Developing Faith in the Lord through Suffering
One of the general issues of life is incessant human pains. Pain is a phenomenon that cannot be wished away. It includes mental pain, psychological pain, emotional pain and above all, physical pain. It is painful to go through pain as much as it is stressful anticipating pain, for it is not if but when it will come. There are Christian teachers who erroneously teach people that once you become a Christian, there will be less or no pain. It is one of the false teachings in Christian circles to tell people they would not experience pain. Pain is however not synonymous to life as some people also erroneously teach. Pain was not in the life equation until sin and disobedience came into the human life. Part of the consequences of sin is pain, and we continue to be subjected to pain until our mortal bodies are shed for immortality. More painful is the havoc death leach on humanity. Death is an enemy to humanity, and the mere thought of death bring in fear and anguish. Though, we know that death does not have dominion over the believers in Christ, there is always pain and anguish when a loved one is suddenly taken away by death. Our Lord Jesus demonstrated the human pain that accompanied death when Jesus openly wept at the grave site of Lazarus his friend. Though, He brought Lazarus back to life, He still displayed the knowledge of pain caused by death.
However, some people regard death as an escape from the miserable life on earth, and some hasten death to come. Suicide arises from the conclusion that death is better than the torments and trials in human existence that has become incessant. Unfortunately, most people who commit suicide may not know or believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is a tragedy when you die without making Jesus Christ the Lord of your life. Without Christ, you will transition into greater and endless agony in hell fire. For Christians, death is a gateway to eternity with the Lord; “For we walk by faith, not by sight: We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord”. 2 Cor. 5:7-8, Paul said. I would pray that every believer in Christ will endure the current temporary afflictions here and wait for the coming of the Lord Jesus; which is simply having faith in God. Paul reminded believers that pains including death should not get us into grieving like those who have no hope. 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. For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. Rom. 8:18-21
Where then is God or the place of God in all of these processes of human pain? Is human pain unknown to God? Certainly, God is aware of the afflictions and discomforts in our world. And it was not the intention of God to see humanity in pain. We got sold into afflictions when we were persuaded by the rhetoric of Satan and ran afoul of the commandments of the Lord and brought the troubles on ourselves. But God did not say we deserved it; God sent His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ to come into the world to deliver us from the pains we brought on ourselves. In the midst of these pains and anguish, God also uses every situation to His own glory. Job was a spectacular example of a man in the eye of the storms of life, and whose affliction was not unto death but that God would be glorified. He was afflicted by Satan, lost all he had worked for and possessed, and his body was disease ridden. Though Job never knew that God was aware of his problems; God allowed Satan to torment Job. In all the troubled years of Job, in his physical afflictions of body and soul, he determined not to sin against God. He had faith that God was sovereign, powerful and righteous and will not allow anyone to suffer unjustly. Job knew that God does not make mistakes. However, even with his solid faith in God, Job was agitated and troubled like all mortals. His condition was worsened by the stance of his wife and the ungodly counsels from his friends. Job however did not falter because of his knowledge of the absolute goodness and faithfulness of God. “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him: Job 13:15
Paul, one of the greatest apostles of Jesus Christ suffered similar fate. His exploits in the gospel would probably not have any rival in his time and even after. He was used by God to perform many miraculous signs and wonders which were common in his ministries and in all his missionary journeys. Paul had a thorn in his flesh which troubled him all through his missionary work. He was not discouraged, though he was not pleased with the situation. He went to God three times to ask for relief and each of the three times got no positive answer but the assurance of the grace of God. He did not give up to despair, or out rightly discouraged, rather he continued to pull through with his calling in the Lord. Paul later had the understanding of the whole revelation about his condition. God never does anything without reason: “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”, said Paul. (2 Cor. 12:7). Sickness, business failures, troubled relationships and marriage beset Christians not because God wants us to be miserable, but because they fulfil the purpose of God in our lives to keep us in check, lest we over-exaggerate our standing and be less dependent on God. Satan was destroyed by nothing but pride, and God hates pride. Some sufferings in our lives therefore are not to destroy us but to perfect the will and purposes of God in our lives.
The thorn in Paul’s flesh igniting the flame of faith in God probably gave him the strength to stand against all odds that came into his life in his adventurous journeys in the work of the gospel. Paul was no longer going to complain to God about the thorn in his flesh or any attack of the enemy against his body or soul. “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. 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”. 2 Cor. 4: 7-10. Faith helps us to put our focus on our eventual goal not the temporary afflictions because we know that even though He tarries, He will fulfil His promises. Paul concluded to the Corinthian church the reason behind his unfailing faith in God, he said, “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. 2 Cor. 4:16-18.
As believers in Christ, we don’t deserve to go through pains because Christ has paid the price for our sins; but in moments of pain and sorrow, so long as we are in Christ, we are the blessed. Peter admonished, “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. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter. 1 Peter 4: 12-16. The apostles did not speak without a conviction in the spirit. Peter said this about the promise of God for those who pass through trials for Christ sake: “Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. 2 Peter 1: 2-4
Peter concluded that as we pass through hardships, we should cast all our care upon Him, for He cares for us. He said, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 5:8-11). Andréa Crouch, our beloved brother composed a song that I find very helpful in times of problems of life. “Through it all, through it all, I’ve learned to trust in Jesus, I’ve learned to trust in God. Through it all, through it all, I’ve learned to depend upon His Word”
Michael is the author of “Sheltered through the storm: the travails and ultimate triumph of the Church”, and “Saving America: The war we can’t ignore”. The books are available through the publisher, Redemption Press, Amazon.com or Barnes and Nobles.com. Reactions to this article are welcome.