The Blessing of Tough Times – 25 Reasons – Part 10

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James 1:2-4 – My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. (NKJV)

Let’s review our major points so far (emphasis mine in all following Bible verses):

  • Life is tough simply because we live in a fallen, sin-cursed world. (Gen 3)
  • We frequently suffer because of the consequence of our own sin. (Gal 6.7-9)
  • The Bible contains ALL the answers we need concerning adversity. (Psalms 19; 2Tim 3.16-17; 2Pet 1.1-3)
  • We are not in control of life. (Habakkuk 3.17-18)
  • If you walk in the Spirit, God will cause adversity to work for your good. (Romans 8.28)
  • Suffering turns head knowledge into heart knowledge. (Job 42:5)
  • Adversity brings an opportunity to display the character of Christ so that others might be saved. ( 2Cor 4:8-11; 1 Pet 3:14-15)
  • Prayer and singing are a Godly response to tough times. (Acts 16)
  • Hardship should make us long for Heaven and to be with Jesus. (Rev. 7:16-17; 1Pet 1:3-5 )
  • God uses adversity to transform us into the image of Christ (Heb 12.11;1Pet 1.6-8)
  • Tough times pull us back on the right path when we have strayed away (Psa 119.67)
  • We accept suffering for Jesus’ sake and His glory (Luke 6.22)
  • Hardship allows us to better relate to and sympathize with others (2 Corinthians 1:3-7)
  • We should always respond to adversity with thanksgiving (1 Peter 4:12-13; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
  • Tough times give us an opportunity to see God’s faithfulness (Psalm 119:75-77; 1 Thessalonians 5:24)
  • Suffering restores our obedience and fellowship (1Corinthians 11.30; 5.5)
  • Adversity can preserve and increase our fellowship with God (2Corinthians 12.7; Hebrews 5.8)
  • A far greater purpose is served through our suffering (2Corinthians 4.16-18)

A Far Greater Purpose is Served Through Our Suffering

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. 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. (NKJV)

I want to finish up the series of lessons by giving you a tool that I think will help you (and help you to help others) when you face the tough times that will inevitably come.

I want to give you 25 rapid-fire reasons from the Bible why God permits suffering in the lives of his children so that you will have a concentrated compilation of Scripture at your fingertips.

