is the guide for every decision, and if the virtues and graces of the Holy Spirit prevail, our lives will be much more fulfilling and tranquil.

 

Sadly, this is generally not the way of life most of us experiences.  Jesus is not really known.  The Bible is not a living guide to behavior.  Selfishness and strife are extensive.  Christ often spoke about the family conflict that his followers would experience.  Notice one of these warnings:

 

Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.  For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household.  (Matt. 10:34-36).

 

Jesus said that family strife may be intense: “You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and they will  put some of you to death” (Luke 21:16).  The Christian must expect at least some rejection from unbelieving family members (cf. Matt. 10:21-22; Mark 13:12-13; Luke 12:51-53).  Furthermore, since the follower of Christ will want to maintain a devoted, holy, pure, and Christ-filled life in every respect, he will find it especially difficult to live in a home where slander, impurity, perversion, and all kinds of fleshly activity prevails.  Worldly music, carnal TV, foolish conversations, junk foods, immodest dress or nakedness, and so much more will make the life of the Christian a life of trial if he lives in a home where Jesus is not loved, known and followed.

 

We cannot deal at length here with the Christian’s response to this kind of worldly environment and compromising family relationships.  We need to apply the principles we are discussing to this kind of difficult situation and plead with God for His merciful intervention.  Sometimes we may need to escape such a situation, providing we do not violate other scriptures with this solution.  Be willing to confess anything that may have contributed to the household strife, try to reconcile and change the status quo, and continue with your commitment to follow the Lord regardless of the cost.

 

Tenth, practice the virtue of contentment in your trials. Sometimes God will come to your rescue and deliver you from the trial you are facing.  Your sorrow may be changed to joy.  On the other hand, sometimes the Lord will want you to continue in your suffering—for reasons known only to him. 

 

It isn’t easy to be content in a troublesome environment, with a painful situation, or in a distressing relationship.  However, if we cannot escape a given trial or if God doesn’t deliver us from the problem, we must learn to live with it.  This shows the need for contentment.  The verb for content is arkeo, meaning, “to be sufficient, to be possessed of sufficient strength, to be strong, to be enough for a thing.”  The noun contentment, autarkeia, means, “satisfaction with what one has” (W.E.Vine).  Paul the apostle wrote, “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am” (Phil. 4:11).   The Hebrew writer says that our character is to be “free from the love of money” and we are to be “content with what we have” (13:5).  Paul stated that “if we have food and covering, with these we shall be content” (1 Tim. 6:8).

 

If we must continue to live with a difficult person, or must stay with a troublesome job, or must endure a chronic illness, let us pray for contentment.  Let us be satisfied with what God has given us.  Paul had to deal with the issue of slavery in Corinth.  He tells the slave that if he can become free, then he may do that—however, if he can’t obtain his freedom, “do not worry about it” (1 Cor. 7:21-22).  That is, a slave should be content in his hard situation, but he also may seek for a way to be free.  This is also true for us.  If we can find healing for a dreadful illness, let us seek to be healed.  If we can find some way to earn more money to escape poverty, let us do it.  If we can initiate reconciliation with a harsh and sinful neighbor or family member, let us do that. If we have a terrible job, seek other employment.  However, if we cannot change our circumstances for the better, let us be content with what we have and “entrust [our] souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is good” (1 Pet. 4:19).

 

This may be a difficult situation to live with.  We may know that it is not ideally well and good to have chronic sickness, to be in the limitations of poverty, to be alienated from someone, to not have clean and safe housing, or to not have sufficient time for your marriage or family or for the brotherhood.  We should try to change the circumstances if there is some honorable and holy way to do that.  But if we can’t change the undesirable situation, God wants us to continue on, endure, seek to do good, and trust Him.  If God never chooses to deliver us from the bad circumstances, let us look forward to our eternal reward when true fulfillment will come!

 

Eleventh, keep your distress and suffering in perspective. Even when our pain is intense—whether it be emotional or physical—we know that it will one day end.  Peter doesn’t deny our suffering—for sometimes this suffering can be nearly unbearable.  But he does put this in perspective by saying, “After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you” (1 Peter 5:10).  Future glory requires present suffering while we are in the flesh.  The suffering will last only a few short years—but future blessedness will be without end (providing we have come to know God in Christ Jesus).

 

Peter gives us much counsel on how to deal with persecution and suffering.  He says that we have a hope of an inheritance, we are protected by God, and we can look forward to a coming salvation (1 Pet. 1:3-5).  However, he then says, “In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials” (v. 6).  He goes on to say, “You greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls” (vv. 8-9).  The apostle says that sometimes it is “necessary” that we are “distressed by various trials.”  But he says that these earthly troubles will last only “a little while.” 

