All that will live Godly lives as followers of Jesus will suffer, if only because they live in the kingdom of His enemy.
1Co 15:58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.
2Ti 2:12 If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us:
Jas 1:2-4 My brothers count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the proving of your faith works patience. But let patience have its perfective work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
God desires you to be in heaven with Him and is preparing a place for you to live there but also has to prepare you for this place, thus the trials and sufferings you go through as He strips from you all that is stopping you from getting there or hindering you from relating to Him as you should or from reaching your full potential in Jesus. He does not have to do this but Loves you so does it for your sake.
To walk the path He has for you that prepares you for heaven you must obey Him, trust Him and believe His love is behind all that happens to you so that you will be content in whatever happens to you (Matt 6:33, Rom 8:28). The trials He allows you to go through are a sign of His Love for you and you should not complain about God showering you with Love!
He has given you all you need to do His Will and prepares you to face any trial He has set up for you. He also makes a way through the trial and Temptation so you can overcome it (1 Cor 10:13). He would not be a God of love if He did not do this. He also guides you through it He is so concerned for you to succeed and be with Him in heaven. He limits what Satan can do to you (1 Cor 10:13) because He is in complete control of everything involved in your trial or temptation. You must believe this and act in faith on this belief. You must believe in His Love, Purposes, Plans and Control or you will not endure as you should in these trials and temptations (1 Pet 5:22 He is our keeper and protector).
You must desire Him and to be with Him in heaven and relate to Him on earth correctly or you will not endure the trials and temptations He sends to change you so you will reach heaven. You will only desire these if you understand His love for you and His desire for you to be with Him, otherwise doubt, uncertainty and fear will be stirred up in you by Satan so you will not relate to God as you should.
You must also do what is required of you to get there and also believe it is worth striving to get there (Heb 11:6). Only as you value and desire a relationship with each member of The Trinity above anything else, only as you desire the things of God more than the things of earth, will you love and serve God as you should and walk the path He has prepared for you that guides you to heaven (Mat 6:33) and establishes the relationship God desires you to have with Him now as well as in heaven.
Introduction to suffering
Either the suffering is deserved (because it is a result of sin) or it is not deserved (because Satan is allowed to test you).
In the latter category of undeserved suffering are people like Jesus and those who suffer for their faith in Him. These are they that lay down their life for their friend Jesus and show how great their love for Him is. In the former category are those that suffer the result of sin and are allowed to suffer so they will repent and turn away from their sins back to God and His Will for them. In this the degree of suffering is often in proportion to the resistance to repent.
To understand suffering one needs to have a correct perspective to it. This perspective is based on an appreciation of our role as a citizen of The Kingdom of God as well as on the relationship to its King resulting from our being a citizen of His kingdom.
We need trials to unsettle us so we do not become complacent or too comfortable as well as to stretch us and mature us through this stretching.
Suffering is necessary for Christian growth and for sorting out those who wholeheartedly follow Jesus from those that half-heartedly follow Jesus. Only those that endure to the end of the suffering will be saved!
God has evaluated where you are at in your Christian life and from before time has prepared the next step for you to walk in-so that you will continue to grow as a Christian.
The trials which God gives you are His growth plan for you and are a result of His Love and personal interest in you.
As you patiently endure these trials you develop your faith in His Love and Control of your circumstances and worship Him through your obedient trust of Him in the trial. By this you bring Him Glory!
It is the patient suffering in trials trusting God for all that happens which trusting matures you as a Christian and prepares you for ministry on earth and life in heaven.
Do not look for an end to the trial. Just look for God to move in the midst of the chaos and the darkness. That is the important thing as the beginning and ending are in His perfect timing and should not be a concern for us. We should be more concerned with hearing His voice so we can do His will than the trial ending. The principle in Matt 6:33 is for you to do what He tells you to each day and trust Him for what has happened and what will happen, Anything else will make you insecure and probably do something wrong which will lengthen the trial.
Do you need to know what God is doing in and through the trial or that he is in control and all he does is out of His Love for you? This knowledge that He is in control and knows best for you should be the basis for enduring the trial. If you are not sure of this you will not endure as you should.
We should not ask God ‘how much longer’ or ‘when will you release me from this suffering’. That implies His timing is off.
We should not ask ‘why are you taking so long’ or ‘what are you doing (that i need to suffer longer’) as this implies He is not working for our good behind the scenes
We should not ask ‘Why have you done this’ as this questions His Love to to you.
Trust in God accepts what He allows to happen and gets on with what God calls you to do each day. The Mat 6:33 principle implies we should suffer and accept it without questioning as in the future there is good in it for us (Rom 8:28). If you do not trust Him in any area you need to ask why. Perhaps you need deliverance from or understanding of something
These are attitudes we need to have to be content with what God allows to happen to us.
When you successfully finish a trial You Complete a season in your life usually, especially if it has been a major trial. God will usually give you rest at the end of a season and prepare you for the next trial so He can teach you new aspects of the Christian life and new ministry skills. (Ministry = service of another and not just in spiritual things).
