Nobody likes to suffer, but if we can see a reason for it, suffering becomes easier to bear. Much suffering is caused by our own choices, but we always expect God to take the trouble away. Another reason is so His glory can be seen.
In Old Babylon, a decree had been issued requiring everyone to worship a false idol or be burned alive. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego worshiped God Almighty and refused to bow before an idol. They were sentenced to burn.
“If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up” (Daniel 3:17-18).
We are to follow the law of our land, but not when it conflicts with God’s law. Three men were bound and thrown into the furnace, but four men were seen walking there.
“Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astonied, and rose up in haste, and spake, and said unto his counsellors, Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? They answered and said unto the king, True, O king. He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God” (Daniel 3:24-25).
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego faced suffering because they honored God, and He was with them in the furnace. Nebuchadnezzar saw and God was glorified. Those three Jewish men didn’t want to be burned in the furnace, but they refused to compromise their faith in order to worship a false god. Their example encourages us in times of trouble.
Sometimes suffering comes when God disciplines us. Anyone who has raised a child knows that discipline is important in shaping a child’s life. A loving parent will inflict punishment if that child lies, hits someone, or steals something. Childish lies can grow into more serious lies, and stealing another child’s toy can lead to grand theft; so children must be taught right from wrong. God also disciplines His children when we do wrong.
“For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not… Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?” (Hebrews 12:6-7, 9).
We don’t like to face discipline, but it helps to shape our Christian walk. God’s children need to learn to follow Him faithfully.
“Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby” (Hebrews 12:11).
Discipline can be painful, but we learn to walk in God’s ways.
Humans can easily be filled with pride. That happens when we feel as if we’ve accomplished great things by our own power. Instead of thanking God for what He’s done through us, we brag about our own accomplishments. An example is Paul, who was a prideful man and full of sin until he met Jesus. In order for him to accomplish great things for God, Paul first needed to be humbled. We know the great mission work he did, but we forget that it was years between the road to Damascus and when he was called to spread the Gospel. Pride could have ruined his witness.
“And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure” (2 Corinthians 12:7).
People speculate as to what the thorn was, but Scripture doesn’t say. Was it a physical ailment? Maybe it was the many arrests and beatings he endured. Whatever it was, it kept Paul humble. He prayed that this thorn would be removed, but we can take encouragement from God’s answer.
“And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
If you’ve ever been tormented by a “thorn in the flesh” and asked God to take it from you, try thanking Him instead of complaining. That thorn may be what keeps you humble and of greater service to the Lord.
When we place our lives in the hands of our Lord, there’s a lifetime ahead of us to grow in faith. Quite often it’s the trials in this life that strengthen our faith.
“That the trial of your faith being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:7).
By faith we know Jesus died for our sins, and faith is more precious than any riches this world has to offer. Whether a physical trial or a financial loss, our trials in life strengthen our faith, knowing that Jesus will guide us through. Too often we blame God. Many of us have watched a loved one suffer from a life-threatening disease. We pray for healing. We seek God. If that person dies, we blame God. Why? If our loved one was a Christian, then he or she has received the reward of their faith…eternity with Jesus.
“Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:9).
It’s the emptiness in our own heart that makes us angry. Faith teaches us to trust God in all things. Even the death of a loved one.
Muscles grow stronger through exercise, and likewise our faith must be exercised to grow stronger. Trials strengthen our faith more than the easy times.
“And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope: and hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us” (Romans 5:3-5).
If you’ve always been wealthy, you can’t understand what it’s like to wonder where your next meal will come from. If you’ve always been healthy, you cannot possibly understand the anxiety of waiting for the diagnosis by a doctor.
“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” (2 Corinthians 1:3-5).
The more trials we go through, the stronger we grow. Then we need to help others through their trials.
How often do you cry out to Jesus when things are going smooth? When things are going great, it’s easy to ignore Him, but trials bring us to our knees in prayer. Troubles teach us to give the problems and the outcome to Him.
“We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body” (2 Corinthians 4:8-10).
The only way to learn to rise above troubles is to go through them. We learn to pray and lean upon Jesus for strength, and to trust God with the outcome.
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
Challenging times teach us that God can use all things for good, even if we don’t see the good immediately. We just need to trust Him.
Something we don’t often think about is that the angels learn from watching us. They are spiritual beings who see God, so they don’t live by faith. On the other hand, we live by faith, not by sight. Angels watched as men of old walked in faith through trials. Noah, Abraham, Jeremiah, and Daniel are just a few who had faith in the coming Messiah even through trials. Peter, John, and the other disciples saw Him and He changed their lives, but they weren’t exempt from suffering. Today we look back into history and are encouraged by those who walked before us in faith. The way we handle trials teaches angels about faith.
“Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into” (1 Peter 1:12).
The angels watched as Abraham made mistakes but grew faithful through those mistakes. Many prophets suffered trials but still faithfully served God, and the angels watched. They also watched Peter become a great leader who was obedient even to his own crucifixion. All of this must have been of great interest to the angels, and even today they watch us to learn about faith.
Even Christ suffered trials. Think about what He suffered for your salvation. Heaven is filled with absolute love and the glory of God. Jesus chose to set aside all He had in Heaven and stepped into this fallen world filled with sin. His “reward” on earth was rejection, false accusations, beating, mockery, and crucifixion. Jesus looked beyond the moment of suffering and saw the end. His sufferings are an example to us. His death made it possible for lost sinners to gain eternal life.
“Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin; that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God” (1 Peter 4:1-2).
We need to look past this life and the suffering we face to see what awaits us in Heaven. While we live on this side of Heaven, we’ll face trials and temptations; but God will be with us through our suffering. Look to Jesus for an example of humble obedience through whatever comes our way.
Trials come in many forms, and each teaches a lesson. Through trials of suffering and loss, we learn to trust God. Trials of temptation teach us to overcome lust and sin through the power and strength of the Lord, Jesus Christ.
“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” (James 1:2-4).
Do you count it a joy when your faith is tried? I’m learning to find joy in troubles. Not because I enjoy the trouble, but I’m always in awe as God gets me through problems. It’s only by going through suffering, loss, or financial troubles that I, or anyone, can learn to trust Jesus. It’s hard not to despair when trouble strikes, but knowing that there’s a reason for the suffering can be a comfort.
There’s no substitute for faith in Jesus.
“These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
Thank You, Jesus, for seeing us through.
God bless you all,
Ron and Nathele Graham’s previous commentaries archived at https://www.raptureready.com/featured/graham/graham.html
All original scripture is “theopneustos,” God breathed.
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