 

Our sufferings will be gone in a few short years—but the outcome and result of our faith in the Lord will be the eternal salvation of our soul when we are glorified!  Keep this balance.  Keep this perspective.  Lift your heart with this hope.  Paul says, “Momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison” (2 Cor. 4:17).  If we must continue in our hardships, our suffering, and our pain, let us look to the blessedness of the Kingdom that will soon come.  Remember that our trials, as difficult and painful as they may be, will soon be past and eternal joy awaits us!  “Weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5)

 

Twelfth, if you are suffering for Christ’s sake, take special joy in your experience. We know that some suffering comes because we live in a fallen world, we are living in a defective and mortal body, and sometimes we suffer because of our own misdeeds.  On the other hand, as Christians, we often suffer because we are followers of Jesus.  There is a wealth of instruction regarding this kind of suffering for Christ!  The Lord said that if you are persecuted because of Him and because of righteousness, you should “rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great” (Matt. 5:11-12; cf. Luke 6:22-23).  The early Christians were “rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name” (Acts 5:41).  Paul and Silas were beaten, yet “were praying and singing hymns of praise to God” (Acts 16:25).  Paul says we should be “rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation” (Rom. 12:12).  He encouraged those who turned to Christ, “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22; 2 Thess. 1:5).

 

Peter offers much to encourage us when we face trials because of Christ Jesus.  He says that when you “share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exaltation” (1 Peter 4:13).  He goes on to say that if we are reviled or slandered, we are “blessed” because “the Spirit of glory and of God” rests on us (v. 14).  Paul the apostle suffered beyond measure for Jesus his Lord (see 2 Cor. 11:22-29).  But he gives us his view of this distress: “Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.  Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:9-10).  Paul could see the blessing now as well as the glory that lies ahead if he was willing to endure persecution and suffering for the Lord.

 

Thirteenth, remember that suffering may prove our faithfulness to the Lord. If you are responsible for your own suffering because of your own failings and sins, you do have reason to be ashamed (1 Pet. 2:19-20; 4:15-16).  But if you are suffering for the same of righteousness, you can have the sweet confidence of God’s favor.  Paul said, “To you it has been granted, for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake” (Phil. 1:29).  Suffering is the direct result of following Jesus and living for God.  The order is suffering now and glory later.

 

Probably some people will try to blame you for your own problems.  If they are right to any extent, be willing to admit it and repent.  On the other hand, if you have been willing to follow Jesus without compromise and this has brought your present suffering, you have reason to rejoice!  Professing Christians who live worldly lives often go through life without many consequences to their profession, but when one is determined to count the cost, pay the price, and carry the cross of discipleship and obedience, he will definitely face earthly suffering. 

 

Every true Christian knows that this is true.  Personally, through my life, I’ve suffered the loss of three jobs because of my devotion to the Lord and His will.  I’ve experienced financial and material sacrifice, the loss of friends and brothers, and earthly deprivations—because Jesus meant more to me than worldly success, achievement, fellowship, riches, security, and pleasure.  Paul wrote, “Whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ.  More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ” (Phil. 3:7-9).

 

If you know that you are suffering for the sake of Christ Jesus and His will, let this console you!  If you have been willing to obey His word regardless of the cost, regardless of the consequences, and regardless of the personal sacrifice, you can have a clear conscience and rejoice in your hardships, trials, and sufferings for the Lord Jesus!

 

Fourteenth, be willing to endure your suffering and be spiritually matured in the process. While we are in the midst of physical, financial, emotional, and other problems, it may be difficult to think of the spiritual growth we can have because of the trial.  Yet it would do us well to remember what we can receive spiritual growth—providing we respond to the suffering in the right way.  Paul says that “we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope” (Rom. 5:3-4).  Notice that tribulations will eventually issue in proven character!  We can have this “proven character” if we persevere through the trial with a hope in God. 

 

James adds to this by saying, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance, and let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (1:1:2-4).  Do you want to be a mature believer in Christ?  Do you want to become more like Christ?  Be willing to endure your present sufferings for Christ’s sake.

 

The Hebrew writer also tells us how to face trials and the positive results of endurance.  He says that Jesus Himself endured suffering—even the suffering of the cross—because of the joy that was before Him (Heb. 12:1-3).  Since Jesus endured, we also must have the same endurance through our trials.  The writer goes on to share these truths:

 

(1) God’s discipline of us proves His love for us (vv. 5-6). 

(2) Suffering demonstrates that God is our Father (vv. 7-8). 

(3) Our suffering encourages us to respect and submit to our Father (v. 9).

(4) One result of this discipline is our holiness (v. 10). 

(5) If we endure the discipline, we will have sorrow yet we are trained by the suffering and will produce “the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (v. 11). 

 

If we must endure suffering in life, it will help us to remember these spiritual benefits so that we might grow.