25 Reasons Why Christians Will Suffer and God’s Purpose In It

  1. To produce the fruit of patience Rom. 5:3; James 1:3-4; Heb. 10:36
    • Through adversity Christians learn the blessing of long-suffering and delayed gratification.
  2. To produce the fruit of joy Ps. 30:5; 126:5-6
    • It is easy to be joyful when times are good but you have authentic rejoicing when you experience it through suffering.
  3. To produce the fruit of maturity Eccles. 7:3; 1 Pet. 5:10
    • Through affliction we discover the true reality of living in a sin cursed world. When we endure suffering with the attitude of Jesus Christ we are perfected, established and strengthened.
  4. To produce the fruit of righteousness Heb. 12:11
    • Adversity, when responded to according to God’s word, will train us to be righteous and holy.
  5. To silence the devil Job 1:9, 10, 20-22
    • God permits suffering and when we respond to it in a Christlike manner the accusations of Satan against us will be in vain.
  6. To teach us Ps. 119:67, 71
    • The more we suffer the more God’s word becomes real to us and the less we will stray from obeying the Lord. It then becomes a good thing that we have suffered because it has resulted in increased Godliness.
  7. To purify our lives Job 23:10; Ps. 66:10-12; Isa. 1:25; 48:10; Prov. 17:3; 1 Pet. 1:7
    • God tests, strengthens and purifies us through affliction. Our faith is much more precious than anything the world can offer and like pure gold it is refined in the fires of suffering.
  8. To make us like Christ Heb. 12:9, 10; 1 Pet. 4:12-13; Phil. 3:10; 2 Cor. 4:7-10
    • As we suffer, we come to understand and better relate to the suffering that Jesus endured on our behalf. Through persecution and affliction we are conformed into the image of Christ manifesting through our bodies a living example of Christ’s sacrifice for us.
  9. To glorify God Ps. 50:15; John 9:1-3; 11:1-4; 21:18-19; Phil. 1:19-20
    • Every time we respond to suffering with a Godly attitude, we bring glory to God in such an unselfish manner that it directs attention solely to God, and not to us.
  10. To prevent us from sinning 2 Cor. 12:7, 9-10
    • God may permit us to suffer in order to keep us humble and to keep us from the sin of self-exaltation.
  11. To make us confess when we do sin Judg. 10:6-7, 15-16; Ps. 32:3-5; Hos. 5:15; 6:1; 2 Chron. 15:3-4
    • There will be times when God uses suffering to force us to confront our sin and confess it. Enduring the effects of a sin cursed world heightens our awareness of sin and deepens our understanding of just how truly awful sin really is.
  12. To chasten us for our sin 1 Pet. 4:17
    • Suffering may often times be a direct result of our own personal sin and God may be chastising us for it. Adversity motivates us to carefully examine our lives for holiness and devotion.
  13. To prove our sonship Heb. 12:5-6
    • Adversity is like an identification badge for the Christian. Scripture clearly says, “that whom the Lord loves He chastens”. So any time that you suffer you can be sure of two things: that you belong to the Lord, and that He loves you.
  14. To reveal ourselves to ourselves Job 42:6; Luke 15:18
    • When the pressure is on you can be sure that what is deep down inside of a person will come boiling to the top. When you squeeze a lemon, you get lemon juice. There is no way to fake what you are truly all about when you are under great stress or enduring significant adversity. You can be sure that what you are genuinely made of will surface not only for you to see but also for everyone around you to see.
  15. To help our prayer life Isa. 26:16
    • There is no doubt that affliction helps our prayer life. For most people greater suffering equals greater prayer.
  16. To become an example to others 2 Cor. 6:4-5; 1 Thess. 1:6-7
    • When we respond to adversity in a Godly manner it provides a living example for all those who observe us.
  17. To qualify us as counselors Rom. 12:15; Gal. 6:2; 2 Cor. 1:3-5
    • There is nothing like real-life experience to qualify you as a teacher. It is an academic exercise at best to proclaim truths that you have not lived and experienced.
  18. To further the gospel witness Acts 8:1-5; 16:25-34; Phil. 1:12-13; 2 Tim. 4:6-8, 16-17
    • By enduring suffering with a Godly attitude we participate in validating the power of the Gospel. When another person sees you rejoicing in the midst of affliction they can’t help but wonder where you derive the power for such a response.
  19. To make us more than conquerors 2 Cor. 2:14; Rom. 8:35, 37
    • As God proves faithful to see us through adversity we become more and more confident about the things of God. We become increasingly victorious over sin and “more than conquerors”.
  20. To give us insight into God’s nature Job 42:5; Rom. 8:14-15, 18
    • Through suffering we know more about God and His purposes. We better understand His attributes, His nature and His sovereignty.
  21. To drive us closer to God 1 Pet. 4:14; 2 Cor. 12:10
    • Whether we have actively strayed from God or are just in the sanctifying process of growing closer to him, suffering is an important means to push us and turn us towards God.
  22. To prepare us for a greater ministry 1 Kings 17-18; John 12:24
    • Like the potter’s clay that is worked and reworked, or the lump of dough that is kneaded until soft and blended, affliction breaks us down, makes us soft and prepares us to be used by the Lord.
  23. To provide for us a reward Matt. 5:10-12; 19:27-29; Rom. 8:16-17; 2 Cor. 4:17
    • It is a wondrous truth that God permits us to suffer for His glory and yet it turns out to be an incredible blessing for us, not only in this lifetime, but also through the eternal reward we will receive in Heaven.
  24. To prepare us for the kingdom 2 Thess. 1:5; 2 Tim. 2:12
    • Suffering prepares us for our eternal life with God. It conditions us, trains us and equips us to reign with Christ forever and ever.
  25. To show God’s sovereignty Rom. 8:28; 1 Cor. 10:13; Ps. 66:10-12; Gen. 45:5-8; 50:20
    • The suffering Christian is a tangible demonstration of God’s sovereignty, who in His infinite wisdom can take all things (good and bad) and work them together for His ultimate glory and eternal purpose.

While this series on “tough times” is by no means exhaustive, original, or definitive, I trust that maybe it will be a starting point for you to discover through prayer and Bible study the true blessing of the suffering Saint. Remember, nothing is truly learned until it results in REAL change in your life.

Lord God, You have revealed to us all we ever need to know about suffering. You have turned something “bad” into a marvelous blessing. Help us to discover, understand and practice that truth, In Jesus name, Amen.

Contemplation: If someone asked you right now why God is “making them suffer”, what would you say? Can you communicate God’s perspective on adversity? If someone watches your life, would they find hope through their own suffering?

Application: Suffering is an inevitable, frequent and universal experience. We should be prepared to share what God has to say about it. Every person will go through tough times, so God has given us “common ground” to share the Gospel with each person through this common experience. Suffering is universally understood so it is a good way to share about Jesus (who suffered for us), the sinner (who suffers now and in eternity) and the saved (who suffers now but NOT in eternity).

James 1:22 – But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (NKJV)

  1. What is the most obvious Bible truth you have learned today?
  2. What change in your life needs to be made concerning this truth?
  3. What specific thing will you do today to begin that change?


(seriesid:25)


The Blessing of Tough Times – Temporal and Eternal – Part 9

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James 1:2-4 – My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. (NKJV)

Let’s review our major points so far (emphasis mine in all following Bible verses):

