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SUFFERING

July 15, 2020

BY PASTOR BOB

Your Awakened Moment

Suffering

By Pastor Bob


I think every single living thing (except plant life) has this one thing in common: suffering. Animals suffer, humans suffer, we all suffer at one time or another. Why is that? Did suffering only come about because of Adam and Eve's sin in the Garden of Eden? That raises a lot of questions such as pain; why do we have pain? Pain in and of itself isn't necessarily a bad thing. What if we didn't have pain receptors in our bodies? For example, if we dropped something on our foot and couldn't feel and an infection started? That could be deadly. How about an abscessed tooth? That could lead to an infection that could go straight to the brain. That could lead to some major problems! There is example after example that demonstrates that pain can be a GOOD thing!


But what about the suffering that comes with it?Was God's creation meant to suffer? Sometimes we suffer because we  bring it on ourselves. For example, we know we're going to get burned if we stay out in the sun too long without putting on some protection. Also, everyone knows smoking isn't good for you, yet we keep on smoking. Because of that, we become breathless when we exert ourselves, it raises our blood pressure, and in extreme cases it can cause cancer which causes pain, LOTS of it.


But what if we suffer because of things out of our control? Disease, accidents, genetic disorders such as diabetes, Down's Syndrome, Chromosomal defects, autism, neural tube defect, cleft palate, and the list goes on. But why is there suffering in the first place? Is God punishing us because we're such "evil" people?

Let me ask this question: is all suffering necessarily a bad thing? Can good come out of it? I think yes.


Let's look at some some examples:


Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, a Pulitzer Prize winner, is quoted saying" Bless you, prison, for having been in my life." He said this after being in the Gulag (Russian prison system) for many years. He was classified as a political prisoner after having questioned the Communist regime in Russia in a letter to a friend. A censor read this letter and questioned his loyalty, therefore it was decided this disloyal man could be rehabilitated. While in the gulag, he became a Christian and because of this, he reevaluated his life. He thought about who he was and who he was becoming. After prison, he wrote the book "The Gulag Archipelago" which described his prison life and the entire political system in Russia for which he won the Pulitzer Prize.


An example from the Bible is the apostle Paul. As we know, he was acting on behalf of the synagogue to arrest people of "The Way," Christians who followed Jesus Christ and His teachings instead of the traditional teachings of the synagogue with its laws. On his way to Damascus to arrest Christians, he was confronted by Jesus in a vision who rebuked him for what he was doing and was blinded in the process. Three days later, he was healed of his blindness and became a follower of Jesus. As a result he gave everything he had to spreading the good news of Jesus Christ and His message.


He went to such great lengths of spreading the Gospel that he was eventually executed. But do you know what his attitude was concerning his trials? He EXULTED in them! In fact, Peter and other apostles rejoiced that they had been considered worthy to suffer for His name also! 


Why did they have this attitude? HOW could they have this attitude? In fact, both Peter AND Paul believed that it was an honor to suffer for Jesus. It seems strange that both of these men lived so as to suffer to bring the Gospel to the world. They considered that their lives were forfeit in order to accomplish this. Paul stated that "he counted all things as loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish in order that I may gain Christ." Peter stated that "if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not feel ashamed, but in that name let him glorify God. Therefore, let those also who suffer according to the will of God entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right."


Paul went even further: He stated in a letter to the saints in Colossae that he rejoiced in suffering for them. He did his share on behalf of His body (the church) in filling up that which is lacking in Christ's afflictions. What can this mean? Jesus' death on the cross wasn't enough affliction? It wasn't enough to provide atonement for everyone? Of course Jesus' death was enough! What Paul is saying here is that he is glad to share in Jesus' afflictions BECAUSE JESUS WASN'T THERE PHYSICALLY! Paul chose to be afflicted in the place of Jesus because he was there and Jesus wasn't. He was resurrected and had risen to Heaven! So he was GLAD to take Jesus' place and be afflicted. 


And indeed he was afflicted. He suffered many imprisonments, beaten times without number, in danger of death, five times he received 39 lashes from the Jews, three times beaten with rods, stoned once (and left for dead), shipwrecked three times, dangers from rivers, robbers, from his countrymen, Gentiles, in the city, in the country, wilderness, on the sea, among false  brethren, often in hunger and thirst, in cold and nakedness. 


Tradition says that Peter was crucified upside down because he didn't consider himself worthy to be crucified right side up like Jesus was. In fact, all the apostles who knew Jesus died horrible deaths, except John.


There are so many stories of people who have considered it a privilege to die in spreading the Gospel and we'll meet them someday...


Let me ask this question: If you are suffering now, whether from pain or disease or any other malady, are you taking it well? Are you patiently enduring it? Are you showing Jesus to your world, to the people in your sphere of influence? Are you sharing in Jesus' afflictions by taking Him in your aching, ailing, diseased bodies to those that He cares about? Jesus is resurrected and in Heaven now so He can't physically be there for this world.


Will you be His body? Will you share him? 


Just some thoughts


Pastor Bob