 

Fifteenth, we can experience the grace and presence of God in a special way during our suffering. Trials have the potential of revealing what is in our heart.  Some of those who suffer turn from God and say, “If God really loved me, He wouldn’t allow me to have this pain.  I can’t serve a God like that!”  Others, however, are drawn to a loving, kind, merciful, and wise God during their trials.  Which perspective will we take?

 

Asaph wrote a psalm that described his own experience.  He looked at the prosperity of the wicked and fell into an envy of them (Psalm 73:3).  They seemed to have no pain and enjoyed good health (v.4), and they had no trouble (v. 5).  They openly lived in sin and God didn’t judge them (vv. 8-11).  He laments, “These are the wicked; and always at ease, they have increased in wealth” (v. 12).  In contrast, he felt like he was “stricken all day long” and “chastened every morning” (v. 14).  But then a transformation took place.  Asaph came to realize how foolish he was in thinking this way.  He says that he was “senseless and ignorant” for he could finally see that these unrepentant sinners will one day be destroyed by the Lord (vv. 17-20).

 

What does this say to us?  Asaph came to realize that he had far more than those in sin who appeared to have health, riches, and pleasure.  Although the psalmist appeared to have none of this, he did have God!  In a blessed expression of love and praise, he concluded:

 

I am continually with You;

You have taken hold of my right hand.

With Your counsel You will guide me,

And afterward receive me to glory.

Whom have I in heaven but You?

And besides You, I desire nothing on earth.

My flesh and my heart may fail,

But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

. . .But as for me, the nearness of God is my good;

I have made the Lord God my refuge,

That I may tell of all Your works. (vv. 23-28)

 

Asaph found that his suffering served to draw him closer to God. 

 

Maybe you have found this yourself.  Don’t be tempted to envy those who are prosperous, pleasure-seeking and physically well.  “Do not be envious of evil men, or desire to be with them” (Prov. 24:1).  Note particularly Proverbs 23:17-18:

 

Do not let your heart envy sinners,

But live in the fear of the LORD always.

Surely there is a future,

And your hope will not be cut off.

 

Their present abundance is nothing compared to the presence of God and the spiritual blessings that come with it.  Remember also that the conditions of the rich man and Lazarus entirely changed after death (cf. Luke 16:25).  If you feel that you are like Lazarus now—with dreadful illness and poverty (vv. 20-22)—take comfort in the deep and meaningful relationship you can have with God through Jesus Christ in the Spirit!  We have far more than Asaph ever knew!

 

Sixteenth, your suffering will equip you to identify with and help others who are likewise suffering. Imagine this: If you are a woman who suffered a miscarriage, wouldn’t you find a special encouragement if a devoted Christian sister had experienced the same tragedy and found that God’s grace was sufficient to comfort the soul?  If your children became rebellious and turned away from your moral teaching, wouldn’t you find some encouragement if a brother who had experienced the same rejection could identify with you and converse with you?  If you were told that you had a certain kind of cancer, would you find encouragement and help in talking with another Christian who has the same form of cancer as you and is finding comfort in God’s sustaining grace?

 

We must realistically admit that it may be too much to expect God to send us another sensitive Christian who has experienced the identical trial that we have, yet if this happens we can rejoice.  But now consider yourself.  Maybe you have a present physical, financial, material, employment, relationship, or emotional trial and this will equip you to be more merciful, caring, and empathetic with others who have the same need.  Paul says that our God is “the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.  For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ” (2 Cor. 1:3-5). 

 

This passage has direct reference to suffering for Christ’s sake rather than a general suffering that comes as part of earthly life, thus if you are being persecuted for the sake of Jesus or are enduring trials as part of your Christian walk, you are able to bless the lives of others who likewise are suffering for the sake of their faith in Christ.  On the other hand, surely there is a principle here that is applicable to all the trials we must endure as part of this earthly walk.  If you have a chronic illness, God can use you to comfort the sick.  If you are rejected by family and friends, God may have you to encourage those who suffer in the same way.  Use your suffering as a means to reach out to others and serve them with love, care, interest and devotion.

 

Your example of suffering and endurance may have a profound effect on others who are struggling to persevere under trial.  If someone observes that you are faithful to God, obedient to His will, and joyful in the midst of pain, think of the powerful effect this may have on his heart and his own determination to endure!  We can be encouraged by another’s faith (Rom. 1:12), by another’s lifestyle (1 Tim. 4:12), by another’s words (Eph. 4:29), and by another’s endurance in the midst of trials.

 

Most of us have been encouraged by the faith of God’s people in the era before Christ (Hebrews 11).  But think of those men and women of faith who suffered for their trust in God:

 

Others experienced mocking and scourging, yes, also chains and imprisonments.  They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground. (Heb. 11:36-38).

