July 10, 2019

The Sources of Suffering

By: Larry Shaffer

Yesterday I had the joy of preaching at the Star of Hope Gospel Mission to about 200 men. My daughter Brooke was with me and took this picture.

The Sources of Suffering 

Job 

Lesson 3 

This isn’t one of my most inspiring posts, but it is an important expansion of my previous post on the sources of Christian suffering. When suffering and trials strike, the range of emotions can run high. To have a biblical framework of the sources of suffering helps to answer the initial ‘why, why, why’ question. Then you can move through the pain, seeking God’s grace and peace to cope and perhaps even grow and thrive. 

Why do you sometimes suffer? What is the source of my pain? 

  • The consequences of your own personal sin. This is the culmination of bad decisions. 
    • For Christians, there is a difference between condemnation and consequences. There is now NO condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, Romans 8.1. Condemnation is separation from God in hell. That’s not the issue here. The issue here is the cause and effect nature of the physical, emotional and spiritual results of our sin.
    • The issues of condemnation and consequences are seen in the story of the woman caught in adultery. After her accusers dispersed, Jesus said, I do not condemn you either. Go. From now on sin no more, John 8.1ff. In the first phrase, Jesus states that she is forgiven and is not condemned. Her forgiveness is forever sealed in heaven. In the second phrase, Jesus advises her to avoid the consequences of sin. Sin no more. 
  • Hatred toward God within our society and hostility toward Christians. We are ‘guilty by association.’ 
    • I Peter 4 deals with this gruesome reality and brings hope and encouragement. The apostle Peter writes to churches that are suffering persecution. What is the source of their persecution?  It’s simply the fact that they are Christians. Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm ourselves also with the same purpose…verse 1. 
    • But to the degree that you share in the suffering of Christ, keep on rejoicing… If you are reviled for the name of Christ you are blessed…but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name. Verses 13-16 
  • To manifest the image of Jesus. This corresponds to the previous source; hatred of Christians. In AD197, Tertullian wrote, ‘the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.’ 
    • The apostle Paul wrote, we are afflicted…. perplexed…persecuted…struck down…always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 
  • To refine us and strengthen us. We have two choices when we encounter trials: allow them to overtake us or allow them to fortify us. James 1.2-4 
    • The refining pot is for silver and the furnace for gold, but the Lord tests heartsProverbs 17.3 
    • You have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of our faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Peter 1:6,7 
  • To humble us and subdue our sin nature. This corresponds to the previous source; to refine us. God causes/allows trials in order rid us of pride, arrogance and self-dependence. 
    • The apostle Paul wrote, Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me – to keep me from exalting myself. This is what happened to Job as well. 
    • Paul continues, 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 Corinthians 12.7-10 
  • In order for God to accomplish His purposes. God sometimes uses evil to bring about good.  
    • Joseph told his brothers that the evil they performed against him was for good. Joseph said to them, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive, Genesis 50.20 
    • In Peter’s first post-resurrection sermon to the Jews who crucified Jesus, he told them that God used their evil for good. This man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death, Acts 2.23. 
  • To be an encouragement to other Christians. A result of our suffering should be our ability to now comfort others.  
    • God…who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who ae in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.  2 Corinthians 1.3,4 

Let us be reminded of the example of Jesus. Fixing your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who 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. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lost heart. Amen