Grace For The Journey
Over the next four days I would like us to look into God’s Word, specifically in 1 Peter 1:6-9, and see what He says to us about a very important subject. One of the areas we battle in is the sorrowful and suffering times of life. Today we will look at the Principle of suffering.
There is a lot of confusion today among Christians about how we’re supposed to deal with suffering . . .
Some say that if we suffer it’s because we lack faith. The foundational teaching in the Word Of faith movement is the “force” of faith. Proponents believe they can use words to manipulate the faith-force, and thus actually create what they believe Scripture promises (health, wealth, etc.). Laws supposedly governing the faith-force are said to operate independently of God’s sovereign will — God Himself being subject to the “laws” of faith. We’re supposed to claim healing by faith and deny all negative thoughts. This is clearly unbiblical, yet it persists.
Others say that Christians must go through suffering, but they’re supposed to do it with a smile on their face. They quote clichés such as, “He is much better off now,” “the Lord must have needed him more,” “It won’t be long until you see him again,” etc. and throw in verses like, “Rejoice always … In everything give thanks” (1 Thessalonians 5:16, 18). This approach to suffering leads to hypocrisy and emotional problems, in my opinion. People put on the phony smile and mouth clichés but inside they’re hurting and not praising the Lord. They’re denying the grief and pain that are really there. It is neither a biblical nor emotionally healthy approach to suffering.
In reacting against that approach, some say that we need to express how we feel. To help us work through all the stages of grief, we’re told to vent all our anger, rage, and bitterness. If we don’t feel it, we’re in denial. People are even encouraged to express their anger at God, with the assurance that “He can take it. Tell Him how ticked off at Him you really are.” We’re told that if we don’t do this, we’ll create emotional problems for ourselves.
I would argue that none of these are biblical or emotionally healthy ways to deal with suffering.
The biblical way is not to deny the pain or grief from suffering,
But at the same time
To have genuine joy in the Lord as you go through suffering
That seems like a contradictory statement. How can you experience joy while you are going through pain and suffering?
God’s Word can help us come to a balanced understanding of this truth. The Bible states plainly in Hebrews 12:11, “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.” Paul was led by the Holy Spirit to speak of his own experience through trials as being “sorrowful yet always rejoicing” (2 Corinthians 6:10). He modeled it many times, but perhaps nowhere as clearly as when he and Silas sang praises to God at midnight from the Philippian jail, as their backs were laid open from the illegal scourging they had received (Acts 16:25).
When Peter, in writing to suffering Christians, tells his readers that they are to greatly rejoice in suffering, while they at the same time that they are distressed by various trials (1 Peter 1:6).
He is not denying the distress – the word “trials” means “grief” or “pain.”
But neither is he discarding the genuine joy that a
Christian can experience in the midst of the pain
if he has the right perspective.
Peter himself had felt it. After being flogged and warned to speak no further in the name of Jesus, he and the other apostles “went on their way … rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name” (Acts 5:41).
That is dealing with suffering in God’s way!
In our text, Peter tells us how to have it:
Trials do not have to ruin us …
God can use the trial …
To refine us, if we are surrendered.
We can have joy even as we go through the suffering by looking to Him and His salvation. So, let’s look at what God wants to teach us about “how to deal with suffering” in 1 Peter 1::6-9. Today we will look at …
The Principle of Suffering …
Below are some Bible truths that help us stand on a solid foundation in the midst of suffering and hardship. They are precious promises from the Word of God that we can stand upon during times of suffering and heartache.
John 16:33, “In the world you have tribulation.”
Acts 14:22, “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.”
Hebrews 5:8, “Although He (Jesus) was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered.”
Hebrews 12:6,8 – “For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives … If you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.”
2 Timothy 3:12, “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”
1 Peter 4:12, “Do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you.”
On one occasion while Jesus was still on this earth, Peter had said to Him, “Lord, we have left everything and followed You. What then will there be for us?” (Matthew 19:27). Jesus replied that anyone who left everything and followed Him would receive back in this life a hundred times as much as he gives up – houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, farms. That is tremendous … what a wonderful outcome! The health and wealth crowd jump all over this statement. Who wouldn’t sign up for such a program? But, then in the same breath, Jesus added, “… along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life” (Mark 10:30).
Trials, persecutions, hardships for Jesus’ sake are part of life in this fallen world. Sure, there are untold blessings now, as Jesus makes clear. Sure, it is a truly abundant life (John 10:10). But, the abundance is often the deep, abiding joy of salvation we feel while going through times of suffering. Trials are the mark of Jesus’ special love. No one loved by Him is exempt.
But, why? That’s what we always ask, isn’t it? Why does God take us through trials? We will answer that in tomorrow’s blog.
This is God Word … This is Grace for your Journey …
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”