Summary: This powerful sermon touched a number of suffering people who were struggling with doubts about their own faith and God’s faithfulness.
OPEN: Over the past couple of years there has been a popular pair of movies called “Transformers.” The plot of these movies is that there are two types of aliens which have invaded Earth. The one alien force is called the “Decepticons”. These are an evil group of machines whose whole goal is to annihilate everything in their path. The other aliens are called “Transformers” who are dedicated to protecting the very things the Decepticons are focused on destroying.
Their conflict mirrors the truths of Scripture. The Bible tells us that there is a force intent on damaging and destroying as much of God’s creation as possible. This force (Satan) could justifiably be called a Decepticon because one of it’s principle weapons is deception.
But God as always sought to protect His creation. And one of His principle tools is that of transformation – transforming that which is weak and wounded into that which is strong and resilient. One of the most powerful tools of transformation is one God has used throughout Scripture. To help understand this tool, we need to go back to the story of Job.
The book of Job is perhaps one of the most unusual stories in the Old Testament. We’re introduced to a righteous man that God loves so much that only does God give him a multitude of blessings, but God brags to Satan about what a great guy Job is.
Satan snidely remarks that the only reason Job obeys God is because he’s got it so good. “Just let him lose those blessings and Job would turn his back on God and look elsewhere” he taunts. So God allows Satan to bring numerous disasters into Job’s life until finally Job has lost his children, his heath, his wealth. He’s reduced to sitting on the ground, scratching at his sores with broken pottery.
The bulk of the book is dedicated to a group of Job’s “friends” who stop by and trying to get Job to admit that the reason all these tragedies have come upon him is because he’s sinned and God was punishing him.
But that wasn’t true.
God wasn’t punishing Job.
The things that had happened to Job had nothing to do with his sins.
His misfortunes were caused by Satan.
The evil in Job’s life was caused by the evil in this world.
When we get to the New Testament, we find that the story hasn’t changed.
Suffering - in the lives of believers - is a reality.
Suffering will happen, and it will happen to you… and to me.
Jesus said: "… In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."
Acts 14 tells us that when Paul and Barnabas returned to the churches in Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, they dedicated themselves to “strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. ‘We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,’ they said.” Acts 14:22
In I Peter 4, the apostle Peter tells the Christians there “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” I Peter 4: 12-13
And here in Rom 8:17 Paul says “… we are heirs— heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.”
It’s a repeated theme throughout the New Testament:
Christians will suffer.
Christians will be persecuted
Christians will be face trials and tribulations.
Even the Apostle Paul – one of the greatest preachers who ever lived – he suffered. He writes in II Corinthians: “Five times I received - from the Jews - the forty lashes minus one.
Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea,
I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers.
I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.” (I Corinthians 11:24-27)
Suffering in this world is inevitable… and Christians WILL suffer.
Now, sometimes we suffer in this life because we deserve to. We’ve made bad decisions.
Proverbs 13:15 tells us that “… the way of the unfaithful is hard”.
The way of the unfaithful is hard because they’ve walked away from God.