He cannot give you a a new season until you have the lessons of the trials you are in so that the lessons of the current season are learnt. Until you have learnt to handle the problems of the of the season you are in God cannot give you new problems to learn to deal with.
You need to remember that God will not ask you to do anything He has not prepared you for and as you go through the trial He will teach you how to deal with the new problems He gives you to face. If He did not do this He would not be a God of Love.
At the end of each trial there is spiritual promotion. This is evidenced by increased spiritual authority. There are also the rewards an heaven resulting from obedient service in the trial: to God and then to others as He has directed!
Our example in suffering is Jesus and it is proposed to examine His attitude to suffering as well as what other writers of The New Testament said about suffering.
The sufferings. of Jesus were prophesied in the Old Testament and the four so-called “Servant Songs” deal with this more fully than elsewhere. They foretell the attitude of Jesus to suffering and these will be examined first. Then a few glimpses of the life of Jesus will be used to illustrate His attitude to suffering and this will be followed by comments on specific passages in New Testament writings (apart from the Gospels).
The Four Servant Songs and other passages on suffering
An overview of these four songs
The servant (Jesus) is commissioned Is 42.1-4: God (His King) has anointed Him to minister. So He knows His mandate to minister is from God. He also knows His relationship to His King
His Trust in God’s Purposes is described Is 49.1-6: He knows He is called by God and prepared by God (v1,2) yet His labour seems in vain but He declares the purpose and result of his suffering are for His King and thus the purposes of the King and have not been in vain and will glorify His King (v.3-5) This knowledge will be His strength because He knows God is using Him in all this (v6-9)
The servant’s reliance on God is spoken of Is 50.4-9: His attitude to opposition is shown here. God has prepared Him for ministry (v4) and He listened to God completely (v5) and did not defend Himself when what He was teaching was attacked (v6). He trusted in God to help Him and as it was God’s work He expected God to do something about the opposition (v6-9)
His steadfastness in God’s purpose is declared Is 52.13 - 53.12: All His life he was rejected (52:13-13:3) and did not complain (53:7-9). His suffering was not for Himself but for others (53:4-6). God took delight in His obedient suffering servant and honoured Him greatly because of His Sacrificial Love towards God and others. The Servant knew it was better for one to suffer for the sake of the King and his Kingdom because of the benefit it would give to others.
As it can be seen Jesus did not defend Himself. He defended God’s work and trusted God to defend Him. He trusted that God would reward Him for His suffering service as He believed in God’s Love towards Him. This is the attitude all great people of God have, complete trust in God in all circumstances.
The example of Jesus.
Jesus never owned a home or land. He never had much in the way of possessions yet He never complained and trusted God to supply all His need. He preached and taught His Father’s Kingdom and was rejected by those in religious authority who should have been helping Him. He warned them about their actions and words towards Him (and thus The Kingdom of His Father) but never defended Himself, only the Father and His Kingdom.
He fasted 40 days and nights and never complained of hunger. He was unjustly tried and tortured being put to death cruelly and never complained, defended Himself or spoke accusingly to his tormentors and judges. He only thought of others: the thief on the cross, His mother, forgiveness for those who crucified Him because they did not know what they had done.
He went through all His Father had asked Him to go through in ministry as well as in the crucifixion. For the sake of humanity and out of Love for The Father he willingly did so. There was also the joy of the promised rewards as well that also sustained Him. The reward was not just lordship of the universe and all else, but the smiling happy faces of all those that would go into The kingdom of The Father as a result of His death on the cross.
How are we to approach suffering?
The bible gives us at least five reasons for suffering:
A consequence of sin. While the spiritual side is forgiven and judgment is no longer, the physical consequences must still be dealt with (Gal 6:7-8).
A consequence of our serving Jesus and His Kingdom. This is the one that gives joy to God because of the love expressed towards Him by the person willing to suffer for His Purposes.
To prove our love for Jesus by accepting suffering that we do not deserve as we do His work.
To turn us back to Jesus and God’s Will for our life.
To mature us to His image (character).
What separates one Christian from another is how the handle their ‘baptism of suffering’, their 'dark night of the soul'
. How you handle this will determine the degree to which God can mould you and use you.
In John 17 we are told that Jesus looked forward to His ‘Baptism of Suffering’ and embraced it because of the good that would result from it.
There are few passages on suffering in the New Testament. They are mainly contained in Hebrews and 1?Peter. It is proposed to examine these first and comment on any other relevant passages afterwards.
Hebrews Ch 11
This contains the so-called “Hall of Fame” of the Bible, a list of great men and women of faith. All persevered because of their faith in God’s promises and this is the first key to suffering. We must believe God is, Who He says He is and that it is worthwhile to suffer for Him because He is a rewarder of those seeking Him and His Will (Heb 11:6.
In verse 2 we are told faith is necessary to please God and v 13 that these people did not see their reward in this life. Their perspective was spiritual in that they desired God’s rewards and not rewards here (v13-16). All these great men of faith obtained a good report from God but did not receive their reward in this life.