  • Life is tough simply because we live in a fallen, sin-cursed world. (Gen 3)
  • We frequently suffer because of the consequence of our own sin. (Gal 6.7-9)
  • The Bible contains ALL the answers we need concerning adversity. (Psalms 19; 2Tim 3.16-17; 2Pet 1.1-3)
  • We are not in control of life. (Habukkuk 3.17-18)
  • If you walk in the Spirit, God will cause adversity to work for your good. (Romans 8.28)
  • Suffering turns head knowledge into heart knowledge. (Job 42:5)
  • Adversity brings an opportunity to display the character of Christ so that others might be saved. ( 2Cor 4:8-11; 1 Pet 3:14-15)
  • Prayer and singing are a Godly response to tough times. (Acts 16)
  • Hardship should make us long for Heaven and to be with Jesus. (Rev. 7:16-17; 1Pet 1:3-5 )
  • God uses adversity to transform us into the image of Christ (Heb 12.11;1Pet 1.6-8)
  • Tough times pull us back on the right path when we have strayed away (Psa 119.67)
  • We accept suffering for Jesus sake and His glory (Luke 6.22)
  • Hardship allows us to better relate to and sympathize with others (2 Corinthians 1:3-7)
  • We should always respond to adversity with thanksgiving (1 Peter 4:12-13; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
  • Tough times give us an opportunity to see God’s faithfulness (Psalm 119:75-77; 1 Thessalonians 5:24)
  • Suffering restores our obedience and fellowship (1Corinthians 11.30; 5.5)
  • Adversity can preserve and increase our fellowship with God (2Corinthians 12.7; Hebrews 5.8)

A Far Greater Purpose is Served Through Our Suffering

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. 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. (NKJV)

These are incredible words of comfort for us when we face the tough times of life. Sometimes when we just pull a single passage from the Scriptures, a promise like this can seem more of a cliché than something that truly applies in everyday life. So let’s back up and take a quick look through Paul’s letter to determine what caused him to write these words.

Second Corinthians is a book that opens up giving three reasons why God permits his children to suffer. The first reason, which we have covered in a previous lesson, is that we suffer in order to be a comfort to others.

2 Corinthians 1:4 – who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. (NKJV)

God allows us to face adversity so that we might experience His faithful comfort and then in turn, be able to extend consolation to others. In this sense we submit to God’s will for our lives in that we will bring glory to Him by providing comfort to those around us who are suffering. God is glorified through our suffering, which alone is more than enough reason to consider suffering a blessing (or should be!).

The second reason Paul gives for God permitting suffering is so that we might have confidence in God, or as we phrased it in a previous lesson, that we might see the faithfulness of God.

2 Corinthians 1:10 – who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us, (NKJV)

God will never fail to deliver us from our suffering in His timing and to His glory, demonstrating His complete faithfulness to us. He will never allow us to suffer anything that He does not provide the grace and strength to endure… and endure in such a way that glorifies God.

Thirdly, we find that the Lord permits suffering so that we might learn to claim His promises.

2 Corinthians 1:20 – For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us. (NKJV)

That is an incredible verse! God’s promises are all true (Yes!) and we can agree with them (Amen!). They will display the glory of God as they are fulfilled through us!

Having laid down the groundwork of why God permits us to suffer, Paul moves on in chapter 2 to explain why plans had changed concerning his visit to Corinth. Paul then expresses his love and concern for the spiritual needs of the Corinthian church.

In chapter 3 Paul contrasts the law of Moses compared to the Gospel of grace. Apparently, there were those in Corinth who were accusing Paul of not being a true apostle, declaring that he did not possess the necessary credentials. Paul uses this accusation as an opportunity to show the difference between Law and Grace.

As well as accusing Paul of not being a true apostle, it seems there were some who were accusing him of preaching for personal benefit. As we get to chapter 4 we find Paul refuting that accusation. In verse one Paul begins by identifying his efforts as “ministry”, not personal ambition. That is the reason the Apostle did not lose heart when he endured severe suffering and persecution for his preaching. If Paul was preaching for personal gain, most certainly he would choose a more comfortable “ambition”.

Paul goes on to say that he had never handled God’s word deceitfully but preached the word plainly and unveiled. In verse seven he declares himself simply an “earthen vessel” that carried a great treasure, which he was delivering on God’s behalf and to His glory. To further prove that he was not using the Gospel for personal gain, Paul proclaimed the inevitable suffering and personal hardship that comes with preaching Christ.

2 Corinthians 4:8-10 – We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed- always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. (NKJV)

In verse 10 Paul says that in suffering, we are “always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus” and that we who live, verse 11, are always “delivered to death” for Jesus sake (suffering is guaranteed!) so that the life of Christ will be manifested through our mortal bodies.

All of this lays the foundation for today’s verses (2 Corinthians 4:16-18). Starting in verse 16 Paul says “therefore” which means “everything that I’m about to say is the reason for what I just finished saying”.

Therefore, because of what suffering accomplishes in your life,
do not give up or become discouraged.

Paul says don’t give up because Christ is manifested through your suffering. Manifested means shown, displayed, revealed. It means that the real person of Jesus Christ can be seen in us by how we respond to, learn and benefit from, adversity. Paul goes on with further encouragement by reminding us that any suffering we endure in this life is but “a light and momentary affliction” compared to what we will receive and experience in eternity.

Learn to have an eternal perspective about suffering.

The suffering we endure now, verse 17, will only last for a short time and is working for us a “far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory“. Paul tells us to focus on the things that are “not seen” (the eternal benefits) rather than becoming discouraged by focusing on temporary physical circumstances. At the end of verse 18 Paul reveals one of the greatest truths that a Christian can learn:

The things which we can see (this life) are temporary.
The things we cannot see (spiritual life) are eternal.
When you feel burdened by the temporary, focus on the eternal.

