It’s God’s will that you suffer…for righteousness’ sake.
Though every Christian would affirm that statement, people interpret it in a number of different ways. For some, it’s doing ministry in an inner-city homeless shelter. For others, it’s absorbing whatever comments your critics make about your ministry methodology—e.g., the mega-church or multi-site pastor who gets called out for franchising his brand. Still others completely ignore the issue of righteousness and godliness. For them, suffering is doing something radical, something crazy, unpopular, even shocking.
Is that what God wants? Crazy suffering? Or should we interpret suffering from a more biblical paradigm, such as,
Matthew 5:11, “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
1 Peter 3:17, “For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong.”
There are a number of popular Christian leaders these days who speak of suffering in terms that affirm their own brand of ministry—it can come across as somewhat self-congratulatory. But take a look around. You have to look long and hard to find Christians who are profoundly committed to the pursuit of righteousness in their lives. It’s not popular to confront and condemn the wicked culture, to live apart from it. It’s not easy to embrace the scorn of the culture.
Even within evangelicalism, there are those who are quick to ridicule earnest, godly Christians for holding to scruples they deem to be prudish, fundamentalist, or way too traditional. It’s the cool, culturally relevant Christians who trumpet contextualization and talk about being missional. Sadly, they join the world’s chorus, ridiculing sincere, pure-hearted Christians who hunger and thirst for righteousness. For doing right, they unjustly suffer, and that’s God’s will.
Are you following this aspect of God’s will? Here’s John MacArthur to explain…
Listen to this 3-minute clip:
Launch Player | Download | Full Sermon
#3 Posted by
Douglas Grogg | Tuesday, November 30, 2010at
A message like this separates the wheat from the chaff. Paul informs us in Romans 8:17 that our being glorified with Christ is conditioned upon our suffering with Christ. He goes on to state that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which will one day be revealed. All whom God foreknew He predestined, called, justified, and glorified (Romans 8:29, 30). If glorification with Christ is conditioned upon our suffering with Him and all whom God calls will ultimately be glorified, then it stands to reason that not only are none of His children without chastening (Hebrews 12:8) but none will be exempt from suffering with Christ either. Indeed all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution (2 Timothy 3:12). As I stated in a previous post, without holiness, no one (no exception) shall see the Lord (see Hebrews 12:14).
No doubt you have heard many quote part of Romans 8:28, God causes all things to work together for the good…. No doubt the vast majority of them assumed that the good to which most things worked was that which satisfied their fleshly desires. The text reveals otherwise. The good for which God causes all things to work together for His children is that of being conformed to the image of His Beloved Son. If His Beloved Son learned obedience through suffering (Hebrews 5:8) how much more so must we!
A word of encouragement to those of you who are pursuing holiness in the fear of the Lord and are suffering for His name sake; in our glorified state we will serve our Glorious Master in a manner in which He is truly worthy, but we will never again have an opportunity to suffer for His name sake. With this in mind, let us embrace with hearts of joy and thanksgiving every opportunity that God brings our way to suffer for the Word, righteousness, and the Name of Christ. – His Unworthy Slave
#4 Posted by
Dan Wilson | Wednesday, December 1, 2010at
Noah was a righteousness man in the age of the Flood. He suffered
as he build the Ark to save his family, and the animal by the hand
Abraham suffered cause his wife was taken by Pharaoh. God brought
her back to him.
Jacob suffered from Laban. God provided family and livestock for him.
Joseph suffered from his brothers that sold him to the Ishmaelites, He
suffer from Potiphar's horny wife. God made Joseph a leader and He
brought his family to him.
Moses, Samuel, David, and etc. Even up to Paul and the rest in the
Thanks for the sermons.
#5 Posted by
Dan Wilson | Thursday, December 2, 2010at
Forgot one, Abel suffered to death in faith to God. His offering was
pleasing in God's sight. But Cain and his offering was not. Cain's jealousy led him to murder his brother.