While we are encouraged to follow the example of these people of faith we are to focus on Jesus, the supreme example of suffering for the Kingdom and for the benefit of others Heb 12:v1-4). We are to remember that suffering is used by God to mould us and mature us to His Image as well as prepared to serve Him as He desires us to be so to avoid suffering is to avoid being moulded in His image and prepared for greater service to Him. So we should not complain or be angry or discouraged at what is happening but rejoice God is working in our life for our eternal best.
That is why we are to look to Jesus and see how He dealt with suffering on behalf of mankind and for the purposes of The Father.
1 Peter and some of his comments on suffering
Peter was writing to people who were under persecution and his first letter discusses the matter of suffering for the sake (purposes) of Jesus and His Kingdom.
Peter starts off by reminding them of the suffering Christ went through so they could have their salvation (ch1:2). and that as a result of the resurrection of Jesus we have a future far better than anything on earth (1:3) providing they trust God to keep them until they get to heaven (1:4).
Peter then reminds them that suffering ends as it is only for a season and that we are allowed this testing to determine the genuineness of our faith and that through overcoming suffering we bring Glory to Jesus (1:6-7) that will prove our salvation (1:9) through our obedience in the suffering showing we are God's and that when Jesus appears it will be worth it all (1:13)
When we suffer for the sake of Jesus there is great purpose to our suffering (2:19) and if we do this without complaining and trusting God for our circumstances then we are behaving as God desires us too (2:20). We are following the example set by Jesus in suffering and serving God’s purposes as Jesus served them.
We need to have the same attitudes as Jesus did (1 Pet 3:8-11)
Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous: Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing. For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile: Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it.
Peter states we should be happy to suffer like this for Jesus and not to be afraid of what happens to you (3:14). We should be always ready to tell everyone of the hope we have in Jesus that enables us to rejoice in suffering (3:15). Christ also is our example in this (3:19). and in the next few verses Peter details the Glory that resulted for Jesus after his sacrificial suffering for mankind.
It is the reward of the suffering we rejoice in and not the suffering itself.
Another benefit of suffering is to purge us of worldly values so that its influence is removed from us.
We are told to expect suffering as we are followers of Jesus (4:12-16) and that God judges the body first (all believers who are united through The Holy Spirit and who seek to do His Will) to prepare and purify it so He can use it for the purposes of His Kingdom and, because it represents Him, to ensure they do so properly in accordance with His Will. This preparation is necessary for the end time revivals and the Tribulation so the body will be able to represent Him and survive victoriously in the time of trials ahead.
When suffering we are to trust God for the keeping of our soul and salvation (4:19) in other words we must believe He is faithful in all matters concerning us.
In suffering we are to humble ourselves and accept what God allows to happen to us so He can promote us when we overcome the trial and so we should cast all our cares and problems onto Him so He can help us (1 Pet: 5:6-7) because we give to Him the control of the situation so that we do not get in the road of what He is trying to do.
Peter then reveals the cause of our suffering - Satan, God’s enemy, who seeks to destroy the followers of Jesus (5:8). We are reminded that we are not the only ones suffering (5:9) as Satan is attacking Christians throughout the world.
The benefits of suffering is mentioned as well as the involvement of God in their occurring to us (5:10):
But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.
And of course the final point of suffering (1 Pet 5:5:11) is that is brings Glory to Jesus and demonstrate His Character to those who do not follow Him so they can see His followers are different to what the world offers and so in some way can reach the lost in a way words cannot.
The next passage that teaches us something about suffering is this famous one showing. the humility and subsequent rewards of Jesus.
Jesus is God but gave up all this meant out of obedience to The Father and came to earth as one of us, dying for all mankind in accordance with the wishes of The Father and as a result is exalted to the position of Lord of all. He did not lose His divinity but gave up all usage of it to limit Himself to what we humans had to use for the service of The Father. In other words He was God but limited Himself to what we could do.
There are three comments to make about this:
Suffering is out of obedience to the Will of God and we do what God asks us to even though we know we will suffer.
Jesus gave up something worthwhile when he came to earth. We give up our evil things that are of no value in God’s economy. God owns everything and we cannot give up what we do not own. All we are expected to do is to disciple our ‘flesh’ as well as any wrong desires we have.
While suffering dealt with properly is rewarded this is not the reason for suffering. It is our Love for God and His Kingdom as well as the people in the Kingdom that drives us to suffer. We suffer because we are either being disciplined for our own benefit or serving Jesus out of love and reaching our full potential as a person knowing we will be rewarded for this suffering.
People go through what is called “The Dark Night of The Soul” Every person God wants to use has to go through it to burn the world out of them so He can use them. You usually experience this for only a short time ( few months to a year or so) hence it is so traumatic. You survive and are stronger for it and become more usable by God. You need to take your eyes off your circumstances and look at God and His plan or you will have problems coping with the trial.
Jesus must be Lord before He is Saviour and the dark night of the soul is to burn this lesson in for future strength and also to draw you to a closer walk with Him. How you handle this dark night may affect your salvation and certainly will affect how God is able to use you when it is finished.
