Version:1.0 StartHTML:0000000167 EndHTML:0000057077 StartFragment:0000000454 EndFragment:0000057061
SUFFERING BY JAKE BALZER
PREFACE BY SHAWN STEVENS
Why me, why me,why me is what we hear people asking today. Sometimes we hear it from our own lips. Sometimes we hear it from our own minds. We live in a world of pressure and sometimes the world within is under just as much pressure as the world without. Sorrow, lack, trouble, adversity and calamity are all things that we can relate to. Sometimes we suffer for our own decisions, sometimes for the decisions of others. Suffering is our common and frequent experience. We cry out, “Why?” Often, this is when we look up.
Suffering happens for different reasons. The important thing is that when we suffer, it should be for the right reasons. Suffering can come from wrong choices, selfishness, abusing privileges, abusing rights and from sinful actions. God often lets us receive some of the consequences to our actions, that we would learn from the experience, repent and mature. In the lives of God’s own this is called chastening:
Not all suffering is of this sort. It is common to suffer innocently for doing what is right. Suffering is a part of the life of every Christian and non-Christian. The choice is ours, what we will let suffering produce in us. Suffering produces different things in different people. Jake Balzer is going to share with us some important words on suffering. God bless you.
The Billy Graham Christian Worker’s Handbook. Minneapolis: World Wide Publications, 1984.
Ham, Ken. How Could A Loving God …? U.S.A.: Master Books, 2009.
Scripture references taken from the American Standard Version.
SUFFERING BY JAKE BALZER
There are three general attitudes toward suffering:
Breaking down – becoming ill and requiring care
Breaking out – becoming angry, hostile, and blaming others
Breaking through – expressing faith and hope in God who will enable us to become Christ-
like as a result of our suffering
We want to briefly examine Peter’s pilgrimage in learning how to joyfully suffer for Christ’s sake. We have two passages that describe briefly Peter’s initial and later attitude toward suffering for Christ. In Matthew 16.21-23, Peter completely rejected the suggestion of suffering. The sufferings of Christ were not acceptable to Peter. The passage reads:
21 From that time began Jesus to show unto his disciples, that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and the third day be raised up.
What a shock to Peter to discover Jesus rebuking Peter’s wrong attitude and saying it is not in keeping with God’s plan but man’s. Some well-meaning Christian leaders today teach emphatically that all suffering is of the devil and must be rebuked and rejected. The Bible says in Philippians1.29; “because to you it hath been granted in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer in his behalf:”. The Bible further says in II Timothy 3.12; “Yea, and all that would live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” Also, in I Peter 2.21, it says; “For hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that ye should follow his steps:”. We read further in II Timothy 1.8; “Be not ashamed therefore of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but suffer hardship with the gospel according to the power of God;”. Suffering is part of God’s plan for His Church, which includes all who have been born from above by the Holy Spirit.
In Luke 22.33, Peter declares himself ready to go to prison and to die for Christ. What does this show us about Peter and what can we learn from these verses?
– Good intensions but Peter does not really know his own heart.
– Peter had not yet learned to heed Jesus warnings of his fall.
– Self-confidence is not sufficient to joyfully suffer for Christ.
– Exposure of self-defeat, shame, bitter tears, and repentance helped Peter move closer to
accepting suffering as part of God’s will for him.
Often through defeat, agony and shame we turn to Jesus Christ, having gained a new insight into our sinfulness and Christ’s mercy and forgiveness. We read:
him, being delivered up by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye by the hand of lawless men did crucify and slay: whom God raised up, having loosed the pangs of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it.
What does this show us about Christ and His suffering? It gives us insight into God’s will regarding Christ’s sufferings. Peter gained insight from the Word of God through the Holy Spirit about God’s will for Christ to suffer. We are encouraged to thoroughly study the Scriptures regarding suffering according to God’s will, as believers. We need the illumination of the Holy Spirit to help us understand from God’s Word that suffering for the believer in Christ is part of living for Christ.
Consider Christ’s suffering in this passage:
Similar to Christ, the apostles suffered persecution because of Him. Peter and John suffered persecution for Christ. We read of their response on one occasion:
Determination to obey God, rather than man, is a further step in learning how to suffer joyfully for Christ. (See Acts 4.19-20; 23-31). Here, we see the apostles declaring, to those who can inflict suffering, that the apostles will obey God rather than them. This is taking a stand for Christ’s sake. What was the result? They were released with threats only and they went to fellow believers and experienced further filling of the Holy Spirit and greater boldness to face the next round.