If we would genuinely get a hold of that truth then we would be far less prone to become discouraged (or enamored!) with the things of this life. We would not long for or hold onto the “good things” of this world, nor would we be overly concerned or burdened with the bad things. In summary…

The “tough times” which you are facing today are temporary and inconsequential compared to what God is preparing for you in eternity. Learn to filter your feelings and responses through this great truth and the glory of God will overflow from your life. You will be an example of God’s truth and faithfulness to everyone around you. Only then will the “tough times” become the blessing that God intends.

Lord God, Help us to see suffering from an eternal perspective. Thank you for the eternal blessings that you are preparing for us. May our response to suffering bring glory to Your Son, In His name, Amen.

Contemplation: Have you ever meditated about, or pondered the brevity of this life compared to eternity? Compare the “length” of your suffering with the fact that Jesus knew from eternity past what He would come to endure for us on this earth. Do you truly believe that suffering is “worth it” if Christ receives glory through it? What would your PUBLIC answer be if you were asked: ‘which is more important, your comfort, or God’s glory displayed through your suffering?’ What would your SECRET answer be?

Application: I’m the first to admit that all this is MUCH easier said than done, but it is a fact that nothing we suffer now, and no length of time that we may suffer compares to the Lord’s suffering for us, nor be worthy to be compared with the eternal reward God is preparing for us. Easy to think about… hard to live.

  1. What is the most obvious Bible truth you have learned today?
  2. What change in your life needs to be made concerning this truth?
  3. What specific thing will you do today to begin that change?


(seriesid:25)


The Blessing of Tough Times – Restoration, Preservation & Increase – Part 8

(Click here to search for all the posts in this series…)

James 1:2-4 – My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. (NKJV)

Let’s review our major points so far:

  • Life is tough simply because we live in a fallen, sin-cursed world. (Gen 3)
  • We frequently suffer because of the consequence of our own sin. (Gal 6.7-9)
  • The Bible contains ALL the answers we need concerning adversity. (Psalms 19; 2Tim 3.16-17; 2Pet 1.1-3)
  • We are not in control of life. (Habukkuk 3.17-18)
  • If you walk in the Spirit, God will cause adversity to work for your good. (Romans 8.28)
  • Suffering turns head knowledge into heart knowledge. (Job 42:5)
  • Adversity brings an opportunity to display the character of Christ so that others might be saved. ( 2Cor 4:8-11; 1 Pet 3:14-15)
  • Prayer and singing are a Godly response to tough times. (Acts 16)
  • Hardship should make us long for Heaven and to be with Jesus. (Rev. 7:16-17; 1Pet 1:3-5 )
  • God uses adversity to transform us into the image of Christ (Heb 12.11;1Pet 1.6-8)
  • Tough times pull us back on the right path when we have strayed away (Psa 119.67)
  • We accept suffering for Jesus sake and His glory (Luke 6.22)
  • Hardship allows us to better relate to and sympathize with others (2 Corinthians 1:3-7)
  • We should always respond to adversity with thanksgiving (1 Peter 4:12-13; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
  • Tough times give us an opportunity to see God’s faithfulness (Psalm 119:75-77; 1 Thessalonians 5:24)

Suffering Can Restore Our Obedience To and Fellowship With God

Sin separates us from God before we are saved and it is an ultimate, eternal separation. After we are saved by the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, sin continues to separate us from God in the sense that we can create distance between ourselves so that we do not enjoy close fellowship with the Lord on a daily basis. Losing that fellowship is critical because it is fellowship with God that empowers us (through the Holy Spirit) to live a sanctified (holy) life, which then draws us even closer to God, resulting in an even greater holiness; and so on and so on. It is a positive cycle of sanctification.

Just the opposite is true as well. When we sin, we diminish our fellowship with God, which decreases our power to overcome sin and live a holy life, which results in more sin, which results in even greater deterioration of fellowship. This is a negative cycle that feeds on itself, and can grow into a great storm generating its own momentum and destruction. Only God can stop the cycle. And frequently He uses suffering to do so.

1 Corinthians 11:30 – For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. (NKJV)

What is the “reason” spoken of in this verse? If you read the preceding verses you will find the topic to be the Lord’s Supper. The apostle Paul tells the Corinthians to examine themselves before partaking of Communion. He then warns them that their failure to do so had resulted in negative physical consequences… even death.

By not participating in the Lord’s supper with a pure heart and an attitude of self-examination, they were treating the Memorial of the greatest event in history with casualness, disrespect and dishonor. Of course this is a great insult to God and would logically result in immediate diminished fellowship with Him. In fact it was such a great affront to God (and no doubt still is) that many in the congregation had become weak, sick, and some had even died. This leaves us with something very serious, and admittedly very touchy, to think about when we look around at churches today that are filled with the weak, sick and dying.

Could it be that some of this physical affliction is due to a flippant, shallow attitude towards the things of God? Of course, only God knows, and only He can judge the heart of the individual. But when something this plain is proclaimed in Scripture we should sit up and take notice. It would be both foolish and tragic for us to somehow think that this could ONLY apply to those people back in Paul’s day.

