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