Summary: In what ways does God use suffering in the life of a Christian? Maybe this lesson can help you think about how God may work when you are suffering.
I would like to follow up on the last sermon that I preached on the problem of evil and where I attempted to show why the unbeliever should not be using the idea of evil as an excuse to reject God. In spite of what the unbeliever may think about God or try to accuse Him of, God has a morally sufficient reason to allow things that the world views as evil. NO matter what they may believe, it does not change the fact that they will have to give an account for the evil that they have done against God when they die or when Christ returns.
In this lesson, I would like to change gears and ask the question, “What about us?” We may understand why God allows suffering in a lost and evil world, but why does he allow us, His elect, His holy nation and priesthood, His beloved children to suffer?”
I think it is safe to say that it is at times easier to serve, worship, and be grateful to God when we are on the mountain top; when things are going well for us. We have a good job. We are able to pay all the bills. We are healthy. We have brothers and sisters in Christ that encourage us. Our families are growing spiritually. At these times of comfort, it is a lot easier to praise and give thanks to the Lord for how He is working in our lives.
But what about when we are at our lowest points in life, how do we respond to God then? How do we respond to the suffering, sorrow, heartache, financial hardship, temptation and sin, and death that He allows to come upon us and our families as His children? At these times it may be hard to feel blessed by the Lord. It may be hard to give thanks to Him and praise Him for His goodness and kindness towards us in Christ. We find it difficult to do as James says in chapter 1 of his epistle to count it all joy whenever we go through trials.
But the fact is, God is on His thrown just as much during these times than when things are going well. The God who is the God of the mountain tops of our lives is also the God of the Valleys. He is working, no matter how hard that may be to believe. We must get it firm into our minds that if we are the people of God, He promises that HE WILL NEVER LEAVE US NOR FORSAKE US (Heb 13:5). There is nothing that happens to us that God does not have control over. It only happens because God allows it to happen.
So why is it that these things happen? Why does God allow them, and how is God working in them? These are questions that have been asked by the people of God for thousands of years. Job, David, Asaph in psalm 73, and so many others have asked these questions, including you and me. And the truth is that we don’t know 100% for sure exactly how God is working in us when we go through trying times. It is usually not till months or years down the line before we can see how God had been providentially working in our lives. This is what makes it difficult for us as we are suffering and going through trials in our lives.
1. SUFFERING KEEPS THIS WORLD FROM BECOMING TOO ATTRACTIVE
WE ARE “PILGRIMS” AND “SOJOURNERS”...
As Christians, our hopes and faith does not rest on what we have here. Sometimes it takes going through trials for us to understand this. Scripture tells us that we should not feel at home here. We are first and foremost citizens not of this country and world, but of Heaven. We are citizens of God’s kingdom! We are pilgrims and sojourners here. Peter writes, “Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul” (1 Peter 2:11). We are on our way home in this life. This world is NOT our home. God has something better prepared for us. And many times in life we tend to lose sight of this. Sometimes it takes traumatic experiences to remind us of this truth.
WHAT IF THERE WAS NO SUFFERING...
Just think of how life would be if there was no suffering. No one would want to leave this temporary world. Everything would be so great, that heaven would be an afterthought. We wouldn’t long for it as we should. All of our hopes would rest on what we have here instead of what lays before us in our eternal home. We would all wait until the final years of our lives to really get serious about the afterlife. No one would desire the “eternal” home, and therefore prepare themselves for it. But the affairs of this life are so ordered that the world soon loses its attraction.