Here, the apostles were beaten and released. Apostles, including Peter, went to their own, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for His Name.
Identification with the resurrected Christ through the power and enabling of the Holy Spirit helped Peter to rejoice in suffering for Christ. What was the rejoicing over?
We can begin to rejoice in suffering for Christ by following His example in sufferings:
1 Peter 2.20-23.
What can we learn from this passage?
We also read:
1 Peter 4.12-19
Here, we are encouraged to suffer joyfully for Christ:
a. because of the glory of God which will be revealed (4.13)
b. because we are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on us (4.14)
c. in suffering according to God’s will, commit yourself to Him. (4.19)
How could Peter, who strongly rejected any suffering, change to strongly encourage us to suffer for Christ’s sake?
1. Peter began to understand that suffering for Christ was within God’s will for him and all believers, according to God’s Word.
2. We need to accept the fact that living for Christ will sooner or later bring suffering for Him, according to God’s word.
3. We need to identify with Jesus Christ in all areas of life, including suffering, following His example.
4. We need to keep committing ourselves to Jesus Christ who will one day be the righteous judge of all things.
5. We need to accept the fact that there is fellowship in suffering for Christ, through the enabling of the HOLY SPIRIT.
How To Interpret Suffering In Our Lives
What would it be like not to feel pain? Pain is a very important part of life. We couldn’t really live without it for very long in this world. Have you ever thanked God for feeling pain? We have various kinds of pain: emotional, physical (tells us something is wrong), mental (again an indicator of imbalance), social (strained relationships) and spiritual (guilt, conviction, vicarious suffering). Feeling with others who suffer pain is a very important feeling while we still live in a world of sin. Pain is a result of our first parents’ sinning. The Bible seems to say, in Revelation 21.4, that pain will be no more in the new Jerusalem. But between now and then we will always experience pain and suffering. Everyone suffers to some degree in their life. Suffering is feeling pain, rejection, discomfort, irritation, agony, hurt, and so on. How we interpret suffering in our lives will affect our whole Christian commitment and effectiveness for the Lord. We want to suggest several ways we can rightly interpret suffering in our lives so that we will benefit from the suffering that God allows to come into our lives.
1. Learn to accept suffering as a fact of life.
Just as death is universal and no respecter of persons, so suffering is also universal. All people experience suffering to some degree regardless of age or belief. Christians are not exempt from suffering. In fact, becoming a Christian and being Spirit-filled increases our sufferings.
One lady who was suffering extensively in the hospital was becoming bitter toward God who allowed her to suffer so much. In fact, she could not understand how a God of love could allow her to suffer so much and for so long.
Try to discern God’s will in suffering.
We do not always know the reason for our suffering. I believe it is important for us, as believers in Jesus Christ, to seek God’s mind about our suffering. We may not always receive a satisfactory answer but it is important to discern as much as possible what God is trying to say to us through our sufferings.
There are various reasons for suffering and I will just mention a few.
1. Suffering may come through our own actions:
a) Maybe we have sinned and failed to repent of our sins. Ask God, by His Holy Spirit, to reveal any un-confessed sin in your life and deal with it. But don’t prolong the agony and self- introspection. Deal with it believing the Holy Spirit will bring to your mind any unconfessed sin in your life.
b) Maybe we are not living right, that is, we have some bad habits of eating or drinking, or other indulgences that are causing us to suffer. Again, deal with them and trust the Lord for victory from them.
c) Maybe it is some physical disorder you are suffering from. Get a thorough physical examination and try and have it corrected through prayer and medicine.
d) Maybe we are not learning to rest in the Lord. We are inflicting ourselves and worrying and being overly anxious. Again, remember as you learn to rest in the Lord that He will give the peace of mind and heart you long for.
May I reiterate, when you are seeking God’s enabling to understand the purpose for your suffering, start with yourself and trust the Holy Spirit to help you deal with any form of sin in your life, or any physical or emotional problem you have that you have brought on yourself. Believe that the Lord can help you deal with it and rejoice in Him.
2. What others do to you may also cause sufferings.
This is somewhat more difficult to deal with. We have some practical advice in dealing with this source of suffering in I Peter 4.12-19. Painful trials are a way in which we participate in Christ’s suffering. Being insulted for Christ’s sake by others is evidence that the Spirit of glory and of God rests on us. We must not suffer because of wrong doings. We need to learn to commit ourselves to God, our faithful Creator, and continue to do good. One of the most effective ways of dealing with sufferings inflicted by others is to commit ourselves to God and to pray for them, allowing God to deal with them in His own way.
