Summary: Last week we focused on the depths of Christ's suffering on the Cross. Today we are going to explore the suffering that you and I face and the connection there is between our suffering and our joy.

Purpose: To describe all the benefits that suffering can produce.

Aim: I want the listener to view suffering as a gift from God.

INTRODUCTION: Last week we focused on the depths of Christ's suffering on the Cross. Today we are going to explore the suffering that you and I face and the connection there is between our suffering and our joy.

Our challenge is to think more like God thinks: Isaiah 55:8--9 "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways," declares the LORD. "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts." (NAS)

What did the 16th century church leader John Calvin mean when he said: "You must submit to supreme suffering in order to discover the completion of joy"?

Our human thinking never views our personal suffering as a way to bring joy. In fact, suffering threatens to tear down the faith we do have in God's love for us. How many of us have experienced excruciating pain--whether physical or emotional--and wondered (maybe even out loud) how could God allow such pain and still love us? Even David struggled with this question in Psalm 13:1: How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? (NAS)

The answer lies in understanding how God works out His good plan for our lives. Paul said that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28 NAS), so how does God do that?

The answer is through suffering, but one of the biggest mistakes we can make is to look for ways to numb the pain that suffering brings. When life gets painful the only answer the world has to offer is to deadened the pain. That can be done through drugs, entertainment, or powerful distractions like working harder or thrill seeking.

Dr. Ed Welch warns us against turning to drugs--legal or illegal--to lessen our pain because, "...psychiatric medications could numb us to the refining benefits of suffering. There is a worthwhile point here. Although it may sound strange or even unloving to those who don't share a biblical position, there can be real benefits from having our faith tested and strengthened through trials." [1]

If that is true, then how does God use suffering to bring us joy? Let's take the next few minutes to explore nine ways that suffering leads us to joy.

Rom. 5:12 I. Suffering Helps us to Hate Sin

Romans 5:12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned (NAS)

The immediate cause of all suffering is sin. Before Adam and Eve fell into sin they experienced no suffering. Death and suffering began with Adam's sin and continues today because of our sin.

Sin is what caused the curse: Genesis 3:16--19 To the woman He said, "I will greatly multiply Your pain in childbirth, In pain you will bring forth children; Yet your desire will be for your husband, And he will rule over you." Then to Adam He said, "Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, 'You shall not eat from it'; Cursed is the ground because of you; In toil you will eat of it All the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; and you will eat the plants of the field; by the sweat of your face You will eat bread, till you return to the ground, because from it you were taken; for you are dust, And to dust you shall return." (NAS)

Paul also said that creation is suffering because of sin. Romans 8:20--22 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. (NAS) We can hear creation's groans in an earth quake or see creation's groans in a hurricane.

Every time we see a disaster or experience pain it should remind us of the awfulness of sin and our need of a Savior to rescue us from it.

1 Pet.1:6-8 II. Suffering Assures us of our Salvation

1 Peter 1:6--8 In this [the joy of one day being with Christ] you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your 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; and though you have not seen Him,#1 you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but #2 believe in Him, #3 you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, (NAS)

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