Monday, June 1, 2009

God's Purposes in Suffering.

2. God's Purposes in Suffering.

A: God Uses Suffering to Refine and Shape Us.

Sometimes it is hard for us to endure suffering. We think to ourselves, "How could God allow this to happen?"

Is. 29:16 You turn things upside down! Shall the potter be regarded as the clay, that the thing made should say of its maker, “He did not make me”;or the thing formed say of him who formed it, “He has no understanding”?

We are God's; really we have no right over our own lives. He can do, and does do what He wills to do.

God here is compared to a potter, who moulds clay into whatever shape he desires. (Jer. 18:4-6)

Suffering is sometimes used by God as a tool in His shaping of us.

"I would go to the deeps a hundred times to cheer a downcast spirit. It is good for me to have been afflicted, that I might know how to speak a word in season to one that is weary." - Charles Spurgeon.[1]

He shapes us to prepare us, just as He did with Joseph. If you attempt to comfort someone who has had a loss in their family, they would be more likely to listen to you if you too had experienced a loss.

God will not send you unprepared for the work He has planned for you.

Isaiah 48:10 Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction.

He refines us, getting rid of the corrupt things within us. Before we were saved, we were children of wrath. Now that we are saved we still combat our old natures.

Romans 7: 21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?

God uses affliction to make us turn to him, and give up our old natures. When everything is going well we tend to turn away from God and trust in ourselves.

God uses trials and tribulations in order to squeeze us, and so that we know where we stand before God. When He squeezes us, our responses to the squeezing show us where we need to repent and change.

As John MacArthur Jr. says,

"A sidelight to this is the encouraging assurance that suffering and persecution play an important dual role in the Kingdom of God. First, such trials expose false believers, and second, they strengthen true believers. 1 Peter 5:10 says, 'After you have suffered for a little, the God of all grace … will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.' ”

~The Gospel According To Jesus - John F. Macarthur Jr.[2]

God is continually working in us. He brings us exactly what we need, whether it is trials or good things. God is shaping us to conform us to the image of His son.

Philippians 1:6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

We can rest knowing that God is not only working in us, but that He will also bring it to completion.

Our trials are given with an end in mind. We do not endure needlessly or endlessly. God allows these things to happen unto an end. It is a Work.

B: God Uses Suffering to Discipline Us.

Deuteronomy 8:5 Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the Lord your God disciplines you. 6 So you shall keep the commandments of the Lord your God by walking in his ways and by fearing him.

God disciplines us so that we will keep His commandments.

Without consequence we would be spoiled children. Our example of this is children without discipline. They are spoiled, often taking the role of the parent, or screaming and raging and warring for seemingly no reason. And I would submit to you that children are happier with discipline.

God disciplines us so that we can be Holy, as He is. (Heb 12:1-12, Heb. 10:35-36, Prov. 3:11-12)

He sets us apart, we are His. He trains us in righteousness.

God disciplines us so that we might repent. (Num. 21:4-9, Judges 10:6-16, Rev 3:19)

God's discipline is not simply a punishment. He tells us what we are doing wrong and how to change.

It reminds me of my mother disciplining me. She would never simply walk up and punish me. She would first tell me what I did wrong, and would explain that the discipline was so that I might remember and change.

God disciplines those He loves. (Prov.13:24, Heb. 12:6, Rev 3:19)

His discipline should be considered a blessing. Without it we would become (or stay) enemies of God, walking in sin, offending a Holy God, because we have no consequences.

God disciplines in order to teach us.

If you want teach a child that a stove is hot, you must allow the child to be burned. It is the same with God. He allows us to suffer, so that we might learn.

Job 5:17 “Behold, blessed is the one whom God reproves; therefore despise not the discipline of the Almighty. 18 For he wounds, but he binds up; he shatters, but his hands heal.19 He will deliver you from six troubles; in seven no evil shall touch you.20 In famine he will redeem you from death, and in war from the power of the sword.21 You shall be hidden from the lash of the tongue, and shall not fear destruction when it comes.

When you suffer in trials, you can rest knowing that God is ready to help you. He is with you, ready to heal you. God's use of evil should never be thought of in the sense that He is the origin. Rather He allows us to suffer.

“We can think of other positive uses of evil. In Scripture, God uses evil to test his servants (Job; 1 Peter 1:7; James 1:3), to discipline them (Heb. 12:7-11), to preserve their lives (Gen. 50:20), to teach them patience and perseverance (James 1:3-4), to redirect their attention to what is most important (Ps. 37), to enable them to comfort others (2 Cor. 1:3-7), to enable them to bear powerful witness to the truth (Acts 7), to give them greater joy when suffering is replaced by glory ( 1 Peter 4:13), to judge the wicked, both in history (Deut. 28:15-68) and in the life to come (Matt. 27: 41-46), to bring reward to persecuted believers (Matt. 5:10-12) and to display the work of God (John 9:3; cf. Ex. 9:16; Rom. 9:17).”

~ The Doctrine Of God. John M. Frame.[3]

[1] From a sermon, The Cost of Being a Soul Winner, by C.H. Spurgeon

[2] The Gospel According To Jesus - John F. Macarthur Jr, p. 123 in the footnote.

[3] ~ The Doctrine Of God. John M. Frame, p. 170.

For part One, go here.

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