God has isolated you from the world to be intimate with Him and learn of His ways so the world and its system (controlled by Satan) will no longer influence you. The only weapons Satan has to attack you are your thoughts, emotions and those He controls that are still around you. This is often where your worst enemy is your close family or close friend who cannot understand what God is doing and consider you have sin in your life that needs to be dealt with. They do not consider God has allowed this suffering to purify you to what He desires you to be.
You are protected by Jesus who has already said He loves you and will look after you. This is because you are His subject and Satan cannot touch you unless you allow Him to by giving in to the thoughts or emotions he tries to place on you. Remember you are a stranger and pilgrim in a foreign land controlled (the world) by the enemy of your King and will always have opposition as you seek to do the Will of Jesus and learn of Him.
This ‘dark night of the soul’ occurs because you are in a correct relationship with God or He could not use this period to build on what is already there as He would be causing suffering to bring you to the place where He can put you through this ‘Dark Night of the Soul’.
Jesus will always restore to things that are better for you than what you lost in this season of darkness. They will be more appropriate to His purposes for you and will not hinder you in any way as you serve Jesus unlike those things Satan tries to get you to accept. It will also be eternal as the best rewards of God are spiritual or in heaven.
Gethsemane and The Cross was the ‘dark night of the soul’ for Jesus and is a good example of how to handle this season.
God delighted in the sufferings of Jesus
Isa 53:10-11 Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.
Jesus embraced these sufferings also.
Luk 12:50 But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!
Luk 9:51 And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem,
Luk 22:42 Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.
Jesus was directing all he did (straightened) to be ready to die on the cross in the manner The Father wanted Him too. He purposely went to Jerusalem to die it when the time had come to go there and willingly did the Will of the Father despite the cost to himself because He knew how beneficial it would be to HIs followers.
Sometimes you are called to die for Jesus because of your faith and your death will be used by Him to turn people to faith in Him and His promises. He prepares His martyrs and gives them the faith to face their death. They have their own special reward in heaven (the martyrs crown). Only they and Jesus have this crown as Jesus was also martyred for His Faith in The Father as well as all The Father had promised Him.
Miscellaneous comments on suffering
What follows is comments based on what other scriptures in The New Testament teach about suffering.
I begin with the benefits of suffering
Rom 5:3-5 talks about this.
Rom 5:3-5 But that’s not all! We gladly suffer, because we know that suffering helps us to endure. And endurance builds character, which gives us a hope that will never disappoint us. All of this happens because God has given us the Holy Spirit, who fills our hearts with his love.
Note the importance of The Holy Spirit in suffering and moulding character.
James 1:2-4 say similar:
v2-4 My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
We should accept suffering as it matures us and perfects us so that we lack nothing in regards in our Christ likeness.
We need to remember The Holy Spirit is our guide in all things, including suffering and strengthens us to endure and do the Will of God.
2 Cor 1:3-5 By the way we suffer we can encourage others in their sufferings
3-5 Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.
God is able to comfort all our suffering so we can then comfort others. Suffering also allows Jesus to be more important to us and helps us to confirm His Lordship in our life. 2 Cor 3:7 also states that because we have suffered in doing the Will of God we will also share in the rewards for doing this.
Phil 1:12-14 talks about us encouraging others to greater boldness for Jesus because they see the way we suffer and conclude it is worth suffering for Jesus and so are willing to do His work and suffer for Him as well.
2 Cor 12:6-10 God reveals Himself to us when we are weak, when we have nothing left to fight with as it is then He alone is Glorified by what happens and He can show His Love as no one else can deliver you but He. Even though He is God He still has time to take a personal interest to help you and deliver you from the trials when His Purposes have been done.
James 1:12 informs us their is a crown for surviving trials (temptation) - The Crown of Life. This can only be eternal life and shows how important obedience as this life is promised to all those that are willing to suffer out of obedience to the Will of God for them and overcome the attacks of the enemy. Every temptation resisted involves some suffering through the rejecting of the desirable thing Satan is tempting us with.
Heb 4:15-16 Jesus suffered as we are and knows what it means to suffer and how to overcome suffering so we can come boldly to His throne for help in time of suffering.
Phil 1:28-29 Believing in Christ (i.e. His being Lord and your doing His Will) will automatically result in suffering.
1 Cor 10:13 We will never be tested more than we can handle and that also applies to Suffering. God is Love and will not test you more than you are able to handle because of His Nature of Love doing only what is best for you.
Rom 5:4 The Promises of God as found in The Bible give us hope to endure in our suffering.
2 Cor 5:1 Even if we die as a result of our suffering we have a better place to go to so death is not a problem to those that trust God. In fact they look forward to it as they obtain everything they live for.
Christianity is the only faith where you need to die to obtain everything you live for.
The Proving of your faith
Even though God knows you will pass a test and end up as He desires you to be He must still put you through the test to show Satan and yourself this. Experience is very important in knowing what you are capable of and this is one reason suffering is so important as it shows you what you can do and achieve in spite of the opposition around you.
Trials are used to achieve this experience and show God is correct in His evaluation of your capabilities for Him. He knows who will pass and who will fail but needs to put you through the trial to show this to Satan so Satan cannot attack your level of spiritual authority, saying it was not earned.