1 Corinthians 5:5 – deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. (NKJV)

Here is another example of God ordaining (not causing) suffering as a result of sin. The previous verses speak of one consumed in immorality who should be turned over to Satan for the “destruction of the flesh”. In our modern time of being taught to “love ourselves” and “forgive ourselves” this seems to be a terribly harsh and unloving act on God’s part. But in reality it is the most merciful of acts. Notice the end of the verse. What is the purpose behind the destruction of his flesh? It is to save his soul. And what could be more merciful than that?

Suffering Can Preserve and Increase Our Obedience To and Fellowship With God

2 Corinthians 12:7 – And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. (NKJV)

God even allowed the apostle Paul to suffer in order to increase fellowship with Him and keep Paul from self pride. If God in His wisdom knew that the Apostle Paul needed suffering to ensure his fellowship with God, how much more do we need it? What if the Lord Jesus himself had to suffer to learn obedience? Then would you agree that we should have suffering as well for the same purpose? Of course, you might think the idea that Jesus “learned obedience” to be nonsense. Surely Jesus didn’t “need” suffering , right?

Hebrews 5:8 – though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. (NKJV)

Hebrews is filled with tough verses. I can’t even begin to scratch the surface of understanding how the Son of God, the Spotless Lamb, who was and is fully and completely God, somehow needed to “learn” obedience through suffering. But there it is in Scripture plain as day. And while that is an infinite truth well beyond my ability to ever grasp or comprehend, I accept God’s word by faith and come to the conclusion that if the Savior of Mankind learned obedience through suffering then how much more do I need to suffer to learn obedience?

If you never studied anything about suffering again, these four verses alone should completely revolutionize your viewpoint and result in some very significant self-examination of your life. Suffering can restore, preserve and increase our obedience to God and result in greater fellowship with the Lord.

Lord God, Help us to see that the tough times in life can restore, preserve and increase our obedience and fellowship. What a small price to pay to enjoy being close to You! In Jesus name, Amen.

Contemplation: If you’re in the midst of suffering and affliction (or recall the last time in your life that you were) did you stop and ask God if the adversity was occurring because you had drifted away from Him? This is not ALWAYS the reason as we have discussed in this series, but I would personally believe from my experience that it is probably the reason more often than we are willing to admit. Do you truly see adversity as a blessing, because it increases your fellowship with God? Or because it pulls you back into a fellowship that has been diminishing over time? Are you weak, sick, or dying? Have you asked yourself if it is because there is something concerning God that you have taken lightly or had casual disrespect for? I’m not declaring that IS the reason. I’m declaring it MIGHT be the reason. Those are very tough questions. Sometimes we don’t ask because we don’t want to know the answer. If Paul needed suffering to stay humble, how much more do you need it? It Jesus learned obedience through suffering (even if we don’t understand it) how much more do we need suffering to learn to be obedient?

Application: When we think of suffering, we immediately think of it as “bad”. It would be more accurate to say that suffering is always “painful.” But to say that it is “bad” is a gross misunderstanding of God’s Word. It is not bad, it is not to be avoided, it is not to be immediately alleviated every time it occurs. It is a blessing from God. It has many uses and when viewed from God’s perspective, always results in good. No, we’re not to go looking for it, God will bring it to us when we need it. The more we began to truly see suffering the way God sees it, the less we will see it as “suffering” and the more we will see it “blessing”.

  1. What is the most obvious Bible truth you have learned today?
  2. What change in your life needs to be made concerning this truth?
  3. What specific thing will you do today to begin that change?

(seriesid:25)


The Blessing of Tough Times – Sympathy, Thanks & Proof – Part 7

(Click here to search for all the posts in this series…)

James 1:2-4 – My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. (NKJV)

Are you surprised when life is tough? Do you think it odd? Do you think it abnormal? Do you feel life your life has gone wrong, or is “messed up” because adversity comes calling? (Emphasis mine in all following verses):

  • John 16:33 These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (NKJV)
  • 1 Thessalonians 3:1-3 Therefore, when we could no longer endure it, we thought it good to be left in Athens alone, and sent Timothy, our brother and minister of God, and our fellow laborer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you and encourage you concerning your faith, that no one should be shaken by these afflictions; for you yourselves know that we are appointed to this. (NKJV)
  • Job 14:1 “Man who is born of woman is of few days and full of trouble. (NKJV)
  • Acts 14:22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.” (NKJV)

When life gets tough, it might bother us, but is shouldn’t surprise us. What should be the REAL surprise is when we experience a stretch of smooth sailing because the truth is, we don’t suffer near as much as we deserve if the true nature of our sinfulness was unveiled.

  • Psalm 103:10 He has not dealt with us according to our sins, Nor punished us according to our iniquities. (NKJV)
  • Ezra 9:13 And after all that has come upon us for our evil deeds and for our great guilt, since You our God have punished us less than our iniquities deserve, and have given us such deliverance as this, (NKJV; the context is Israel, but the application to us is very real)

Life is hard. And the closer you get to God, the harder your circumstances may become… but the greater the peace, blessings and grace will flow.

