Wednesday, January 14, 2009

True Biblical Suffering

13.8 Third kind of suffering – suffering for God (to go through)

We always hear Christians talking about suffering for God. Most of the time, it is one of the first two kinds of suffering we talked about earlier. We have to be clear. So then, what is suffering for God?

There is one kind of suffering that is experienced by a believer who walks in the perfect will of God. 2 Tim 3:12 says, “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” This is the suffering that we enter into for the sake of the gospel.

The Bible uses the following phrases – “suffer for His sake” (Phil 1:29), “sufferings for the gospel” (2 Tim 1:8), “suffer for doing good” (1 Pet 3:17), “suffer for righteousness’ sake” (1 Pet 3:14), “suffer as a Christian” (1 Pet 4:16), “partake in Christ’s sufferings” (1 Pet 4:13), and “fellowship of His sufferings” (Phil 3:10).

Jesus did not suffer any sickness during His earthly walk (He only carried the sickness of the world on the cross). No, He did not suffer for His wrongdoing, but He suffered great persecution from the religious leaders. This is persecution from within.

As for David, he suffered persecution from King Saul, his own leader.

Persecutions can also be from the external. Believers in the underground churches in China were persecuted by the authorities for their faith in Jesus, just as the early believers suffered under the Roman Empire.

Persecution comes from Satan. God allows tribulations because they help us to develop character, to be dead to self and to manifest the Life of Christ. Rom 5:3-4 says, “Tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.” Paul speaks in 2 Cor 4:10 about his persecutions and tribulations, “Always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.”

We do not need to exercise our faith to believe for suffering through persecution. On the contrary, 1 Tim 2:1-2 says that we are to pray for those in authority that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life. When there is no persecution, the gospel can be preached. For example, when Saul was converted, persecution ceased; the Church had peace and multiplied (Acts 9:31).

We should not invite persecution through our lack of wisdom in speech and behavior. If ever persecution comes as a result of our walking in His perfect will, we should believe God for the strength to come out stronger (1 Pet 5:10).

This is suffering for Christ. We will develop character as we walk closer with Jesus in the fellowship of His suffering. We will also manifest His Life in us.

13.7 Second kind of suffering – for wrong actions (something to be avoided)

The first kind of suffering is that which Christ came to redeem us from. Let’s be clear on that. If we attribute sickness to God, it’s like saying that the doctor inflicts sickness on his patients. That would make it hard for the patient to get help from the doctor. It would be like trying to switch role between Christ the Redeemer and the Devil who came to steal kill and destroy.

Today, let’s talk about the second type of suffering. Peter talks about it in this passage.

(1 Pet 4:15)
But let none of you SUFFER as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters.

Peter is saying that we should not suffer from wrong actions – from sinful actions that have negative consequences, from not walking in the wisdom of God and from walking out of God’s perfect will.

David suffered greatly as a result of committing adultery with Bathsheba. It was not God’s will and he should not have entered into that kind of suffering. Moses suffered the consequences of disobeying God by striking the rock twice instead of speaking to it (Num 20:11). He went out of the perfect will of God.

Christians who are willful tend to walk out from the perfect will of God. They will usually go through a molding process where they learn to yield to the leading of the Lord. The sooner we learn to yield to the Lord, the faster we move out from the desert to the promised land.

Another common area is when Christians do not walk in the leading of the Holy Spirit who warns us of dangers ahead. We end up walking straight into a problem or making a wrong decision. God didn’t put that upon us as a punishment. Instead, we simply made the wrong decision. This is a reminder of how important it is to walk in the leading of the Holy Spirit as sons of God.

Suffering from our wrong actions is not suffering for Christ. We have to walk in wisdom, in His perfect will, and in the leading of the Holy Spirit.

13.6 The sufferings of Job understood in the light of Christ

Most Christians quote the book of Job to show that such suffering is in God’s will. There is confusion because people have not understood what Jesus accomplished on the cross. Please keep an open mind as I share with you a powerful revelation. The book of Job can only be unlocked with Christ, a principle we shared earlier.

