Monday, August 2, 2010

A Biblical Understanding of Suffering - Part 4 of 5

Suffering for the Glory of God – You will also see this referred to in Scripture as suffering for the sake of Christ.  Grace does not always express itself in ways that are particularly joyous to us from an earthly standpoint, but are nonetheless joy packed.  At least not on the surface.

In John 9 we find an account of a man Jesus encountered who was blind.

John 9:1 - As He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth.  And then look at the first reaction of the disciples… John 9:2 - And His disciples asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?”  They looked upon his blindness as some form of punishment for sin.  They were assuming that God was chastening the blind man, the type of suffering we said was number two.  But look at what Jesus reveals.  John 9:3-5 - Jesus answered, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.  4 “We must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day; night is coming when no one can work.  5 “While I am in the world, I am the Light of the world.” 

This man had been permitted to be born blind so that the works of God could be made manifest in his life at this moment by Jesus Christ.  He was born blind for the Glory of God.  Born blind so that the grace of God could be displayed in his life.

John 9:6-7 - When He had said this, He spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and applied the clay to his eyes,  7 and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which is translated, Sent). So he went away and washed, and came back seeing.

Jesus healed him.  He brought sight to the man.  Why?  For the demonstration of His Grace and Glory.  Because HE is the Light.  And where the Light is present, you can see and there is no darkness.

There is a suffering, like this… and cancer… and other physical ailments like the Cerebral Palsy that Justin Peters has that are not a result of specific sin but is there to display the grace and glory of God.

This man spent years of his life in darkness so that at this moment, Jesus would heal him and bring God glory for it.  Now it may be that God even allows some sickness or blindness and does not heal from it… and for the Christian in this suffering… I know this is hard to hear… but that too brings God glory.  Now we certainly don’t run around thanking God for allowing someone to have cancer.  We aren’t cold and calloused.  That wouldn’t be loving of us. 

However, if that person who has it, I’m talking about the one that God doesn’t heal for whatever reason.  How amazing of a testimony is it for that person to leave behind that of their life we can say that they never let go of their faith and trust in God?
We all have testimonies of Christians we know who have suffered and died from cancer or lived with something like blindness or something who has persevered and never wavered in their hope and faith in God.  Not hoping that God would definitely heal them on earth, even though that is a rational and logical prayer request for them to make.  But they hold on to their hope that one day this will all be over for them and they would be in glory with God.  Worshipping forever, perfected and pain free… no more suffering.

It isn’t as an obvious reason for rejoicing as when God heals, but it is a way in which someone can glorify God nonetheless.  In the healings God performs, and I firmly believe that God does still heal, He is glorified obviously.  But He’s also glorified when a Christian holds fast to their hope, to their confession of faith… all the way to the end when God calls them home and says to them.  You’re suffering is over, come home.

What a testimony… what a legacy… I write our and record all these sermons and make notes in my Bible as I study … and I do that because it helps me to study and comprehend and learn more easily, but I really also do it so that if something were to ever happen to me before my children are grown, they can pick up these notebooks or put in a CD of my preaching one day and hear and read and remember… this was who my father was… Shortcomings and passions… this was who he was and I hope that they can say, he finished well.  He never lost sight of the Living Hope to which he’d been called.

I know this can be hard for us to deal with.  Especially non-Christians. But not so difficult if we set aside our emotions momentarily and remember that life is short… so short when measured by the span of eternity and that we were created to Glorify God… by whatever means He chooses to have us do it.

We can’t say that God is unfair… unfairness is unrighteous and there is no unrighteousness in God.  Psalm 92:15 - To declare that the LORD is upright; He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.

This understanding of suffering also enables Christians to hold fast to their hope in God even when being put to death.  Which sets us up for our fifth and final type of suffering, in a few days.

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