3. We suffer because of what God allows to take place in our lives.
God allows Satan to buffet us and to cause us to suffer intensely. Paul suffered greatly from a thorn in his flesh. Satan used this (whatever it was) to really create repeated sufferings in Paul’s life. Paul prayed to God three times to remove it. But then Paul realized that God allowed this thorn to continue but promised to give Paul grace and strength to triumph over it. Job was a man of God. But God allowed Satan to really create havoc in Job’s life. Job learned through much suffering and loss that he could not understand what was happening but that God allowed it and Job became more spiritually mature through suffering intensely.
Furthermore, God allows suffering as a witness to the unsaved. Many unsaved people have turned to Jesus Christ when they witnessed how a Christian suffered intensely, yet trusted God to glorify Himself through their life of suffering. F. B. Meyer said that the child of God is often called to suffer because there is nothing that will convince onlookers of the reality and power of true religion as suffering will do, when it is born with Christian fortitude. Everyone cannot be trusted with trial. All could not stand the fiery ordeal.
There are various ways you and I, as believers, can respond to suffering:
We can break down and give up.
We can break out and complain bitterly.
We can break through and grow spiritually.
4. Focus on the hope in suffering.
Creation is expressing the hope in sufferings. Creation has been forced into suffering because of sin entering the human race. Creation is eagerly awaiting the release from suffering when all believers will experience transformed bodies without sin, when Jesus returns. Believers express hope in suffering. This is because God has given us the first fruits of the Holy Spirit as a guarantee that He is dealing with sufferings now and, one day, will totally remove all sufferings. Yes, even now God wants us to live in His enabling and not live according to our sinful desires. He is able and willing to transform us, moment by moment, as we submit to Him in this life. We have that blessed hope that Jesus Christ is returning one day and we will be like Him. Therefore, we now seek to live cleansed and Spirit-filled lives to become more and more like Him here.
5. Focus on our Helper in suffering.
One common experience we all have in suffering is that we feel weak and helpless many times. We don’t understand fully the reason for suffering. We don’t fully discern God’s will in our suffering. We find it so hard to rejoice in the fact that one day all suffering will be no more. It is in these times that we need to be reminded of what God says in this passage. In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. In our weakness, we can either become more and more distrustful toward the Lord or, by the indwelling Holy Spirit, we can become more and more trusting in God, even though we are so weak and helpless. What will make the difference? If you and I accept our weakness in relation to not knowing the mind of God in our suffering, yet believing that the indwelling Holy Spirit is always there ready to pray for us to God, and even though we do not understand how He does it, we believe the Holy Spirit intercedes for us to God, the Father, if only we allow Him. The most reassuring fact is that when the Holy Spirit intercedes for us, He does so according to the mind and will of God. Therein, we can rest assured. The Spirit knows what God’s will is in our suffering and we may not know, but we can rest assured that the Holy Spirit is praying in us, and through us, to God in accord with God’s will and God will give us the strength we need to be alleviated from the suffering, or to receive grace to grow spiritually as a result of the suffering He is allowing in our lives.
Don’t ask “WHY ME, GOD?” but learn to ask “Why not me, God? What I really want is Your perfect will to conform me to becoming more and more like Christ. Therefore, whatever You allow to come into my life, I know You will give me the grace to benefit spiritually from it and be a blessing to others because of what You are doing in my life.” Suffering is a fact of life.
How we interpret sufferings in our lives will greatly determine our spiritual maturity and of us becoming more and more like Christ.
Again, in conclusion :
Accept suffering as a fact of life. Christians are not exempted. In fact, the Bible says all who will live godly shall suffer persecution. Did you realize that after the disciples were Spirit-filled, in Acts, their sufferings increased greatly and became more frequent than before they were Spirit-filled?
2. Try to discern God’s will in your sufferings and make sure you are not suffering because of unconfessed sins in your life. Realize suffering may come from others. Sometimes it is because of our own doings and sometimes suffering is because of our stand for Christ. Commit yourself and others who cause you suffering to Christ by praying on a regular basis. Suffering is a vital part of living for Christ when it comes as a result for our obedience to God’s word.
3. Focus on the hope in suffering. Creation is looking for our redemption. We are longing for our redemption. Jesus has assured our redemption. One day, suffering will be no more.
4. Focus on the Helper in suffering. We can triumph in suffering like Joseph, Paul, Peter and Jesus, Himself. The Holy Spirit is praying for us when we are so weak and unable to sort out our problems. Count on it. Rejoice in it. And believe that God is doing all things well.
Scripture references taken from the American Standard Version.