The reward of passing suffering is usually greater spiritual authority and so it is necessary to pass through trials to obtain promotion in this way. This is why those who have suffered the most often have the greater spiritual authority and maturity.
Trials are God’s method for proving your faith, maturing you and checking your maturity so you can be given more spiritual authority, responsability and/or gifts. Trials are designed to show what God Already knows about you but needs to have you actually work it out to show Satan that God is correct in the way He has planned the path for you to walk on (Mat 6:33) and that all He does for you is in accordance with the principles of Gal 6:7-8.
God prepares you for the trial and gives you everything you need to go through it as well as for Him to build on in the trial to mature you more. You take the first step and he will help you take the next ones.
During the trial God gives you what you need to endure and pass it. He uses the trial to mould your character and gives you the gifts, authority and the necessary understanding to pass through the trial successfully so you can prepare for the next trial (maturity event) He has planned for you.
You7 will never have to suffer more than you can handle but Satan will always try to convince you that it is more than you can handle and God does not Love you by what is happening in the trial.
As you wait for the trial to end your faith is matured through patient trust in God. The lessons you need to learn are burnt in and consolidated as you patiently wait for the trial to end. The quicker you learn your lessons and consolidate them the quicker the trial may be over. You cannot progress to the next level of authority/service until you pass the current trial preparing you for the level of authority/service you are working towards.
Remember that trials are God’s ways of maturing you and preparing you for further service and heave3n so until the lessons of the current trial are learnt He cannot take you further. Too many give up just before the trial is over and miss out on the blessing associated with it as well as being able to be used for higher service to Jesus.
After the trial are the rewards for passing it and a period of rest to recuperate and prepare for ministry or the next trial.
The rewards on earth are spiritual rewards as the physical treasure Jesus gives you is in heaven. On earth you are given more gifts to use (which will be necessary for the next period of service) and/or greater spiritual authority. These may eventually work themselves in to the physical but not necessarily.
God promises physical rewards in heaven and on earth to provide our needs. He may give us more than we need on earth but that is because He wants us to help others with the excess He gives us and not just spend it on ourself. This is how God prospers us through having more than what we need to give to others. The moment prosperity is said to come from God but is spent on ourself (unless God tells you too) then the whole point of the prosperity is lost to that person.
Seek to know God and The purposes of His King and all you need (and just what you think you need) will be provided by Him.
Faith and Suffering
These two are inter linked. If you have not faith in the Love of God you will not suffer in the manner you should.
Faith is saying to God. “I trust you completely” when He no longer seems to hear you, when His Love and Promises are not apparent, when your life also seems to be falling apart all around you. Faith says, “I trust you completely and continues to do His will no matter what the cost”.
All will have to go through this test at some stage so God can use you as He wants to but He can only use you in the way He desires too if you pass this test of your faith in the way He requires you to pass it.
Faith is uncompromising acceptance of what The Lord allows to happen to you and your continuance in love and obedience towards Him while these things are happening, shows He is truly Lord of your life and also your saviour.
You need to be guided bny The Holy Spirit in all you do so that you will do thing in the way God desires you to do them and that includes the way you handle suffering.
We need to remember:
He promises to supply all our needs and not our greeds. We will never want the necessities of life as He sees it.
He is Love and does all in Love and Mercy - even discipline.
Be thankful in all things - even adverse circumstances as God is working through them for your good.
The Word of God (The Bible) is the basis for all things to do with God and your relationship with Him and others.
God requires you to be a good steward of what He has entrusted you with and being in adverse circumstances does not negate this.
When you die, all you will take to heaven is your relationship to God, others and yourself as well as the way you carried out the stewardship of all He had entrusted you with - Gospel, possessions, His authority, The indwelling Holy Spirit.
You need to trust God He will keep His word and that it will be worth it all in the end. In this life there will be pleasures - God delights in giving His children Joy, but overriding this is their need for preparation for eternity and the suffering here is a doorway to greater things. Look for my reward after you die and accept what God needs to do to get you there.
When in trials or just having a difficult time the Psalmist would look at what God had done for them in the past and be encouraged to continue on in the trial or situation. God also reminded people to remember what He had done at various times.
God also reminds us to look at His Love for us as illustrated by these former blessings of His as well as how he has expressed it to others when he dealt with their problems or situations. This is why personal testimonies as to how God has worked in a life are important as they encourage others to keep on going in trials.
We do not spend enough time talking to God and looking back at the things He has done for us in the past. We also don’t thank Him enough for these things He has done for us.
These attitudes help us fight the attacks of Satan who wants us to focus on the negative things of our situation and take our eyes off Jesus and His Love expressed to us. Remembering the past things God has done for us defeats this attack of Satan.
Trials and Suffering
Do you have problems that do not appear to be solvable or trials you appear not able to bear? Then you must believe in a God who is greater than these, who is in control of all circumstances and events and who loves you, doing all for your best. If you do not believe this then you have a god who is not greater than your problems and does things for His benefit and not yours and who is not able to help you.
