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Archive for May, 2012

Beloved, do you have a clear, sound theology of suffering? Do you understand that suffering is a guaranteed part of the Christian life (and life in general)?

But I find very little teaching on suffering in the Church; the fact is that we do not like suffering and we do everything in our power to avoid or end it, don’t we?

But are we behaving in a Christ-like manner when we respond to suffering in this way? I submit to you from the passages that I will cite in this blog that we are to work together with the Holy Spirit to learn to rejoice in our sufferings instead of resenting them (or God, for allowing the sufferings).

I am NOT saying that God ordains all suffering! However, I am saying that He means to use even the suffering that He did not ordain or even approve of for His good, for our good and for the good of others.

A succinct theology of suffering may be stated simply: this is a fallen world and we are going to suffer, but God tells us that He is good and will one day end all suffering (Ps. 34:18-19; John 16:33; Rom. 8:18, 28; Rev. 21:4-5)!

One of the critically important lessons of the Christian life is to courageously and even joyfully accept the fact that we are going to suffer (Col. 1:24; cf. Acts 14:22).

The Bible teaches and exhorts us to learn to rejoice in the Lord in the midst of those sufferings (e.g. 2 Tim. 1:8; 2:3; 1 Pet. 4:12-13; 5:9-10; cf. 2 Cor. 12:9-10; James 1:2-4).

Thus, we must learn to suffer well, knowing the reason for our suffering (e.g. 2 Cor. 1:3-11; 4:7-18). 

We do not suffer just to suffer; our suffering always has a purpose and it is for us to become more like Jesus, to grow in our trust in Him and to be able to encourage others, as the passages in 2 Corinthians above clearly show us.

This means that we suffer by faith in a mighty, loving Father, Lord, Friend and Helper (Heb. 10:35-11:40).

One Greek word translated “suffer” is pathema, which can mean hardship or pain and which can be the result of physical or emotional suffering.

In 2 Tim. 1:8; 2:3, Paul uses the word sunkakopathemon, which means to suffer evil together; to endure affliction together; to take one’s share of rough treatment.

But we should note Paul’s over-riding goal in the midst of this suffering (2 Tim. 2:10), where the word “endure” (hupomeno) refers to the spirit which bears things – not simply with resignation – but with blazing hope!

Yet another word for suffering is “tribulation” (thlipsis), which can be translated “trouble; distress; hard circumstances” (e.g. John 16:33). 

We should note from this verse that before speaking of certain “tribulation” for the believer, Jesus emphasizes first that “in Me you may have peace.”

Thus, it clearly is God’s will that we learn to suffer well and the means of doing so is by abiding in Christ – by drawing from His life, His peace, His joy (John 16:24).

This is also why in John 16:33 He can command us (the tense is an imperative or a command) on an ongoing basis (the word is in the present tense) to be courageous (cf. Joshua 1:8-9) because He gives us the ability to be courageous in the midst of such suffering.

 

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