 

Those who endured pain and suffering were just as much people of faith as those who accomplished great exploits for the Lord!  The Book of Revelation pictures men of faith who overcame the world, the flesh, the devil, and great earthly suffering.  John saw a great multitude dressed in white robes who “come out of the great tribulation” and are before the throne of God (7:13-17).  Later we read of those faithful who overcame Satan “because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death” (12:11).  These are ones who are willing to suffer persecution and dreadful suffering for the sake of Jesus Christ!  We can follow their example!

 

Seventeenth, God has planned that His family (the body of Christ) provide the context of comfort, support, and blessing when one is suffering.  We realize that churches and religious bodies in the world are religious institutions with little intimate contact between the members.  But the family of God the Father is to be very different from this.  It is not a religious organization, club, or institution—but a living organism, a body of men and women, a family of brothers and sisters, who are related to each other because they are savingly related to God through Christ. 

 

Notice Paul’s revealing explanation of the loving care that should be manifested among true believers: “. . . the members may have the same care for one another.  And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.  Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it” (1 Cor. 12:25-27).  The apostle further says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15).  There should be a depth of intimacy and care seen among authentic disciples of which the world knows nothing!

 

If you are in Christ Jesus and have a part in God’s household, you have the opportunity to demonstrate love to those brothers and sisters who have encountered difficult trials of life.  As Jesus said, “All men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).  The early saints were concerned for each other: “All those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. . . . And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul” (Acts 2:44-46; 4:32). 

 

When your brother or sister has a need, or is experiencing a hurt or loss, or is lacking in some way, this is your opportunity to lovingly come to the aid of this believer and try to alleviate his or her suffering (cf. James 2:15-17).  We read in 1 John that our love is to be demonstrated in actual practice: “Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth” (1 John 3:18; cf. vv. 14-17).  John makes this radical statement about the extent of our love: “We ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (v. 16).  Paul adds that “the sincerity of your love” and “proof of your love” are demonstrated in how you respond to the needs of your brothers and sisters (cf. 2 Cor. 8:8, 24; cf. vv. 1-24; 9:1-15).  When there is the circle of love and context of service, our own suffering will find sympathetic hearts and tender care.  In addition, if you are in a true community of Christ, you should actively seek to help and bless other members who are suffering.

 

Eighteenth, look for the positives of a bad situation and the blessings that may come from your suffering.  We are not referring to a humanistic, unrealistic, “positive attitude” type of response to trouble.  This would not be the Biblical and Christian response to the pain of genuine suffering.  On the other hand, the true Christian is able to know that God is at work in the darkest day and will turn sufferings into gladness at the proper time.  We are aware of the comforting well-known promise: “We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28).  This doesn’t say that all suffering—the death of a loved one, the apostasy of a new convert, a dreadful injury or disease, the deformity of a newborn baby—is “good” in itself.  But it does say that all situations in life can work together to make us spiritually mature and more like Christ Jesus (cf. vv. 29-30).

 

Paul tried to take the parts of his life and see God at work in them.  You may remember that he was under house-arrest in Rome for about two years, chained to a soldier 24 hours a day.  Could there be any good in this uncomfortable, embarrassing, and confining situation?  Paul answers, “My circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel” (Phil. 1:12).  Through this means, all of Caesar’s praetorian guard and “everyone else” came to know of his situation and probably heard the gospel of Christ!  Furthermore, Paul testified, “Most of the brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear” (vv. 13-14). 

 

Paul could take a bad situation and transform it into something good, something that would exalt Christ Jesus and glorify God.  This happened so often in Paul’s life.  He and Silas were beaten in Philippi—but the jailer and his family were saved from sin (Acts 16:22-34).  Later, Paul was arrested in Jerusalem, spent two years in jail in Caesarea, and was sent to Rome—the very city where he had wanted to go to proclaim the gospel of Christ (Rom. 1:9-15; Acts 28:14).

 

Personal trials in life can have a good outcome, even when they bring much pain.  Think of Joseph, the son of Jacob.  He was sold into slavery by his own brothers, worked as a slave in the house of Potiphar in Egypt, was imprisoned because of Potiphar’s wife’s lies—then after this he was released and became ruler in this great country.  Joseph could look back to this painful ordeal and see God’s hand in it.  He reassured his brothers, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive” (Gen. 50:20; cf. 45:4-5).  Joseph’s suffering brought the preservation of life during the seven-year famine.  If we could see as God does, without doubt we would be able to see the benefits to ourselves and others through the painful experiences we must endure.  The words of Norman J. Clayton say it well:

If we could see beyond today
As God can see,
If all the clouds should roll away,
The shadows flee;

O’er present griefs we would not fret,
Each sorrow we would soon forget.
For many joys are waiting yet
For you and me.

