Some brethren say, “God works only through the word today.” I do not
think that is a right answer. Now, it is true that God reveals His will for
our lives only through the word. For example, we know God's will concerning
the question “What must I do to be saved?” only by searching out the
Scriptural answer He has provided for us. But God also works in other ways.
He works providentially, and we can accept that truth without destroying the
truth about how we are saved by obeying God's word (2 Peter 1:3,4).
God will use providence to provide us with correction and encouragement to
do right in addition to His word. Nothing He provides will contradict His
revealed word (i.e. He will not provide us with salvation contrary to how
His revealed word says we are saved).
If we accept the idea that God works only in and through the Word, it will
destroy the plain teachings of the Word itself about chastening. Anytime we
accept a concept that forces us to ignore plain teachings in the Bible,
something is seriously wrong. (i.e. Paul's difficulty with pride; God
allowed Satan to “buffet” Paul to help keep Paul's pride from getting out of
hand (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). Here, it is plain that God was working His
purpose and even using Satan to accomplish it for Paul's benefit.
Something else just here on the other side of the issue; not all suffering
or unpleasant event is the chastening of God for sin. One of the main
teachings of the book of Job is that not all pain is punishment for sin. We
need to be like the Bereans. Listen, and search. Let God's Word be the
standard, not "I think, I believe, I feel, I've heard, Others teach, We've
always taught…" etc. Paul suffered. We all do. Why? For different reasons.
Sometimes for several reasons at once, and not always as a direct result of
personal sin, but sometimes suffering is a consequence of sin. And it is not
always the chastening of God, but sometimes it is.
The Curse on Sin -
Human suffering began because of sin. (Genesis 3:16-19). Corruption set in,
and things that promoted the original harmonious and pleasant existence was
changed. There was an increase of the pain of childbirth and hard labor
became necessary to eke out an existence. We now experience birth defects
and sickness; our bodies wear out and finally death. We must labor to
survive. (Romans 8:20-22).
The result of being in this fallen universe is that we suffer with it. There
is no escape. Christianity does change the world from darkness back to
light, but rather transforms us into lights in a dark world; the salt of the
earth to help slow the corruption process. We are in the same dying world as
others. However, we are on a mission to show others how to escape this
corruption. Jesus did not ask the Father to take us out of the world, but to
protect us from the evil one. (John 17:15)
We May Suffer From Our
Many times people are in need because of no fault of our own, but at other
times it's through our own willful idleness (Proverbs 19:15). It is much
better to let such a one learn not to be idle than to feed him and allow him
to continue to be, but not everyone evidently agrees with that.
How many times have we heard the excuse made for a young person in trouble,
“Oh, he got to running with the wrong crowd; he's a good boy” Well,
there may be some truth to that; “He who walks with wise men will be
wise, But the companion of fools will suffer harm.” (Proverbs 13:20).
But still, the harm is suffered through making a foolish decision about who
to “hang out with.” Even in the worst inner cities, there have been
stand outs who refused to join a gang and worked and studied hard and became
successful. They deserve credit. They did not simply choose the “easy”
way, which, when all is said and done, is really the most difficult way
We May Suffer Because
of an Accident
What happens when the fastest runner in a race steps in a hole and twists an
ankle? Someone else wins (Ecclesiastes 9:11). Sometimes, suffering results
from bad timing, being in the wrong place at the wrong time. This verse says
so! Bad luck.
We Can Suffer Because
We Love Others
We experience empathy when we care so much for others that we suffer when
they are suffering. Brethren are to have this characteristic toward one
another. We can suffer because of our love for them. (Jeremiah 9:1 -
suffering of a nation; cf. 9:1; 14:17; 22:10).
Jesus had compassion. Note His suffering at Jerusalem's destiny with
destruction (Matthew 23:37-38) See also Paul (2 Corinthians 2:4; Philippians
We Can Suffer Because
of the Sin of Others
One of the most vivid and awful examples of this was first prophesied by
Jeremiah and fulfilled when wicked King Herod ordered the execution of
innocent babies in a bid to kill Jesus (Jeremiah 31:15; Matthew 2:18).
Today, we think of terrorism around the world and of the thousands of
innocent people suffering such cruelty.
We May Suffer in Order
to Provide a Testimony
God sometimes uses the suffering, but continued faithfulness of His people
to send a message to the world. When Christians suffer but refuse to yield
their faith, they are giving firsthand authentication of a fact; that their
faith in God is real and does not depend on outside favorable circumstances.
It is our good attitude during bad times that impresses others, and we must
be ready to give the glory to God (1 Peter 3:14-15).
Our Suffering May be a
Test of Our Faith
Really, all suffering does test our faith, but some may be allowed
specifically for that purpose (1 Peter 1:5-7). Job's suffering was a test.
Job passed; Satan flunked. We may suffer from persecution as a direct result
of our faith. (1 Peter 4:16). Jesus said it would sometimes be this way
(John 15:17-21). We must refuse to be intimidated and continue to let our
lights shine (Matthew 5:10-12).
We May Suffer So We
Might Grow Spiritually
Triumph over adversity makes one stronger. The proof of faith to oneself,
the gift you are able to make to Christ, the growth in one's own dedication;
all make for a spiritually stronger disciple (Romans 5:3,4; James 1:2-4).
Furthermore, we become more closely identified with Christ who suffered for
us (Romans 8:28,29). God is much more concerned about your character than
your comfort, though He is concerned about both. Sometimes, suffering
reminds us of important matters that we may tend to lose sight of in times
of ease (Hebrews 12:10,11).
But that is not the end of the story. The end will come when we are
delivered from this realm. In heaven, there will be no more tears.
From The Bradley Banner 6/27/2004
Published by the Bradley Church of Christ
1505 E. Broadway
Bradley, IL 60915