2. THE FIVE-FOLD PURPOSE OF SUFFERING

(The Faith Forum Series)

Why does a child of God suffer? Why does God allow it? Why doesn’t he spare us pain and sorrow? In the midst of my own pain and what seemed like a prolonged period of severe adversity and drought in my life, I meditated on the reasons given by Moses to the children of Israel, as to why God had allowed them to stay in the wilderness (which was not a pleasant place) for forty l(40) long years, before changing their course.

In Deuteronomy 8: 2-3 and 5, Moses stated to the Israelities, that it was:

  • “…to HUMBLE thee, and to PROVE thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no…that he might MAKE THEE KNOW THAT MAN DOTH NOT LIVE BY BREAD ONLY, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live…Thou shalt also consider in thine heart, that, as a man chasteneth his son, so THE LORD THY GOD CHASTENETH THEE.”

Based on these verses, I concluded, that the Believer in the resurrection of Jesus Christ (Christian) suffers for one or more of five (5) main reasons as follows:-

1. HUMILITY

This has two (2) meanings. For some, this means that the adversity is meant to bring down their pride because they are too puffed up in God’s sight. Matthew 23:12 states, “And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.” In 1 Peter 5:6-7, the warning is also given: “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time.”

On the other hand, although some Christians were not puffed up and did not have too high an opinion of themselves, their accomplishments, their ability and their own merits, God still brought the adversity to teach them a different kind of humility, which means complete and absolute dependence on HIM.

He stripped them of everything (sort of like what he did with Job and what he did with me in the past), so that their confidence could not be placed in self, friends, family, money, good looks, position, a man, empty religion or anybody or anything but him. He removed EVERYTHING, so that they could fix their gaze on nothing but HIM. When all else failed, he was all that they had but he was all that they ever needed.

2. TESTING

God will put his children through some severe trials and tribulations and sometimes prolonged, to test or prove the extent of your faith and love for him.

The basic questions he asks when all hell breaks loose in your life and nothing seems to be working out are: “Will you still serve me although my handouts have ceased and I have opted to remain silent to your cries? Are you in this walk for me or for the things you think you can get from me? Look outside. There is no more glorious sunshine and nothing but torrents of rain. Will you turn your back on me because of it or will you learn the art of praising me in the storm?”

This is what Job, a man the Bible describes as perfect, went through and he passed with flying colours. Will you?

3. SPIRITUAL DEVELOPMENT

God is interested in the spiritual development of his children and nothing brings out gold better, than the scorching heat and intensity of fire. When God lights a fire beneath your pot, it is not so that you will sweat, give up, grow exhausted or explode. It is not that he does not care. He is however, a long term God and he is interested in the end product. Godly character MUST be built and it can only be elevated through hardships.

As I said once, God does not process us through pleasure. He processes us through pain. God is not interested in his children staying at one level spiritually. He wants us to grow and sufferings and afflictions are necessary steps to take us to the next level.

In 2013, God allowed me to go through so much pain, I thought I would die. In 2014, he allowed things to happen at a spiritual level, to open up my eyes to the reality of spiritual warfare. The devil kept sending spiritual attacks like I had never experienced and waged war against me at a whole new level but God allowed it (while protecting me) to open my eyes to what is happening spiritually in this life that we live and to teach me how to fight back with the spiritual weapons he has provided. I had to adjust my lens as a matter of necessity.

Since 2014, I look at everything with spiritual glasses. At first I was terrified as to why all these strange, weird things with no logical, natural explanation were happening around me and with such frequency but God had a purpose in allowing it.

At the end of your ordeal (be it heartbreaks, betrayals, gossip, job loss, financial lack, sickness, spiritual attacks or whatever comes your way), your dependence on God grows and so does your relationship and intimacy with him.

If you survive, your faith soars to unprecedented levels, God opens your eyes spiritually and you become more discerning and spiritually aware. Through your adversity, you grew spiritually and that was necessary to awaken you from your sleep, to that reality.

All that we see is not all that is and God wants all Christians on the battlefield as part of his army. We must fight the devil by meditating on, believing in and applying the WORD, having strong and immovable FAITH in God’s character, power and promises, engaging in effective and fervent PRAYER from the heart, disciplining our bodies through FASTING and dwelling (come what may), in an atmosphere of PRAISE.

4. CHASTENING

God brings and uses adversity, as punishment for disobedience. He does not do it because he hates us but because he loves us and wants us to repent for the areas in our lives that we have not submitted to him. He is no respecter of persons and nobody gets a pass (Colossians 3:25). He is also not deceived, as he knows our heart. All disobedience by his children, which is sin is met with some form of consequence, which may be chastening and there is no getting around it or away from it.

One hallmark of a true Christian is that God chastens him when he does wrong. Hebrews 12:6-10 reminds us that if we are God’s children, we will experience punishment for disobedience because God loves us and will orchestrate things in our lives so that we will get back on to the right path. The scripture reads:

  • “For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.”

God demands that you align yourself with his righteousness and sometimes he will cause you to be harassed, punished, stuck and oppressed, until you learn the lesson that he has been trying to teach. Hebrews 12:11 states:

  • “Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.”

5. BLESSING TO OTHERS

This is not mentioned in the scripture above but it is demonstrated in biblical stories.

Admittedly, we gain our strength, inspiration, encouragement, warnings and guidance from some of the sufferings that God’s people went through in the Bible, whether because they took a stand for what was right in God’s eyes or because of their disobedience or for any other reason.

Sometimes God will put you through the worst to bring out the best, not only in yourself but also in others and so that his divine purposes (some of which we may never understand) will be fulfilled. See, God is all about HIS glory and uses our suffering to give a testimony.

In the Old Testament, the story of Job and Joseph’s adversity and extreme suffering, still bless and edify us today. They teach us so much and so were the stories of those who paid the ultimate price of death, in keeping with their calling, like Stephen and John the Baptist.

The idea of going through excruciating pain for the benefit of others was best demonstrated in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ himself. The Bible accurately records that “…For the joy that was set before him, (he) endured the cross.” (Hebrews 12:2).

The joy that Jesus focused on and which enabled him to endure being put to death was the thought that in his death and after his resurrection, whosoever believed on him would be blessed with eternal life and reconciled to God the Father.

When we suffer for the benefit of others, it is much like what happens when a woman is in labour. She does not look forward to the pain that she must go through but she bravely musters all her strength and endures it to the end, for the joy of birthing a new life into the world.

John 16:21 states: “A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world.”

Romans 8:18 also states: “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”

CONCLUSION

In closing, the Bible makes it clear that every true believer in Jesus Christ is called to go through sufferings. This is inescapable. As much as we hate to suffer, it is one of the tools that God uses to bless us, by humbling us, testing us, growing us and chastening us. Apart from ourselves, he also uses our sufferings to be a blessing to those around us.

(Written on 10th March, 2016)

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