MORE ABOUT SUFFERING
1. Our theme is that God is good and good means good!!
2. We must begin such a study with Jesus because He is the complete revelation of God. John 1:18; 14:9; Heb 1:1-3
a. Jesus tells us that God is good. Matt 19:17
b. Good is defined as what Jesus did. Acts 10:38
3. That brings up an apparent contradiction — what about suffering?
a. Isn’t suffering part of Christian life?God’s perfecting tool for His servants?
b. How can a truly good God allow all the suffering in this world?
c. There is no contradiction. People lack knowledge of the Bible, and put their experience above what the Bible says. (mix apples and oranges)
4. In this lesson, we are going to deal further with the subject of suffering in relation to God’s character: first, a little review and then new material!
1. During His earth ministry Jesus did not cause, send, or fail to relieve suffering for all who came to Him — He was the will of God in action. Matt 12:20
2. Christ suffered some things for us so we do not have to suffer them. I Pet 3:18
a. On the Cross, Jesus suffered the wrath of God and the punishment due us for our sins so that we don’t have to suffer those things. II Cor 5:21
b. He also suffered the consequences of our sins so we don’t have to.
1. Isa 53:4-6 tells us Jesus bore our sins, sicknesses, and pains for the purpose of removal. (AVON = sins and punishment)
2. Gal 3:13 — Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law: humiliation, barrenness, unfruitfulness, mental and physical sickness, family break down, poverty, defeat, oppression, failure, God’s disfavor. (Deut 28)
3. The NT teaches that we suffer for Christ and with Christ.Phil l:29; Rom 8:17
a. The only thing we can do for Christ is spread the gospel
b. The only thing we can suffer with Christ is persecution. Acts 9:4
4. As we study the Book of Acts, we see that the first followers of Christ experienced two types of sufferings:
a. Persecution in the form of beatings, jail, slander, and even death for preaching the gospel and obeying God.
b. Physical discomforts due to obstacles in their way or things they gave up in order to preach the gospel.
c. There are no examples of them suffering for the Lord the way we use the word — sickness, car wrecks, bad marriages, job loss, etc.
d. We must allow the NT to define suffering for the Lord for us. Acts 5:40,41
1. Suffering is in the earth because of sin.
a. We must daily deal with the consequences of sin and its effects in the earth and in the human race.
1. We live in an earth cursed by sin = killer storms; weeds; rust. Gen 3:17-19
2. We have bodies that are mortal = subject to sickness, old age, and death. Rom 5:12
3. We interact with unsaved people dominated by satan. Eph 2:2,3
4. We interact with Christians who are carnal and have unrenewed minds. Rom 12:1,2
5. We have an enemy who is seeking to destroy us. I Pet 5:8; John 10:10
b. This will continue until Jesus comes back to earth.
2. That leads to the question — how could God allow all this evil and suffering?
a. We must be clear what we mean by “allow”. God allows people to sin and go to hell — that doesn’t mean He is behind it or wills it in any way.
b. Man really does have a free will — he can choose good or bad, and all the consequences which go with that choice.
3. Consider also these points:
a. Remember, suffering is here because of sin; it will not go on forever.
1. When Jesus comes back to earth, pain and suffering will cease.
2. In terms of eternity, 6,000 years of human history is very little.
b. When human history is finally wrapped up, it will be a monument for all eternity to what happens when men choose independence from God.
c. God, who is omniscient (all knowing) and omnipotent (all powerful) is able to take the bad, the evil, the suffering and cause it to serve His eternal purposes, and bring great good out of it all.
4. Suffering is present in the world, but it does not come from God — it is the result of:
a. Living in a cursed earth.
b. Interacting with people influenced by satan.
c. Poor choices we make.
5. Let’s look at some examples of people who suffered and identify the source of their suffering.
1. When God brought Israel out of Egypt on their way to the promised land, He had to take them across the Sinai Peninsula — not a good trip!
a. Some facts about the peninsula:
1. It is mountainous = Mt. Sinai = 7,400 ft.
2. It is dry; 1″ to 8″ inches of rainfall per year.
3. Food and water scarce.
b. Why are there desert places — because of sin. Gen 2:6
1. The difficulties Israel encountered on the trip = life in a fallen world.
2. Remember, they also had mortal bodies subject to heat, fatigue, etc.
3. There was also a devil working on their minds.
2. On the trip, they did what many of us.
a. They began to blame Moses (and God indirectly) Ex 14:11,12
b. They believed God brought them out of Egypt to hurt them. Deut 1:27
3. The journey to the promised land was difficult, but not because God was making them / allowing them to suffer.
a. They were in a desert which was there because of Adam’s sin, and there was no other way to get to Canaan.
b. There were actually two ways God could lead them — neither was very good (that’s life!!). Ex 13:17,18
1. Through the land of the Philistines (better according to sight because it was the most direct route).
2. Through the wilderness of the Red Sea.
c. Both ways were difficult, but God took them the best way.