Let’s review our major points so far:

  • Life is tough simply because we live in a fallen, sin-cursed world. (Gen 3)
  • We frequently suffer because of the consequence of our own sin. (Gal 6.7-9)
  • The Bible contains ALL the answers we need concerning adversity. (Psalms 19; 2Tim 3.16-17; 2Pet 1.1-3)
  • We are not in control of life. (Habukkuk 3.17-18)
  • If you walk in the Spirit, God will cause adversity to work for your good. (Romans 8.28)
  • Suffering turns head knowledge into heart knowledge. (Job 42:5)
  • Adversity brings an opportunity to display the character of Christ so that others might be saved. ( 2Cor 4:8-11; 1 Pet 3:14-15)
  • Prayer and singing are a Godly response to tough times. (Acts 16)
  • Hardship should make us long for Heaven and to be with Jesus. (Rev. 7:16-17; 1Pet 1:3-5 )
  • God uses adversity to transform us into the image of Christ (Heb 12.11;1Pet 1.6-8)
  • Tough times pull us back on the right path when we have strayed away (Psa 119.67)
  • We accept suffering for Jesus sake and His glory (Luke 6.22)

Hardships Enable Us to Sympathize and Relate to Others

One of the great realities of enduring suffering is that it enables us to better relate to and sympathize with others who endure the same suffering. On the highest level this allows Christians to better relate to what Jesus suffered resulting in deeper love and appreciation for our Savior.

On a human level adversity keeps us reminded of the reality of life in this sin-cursed world. When we receive the blessing of suffering it ensures that we never stray too far from being able to empathize with our fellow Christians. This works itself out on two levels:

  • First, it helps the non-persecuted church remember and relate to the persecuted church. When I say persecuted in this context, I mean the part of our church today that actually experiences tangible physical persecution such as discrimination, imprisonment, deprivation, beatings and even martyrdom. It is very difficult for those of us who live in an environment of religious liberty to understand and share in the hardships of those who might lose both their possessions and possibly their life for their profession of faith.
    • (Note: however, we should strive to try and share in their suffering by reading about their trials and trying be informed. We may not physically participate, but we can care by making ourselves aware of their hardship and doing what we can. By extrapolating or magnifying the relatively light adversity most of us experience, perhaps we can at least understand a hint of what our persecuted brothers and sisters endure. Two good places to start: Foxe’s Book of Martyr’s [which should be required reading for all Christians] and Voice of the Martyr’s – http://www.persecution.com )
  • Secondly, the blessing of suffering increases our capacity for compassion towards others who are suffering the same thing we have endured, and those who are suffering hardship in general (even if the affliction is something we haven’t experienced).

By accepting adversity as a blessing from the hand of God,
we can be assured that we will never stray too far from the
reality of all the hurting people God wants you to love.

Despite the current teaching of material prosperity (“the good life”) and the “Jesus-will-improve-your-life” version of the Gospel that is so popular today, the Biblical reality is that we live in a sin cursed, fractured, and deteriorating world that is no longer “good” as God pronounced it originally.

Jesus does not promise to “improve your life” in the
sense that unpleasant circumstances will diminish or cease.
The reality is that once you start living for Jesus, the war is on
and suffering is just around the corner.

The Lord does, of course, miraculously and supernaturally improve our INNER (spiritual, emotional, devotional) life if we allow Him to. Once saved, we are now capable of, and have at our disposal everything we need (through the Holy Spirit) to live a perfectly happy, contented, fullfilled and wondrously joyful life. But our circumstances and suffering with intensify externally, guaranteed.

When the façades are stripped away, the wishful thinking ceases, the rah-rah seminars are over and only brutal realism is left, it is plain for anyone to see that life truly involves tough times (Ecclesiastes) for every single person and ESPECIALLY FOR THOSE WHO NAME THE NAME OF CHRIST.

Let me stop here and make one point clear. Am I saying that we are to walk around sad, discouraged and depressed all time? Are we to have a pitiful countenance and a “woe is me” mentality? Are we to proclaim and bemoan our inevitable suffering? Absolutely not. We are to rejoice in all things. Christians of all people are to be characterized by joy, happiness and fulfillment. This is possible only in Christ, empowered by the Holy Spirit and is in spite of the world we live in, not because we ignore the reality of the world we live in.

It is yet another great paradox of Christianity that we will suffer the most AND still be the happiest people in all the world.

2 Corinthians 1:3-7 – Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ. Now if we are afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effective for enduring the same sufferings which we also suffer. Or if we are comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation. And our hope for you is steadfast, because we know that as you are partakers of the sufferings, so also you will partake of the consolation. (NKJV)

Notice the sequence in these verses. God is the source of mercy and comfort. He comforts us first so that then we may comfort others. We know how to comfort others because God has provided the example for us, and of course that example is perfect. As the sufferings of Christ abound in us (in other words to the degree in which we experience suffering) we will increase our capacity to bring comfort to others. If for no other reason than that, adversity becomes a blessing.

Pay attention to the promise at the end of the passage: to what ever degree we partake of suffering, we are promised consolation (comfort). The end results is that we are then able to pass that comfort on to others because it is now real to us.

Our Response to Suffering Should Always Be Thanksgiving

There are many ironies in the Christian life. Many things that God asks of us are distinctly opposite of what the world would say is appropriate. What person (who is not filled with the Holy Spirit) would ever decide that they should be thankful for adversity and affliction? No, the human dream is comfort, ease and luxury.