If we could know beyond today
As God doth know,
Why dearest treasures pass away,
And tears must flow;

And why the darkness leads to light,
Why dreary days will soon grow bright,
Some day life’s wrong will be made right
Faith tells us so.

If we could see, if we could know
We often say,
But God in love a veil doth throw
Across our way.

We cannot see what lies before,
And so we cling to Him the more,
He leads us till this life is o’er,
Trust and obey.

Try to find good in your past trials as well as benefits in all of the negatives of your life.  Although I’ve faced many disappointments and losses at different times in my past, sometimes I’ve been able to discover good results to these adversities.  It may have been the loss of a job, the rejection by a person or group, continuing financial struggles, a difficult move to another part of the country, and other events and circumstances.  I must admit, there are many trials and I’ve not been able to find any redeeming value in some of them—but it may be there unnoticed at present.  Try to face your suffering with a faith that God will use it for your ultimate good and His glory. . . . “so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 4:11).

 

Nineteenth, carefully work to make your relationships pleasing to God. We know that our relation to other people can be a blessing or a curse, a fulfilling experience or a deeply grieving one.  These relationships have much to do with the suffering we encounter in life.

 

Deep pain may come to one who is a child in an abusive, worldly, and perverse family.  Deep emotional hurt may come to a wife married to a cruel, harsh, unloving and evil husband.  Great anguish may come to a husband married to a disrespectful, rebellious, and insubmissive wife.  Deep sorrow may come to parents who have disobedient and rebellious children.  People have been hurt by the disloyalty, the cruelty, and the hurtful words of an acquaintance or friend.  Many have been rejected by uncaring and hurtful church members.  The psalmist speaks of the ill treatment of a close friend: “Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me” (Psalm 41:9).

 

You may not be able to do anything to bring forgiveness, reconciliation, and peace.  However, if you can bring this and remove strife and alienation, be willing to do this.  Be willing to “confess your sins to one another” and seek reconciliation to those with whom you are separated (James 5:16; Matt. 5:23-24).  Determine to even reach out to those enemies who have sinned against you, hurt you, and brought you much suffering.  Jesus uttered these radical words: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:27-28). 

 

Even if you are only responsible for a small part of the blame in the alienation, be willing to humble yourself and confess your part—even if it is only 5% of the blame!  At various times in my life, I’ve gone to various ones and asked their forgiveness for wrongful words or actions—even if I was convinced that I was guilty for only a very small part of the problem.  Generally, these people have graciously grated forgiveness.  Interestingly, of these cases, few have been willing to ask for my forgiveness for the problem.  My counsel is to do it anyway!  Humble yourself.  Take away every legitimate cause for offense, if you can.  Do all you can to “be at peace with all men” (Rom. 12:18).  As you seek to have harmonious relationships with all people, you will find that this helps to overcome unnecessary suffering.

 

Twentieth, always bear in mind that your suffering is only temporary and that eternal joy lies before you.  There has been so much suffering in this earthly life.  Consider a victim who was sent to Hitler’s concentration camp, with all of the deprivation, pain and loss that this entailed.  Think of the victim of a fire who has third degree burns over much of his body—and all he can do is lie awake with seemingly unbearable pain.  Think of the quadriplegic who loses all ability to feel anything lower than his neck and has no ability to function normally.  Think of the innocent wife whose husband verbally and physically abuses her and then commits adultery against her, finally casting her away to go to another.  Such suffering . . . such anguish . . . so many tears.  But we must remember that all of this suffering is temporary!  One day it will be in the past!

 

The Bible compares our life to a race (cf. 1 Cor. 9:24-27; 2 Tim. 2:5; 4:7).  The runner expends all of his energy—but the race is limited and he soon comes to the finish line.  In like manner, our life may entail great effort and much suffering, but the “finish line” at the end of the race will soon be reached.  Therefore, we are admonished, “Let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus. . .” (Heb. 12:1-2).  How did Jesus run His race of life?  Jesus, “for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (v. 2).  Notice that it was “for the joy set before Him” that Jesus ran the race and endured the anguish of the cross.  We also must run that race of life with faithfulness, enduring the pain and suffering that we are called to bear, while we—like Jesus—eagerly look to the everlasting joy before us!

 

Like Paul, who ran his race with earnestness and steadfastness, we must be able to say, “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14).  With Paul, let us be able to confidently affirm at the end of the race: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Tim. 4:7-8).  Do not give up!  Do not become disheartened, rebellious, or faithless.  Victory is in sight—thus suffer now for the joy set before you!

 

After the midnight, morning will greet us;

After the sadness, joy will appear;

After the tempest, sunlight will meet us;

After the jeering, praise we shall hear.

After the battle, peace will be given;

After the weeping, song there will be;

After the journey there will be heaven—

Burdens will fall and we shall be free.