It wasn't just the offering. It was heart matters. God bless.
Enoch, not much to tell in Jude, He preached to those wicked
ones before God took him to heaven alive.
I read the introduction of the blog. Church shouldn't preach and act worldly at the same time. It can destroy every thing, even the foundations of the church. Like building a house on sand. Sad.
#6 Posted by
Douglas Grogg | Friday, December 3, 2010at
Dan, I enjoyed your posts. However, I would submit to you that in regards to Abraham, he suffered the temporary lose of his wife as a result of his unbelief in lying about Sarah being his sister. His sin of unbelief illustrates to us the fact that holiness in the life of a true believer will never be perfect in this life. By faith Abraham obeyed God when he left his relatives and country and went out not knowing where he was going (Hebrews 11:8). Fearing man, he stumbled in unbelief and lied about his wife being his sister. God chastened him through the temporary loss of his wife (God punishes the sins of one man with the sins of another). However, later on in his life we see the crown jewel of faith displayed in his obeying God in offered up his son Isaac. Fearing God (Genesis 22:12), he considered (added up all the facts and concluded) that God is able to raise men even from the dead (Hebrews 11:19). This happened at a time when no one had ever been raised from the dead! This example of faith and the example of faith on the part of Rahab when she risked her life (an act of treason against a nation about to be destroyed by God) by receiving the messengers and sending them out another way are the two examples used by James to demonstrate the characteristics of a faith that saves as opposed to a “faith” that cannot save (see James 2:14-26)
A life of faithfulness that is demonstrated by obedience and the pursuit of holiness (fleeing worldliness and with a reverential awe diligently seeking to please God) automatically brings us into conflict with this world. Consistent with the life of Christ, our most violent persecutors will be the unregenerate religious apostates. A genuine piece of currency placed beside a counterfeit exposes the counterfeit as the fraud that it is. Apart from the new birth and the constant reliance upon Christ that is consistent with the nature of that new birth, the Christian life cannot be lived out. Grace and peace be to you Dan. –His Unworthy Slave
#7 Posted by
Tommy Clayton | Friday, December 3, 2010at
Thanks for your comments--both of them. Well said, brother. May we not shrink back to perdition, but believe to the saving of the soul (Heb. 10:39). For we've not yet resisted to bloodshed in our striving against sin (Heb. 12:4).
#8 Posted by
Dan Wilson | Friday, December 3, 2010at
Thank you. I appreciate it. Yes, I agree.
#9 Posted by
James Park | Tuesday, December 7, 2010at
I understand that there is suffering that refines us and makes us stronger, and I understand that there is suffering from the consequence of sin. However, my question regards those who are affected by the consequence of sin. We all know that the consequence of sin rarely just affects one person, but also those around the sinner. What I constantly question is, those that suffer as a result of another person's sin, how are these people viewed by God? Is their suffering only a means to discipline or refine the person, or does God also have a plan for the sufferer? For instance, corruption in Africa runs deep which means many people suffer because they do not and cannot receive the aid they so desperately need. Now, are the sufferings of these people considered just in God's eyes, or because it is simply a product of sin, it is to be expected and endured? The problem with this from my view is that, when is it enough? How long must these people suffer because of what people completely unrelated to them did? I say God is just and merciful, but when people are suffering greatly, not because of their own sins (and I can hardly see how some of the sufferings these people are going through is because they are going through a refining process) but because of others, it becomes extremely hard to continue to reassure myself that God would really allow this to continue to happen- especially since even though all these people are suffering, they will still probably end up going to hell because they never accepted Jesus Christ in the first place. What do I do?
#10 Posted by
Gabriel Powell (GTY Admin) | Tuesday, December 7, 2010at
You are asking questions that many people ask. These are natural questions that come out of a heart full of compassion and a sense of injustice. Anyone with God's heart cannot see a battered woman and starving children without sensing deep and real hurt for them. So you ask good questions.
