Dr. Stephen Phinney
This is a plain indication of God's righteous judgment so that you will be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which indeed you are suffering. (2Th 1:5)
We all face suffering in some way, shape, or form. And in our pain, we long to know why God allows grief and hardship into our lives. People often hold only one view of suffering; however, the Word of God does not have one approach to suffering but many. To hold to a view of one type of suffering in Scripture is to miss the entire logic and reasoning revealed in Christ. The Bible's revelations to the challenge of suffering clarify that discernment is necessary every step of the way. Thus, if the Holy Spirit does NOT indwell the person, they will deduce suffering to generalized humanity. As indwelt Christians, we need to listen internally to the Holy Spirits' revelation as to Jesus' reasons to appreciate Jesus' method of handling pain & suffering. Since the Bible offers a range of perspectives on God and suffering, we must be willing to sort and weigh them when faced with difficulty. It's also important that we recognize that our suffering doesn't happen without purpose. A purpose that houses itself in God's sovereignty.
For to you it has been granted for Christ's sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me. (Php 1:29-30)
There are four primary venues of suffering:
1. Consequences of sin.
2. Consequences of the sins of others.
3. Consequences of serving Christ.
4. Indwelling suffering.
Consequences of Sin:
Today, I got the news that our old friends are facing trauma with their son, and he went under liver transplant. Since his youth, the son has been addicted to alcohol, and he is now in his late thirties. During my counseling him in his youth up to today, he has resisted God and counsel. After his diagnosis, he has refrained from drinking now for four months. The question now is, will he yield his heart to Jesus?
This kind of suffering is a means of turning a life to or back to Jesus. The Lord makes use of the consequences of sin to get our attention, redirect our pathway, and test our self-proclaimed faith.
In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ… (1Pe 1:6-7)
It needs to be noted, in culture today, suffering & pain are rarely connected to God getting our attention. Satan uses a madness method to disconnect the masses from God, resulting in NOT gaining the people's focus.
Consequences of the Sins of Others:
I lived with a raging alcoholic my entire childhood. The suffering this forced upon my life was realistically unbearable, and it created psychological scars that I carry to this day. While I maintained my love for this individual throughout the abusive times, it wasn't until many years later that God used those traumatic events to lead him to Jesus for salvation.
Each of us knows firsthand what it means to suffer as a result of someone else's sin. We have all been the victims of the sinful choices of others. Evil words and actions have left great marks on our consciences, minds, and bodies. Because of this, for some reason, most grip the fruitless ideology of directing our anger towards God, believing He did nothing to stop the sin that was forced upon us. Yet, none of us is innocent of casting the consequences of our sins onto others. We, too, have played the role of the 'abusive sinner,' harming others with the sins we commit. Sin lurks at each of our doors. Like all unsaved & saved alike, we must battle our fear, insecurity, shame, resentment, and anger. Failing to recognize or master these flesh reactions in Christ often creates suffering for others. But as for the unsaved, we must remember, they have no power to conquer their sin, nor having their sins STOP affect others.
Consequences of Serving Christ:
Not long ago, I was contacted by one of my Directors in Uganda. He was notifying me of his worship leader, who a group of Islamic extremists attacked. They cut off one of her arms (and other parts), hacked her body with a machete, and left her to die. As God would have it – she lived. Now the question becomes, what will she do with her living through such a horrific event?
These consequences are called 'Christian Persecution.'
For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. (1Pe 2:19)
Few indwelt Christians enjoy being persecuted. When Truth is shared, it arouses hate in those who defy Jesus Christ. Thus, when we encounter haters of God WITH the Truth, persecution is certain to happen.
If, in a conscientious giving the Truth to a lost world, you WILL suffer evil persecution. In the sight of God, we are encouraged to be thankful, pleasing, and proper in Christ. It shows that you prefer His authority to your own comfort, peace, and consideration. Resulting in considering one's obligation to serving Christ over self-will. This kind of loyalty depends on the character of Christ from within. Believers who survive persecution without betrayal fully know they are bond-servants of Jesus Christ. And…they are suffering in & with the sufferings of Jesus!
These believers are in constant fellowship with Christ's sufferings. They expect to be hated and refuse to cower when it arrives on their doorstep. They consider it a high honor to suffer with Christ as they release Christ to do the following.
While being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously… (1Pe 2:23)
Translating that out for each of us, we see this. While being reviled by haters of God, I will do by releasing Christ in me NOT to revile in return. While I suffer with Christ, I will not utter threats but keep entrusting myself to Him. As for revenge, that is the business of my Husband – Christ in me.
The comfort of God that we can extend to ourselves & others comes from the Life of Christ within us. When pain & suffering is focused on self, it completely misses the objective of the 'why' God has allowed it. Compassion does NOT work on self. Compassion is extended in our Spiritual gifts to comfort others. When we put the focus on our suffering & pain, we die. Paul's idea of suffering is to minister to others the hope and comfort of God while we suffer. What is needed is an experience of deliverance from our attitude of affliction, comfort, grief, pain, and restoration in brokenness. These experiences remind us of who God is and what He can do. Those that "get it" reveals the Holiest testimony of healing and wholeness that enables all true believers to invite God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit to be present in the pain & sufferings of the full Body of Christ.
Consider Reviewing IOM's Persecution Site. HERE