In a world gone mad with self gratification, we are told many times a day how much we “deserve” every good and luxurious thing in life. “Get the car you deserve”, “take the vacation you deserve”, “you should have the job you deserve”… this is the new Madison Avenue marketing mantra that we are told over and over and over every day. Advertising now appeals to the lowest common denominator of man’s sinful nature which is pride and self-love (same thing) and tells us that not only should we have what we want…

We are persuaded to believe we actually DESERVE the things we want; and we deserve to have them NOW.

Given that, it leaves no room for the idea that we deserve suffering, much less that we should be thankful for it. And like all the ways of the world it goes directly against God’s Way. We’re blessed to not get what we REALLY deserve.

Psalm 103:10 He has not dealt with us according to our sins, Nor punished us according to our iniquities. (NKJV)

We are clearly commanded in Scripture that we should not be surprised when we suffer, that it should bring us joy, and that in EVERY thing we should give thanks. I will not go into it here what all the reasons are because that is the overall goal of this entire series. The point I’m making here is that we should have no doubt that our response to adversity should be one of joy and thankfulness. Doesn’t matter if we agree, care or understand. It’s still commanded of us.

1 Peter 4:12-13 – Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. (NKJV)

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 – Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (NKJV)

Suffering Provides Us Proof That God Is Always Faithful

God promises to care for us, comfort us, provide for us, guide us and allow us to cast all of our cares, burdens and suffering on Him. Each time that we experience a trial or hardship it is an opportunity to see in action the faithfulness of God.

Each time that God proves Himself faithful, it deepens our faith and strengthens our relationship with Him. We are drawn us closer to Him as we learn to trust in HIS trustworthiness..

Psalm 119:75-77 – I know, O Lord, that Your judgments are right, And that in faithfulness You have afflicted me. Let, I pray, Your merciful kindness be for my comfort, According to Your word to Your servant. Let Your tender mercies come to me, that I may live; For Your law is my delight. (NKJV)

1 Thessalonians 5:24 – He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it. (NKJV)

God does not always promise a way out. He promises grace and strength to endure. He DOES promise blessing and peace. He DOES promise that it will all work out for our ultimate best (Rom 8.28). He DOES promise that He will sustain us. He DOES promise to be with us, that we will never suffer alone.

Learn to see adversity from God’s perspective. Find those who are suffering and let the compassion that God has poured out on your in your time of trial spill out onto others in need of comfort. Give thanks to God is knows perfectly and exactly what you need to become more like Christ. Turn to God in your hour of trial and see if He is not faithful, without fail, to comfort and strengthen you.

Lord God, As You comfort us, may recognize the opportunities to console others. Thank you for knowing what is best for us. We pray for wisdom to understand it. In Jesus name, Amen.

Contemplation: Has your suffering gone to waste? Have you ever helped someone else by using your experience of affliction to comfort and counsel them? Are you truly thankful for adversity? Do you honestly understand yet the reasons to be thankful? Can you recall specific times when God has been faithful to see your through tough times?

Application: God is always faithful. If you think you got through tough times on your strength, that is sad. You are missing a blessing (and sinning). Learn to thank God for suffering. You don’t FEEL thankful? Sorry, I missed that part in the Bible. The verses don’t say a word about how you feel about it. It says be thankful. BE THANKFUL. Just do it. Feelings always follow choice.

  1. What is the most obvious Bible truth you have learned today?
  2. What change in your life needs to be made concerning this truth?
  3. What specific thing will you do today to begin that change?

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The Blessing of Tough Times – Readers Ask – Part 6

(Click here to search for all the posts in this series…)

James 1:2-4 – My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. (NKJV)

I have received many questions and comments from readers since this series started. Several of them have had a common theme, so I wanted to shared a couple of them at this point in the series (with permission). I hope you will find them as interesting and thought provoking as I did.

  • Comment: ” Thank you so much for affirming a lot of what I’ve been learning over the past 5 years. A tragic event in our family in 1992 forced me to really focus on developing my relationship with Jesus, and I’ve been working on it since then. I guess he was allowing me to stockpile what I would need spiritually, because the past 5 years have been trial after trial, for me and others in my circle of influence. Your teaching underscores what I’ve come to accept: Suffering is a big part of our lives as maturing Christians. It’s how God proves He is faithful; He promises to equip us and give us every thing we need; He knows what is best for us – better than we do. And he will bring blessing from adversity! Amazing!”
    • My response: You are truly blessed. God never gives us what we can’t handle; but loves us to give us AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE in order to reward us and bless us as much as possible. The harder your life is, the more you can be sure of the authenticity of your faith. The more like Christ you are, the more God can get serious about making you more like Christ, and that is often (and arguably primarily) through trials. For the serious Christian, life only gets tougher and tougher! And how wonderful that is, knowing that with each passing trial you are: becoming more like Christ, storing up treasure in heaven, understanding more fully what Jesus suffered and having your faith purified. It’s like gold. The hotter the fire, the longer the fire, the more pure the gold. You are becoming pure “Godly gold” and if you understand that, you can truly see trials as a wonderful blessing.
  • Comment: “This series seems to be telling people that if they don’t go out and SEEK adversity/hardship then they are less Christian. I understand that the statement about people who have endured hardship relate better to those that have had the same affliction, so people who suffer are able to be more “Christ-like”, but I don’t remember in the Bible where is says Jesus went out seeking hardship. Yes he did go on fasting sprees, but that is not seeking out hardship. This statement also has me concerned: “What are the differences between avoiding it, seeking to escape it and flat out going looking for it? I leave you to consider those answers yourself.” When you state this, along with what I have state above makes me think of a Monty Python “Holy Grail” scene where there are medieval monks going around hitting themselves with boards or sticks saying “I am dead” in Latin. Punishing themselves (hardship) because they think they are being more “Christ-like”.

