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)
Tough times are a part of our existence. Adversity is a defining characteristic of the human experience. We can’t wish it away, ignore it or positive-confess it out of reality.
Today we will look at another possible reason we might experience tough times, one of the Godly responses we can choose and one of the benefits that is possible through suffering. Let’s review our major points so far:
- We will suffer 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)
As we move on to some other points keep in mind that any single one of these observations is not the sum total of suffering. In other words, we don’t ALWAYS suffer because of our own sin, but we most certainly sometimes do. Each of our points is just one possible consideration. The most important, all-encompassing point is the understanding that Scripture is ALWAYS the answer to life’s hardships.
We Are Not In Control of Life
An extension of the sin-curse is that we have lost control of life. That’s not to say that we were “god” (in control of all things) before Adam sinned, but that the world God created was perfect and predictable. Now it is in chaos and continues on a scientifically well-known and spiritually manifested course of continuous increasing disorder.
Part of the consequence God pronounced on the earth was that it would not cooperate with us in our efforts (Gen 3). So we find our self often times looking at a life we neither planned, expected or wanted. Consider Habakkuk 3.17-18 (NKJV; emphasis mine):
- Though the fig tree may not blossom, Nor fruit be on the vines;
- Sometimes life just doesn’t end up the way we thought it would; everything doesn’t turn out the way we planned. There are times when our efforts don’t seem to ever result in anything “pretty” and there is nothing to show for our efforts.
- Frequently life leaves us wondering why we even bother. It seems sometimes that no matter how hard we try or how good our motives are, we just don’t produce anything “fruitful” (at least from our perspective).
- Though the labor of the olive may fail, And the fields yield no food;
- Then there are the times when life is just downright hard. Little seems to go right, and nothing comes easy.
- Though the flock may be cut off from the fold, And there be no herd in the stalls—
- Tough times come frequently in the form of loneliness and isolation. Have you every been suffering through hard times and felt like you were doing it alone? There seems to be no one who knows, no one who understands and no one who cares.
- Life is just not cooperating. Things may look right, feel right and seem right… but you know deep down something is missing.
- Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.
Despite all of that, we find the writer rejoicing! And we can do the same. No matter how hard life gets, it is but a light and momentary trial compared to what the God of our salvation has prepared for us! This is know as an “eternal perspective”.
2 Corinthians 4:17-18 – 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)
We Can Respond Knowing That God Has a Purpose for Good
Romans 8:28 – And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. (NKJV)
Sometimes that verse gets worked to death and becomes a cliché because we don’t take time to understand its context. It is a wonderful verse of promise and consolation, and even more so when we realize the entire scope of what the Apostle Paul was writing. We can’t do a whole study on Romans, but let’s start back at least in verse 1 of Chapter 8:
Romans 8:1 – There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. (NKJV)
It is first of importance to understand that Paul is speaking to those who are genuinely saved. Next, we notice that he addresses those who are NOT walking a life of worldliness (flesh), but are living life according to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Paul goes on in the next few verses explaining that more fully by saying:
Romans 8:18 – For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. (NKJV)
Compared to what God has done for us, and what He has waiting for us, any suffering that we endure in this life is of little consequence compared to the glorious future we will enjoy. Going on in verses 19-25 we see that the earth is groaning from the curse of sin and God will eventually rescue creation from this bondage. Then in verse 26:
Romans 8:26 – Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. (NKJV)
The Holy Spirit helps us through this life. In reality we don’t even know how to pray properly because our finite mind cannot grasp what is really going on; only God can see all things in perfect perspective. The Spirit searches our hearts and makes intercession for us (27).
Now verse 28 comes to light… because we are saved, because we live in a world that doesn’t work right anymore (sin curse), because we can’t see the “whole” picture but the Holy Spirit does and prays on our behalf…. Because of all that, we can take solace and rejoice in the fact that ALL things work together for our good, because God called each of us according to His purpose.
For these reasons, we can respond to trials and adversity with joy knowing that while unpleasant, the suffering is still part of God’s plan for our ultimate blessing and happiness… and more importantly for God’s glory.
Suffering Turns Head Knowledge Into Heart Knowledge
As humans, we best comprehend something that we have experienced fully… intellectually, emotionally and physically. A person who has never suffered can have little real empathy for those who have. Those who have suffered little (or suffered apart from God) will know little of God’s sustaining grace. Those who have experienced few trials will only have intellectual acknowledgement of the Comforter and Counselor. After Job had suffered his terrible losses and complete devastation he said:
Job 42:5 – “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, But now my eye sees You. (NKJV)
Job had proclaimed in the past his trust in God and he knew certain truths in his head such as “the Lord gives and the Lords takes away, blessed be the Lord”. To his credit (God’s really) he stood by those beliefs when the test was administered.
But in the end, after the suffering had been experienced he realized that what he had previously heard, what he previously had known intellectually, had now become living, breathing reality for Job. His eyes were opened through suffering to the realization that God really was in control; God really was faithful; God really is real.
It can do the same for you and I. Is it fun? Hardly. Will you understand it? Maybe not. Will your friends and family respond supportively? Who knows. But in the end…
The greater the trial, the greater the
opportunity to see God for real.
We are not in control of what happens in this life, but we can be sure that because God called us for His purpose, that whatever hardship you now face will work out eventually for your ultimate good (and more importantly for God’s glory)… and in the end, you will know about God’s grace in a new fullness what was previously only known intellectually.
Lord God, help us to not only understand Your purpose in suffering, but Your faithfulness that has been promised to sustain us during it. Empower us to take our eyes off the hardships, and focus them on You for Your glory. In Jesus name, Amen.
Contemplation: Some people turn to God only when things get bad; some only when things are good. How about you? Why do you think you don’t turn to God in all circumstances, good or bad? Do you believe that God works all things together for good for you? What qualifies you for the promise? Are you walking according to the flesh, or the Spirit (Rom 8.1)? After suffering, Job “knew” what he previously had only “heard”. Do you “know”? Or have you just “heard”?
Application: We are not in control. Sometimes life is tough for this simple reason. God works all things together for good for the saved, and for those walking in the Spirit, not the flesh. Suffering gives us the ability to truly know the things of God that we may only previously had head knowledge of.
- 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?