How Do You Deal With Suffering? Part 3

Grace For The Trials

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20Jan   For the last three days we have been looking at the biblical way of dealing with suffering.  We have learned about the principle of suffering – that even Christians will experience times of trouble, tragedy, sorrow, and pain but that God can use that for His glory and our ultimate good.  We also learned about the purpose of trials – God allows trials in our lives to refine their faith.  Today we will look at the need to have the proper perspective while going through times of suffering and trials – to see that they are temporary, necessary, and under God’s control.

Kay and I used to fly out to California when my older sister lived there to visit her, attend a Pastor’s Conference, and have some down time with each other.  I like to fly because it was not only the quickest way to get from Missouri to the west coast but it provided  the most panoramic views of the vast landscape of America.  While flying, you can see the whole lay of the land … You gain perspective that you simply can’t get while you’re driving the roads below.

In the same way, it helps to gain God’s perspective when we go through times of suffering and trials.  Peter does that (1:6) by reminding us that they are temporary: “for a little while.”  Maybe you’re thinking, “A little while? Good grief, I’ve been going through this trial for years!”  That’s a little while compared to eternity.  Paul expressed the same thing when he said, “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.  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.” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18).

Trials are temporary; salvation is eternal.  In a short while, Jesus Christ is returning in glory and we will spend all eternity with Him.  Our present trials, no matter how great, will pale in significance in the light of eternity.  Thus, in the midst of our pain, we can have great joy if we will focus on the shortness of time and the eternal glory that awaits us when Jesus returns.

Peter also adds perspective by saying that trials are necessary (“if need be”).  They are necessary, as we saw yesterday, to refine our faith.  But also, I think Charles Spurgeon is right when he says that not only “the trials but also the distress, is necessary.”  He argues (“The Christian’s Heaviness and Rejoicing,” Spurgeon’s Sermons [Baker], 5:210-221) that it is needful that sometimes a Christian’s spirit even be cast down. Christ experienced distress even unto death in the garden.  If a Christian doesn’t go through those times when he is depressed, Spurgeon argues, he will grow proud, he won’t be able to relate to others who suffer, and he will miss lessons that we learn no other way.  He cites Luther as saying that “affliction is the best book in my library.”

Malcolm Muggeridge, who became a Christian before his death, said late in his life, “Contrary to what might be expected, I look back on experiences that at the time seemed especially desolating and painful with particular satisfaction.  Indeed, everything I have learned, everything that has truly enhanced and enlightened my existence, has been through affliction and not through happiness” (Reader’s Digest [1/91], p. 158).

The third perspective Peter offers is that trials are under God’s control.  The overall implication here is . . . that God is using trials as a goldsmith, watching the molten metal, skimming off the dross until He can see His face reflected in it.  To know that God is sovereign is a great comfort when you’re going through trials.  He hasn’t forgotten you. He wasn’t asleep or on vacation when your problem hit.  He is working all things, including our trials, for good according to His sovereign plan (Ephesians 1:11; Revelation 6:9-11).

Having a proper perspective on suffering and trials [that they are temporary, necessary, and under God’s control] helps us respond properly the principle of suffering [even Christians will go through times of trouble, tragedy, sorrow, and pain] and the purpose of suffering [God allows times of suffering and trials to refine our faith].

Tomorrow we will look at the product of trials.

This is God Word … This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

 Pastor Terry

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.”

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