If we fail in the trial it is not because God was not in control and we were tempted beyond what we could bear. It is because we approached the trial wrongly and developed a wrong perspective and attitude towards it because we did not fully trust God in it.
What wrong perspective or attitude?:
We may believe God cannot solve the problem as our image of God is a small one in our thinking so He is not really in control of our situation (Jer 32:27)
We may believe it is greater than we can bear, even though He promises it will never be (1 Cor 10:13)
We may see no way out of the situation and become discouraged or depressed even though He promises there is one (1 Cor 10:13)
We may not be able to see His Love in it even though His every action is Love (Jer 29:11).
We may not realize we are being punished and God is trying to call us back into His perfect will (Heb 12:11).
We do not believe all things work for our good and that in the situation we are in God is not doing what is best for us (Rom 8:28).
We may forget that we are a citizen of His Kingdom and not the King of it and that a good citizen trusts His King accepting what the King requests of them to do and does not tell The King what to do.
Whatever the wrong reason it will result in a wrong attitude. There is only one wrong attitude that occurs and from that flows all the others. What is that attitude? A lack of trust in God which results in doubts about His overriding control of the circumstance or problem and also causes us to question His Love for us.
If we do not believe God Loves us (Jer 31:3) or does not change His attitudes towards us (Mal 3:6) we will serve a fickle God who does things to suit Himself and not for our benefit.
The only way to survive as a Christian is to believe that God is Love, is greater than all that happens to us, does not change in His attitude of Love towards us and that it is really worth all this suffering as there is a reward at the end of it all, not necessarily on earth but in heaven (Heb 11:6).
One needs to change their perspective and look not on the physical (what you can see) but the spiritual (God’s eternal purpose in that situation). If you cannot see His eternal purposes then you need to trust His Love that they are for your best.
God’s eternal purpose is to mould us to the image of Jesus so we can spend eternity with Him. To look upon life’s purpose as a satisfaction of our fleshly needs and see no other purpose misses the whole purpose of the Christian life which is to control the flesh so you do not fulfil its lusts (selfish desires), seek a deeper relationship with your King and to promote the things of God and His Kingdom because you are a good citizen of His Kingdom. All of which is done out of love and thanksgiving for what God has done for you.
Jesus said that in this world we will have trials and that all His followers will suffer persecution (2 Tm 3:12) but He is greater than them (Jn 16:33). Opposition is to be expected as we are living in the territory of His enemy whose desire is to destroy the followers of Jesus. In fact, if you are not persecuted at times you should question if you really are a follower of Jesus.
What then is the purpose of trials, suffering and persecution? It is to focus our attention on Jesus, to test our belief in who He is and to mature us to the image of Jesus as the things of the world (his enemies values and purposes) are purged from us. God is Love and does not allow these things to occur because He just feels like it.
Another purpose of trials, suffering and persecution and a very important one is to bring Him Honour and Glory (both in the physical and spiritual) through the way we deal with it. The way we deal with trials is also an act of worship towards Him as we show by patient faith in Him that He is worthy of being obeyed and followed (worshipped) and that we will be worthy of the task He gives us to do next.
How should we then approach trials?
We should cast all our cares (1 Pet 5:7) on Him and give Him all our problems so we do not dwell on them and can hear clearly His Holy Spirit’s directions (Jn 16:13) so we know how to cope with the trial. (Satan will try and clutter our minds so we cannot think clearly or hear The Holy Spirit’s guidance).
We must trust His Love and complete control and never doubt it so we will obey and not be concerned about the consequences
We must draw even nearer to Jesus and resist any temptation so the devil must flee (James 4:7)
We must know how God wants us to think in trial (be led by The Holy Spirit in the trial) so we are not overcome by the plans of the enemy (Phil 4:4-8).
We must believe it is worth it all (Heb 11:6. Heb 10:36) that there is purpose in the sufferings during the trial (Rom 5:3-5, James 1:2-4)
We must learn how to deal with the demons attacking us in t his suffering and the results of their actions toward us.
Trials and Mat 6:33
Ps 23 and Mat 6:33 state that God will provide all our needs if HE is your LORD. This includes trials as evidenced by The Bible and His testing of people in it. Trials serve His purpose and must be necessary. They are a sign of His Love (a part of His provision for us) and His desire for us to mature and grow spiritually. To complain about trials then is to complain about God’s Love and His desire for us to be better people and as a result of this serve Him more and gain more rewards in heaven.
This knowledge should help us be content no matter what happens. This will be true if we believe He is Lord and in control of our circumstances and that all He does to us is out of His Love for us
Theoretically, the quicker we learn the lesson of the trial the less of it we need of it to go through. The quicker we apply this lesson to our lives the quicker God can use us as He wants too as a result of what He wanted to teach us in that trial.
Satan tries to make you take your focus of this path prepared for you by God from before creation so you will take your focus off Jesus and His love for you as well as His Love for you that made Him give you this trial. If he succeeds then you will be sidetracked and have to go through even more trials as God tries to get you back to the place you were sidetracked from.