Shadows and sunshine all through the story,

Teardrops and pleasure, day after day;

But when we reach the kingdom of glory,

Trials of earth will vanish away.

After the shadows, there will be sunshine;

After the frown, the soul-cheering smile;

Cling to the Savior, love Him forever;

All will be well in a little while.

(James Rowe)

 

Twenty-first, God may not tell us the reason for our suffering, thus we may have continuing perplexity. As we read through the book of Job, we should remember that this righteous man didn’t know what we—the readers—know about his suffering.  He didn’t know about the exchange between God and Satan, found in the first two chapters.   Perhaps Job wrote or read the book that bears his name at the end of his experience, but at the time of his misery, he just didn’t know why he suffered such painful loss and physical distress.

 

God may call on us to endure deep distress without informing us of the causes or reasons.  In the case of Paul’s trials, he prayed for alleviation and the Lord replied that his problem would not be removed.  Instead, he would receive God’s power in his weakness (2 Cor. 12:7-10).  You and I may pray for understanding in our affliction, but God may not directly and audibly answer, as He did Paul.  You may not know why God allowed you to succumb to a chronic illness, a degenerative condition, or a terminal illness.   You may never fully know why God allowed you to be married to an abusive husband or a rebellious wife, why you were born into a very worldly family, why you lost your job or cannot find work, or why you are mentally deficient and uneducated.  Some things are not revealed in this life.  One day, however, God may reveal to you the meaning of your tears.  One song, by Charles Tindley and Baylus McKinney, puts it this way:

 

Trials dark on every hand, and we cannot understand

All the ways that God would lead us to that blessed promised land;

But He’ll guide us with his eye, and we’ll follow till we die;

We will understand it better by and by.

Oft our cherished plans have failed, disappointments have prevailed,

And we’ve wandered in the darkness, heavy-hearted and alone;

But we’re trusting in the Lord, and, according to His Word,

We will understand it better by and by.

Temptations, hidden snares often take us unawares,

And our hearts are made to bleed for some thoughtless word or deed,

And we wonder why the test when we try to do our best,

We will understand it better by and by.

 

As this song states, we may be called upon to suffer at present without explanation, but we can trust that God knows the reasons and will do all things well.  Maxwell Cornelius says something similar in these words:

 

Not now, but in the coming years—

It may be in the better land—

We’ll read the meaning of our tears,

And there, sometime, we’ll understand.

We’ll know why clouds instead of sun

Were over many a cherished plan,

Why song has ceased when scarce begun:

‘Tis there, sometime, we’ll understand.

Why what we long for most of all

Eludes so oft our eager hand,

Why hopes are crushed and castles fall,

Up there, sometime, we’ll understand.

God knows the way, He holds the key,

He guides us with unerring hand;

Sometime with tearless eyes we’ll see;

Yes, there, up there, we’ll understand.

 

Whether God will or will not explain all of the reasons for our earthly trials and deprivations when we reach His heavenly kingdom, we don’t know.  But we can trust that God will do all things well!

 

Twenty-second, do not be dismayed by false teachers and misguided followers who tell you that your suffering necessarily reveals a lack of faith or hidden sin.  There is a vast amount of false teaching prevalent in the religious world today.  Some materialistic “Word of Faith” false teachers proclaim that people will have an abundance of financial wealth, live with luxurious automobiles and homes, dress in the finest clothes, and enjoy perfect health if only they have enough faith!  This is a lie that is inspired by the enemy of our soul.  God’s Word says, “Did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?” (James 2:5).  A faithful child of God may be rich in faith and love the Lord and still be “poor” in this world!

 

Will righteousness and faithfulness always bring material abundance and wealth?  What about Jesus our Lord?  It was written of our lowly Savior: “You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9).  Our spiritual wealth comes because Jesus was willing to become poor!  Jesus Himself “had nowhere to lay His head” (Luke 9:58).  Our Lord didn’t believe in the false “gospel of prosperity” that is popular in some circles today! 

 

Paul the apostle confessed, “To this present hour we are both hungry and thirsty, and poorly clothed, and are roughly treated, and are homeless” (1 Cor. 4:11).  The apostle said, “I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure” (2 Cor. 11:27).  Many of the early saints were “poor” (Gal. 2:10; Rom. 15:26).  The faithful Macedonian saints had “deep poverty” yet they experienced “abundance of joy” (2 Cor. 8:2).  Our Lord said, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God” (Luke 6:20).  While the “health and wealth” televangelists may be “joyously living in splendor every day” and may have the best that money can buy (cf. Luke 16:19), we must see that they are teaching a cruel, heartless, and false doctrine.