1. They weren’t ready to defeat the Philistines; God would defeat Og of Bashan and Sihon of Hesbon before they got to Canaan and boost
their confidence in battle.
2. At the Red Sea, God destroyed their enemy Pharaoh, and encouraged Israel with another demonstration of His power.
4. So, we see that their suffering was the result of life in a fallen world, combined with their own attitudes and misunderstanding of God’s character.
5. Many say that God led His chosen people, Israel, into the wilderness to teach them, to perfect them, etc. — and that He does so to us.
a. Israel was in the wilderness because of rebellion. Num 14:22-35
b. No where does the Bible commend them for their wilderness experience; in fact, we are warned not to duplicate it!! Heb 3:17-19; 4:1,2;11
c. The wilderness is not God’s place of perfecting for His special people, it is the consequence of sin and rebellion!
d. Their own foolish choices brought Israel to the wilderness.
e. But, even in the wilderness, we see God’s goodness — He cared for them as a father and met their needs. Deut 1:31; 2:7
6. Sometimes people say: God’s got me in His fiery furnace to perfect me.
a. Let’s look at that account in Daniel 3.
1. King Nebuchadnezzar made an idol of gold and commanded that all should bow down and worship it.
2. Anyone who did not obey was to be thrown into a fiery furnace. v6
b. Three Hebrews refused to bow to the idol — Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. v12;16-18
1. The king had them thrown into the fire — note, a wicked king put them in the fire for not worshipping an idol
2. God did not perfect them in the fire, He preserved them. v25-27
c. Once again, we see God’s goodness: preserving and delivering His people.
1. Some say God allows people to be sick so that He can heal them. John 9:1-7
a. The disciples asked Jesus why this man was born blind.
1. v2 — Note, the disciples saw a connection between sin and sickness.
2. Jesus did not tell them why the man was born blind.
b. v3,4 — Jesus told them that the works of God had not yet been manifested (demonstrated) in the man at this point. Jesus said He had to do the work of God (heal him).
c. If blindness was the work of God, then Jesus, by healing the man, was undoing the work of the Father.
d. If God does good / bad to us and then turns around and undoes it, isn’t that a house divided? Matt 12:25,26
e. The issue isn’t why did this happen, but how are we going to deal with it?
1. People in mortal bodies born into a fallen world are born blind — that’s life.
2. But, God, in His goodness, sent Jesus to undo the damage.
2. Paul’s shipwreck at the island of Melita. Acts 27
a. As a result of persecution (near riots) in Jerusalem, the Romans arrested Paul; he appealed his case to Rome. Acts 21-26
b. While on the sea journey to Rome, Paul warned those in charge of the ship not to proceed any further. Acts 27:10
1. The officers did not listen and set out to sea. 27:11-13
2. A huge storm blew up and the ship went down. 27:14-44
c. Paul was shipwrecked because of a decision made by another person — not at God’s hand.
1. God saved Paul and the others on board — His goodness and mercy.
2. Paul calls this experience an infirmity = an obstacle, difficulty encountered while preaching. II Cor 11:23-30
3. Once on Melita, Paul was bitten by a snake. Acts 28:1-3
a. Why? He’s a murderer getting what he deserves. No wait, he’s a god. v4,6
b. Why was Paul bitten? That’s life in a fallen world. But, we see God’s goodness in this — Paul shook off the snake with no harm done. Mark 16:18; Luke 10:19; Ps 91:13
1. We could give example after example such as these, but, hopefully, you are beginning to get the point.
2. I realize we have not yet answered every question, but we’ve sorted a few more apples from oranges.
3. I know some of you are thinking, yes, but what about all that stuff in the OT?
a. The things we see in the OT are judgments against sin and rebellion.
1. God allowed people to reap the consequences of their actions.
2. Judgment came after much verbal warning.
3. It didn’t happen to Joe Christian doing his best to serve God.
b. Right now, we are dealing with Joe Christian!!
4. We must remember our guidelines:
a. Jesus is the complete revelation of God; start with Him.
b. The OT must be read in light of the NT.
c. We cannot put our experiences (or anyone else’s — including Job) above God’s Word.
5. The Bible does not contradict itself.
a. If it says God is good and good means good, then that is what it means.
b. If we see something in the Bible or our experience which appears to contradict that principle, it means we do not yet have full understanding of the apparent contradiction.
6. But, as we continue our study, with each lesson, we’ll see more clearly that God is good and good means good!!