Good morning my precious friends
1 Peter 3 verse 18 says, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God.”
Standing over the open grave of Austin Hankey in August I thought about how he no longer was suffering, but I wondered why God allows suffering.
Suffering is an expected part of the Christian life. Jesus told His followers in John 16:33, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world”. That truth about overcoming sustains Christians when suffering threatens to overwhelm. Christians suffer for a variety of reasons, including many of the same reasons non-Christians suffer—life on this broken planet can be difficult.
Suffering of any kind was not part of God’s original creation. Genesis 1:31 reminds us that everything God created was “very good”. Because of Adam’s disobedience the world was corrupted and as Romans 3:23 and Romans 6:23 reminds us, sin continues to corrupt the world as we each add our own poor decisions, rebellion, and selfishness. Sin has ripple effects; - our sin harms others, and their sin harms us, even when we’ve done nothing wrong. Becoming a Christian does not insulate us from the ugliness in our world, nor does it protect us from the consequences of sin.
In 1 Peter 1 verses 6 and 7, Peter addresses Christians who were suffering. Peter encourages them in their trials, reminding them that their suffering had a purpose: “So that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed”. God uses temporary suffering to refine the character of His own children. James 1:2-4 says we must “consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything”.
The book of Job deals with the issue of why God allows bad things to happen to good people. Job was a righteous man (Job 1:1), yet he suffered in ways that are almost beyond belief. God allowed Satan to do everything he wanted to Job except kill him, and Satan did his worst. What was Job’s reaction? “Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him” (Job 13:15). Job 1:21 says “The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised”.
Job did not understand why God had allowed the things He did, but he knew God was good and therefore continued to trust in Him. That should be our reaction as well. But it is not easy.
Bad things may happen to good people in this world, but this world is not the end. Christians have an eternal perspective. 2 Corinthians 4 verses 16–18 reminds us “We do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal”. We will have a reward someday, and it will be glorious.
The question of why some suffer at death and others do not could be summed up in one statement: "God is sovereign." That is not just a cliché and easy statement. When Jesus healed a man born blind in John 9:1-3, the disciples questioned Him. "‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus, ‘but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life’". In this passage is a principle that can be applied to why good people suffer. God allows some to suffer so that "the work of God might be displayed." In other words, God allows some to suffer to bring glory to His name and others not to suffer for the same reason. It is His sovereign will that determines each circumstance. Therefore, we can safely say that no suffering is without a purpose in the plan of God, even though we as finite humans may not see that purpose clearly.
The Apostle Paul suffered much in his life and ministry. Paul was killed for his testimony and according to universal tradition was decapitated after a long imprisonment. During this time, he wrote this testimony to Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:7-8, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing".
Paul said in Philippians 1 verse 21, "For me to live is Christ, to die is gain". Therefore, however a believer dies, in suffering or in relative peace, it is but a transition to "face to face" with the LORD. Once that transition has been made, all of the sorrow and pain of the suffering will end. Revelation 21 verse 4 encourages us that, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away".
So fellow believer, stand firm. Stand firm in our great faith, and arm yourselves with the purpose of Christ. The Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many. Let's follow Him.
Let us pray:
Lord Jesus, we thank You for the great example You set. You died "the just for the unjust." You died in my place. You took the wrath and penalty that I deserved. You died "once for all" You knew what it was to suffer so you have empathy with us when we do. Thank You that Your death was final and all-sufficient to accomplish the forgiveness of all who believe on him. It was finished. The debt is paid in full. We love You Lord. Amen
Much love from Maurice and Margaret