Before I attempt to answer your questions, let me first say that "the secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever..." (Deuteronomy 29:29). There are many aspects related to suffering that we simply will never know in this life. The Lord has seen fit to keep hidden many mysterious and difficult things (probably in large part because we couldn't handle or understanding them in our sinful state). So we must always acknowledge that the Lord is God and we are not His judge. God is good and gracious and merciful, and what we see or experience does not change that even if we don't understand how to reconcile everything.
With that said let me point out a few things that may be helpful in thinking about this:
First, this discussion is almost always built up as if those who suffer are always innocent in God's eyes. We must remember that every person who has not trusted in Christ's atoning work for salvation is an enemy of God regardless of their social and welfare status. Therefore it would be wrong to accuse God of allowing perfectly (in every sense) people to suffer. Whatever humans suffer in this life, if they do not yet have eternal life, will only increase a thousand-fold in eternity. We must remember that.
Second, we must also remember that God is not responsible for sin, nor is He in any sense obligated to remove suffering from anyone. James 1:13 clearly says that God cannot be tempted, nor does He tempt anyone. So whatever suffering exists, exists at the hand of sinful men. Furthermore, God is not obligated to remove suffering because, as I said in the first point, we all receive in this life infinitely more grace than we deserve. Believer and unbeliever alike are benefactors of God's patience and grace. The unbeliever, no matter how difficult the circumstance, should cherish his life on earth because his eternal life will be unimaginably worse.
#11 Posted by
Gabriel Powell (GTY Admin) | Tuesday, December 7, 2010at
Third, Scripture is quite clear that all kinds of suffering are used by God to accomplish His will. There is the undeserved suffering of Joseph that God used to save Israel from the famine. There is the deserved suffering of the Canaanites that God used to fulfill His promises to Israel. There is the infinitely undeserved suffering of Christ that has accomplished redemption for the world. There is the undeserved suffering of Paul as he spent years in prison that resulted in God's Word spread through the ages. There is the deserved suffering of criminals who come to Christ in prison and evangelize in a way no one else could. We could go on and on and on. God accomplishes His purposes through deserved and undeserved suffering.
Fourth, for believers, Romans 8:28-29 is clear that everything that happens to us works out for our good, namely, to make us more like Christ. Suffering, for the believer, is a refining event. Therefore suffering is not to be shunned, but as James 1:3 says, to be considered joy because of the growth it causes in us. This growth is sometimes a disciplining activity where God is cleansing us from sin. Other times it is a sharpening and training activity where God is simply maturing us into greater Christlikeness. Believers always have remnant sinful flesh, and we cannot always tie suffering absolutely to discipline or training, but we can always say that God is refining us one way or another.
Fifth, when is it enough for the believer? According to 1 Corinthians 10:13 God knows when enough is enough and we cannot take anymore. He will not allow us to go through something we cannot handle, but will provide a way for us to endure it. This promise is based on God's faithfulness. No one can say, "this is too much" because God's very name rests on the fact that you can handle it. Unbelievers cannot claim the same promise, but I think it is logical to say that the only thing unbelievers experience that they can't ultimately handle is what kills them. People around the world are experiencing right now things most of us wouldn't wish on our worst enemies. Yet God is giving them the common and not-so-common grace to endure the trial. And again, what these unbelievers are experiencing right now is nothing compared to hell. So if anything, it is God's compassion that is holding them in this life giving them every second to repent lest they slip into the depths of eternal agony.
#12 Posted by
Gabriel Powell (GTY Admin) | Tuesday, December 7, 2010at
I'll leave here for now. Feel free to ask follow up questions, but let me recommend a couple really helpful resources: John's "Making Sense Out of Suffering" brief series, and Trials & Suffering Collection Volumes 1 and Volume 2. These various things you can read online or download free, or purchase the CD sets. Also, Randy Alcorn has written a new book that I've heard is excellent called If God is Good: Faith in the Midst of Suffering and Evil.
Grace and peace