The path Satan tries to sidetrack you from is the path of Eph 2:10 on which are all the promises and service God wants us to do for Him. So trials are an effort to keep on this path through obeying God in all we do and resisting all Satan tries to do through the trial to remove us from this path. If Satan can divert you from this path he can theoretically stop you from being used by God to serve Him and His Kingdom.
So you need to obey God to stay on the Mat 6:33 path and it is this effort to obey God patiently waiting in faith for the promised deliverance that matures you and focuses you even more on Jesus and His Love for you.
How should people see us in trials?
They should see no difference in us. If we really trust God then there will be no worry, anxiety, apprehension, lack of trust, depression, feelings of despair or hopelessness or other negative emotions. We will be able to be thankful for what we actually do have and rejoice in God’s Love and presence and have the peace that passes all understanding.
No one is perfect which is why God places people beside us to encourage and help us in the trial.
To complain about your trials and sufferings implies God has made a mistake or does not know what He has been doing. If you truly believe Mat 6:33 you will accept what He is doing in your life believing He knows best (Rom. 8:28) and you will not complain about your situation but get on with doing what He desires you to do.
What should our coping mechanism be? Every time a negative thought or doubt occurs we should take it straight to Jesus and affirm the positives of our relationship to Jesus and thank Him for what He did for us at Calvary so that Satan cannot fill our mind with his negative thoughts.
Having given the problem to Jesus, we should just continue on with the task He has given us. If thoughts about the problem keep recurring then it is either our fears or demons troubling us. So do the following:
Command them to go in Jesus Name to be deal with by Him
Ask The Holy Spirit to take their place.
You do not need to know the name of the demon to do this just mention how they are attacking you.
Remember also, if your thought are always on God and His things you Satan will not be able to tempt you successfully.
Remember that God is training you as His child as faithful Loving parent and is not there just to make your life miserable (Heb12:5 ff)
Remember that a negative mindset (attitude/way of thinking) will stop you seeing God’s presence working in the trial or circumstance. We do not see Him as we are looking at the problems and circumstances we are in. This is why Satan tries to make look negatively at things so we will not see God at work in our circumstance and be encouraged to continue in the trial.
A prison is not walls but in your mind
I use to tell people I was in a spiritual prison Jesus had placed me in. I was corrected by The Holy Spirit.
Jesus and He are there. It is not prison. It is a throne room, His Castle.
So now I know why we are to rejoice in our apparent prisons as they are man made and cannot confine or limit God.
In summary, remember, we have as our example Jesus who suffered in all areas as we will (Heb 4:15) and who knows what it is to live on earth and to suffer trials and be persecuted and as a result understands and knows how best to survive these trials and suffering and who is waiting to help us get through them victoriously and who help us in any way He can to overcome our circumstances and trials.
Heb 12:1-3 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.
Unity in Suffering
1Co 12:25-26 That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.
The church should be united in one spirit so that it is sensitive to the needs and trials of the body around it. There should be no denomination or parachurch organizations dividing the body and reducing this sensitivity to other parts of the body through the negative reactions these divisions cause in people as each tries to maintain their part of the ‘body’ (denomination) separate to the other parts.
The above verse shows how far removed the modern church is from the concept of The Body that Jesus had. We do not show the same care for one another either in our own church or other churches in our own or other countries. We do not feel their suffering or even care about them. When was the last time you were concerned for a Christian in your own church let alone in another near by? Who was not a friend or relative.
The Bible says their suffering should be felt by us in our spirit and not handed over to a minister to deal with so that we ignore our responsibility in this area.
You will not be judged by God for what you did not do because you were not asked by God to do anything about their situation. You will be asked why you did not help those you were able to and were asked too or were not concerned about others when you heard there was a need you were told to meet in some way.
Trials and Ministry
God seems to have a principle
Unless you have experienced the trials you are going through as well as the depth of pain and hurt these trials have you cannot really minister to people as God desires you too as you do not have the experiential understanding of what they are going through.
This is why all who minister greatly for God have suffered in the area they are ministering in effectively.
Do you want to minister for God?
How much are you willing to suffer to be able to minister as He wants you too?
You who would be great for God are you willing to pay the price He asks of suffering and isolation from the world? Or are you too comfortable with what you have and are doing for Him.
Resist not Evil
But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.
Literally “Don’t fight the devil working through the person. Instead show God’s Love for the person being used by the demon”. If you fight them you show you are no different to them but show God’s love as they cause you discomfort and they will start to wonder what is happening that you are tormented and you don’t fight back or hurt them.
You show to them the same type of Love that God shows them. By this you show you are a child of His and also show there is something different to what they know as the way to behave when attacked. Through this you may win them for Jesus. What price the suffering you may endure if a soul is saved from eternal torment in hell.
When you are in danger of physical hurt and the people will not listen, then you cannot show love but need to protect yourself. Resist not evil refers to situations where you can reason with the people and you are not in danger.
A friend once said of this “the Holy Spirit gave me a picture for this. Say someone is about to throw a punch at me. Instead of taking a stance of defence or retaliation I just bow. Now, with whom does my attacker come face to face? Jesus. (He’s always with me.) As long as I stay in humility (bowed), it’s Jesus’ issue, not mine. In fact, it never was my issue.”