    Maybe I am missing the point of this series or I have not grasped the concept. You also state that we should not try to “get out” of the hardship or take the easy way out. In my mind a physical example of this comes to mind of a person that is bitten by a poisonous snake… Definitely a hardship, are you saying that they should seek immediate medical attention? That would be taking the “easy way” out, wouldn’t it? While I believe that it would be wrong to seek illegal/immoral ways to ease suffer or hardship, but to not take any action of your own (wait for God to do everything) to end or ease suffering or hardship doesn’t seem right. Am I missing something in the series?

    • My response: Two points that may help. First, Jesus, nor us, need to go “seeking” suffering. It will find you if you live on this planet. It is a byproduct of the curse of sin.

      Suffering is a fact of our existence. Being an unavoidable fact, we need to know how God would have us respond. God in His infinite love and wisdom has done the “impossible” and turned even suffering into a blessing, using it to transform us into Christ’s image.

      The very unBiblical, Roman Catholic idea of self-inflicted suffering (whipping themselves, crawling on their knees up stone paths, etc) is a man-made attempt to merit God’s favor COMPLETELY without any redeeming quality. It is an attempt to obligate God by our own effort.

      By enduring suffering we are not trying to EARN God’s favor, we are simply obeying Him; and simple obedience always brings God’s blessing (and unlike today’s prosperity teaching, that blessing is primarily spiritual although it CAN by physical).

      So do we SEEK adversity? No. It will find us. It’s inevitable.

      Do we immediately seek a remedy? Depends on the situation. There is no checklist. The Spirit guides us. You can’t use the extremes to make a broad point. Of course if your leg is on fire, or a snake has bitten you, immediate medical attention is called for. That is not my point at all. My point is that we have a mentality that suffering is always bad, that it is to be avoided at all cost, and that we should alleviate all hardship immediately.

      That is why we have a drug for every discomfort. Do we ask God first what He would have us do in our discomfort (I’m not talking about a physical, life threatening emergency)? No. We immediately turn to chemical or emotional relief. If we are suffering mistreatment we immediately seek legal relief. If we are suffering material discomfort, we get immediately buy whatever makes us comfortable, even if we go into debt.

      We must not limit this discussion about adversity solely to a physical “medication”/physical suffering issue. God gave us doctors and they are a blessing. That is only one issue. Equally, if not more, our suffering is emotional, relational and spiritual. To use chemicals or materialism to alleviate those is quite a different issue.

      It’s a mindset of “comfort at all costs” escaping the blessing of affliction. Read Psalms 119 which details over and over the blessing of enduring adversity.

      So, no we don’t go looking for suffering, it will find us often enough. Yes, we turn to God first rather than our immediate response being to alleviate the hardship which is a heart issue of seeking God’s glory first over all things. If a hardship arises, then God has ordained it, or it wouldn’t be happening. Find out what His purpose is. Yes, we have to use our Holy Spirit guided practical sense and put out a fire, find a doctor, do CPR, feed the hungry, etc. To deny that would be ridiculous.

      We should do all we can to alleviate suffering, all the while having an attitude of submissiveness that looks to the Lord FIRST and seeks His glory over our comfort; considering that the current affliction may be for our good and His glorifying.

      When I wrote “ “What are the differences between avoiding it, seeking to escape it and flat out going looking for it? I leave you to consider those answers yourself .” I was leaving the reader to contemplate exactly the questions and issues that you have asked me about, so the sentence had its desire effect. These questions are exactly what I wanted people to consider and answer for themselves.

    • Readers return response: “Thanks so much for giving me a personal response, coming up with a daily devotional (as well as run a business) must be very time consuming. Yes, you may use my questions. I am not embarrassed by my questions or I wouldn’t have asked them. While I wasn’t totally missing the point of what you were trying to get across in this lesson, I just had to ask the questions of the source that I have been letting guide me in devotionals for the last 6 months so that I could have faith that it wasn’t off in left field from what I believed. And you have assured me well. Thanks again for you personal time. A brother in Christ, JD”

Contemplation: Has God used any suffering in your life to draw you close to Him? Did it change your attitude about adversity? What is your first response? Escape or God’s glory?

Application: We don’t need to seek adversity. It will find us. The question is, what is your attitude about it? Do you see it the way God’s see’s suffering, or the way the world see’s it?.

  1. What is the most obvious Bible truth you have learned today?
  2. What change in your life needs to be made concerning this truth?
  3. What specific thing will you do today to begin that change?

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