Sunday, January 10, 2016

Why does God allow Suffering in the World?

This question is often asked when tragedy strikes, but the first thing to consider is whether there is such a thing as “the innocent” even exists. The prophet Jeremiah endured much suffering but he declared that, “the heart is wicked and deceitful above all things” (Jeremiah 17:9), and Paul emphasized the same thing when he wrote, “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). No one is innocent in the sense of being sinless. Sin entered the world when Adam and Eve rebelled against God in the Garden of Eden, and mankind has been in rebellion ever since. Sin’s effects permeate everything, and the suffering we see all around us is a direct result of that sin. That is not to say that everyone who suffers sickness or trials is suffering because of a specific sin in their personal lives. This is what Job’s friends thought were the cause of all Job’s suffering (Job 4, 8, 11, 15, 18, 20, 22). This was often the view of people in the time of the Lord Jesus, but we learn that He refuted this idea (Lk. 13:1-5, Jn. 9:1-3). But when sin came into the world, so did corruption, suffer and death (Gen. 2:17, 3:17, Rm. 5:12, 8:20-22).

But why does God allow Christians to suffer and go through such deep trials? He did not leave us here to suffer pointlessly. Our loving and merciful God has a perfect plan to use that suffering to accomplish His threefold purpose. First, He uses pain and suffering to draw us to Himself so that we will cling to Him. Jesus said, “In the world you shall have tribulation” (John 16:33). Trials and distress are not something unusual in life; they are part of what it means to be human in a fallen world. In Christ we have an anchor that holds fast in all the storms of life (Heb. 6:13-20), but if we never sail into those storms, how would we know that? It is in times of despair and sorrow that we reach out to Him, and, if we are His children, we always find Him there waiting to comfort and uphold us through it all as the God of all comfort and the Father of mercies. In this way, He proves His faithfulness to us and ensures that we will stay close to Him. An added benefit is that as we experience God’s comfort through trials, we are then able to comfort others in the same way (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).

Second, He proves to us that our faith is real through the suffering and pain that are inevitable in this life. How we respond to suffering is determined by the genuineness of our faith. Those with faith truly from God, “the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2), will not be crushed by suffering, but will come through the trial with their faith intact, having been “proven through fire” so that it “might be found to praise and honor and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:7). Those are the ones who do not shake their fists at God or question His goodness, but instead “count it all joy” (James 1:2), knowing that trials prove that they are truly the children of God. “Blessed is the man who endures temptation, because having been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him” (James 1:12).

Finally, God uses suffering to take our eyes off this world and put them on the next. The Bible continually exhorts us to not get caught up in the things of this world, but to look forward to the world to come. This world and all that is in it will pass away, but the kingdom of God is eternal. Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36), and those who would follow Him must not see the things of this life, both good and bad, as the end of the story. Even the sufferings we endure and which seem so terrible “are not worthy to be compared with the coming glory to be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18).

Could God prevent all suffering? Of course He could, but He assures us that “all things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). So even suffering is part of the “all things” that God is using to accomplish His good purposes. His plan is perfect, His character is flawless, and those who trust Him will not be disappointed.

But let’s look closer at two portions of Scripture that we have already referred to. First, James 1:2-8. Here we want to review three things: The Purpose of Trials, The Right Perspective on Trials and the Right Response to trials.

The Purpose of Trials
We live in a fallen world as we have already earlier seen sin has affected and infect everything! We all experience this trial of place. But we ought to be encouraged to remember that God is Sovereign and while He gives redemptive peace (Rm. 5:1-5), He also is working out His divine purposes in each of our lives (Rom. 8:18-39). But as we pass through the storms of life there is a present help as we go through these many colored trials (various) in life! There are many reasons why we are allowed pass through deep waters. James 1:2-3 remind us that it is strengthen our faith so that we might endure! Paul was knew that a trial that he passed through was to humble him (2 Cor. 12:7). Sometimes trials come to wean us from being dependent on anything else but the Lord! Trials come to remind us that this world is not our home and that we have an eternal hope (Phil. 1:12-23).

The Right Perspective on Trials
Every one of us will face the trials of temptation, which the Lord Jesus even experienced in while in the wilderness (Mt. 4:1-11). While His temptation was to prove that He could not sin, we are promise a way of escape from temptation when it comes (1 Cor. 10:13). But just as the Lord Jesus used the Word of God to defeat the enemy so must we! Difficult times will come to us because we belong to the Lord Jesus this is called the trials of identification! We read of this in John 15:18-20, 1 Peter 2:12, 4:12. Sometimes we may have to experience trials of discipline, like Jonah experienced. This disciplining hand of the Father is mentioned in Hebrews 12:3-11. We often think of it as punishment, but really it is the Father’s way of training. This disciple could come in four different ways: Preventive as in Hosea 2:6, 2 Cor. 12:7, Corrective as in Psalm 118:67 and Jonah; Instructive as in Psalm 119:71 and 1 Chron. 13:7-14, 15:2; and Preservative discipline as in 1 Corinthians 5. The last perspective I would mention is we need to be reminded that sometimes trials are trials of display, meaning that that demonstrate the sustaining and power of our mighty God as we see in the lives of those in Hebrews 11:17-19.

The Right Response to Trials
I would like to suggest five things that James challenges us with in James 1:2-11 as to what kind of response we ought to have to trials.

1. We are told to “count it all joy when we fall into various trials.” We are told here to have a Joyful Attitude. This word count it is a book keeping term. It has the idea of weighing everything in the light that God is at work. 

2. In verse 3 we are told to have an Understanding Mind, “knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.” Peter says that we are to remember that our faith is much more precious than gold that perishes even though it is test in the fire of trials (1 Pet. 1:7).

3. James goes on to instruct us to have a Submissive Will in verse 4 when he says “let patience have its perfect work….”The Lord knows if this is needed in our lives, Peter uses the term “if need be” in 1 Peter 1:6. He determines it and we need to trust Him and surrender ourselves to Him.

4. This leads us to the have a Believing Heart as outlined in James 1:5-8.

5. It also leads us to a Humble Spirit as seen in James 1:9-11.

But in verse 12 James reminds us that there is a reward for perseverance. In others wards James would remind us what the Hymn writer penned:

Oft times the day seems long, our trials hard to bear,
We're tempted to complain, to murmur and despair;
But Christ will soon appear to catch His Bride away,
All tears forever over in God's eternal day.

It will be worth it all when we see Jesus,
Life's trials will seem so small when we see Christ;
One gliimpse of His dear face all sorrow will erase,
So bravely run the race till we see Christ.

Sometimes the sky looks dark with not a ray of light,
We're tossed and driven on , no human help in sight;
But there is one in heav'n who knows our deepest care,
Let Jesus solve your problem - just go to Him in pray'r.

It will be worth it all when we see Jesus,
Life's trials will seem so small when we see Christ;
One gliimpse of His dear face all sorrow will erase,
So bravely run the race till we see Christ.

Life's day will soon be o'er, all storms forever past,
We'll cross the great divide, to glory, safe at last;
We'll share the joys of heav'n - a harp, a home, a crown,
The tempter will be banished, we'll lay our burden down.

It will be worth it all when we see Jesus,
Life's trials will seem so small when we see Christ;
One gliimpse of His dear face all sorrow will erase,
So bravely run the race till we see Christ.

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