 

Furthermore, many people of God have been sick, afflicted, and physically distressed.  Scripture gives many examples.  Remember that both Isaac and Jacob were blind (Gen. 27:1; 48:10).  Job was physically afflicted with “sore boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head” (Job 2:7).  The prophet Elisha “became sick with the illness of which he was to die” (2 Kings 13:14).  Faithful king Hezekiah “became mortally ill” (2 Kings 20:1).  Apparently Paul was sick or physically impaired (cf. Gal. 4:13-15; 2 Cor. 12:7-10).  We know that Epaphroditus was “sick to the point of death” (Phil. 2:27), and Paul made reference to Timothy’s stomach problems and “frequent ailments” (1 Tim. 5:23).  The poor man Lazarus was “covered with sores” and died (Luke 16:20-22), while Jesus’ friend Lazarus got sick and died (John 11:2-4, 11-14).  Dorcas, the faithful saint from Joppa, also “fell sick and died” (Acts (9:37), and Aeneas, a Christian from Lydda, was “bedridden eight years” (v. 33).  Paul left Trophimus sick in Miletus (2 Tim. 4:20).  Although it is true that God worked miracles to heal a couple of these, He didn’t choose to heal others.

 

The point is that we must not be deceived by smooth talking, materialistic false teachers who live in luxury and make false promises.  They condemn both the Lord Jesus and faithful disciples with their false message.  We must recognize the fact that sickness, poverty, and other earthly distress may need to be endured while we continue in this present life.

 

The same is true with the false doctrine that sickness and poverty necessarily mean that there is sin in one’s life.  While it is true that sin can bring both illness and material lack, there is not a direct link.  Job’s friends wrongly accused him of harboring secret sin—which was absolutely false (Job 1:1).  His righteousness brought the suffering; sin had nothing to do with it.  We need to examine ourselves to see if sin has brought our affliction (c. John 5:14; James 5:13-16), but often the distress comes from another source.

 

Twenty-third, take action if there is something that you should do to alleviate your suffering. Maybe this statement is obvious, but it needs emphasis.  Generally, God doesn’t want us to become passive—unless this is all we can do.  Sometimes we can actively do something to solve the problem we are experiencing.  For instance, if we are in financial need, perhaps we can change our job or even our occupation.  If we are physically afflicted, we may be able to change our diet, begin physical activity, or seek medical advice and treatment.  If we are rejected by others, perhaps part of the reason is our own negative attitudes and behaviors.  If we haven’t sincerely and diligently prayed for deliverance, we need to apply ourselves to prayer—and even fasting.  If we have not received physical healing, perhaps we need to request the prayers of the elders (cf. James 4:14-16).  If we have sinned, we need to repent and confess the sin that caused the suffering. 

 

As we have noted earlier, we need to do what we can to seek answers.  If we can solve our own problems, we need to take the initiative in this matter.  “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might” (Eccles. 9:10).

 

Finally, take confidence in the blessed hope that one day all of your suffering will end and complete fulfillment will be yours!  If we are going through a special time of trial, it helps to remind ourselves that one day soon the trial will come to an end.  Paul put it this way: “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom. 8:18).  He further wrote, “Momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison” (2 Cor. 4:17).  It may be that the affliction we now experience seems weighty!  But Paul says that any suffering now is “light” for we will one day receive “an eternal weight of glory” that cannot be compared!

 

One blessed day, when the present problems, pain, and perplexities are past, we will find sweet fulfillment in Jesus and His heavenly Kingdom.  Our suffering will be in the past.  The Scriptures describe those who come out of the great tribulation on earth and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of Jesus, the Lamb of God: “They are before the throne of God; and they serve Him day and night in His temple; and He who sits on the throne will spread His tabernacle over them.  They will hunger no longer, nor thirst anymore; nor will the sun beat down on them, nor any heat; for the Lamb in the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and will guide them to springs of the water of life; and God will wipe every tear from their eyes” (Rev. 7:15-17). 

 

The description continues later in Revelation: God “will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain. The first things have passed away” (21:4).  Yes, the negative things will be in the past!  Won’t that be a wonderful day!  No more sorrowful tears!  No more illness or pain!  No more death! 

 

What about the positive things that are in our eternal future?  The same passage about the future gives us a small glimpse of what lies ahead—wondrous, beautiful, blessed things!  There will be “a new heaven and a new earth” (Rev. 21:1).  It will be a place “in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13).  There will be “the holy city, new Jerusalem” (Rev. 21:2), “the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (Heb. 11:10; cf. vv. 10-13; 13:14).  God will say, “Behold, I am making all things new. . . . I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost.  He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be my son” (Rev. 21:5-7).  After the sorrow and pain, after the sickness and distress, there will be blessed fulfillment and a glorious inheritance from God our Father!

 

 

What about You?