Job’s sufferings fall into the first category (sufferings that Christ redeemed us from). His afflictions came not from God, but from Satan, who had a legal right because of sin.

First of all, in the book of Job, Satan appeared to have legal access to the presence of God in heaven. When Adam fell into sin, Satan usurped his authority, and received the legal right from Adam. But when Jesus went to the cross, the access to the throne of Grace has been restored to the body of Christ. Satan lost his right. Jesus said that he saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Today we are seated in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, and we can trample upon the powers of darkness.

(Luke 10:18)
He replied, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.

Secondly, let me ask, was Job righteous before God in the sense that he was without sin? We must understand that though Job was more upright than anyone else on earth, he was born in sin too (Rom 5:12). The Bible gives the verdict that man’s own righteousness is like filthy rags before God (Is 64:6).

(Romans 3:23)
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…

Job was not righteous by the perfect standards of God because he was not clothed with the robe of righteousness (Is 61:10; Job 9:2, 33:12). As such, he needed a mediator but did not have one — which points to the need for Jesus (Job 9:33, 33:23).

Thank God that today, Satan does not have the legal ground to afflict us anymore with the curse of sin as we have been made righteous in Christ. Satan no longer has access to God’s presence to accuse the saints because he has been cast out from heaven (John 12:31; Luke 10:18; Rev 12:10).

We also have a mediator - Jesus the High Priest that Job did not have. Job was called a “servant” (Job 1:8) but today, we are not servants but “sons of God” through Christ (John 1:12). We should not suffer as Job did because Jesus has redeemed us. Being under the curse is not suffering for Christ. Jesus has redeemed us and we are to overcome in the battle of faith.

13.5 Reconciling the Gospel with the sufferings of life

Many Christians are afraid to share the good news because they do not know how to reconcile it with problems that they experience. We acknowledge that Christians will experience problems and sufferings in life (John 16:33). However, we must understand the root cause of these sufferings in order to respond correctly to them. Frequently, a problem is an opportunity to experience God’s miraculous intervention resulting in glory to God (John 9:3).

There are generally 3 different categories of sufferings and we will use the life of King David to bring out these powerful truths.

1) Sufferings that Christ Redeemed Us from (Problems to Overcome)

King David said:

(Ps 23:4)
Yea, though I walk through the VALLEY of the SHADOW OF DEATH, I will fear no evil;
For You ARE WITH ME; Your ROD and Your staff, they COMFORT me.

This means that David experienced problems. But God was his comfort and the rod of God, which signifies the power of God, delivered him. He faced the lion and the bear (1 Sam 17:36). Subsequently, he faced Goliath which is a type of Satan. Then he faced the armies of the enemies, but God always delivered him and he overcame.

Just as David defeated Goliath on behalf of Israel, Jesus defeated Satan on behalf of the Church. He paid the price for our sins to redeem us from the curse of the law, which is the curse of sin. The real author for these curses is Satan. In the Garden of Eden, Satan, through sin, brought about sickness, poverty, oppression and death. He came to steal, kill and to destroy (John 10:10). All our sins have been nailed to the cross and Satan has lost his legal right to inflict us. Col 2:14-15 says that Jesus triumphed over Satan, and disarmed Satan of his weapon — the law that condemns.

Today, we no longer need to suffer from the curse of the law that Christ has already redeemed us from (Gal 3:13). We need to go to the cross and take hold of our covenant promises by faith.

The curse of the law mentioned in Deut 28 includes poverty, barrenness, confusion, destruction, sickness, disease, oppression, defeat, weakness, demotion, hunger and many more. Some Christians believe that poverty and sickness are blessings from God. Deut 28 tells us that they are not blessings but curses, which Christ has redeemed us from.

For example, a Christian may fall sick. Since Jesus has borne our sickness on the cross, we should battle the symptoms and draw upon grace for healing.

by Joshua Lye


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