Remember. When you are attacked for doing the work of Jesus it is Him they are really resisting and attacking not you.
Should we turn the other cheek?
To turn the other cheek refers to when we are insulted and attacked for our faith not physically attacked. Jesus is saying not to respond but to waive any rights to justifying self as our value is in Him and not in what others think or what we do or are in the world. They are attacking Him and not you so if anything is to be done He will do it.
What do we say to people who have lost everything?
These things you lost were stopping you from knowing God and it is better for them to be removed and you relate correctly to God than still have them and end up going to hell.
To lukewarm Christians
These things were hindering your Christian life and preventing you from serving The Father in heaven and following Jesus. It is better these are gone than you still have them and lose your salvation because Jesus will spew you out of ‘His Mouth’.
To Christian who are doing the work of God
These things may have been hindering your relationship to Jesus or doing His work, or He wants to give you something better than those things you have lost.
To all three we say
God never gives you something worse than what He removes. Normally it is far better and worth the loss! God’s ways are perfect so when He takes away everything from you it is still a perfect way working best for you.
What to do when others attack us unjustly
Rom 12:19 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.
Mat 5:38-39 Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: . But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.
Why are we not to take these things into our own hands and punish these people ourselves?
To do this would make us their judge in place of God. It would usurp His Authority over us and would show we do not understand our role in the Kingdom of God.
We represent God as His Ambassadors on earth, working in the enemy kingdom. This means we will be attacked unjustly at times. As we represent our King, complaints must be made to him by the enemy and this is what Satan does before the throne.
God then evaluates these complaints and if unjust will do what is necessary to uphold His Name (and thus us who are proclaiming it) and will deal with our accusers.
We should be glad when we are attacked by Satan as that means we are doing what God desires us to do and belong to His Kingdom and not Satan's.
Trials - Conclusion
Trials are a necessary part of the Christian experience. As you go through trials various things happen:
Chaos occurs around you (there seems no rational reason for what you are going through)
God seems so far away and does not appear to hear your prayers
You suffer emotional pain or spiritual uncertainty
There will be a need to make choices for the things of God
There will be a need to trust God in the trial and for the result of the trial
God will use it to refine you and teach you about Himself
God will use it to draw you closer to Himself
God will use it to make you more like Him
How you cope with or embrace these different factors of the trial determines how successful you are in the trial and will and shows the degree to which Jesus is Lord of the life He has given you.
The purpose of a trial is to increase the Lordship of Jesus in your life, to mould you more to be like Him by removing things that hinder these occurring in you and to prepare you for greater service on His behalf now and in heaven.
The intimacy of your relationship to Jesus depends on the degree He is Lord of the life He has entrusted to you with.
The intimacy of our worship of Jesus depends on the degree He is Lord of the life He has entrusted to you with.
The depth of our prayer life and many other things depend on these two relationships to Jesus.
The more we know of Him and His workings the more we will be able to trust Him and make Him more Lord of the life He as trusted you with.
How we know Jesus?
His Bible (hence we study it)
His work in our life (mainly through trials and miracles)
His goodness to us in the way He Blesses us.
His control over our life so that all works for our best
His Mercy and Grace as we are not dealt with as we should be for the rebellion (sins) we do against Him.
Trials are part of the continuous cycle of Christian living. A trial results in growth and is followed by a period of peace and consolidation and then more trials. Any Christian not in this cycle needs to examine their basis for calling themselves a Christian.
So embrace trials as they are your growth regime to turn you more into the image of Jesus and to equip your better for serving Him now and for our life in heaven.
Prayer in Trials
Lord, I do not know what is happening or why I am here. All I know is that you are in control and are working for my eternal best and that you are not asking me to do anything you have not prepared me for and will also help me pass through this trial and learn what I need to learn from the trial.
I know all will be well regardless of how things seem now as your Love is behind the trial and whatever happens can only be for my good.
Thank you Jesus.
Declaration for Trials
I thank you that you Love me perfectly
and that what I am going through
is a result of this Perfect Love
and is what is best for me at the moment
I rest in your Perfect Love
and complete control of whatever is happening,
has happened and will happen-
knowing that the end result
is for my eternal best
So I will not worry or be anxious
when the enemy tries to cause me to do so
I will declare your Love
and command him to leave
in Jesus Name
Thank you for Your Love,
Your Blessings, and Your Grace
and all the good things you do for me.
Help me to understand and appreciate them
so I can rejoice in them
while all around seems hopeless or lost.
I declare my trust in You and Your Love
in You and Your Control
in You and Your Salvation
With our finite minds we cannot comprehend the workings of an infinite God. We will not know till we are in heaven the purpose of our sufferings. We may get a glimmer of understanding but only then as Jesus shows us the reasons we suffered will we understand the benefit of our suffering to ourself and others.
Until then we need to be content with what we are given by God in the way of suffering and be thankful He considers us worthy of suffering and through this suffering being moulded to His Image as well as be prepared to be forever with Him in heaven.