The Shepherd of Hope blog is here to serve you, to help you know Jesus better and to find hope in Him. This blog relies on the Spirit of God using the word of God to build people of God. All material has been prayerfully submitted for your encouragement and spiritual edification. Your questions and comments are welcome.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Why Does God Allow Accidents and Suffering? Part 3

Can any good come from accidents and suffering? Aren’t such things pointless and reason to despair? There is understanding to be had through God’s word when it comes to responding to such questions. This is what we will consider in part three of our study on accidents and suffering. I invite you to read on.

What Good can come From Suffering? We quoted Peter earlier as being inspired to write, “But even if you should suffer for righteousness sake, you are blessed” (1 Peter 3:13-17). In what sense does suffering bring a blessing? Suffering brings a blessing as it matures us spiritually. That there is blessing in suffering probably seems to be a bit of a contradiction to the view of most people. Few see any benefit from suffering. But there is a blessing there; and when we understand that God can bring a blessing from suffering, it gives us hope when we are in the midst of suffering. Let’s see. What blessings flow from suffering?

First, the extremities of man are the opportunities of God. You might say or think, "I'm suffering and I can't take it anymore. I'm at the end of myself." In a way, that's right where God wants you to be. Someone has said, "Man's extremities are God's opportunities." God has not left us hopelessly alone, but He allows us to get to the end of ourselves. He picks us up where we leave off. And the sooner we leave off, the sooner He'll pick up. To learn this is to be blessed because there is no better place to be than in the arms of God. God has given us a promise to bring "good" from all things as it states in the book of Romans:

  • Romans 8:28 – “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

What further possible benefits does suffering bring?

Second, suffering can help us have a deeper understanding of Jesus. What is the greatest thing that God can give when suffering brings a person to their extremity of being? The greatest blessing of suffering is to know Jesus better, more fully, more deeply. The apostle Paul spoke of knowing “the fellowship of His suffering” (Philippians 3:10). To experience suffering enables us to empathize with our LORD. When we experience suffering, we can learn His perspective of sin and why He was willing to die to deal with it. The Bible tells us this when it says:

  • 1 Peter 2:21-25 – “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps:22 “Who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth”;23 who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously;24 who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed.25 For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”
  • 1 Peter 3:18 – “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit,”

Jesus is our example in suffering. No one ever suffered as much as Jesus did (see Isaiah 52:14). We will probably spend eternity trying to comprehend the depth of Christ’s suffering and He did it all for us (3:18). Jesus was willing to suffer for the sake of winning souls to eternal life. We should follow in His steps in our times of suffering. When we suffer or see evil, we should prayerfully ask, “Lord, how can you bring good out of this? What is Your purpose in this? How can you use me in the midst of evil and suffering to bring the lost to salvation through faith in Jesus?” There are great opportunities of God in the extremities of suffering.

Third, suffering can provide an opportunity to witness about God's living hope. The Scriptures state:

  • 1 Peter 3:15-17 – “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;16 having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed.17 For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.”

The heart of the world is oftentimes opened when it sees suffering and this creates great opportunity to witness to the sustaining and sufficient grace of God in the believer’s life. Suffering gives an opportunity to share the “reason for the hope that is in you.” Jesus is our hope (Titus 2:13; Hebrews 6:19).

Fourth, suffering can actually increase and purify our faith so we learn to trust God more. All that we learn about God and ourselves through suffering leads to a faith that is pure and mature. Indeed, Peter wrote that the one who suffers, has ceased from sin,” and that is true if a person is truly suffering for Christ’s sake and not for some foolish sinful act. But even when suffering is the consequence of a sinful act, if a person repents and turns to the LORD, God can use it to glorify Himself and bring good from it. Peter wrote:

  • 1 Peter 1:6-7 – “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials,7 that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ,”
  • 1 Peter 4:19 – “Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator.” (See also James 1:2-8)

Suffering burns away our worldly crutches so that we learn to lean on God alone through faith in Christ.

Fifth, suffering helps us understand ourselves. One of the most important spiritual lessons in our walk with the Lord is that to find ourselves, our purpose and fulfillment in life, we have to first be willing to lose ourselves. Jesus put it this way:

  • Matthew 16:24-25 – “Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.25 “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”

Paul wrote:

  • Galatians 2:20 - “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

When we suffer we learn a lot about ourselves; our limitations, our priorities, what we really value in life, who and what we are really live for. Suffering seen in this light brings great profits.

Sixth, suffering helps us get our priorities straight. Peter wrote this:

  • 1 Peter 4:1-5 – “Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin,2 that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.3 For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles—when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries.4 In regard to these, they think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you.5 They will give an account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.”

Peter says something very striking here when he says, “he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin.” In what sense does the suffer cease from sin? The context here tells us that the sufferer ceases from sin because suffering brings reality to bear. Suffering puts life in perspective, eternal perspective.

Peter says the one who suffers is moved to, “no longer . . . live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.3 For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles—when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries.” Those who look on from outside the windows of suffering don’t understand and “think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you.” They think the best way to deal with pain and suffering is to drown it in drink and drugs. But they will learn what the sufferer learns that, “They will give an account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.” That sobering truth puts life in proper holy perspective.

Seventh, suffering helps us realize the sufficiency of God's grace. Paul knew about suffering and he was inspired by God to write the following words.

  • 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 – “And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Grace for suffering only comes at the point of suffering. Therefore, it is only through the actual suffering that one can know for sure that God’s grace really is sufficient. The person who suffers has been given a great insight into not only themselves, but also the provision of God, (that is if they choose to accept it). Suffering opens the door of opportunity and revelation that God is real and that His grace is sufficient. And if we come to see that God’s grace is sufficient in suffering, then that carries over into all other aspects of life.

Eight, suffering helps us to look forward to the coming of Christ. The Bible states:

  • Romans 8:18 – “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”
  • 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 – “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,18 while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

Suffering makes our future glory with the Lord that much sweeter and it causes us to look onward and upward rather than get preoccupied with the things of this world. Suffering causes us to take up our moorings and causes us to be willing to set sail for our eternal home in heaven with Jesus.

Remember, if you are suffering as the result of objective or planetary effects of sin or because of the personal effects of sin, I encourage you to look to Jesus. Remember what God tells us in Psalms. In psalms it states, “I will lift up my eyes to the hills – from whence comes my help? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth” (Ps. 121:1-2). Turn to the Lord in whatever state you are. He is your Source of help.

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