Summary: A sermon identifying suffering with applications on how to respond to it.
TRUTH ABOUT SUFFERING
If you were to walk down the aisles of any pharmacy in America you’d find that one of their most popular products is pain killers. They have shelves that are packed with bottles Ibuprofen, Aspirin, Tylenol etc. If you want, you can buy them in huge jars holding 250 pills. Other shelves contain tubes of "rub-on pain relief" like Ben Gay and Aspergel. Or, you might want to check out various types of chemical ice packs and heating pads. Pain relief is big business in America. We spend billions every year because none of us want to hurt. Everyone wants to live a comfortable life.
When Paul wrote the book of 2 Timothy, he was anything but comfortable. He was in prison. Paul was actually put in prison two times. The first time in prison was much like a house arrest where he was being tried with all of the rights of a Roman citizen. The second imprisonment was in a dungeon in the middle of the city of Rome called the Mamertine prison where he was tried like a condemned criminal. As Paul wrote this second letter, the church throughout the empire was facing severe persecution started by the Emperor Nero. Tradition tells us that Paul was beheaded about two weeks after the writing of second Timothy.
One thing that made it harder for Paul as he sat on death’s row waiting for his execution was the fact that no one supported him.
2 Timothy1:15, “You know that everyone in the province of Asia has deserted me, including Phygelus and Hermogenes.”
No one wanted to identify with this condemned man, and people who he thought to be friends were nowhere to be found. So he sits as a condemned man waiting to die in the worst conditions a Roman prison could offer.
Suffering has not gone away. I have been a pastor for long enough to know that a great part of ministry is in handling times of crisis. It would be a very rare thing to go through a week without someone having a crisis. But no matter how common they are, they are never easy to deal with.
TRUTH ABOUT SUFFERING
1. Suffering teaches us to depend on God
Psalm 119: 67, “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word.”
Psalm 119:71, “It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees. “
God created us to live in dependence on Him, but that is sometimes hard to do when everything is going great. Suffering brings us back to depend on God.
Marine Corps recruiter Randy Norfleet survived the Oklahoma City bombing despite losing 40 percent of his blood and needing 250 stitches to close his wounds. He never lost consciousness in the ambulance because he was too busy praying prayers of thanksgiving for his survival. When doctors said he would probably lose the sight in his right eye, Mr. Norfleet said, " Through all this I’ve been brought closer to God. I’ve become more dependent on Him and less on myself."
Suffering does the same for us. Sometimes it brings a "one day at a time-ness" to our survival. We get to the point where depend on the Lord for the next day or the next hour.
2. SUFFERING REVEALS THE LEVEL OF OUR FAITH
It is not hard to say God is good and to mean it when you have just gotten a big raise or have been promoted to the position that you wanted. It is not so easy, however, to really feel that God is good when everything around you seems to be crumbling to the ground. That is when your Christianity is on trial.
When you look at the book of 2 Timothy, you read the words of a true man of God. There are no regrets. There’s no poor me, only a triumphant message from a man who believed what he said that he believed.
2 Timothy 4:6-8, “For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. 7I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8Now there is in store 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 longed for his appearing.”
It has been said that there are three different kinds of believers: "if," "because," and "regardless."
An "if" believer follows God if he receives blessings and rewards. He waits to see what God will do first, then decides whether or not to respond in obedience.
A "because" believer follows God because God blesses and rewards him. He has seen the connection between his obedience and God’s blessing, and he wants to keep it going.