 

What is your present situation in life?  Are you presently living in poverty and need?  Are you coping with a chronic sickness or injury?  Are you enduring heartache and loss?  Do you have physical pain or emotional sorrow that continues without abatement?  No condition is too great for our loving, merciful, and wise God!  He has the power to heal, to provide, and to rescue you even now.  He can providentially work through difficult circumstances to bring deliverance.  On the other hand, realize that God may allow you to continue in your sickness, in your financial and material loss, in your pain and distress.  But He will give you the grace to endure and have victory in the midst of the present distress.

 

The apostle Paul was no stranger to sorrow and pain.  He endured much more than most of us will ever need to face.  He asked, “Who will separate us from the love of Christ?  Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?”  (Romans 8:35).  Maybe these are some of the trials you are now facing.  Do you wonder whether you can endure, whether God continues to love you, and whether God will see you through your indescribable pain?  Paul answers: “In all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us” (v. 37).  We can conquer even though the world may say we are losers, or we may seem to lack the essentials to find life satisfactory.  With Christ’s help and victory, we can conquer!

 

Paul continues with this triumphant promise: “I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38-39).  The love of God is the key!  How do we experience God’s marvelous love?  By our living union with Jesus Christ our Lord!

 

You see, spiritual victory over earthly sickness, distress, suffering, and hardship does not come to just anyone.  God offers it only to those who enter and abide in a living, vital, saving relationship with Him through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Most of our previous discussion relates to those who have come to the point of being saved from sin, forgiven of their transgressions, and born spiritually into God’s family.  However, only a small number of people may be described in this way.  Jesus gives these radical and even shocking words:

 

Enter though the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it.  For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.  (Matt. 7:13-14).

 

Notice that the Lord Jesus says that “many” are on the broad way that leads to eternal destruction, while “few” are on the narrow way that leads to eternal life.  The consolations that we have been offering in this present study are meant for children of God—those who have entered the narrow gate and are walking the narrow way of life that issues in eternal life in God’s Kingdom. 

 

You may ask, “How may I be forgiven of my sin, experience God’s divine love, and be assured of eternal victory?”  This could be answered with a lengthy reply, but we’ll keep it very brief at this time.  Further help is available in our article on this website, Are You Truly a Christian?

 

We come to know God and experience His saving love by repenting of all of our sins and turning away from them (Acts 3:19; 20:21; 26:18-20).  We turn from every selfish ambition, every personal idol, and every worldly pleasure (Mark 8:34; 1 Thess. 1:9-10).  We must believe that Jesus is the Son of God, the Lord of glory, and the Savior of the world (John 20:30-31; Romans 10:9-10; 1 John 4:14; 5:11-13).  We must also trust Jesus to save us through His sacrificial death on the cross in which He carried our sins, bore our transgressions, and died for us—and then was raised from the dead so that He lives today, as “the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6; Romans 5:6-11; 1 Cor. 15:3-5; 2 Cor. 5:20-21; Eph. 1:7; 1 John 1:7; 2:2; 1 John 4:9-10). 

 

We must renounce ourselves, our wishes, our plans, and be willing to acknowledge Jesus as Lord and Ruler (Rom. 10:9-10).  God wants us to express this repentance of sin and faith in the Lord Jesus by being baptized (immersed) into Jesus Christ.  Paul explains, “All of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death” (Romans 6:3; cf. vv 4-11; Gal. 3:26-27; Col. 2:11-13; Acts 2:38-41; 22:16; Mark 16:15-16; Matthew 28:18-20).  Peter declared, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).  Many fail to demonstrate this inner repentance and saving faith through this meaningful act of baptism. 

 

Our union with Jesus Christ may be described in this way: “He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life” (1 John 5:11).  Through this means, “we have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us.  God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him” (4:16).

 

We all must experience some degree of suffering in this life.  Ever since sin first entered the world, life on earth has brought a vast amount of sorrow, trouble, and pain.  Someone has described earthly life as a “quiet desperation.”   Solomon expressed this with poignant words:

 

I hated life, for the work which had been done under the sun was grievous to me; because everything is futility and striving after wind. . . . I completely despaired of all the fruit of my labor. . . . For what does a man get in all his labor and in his striving with which he labors under the sun?  Because all his days his task is painful and grievous; even at night his mind does not rest.  This too is vanity. (Eccles. 2:17-23).

 

Solomon only considered life “under the sun”—life from an earthly perspective. 

 

But what about us, those who have learned the glorious good news of a Savior who came to deal with our sins and now lives in victory and glory?  We can overcome this world and face life with a deep confidence in God’s love, wisdom, and promises.  We can have an inner spiritual peace in the midst of distressing life circumstances.  Let us endure the pain, the rejection, and the distress here that we may one day inherit the glorious promises of our God in His marvelous Kingdom!

 

Richard Hollerman

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