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Christian Suffering – Why is it necessary?

Suffering may result from one's own actions, natural catastrophes, illness, and other common causes. This subject is specific to suffering related to the Christian faith.


For we know that the whole creation groans together and travails in pain together until now.

(Romans 8:22, Darby)

Look at the Why does God permit evil things to happen? page for information regarding mankind's general suffering!  Mankind's suffering began from the moment Adam sinned. The ones guilty for our suffering are Satan, the demons, Adam, and Eve.

The problem God faced because of this disobedience left him with several conundrums, several possible ways of solving the problem.  He could e.g. have started over with a new Adam and Eve, but that would not really have solved the problem; instead, it would have created a bigger debacle since it would be as having admitted that the first Adam and Eve were faulty. Thus, among all the alternate solutions to the problem created by these individuals, God chose the present one because it was the one that addressed all the issues raised while, as we learn in Romans 8:20, it gave us hope, and besides, it limited the exposure of each individual human being to a variety of suffering that would not be more than about eighty years of life with both good and bad intermixed. 

Romans 8:20, For the creation was subjected to futility, not by its own will but through him that subjected it, on the basis of hope. (Darby) 

The Functions of Suffering

Rejoice:

As the exodus from Egypt amply proves, deliverance can pale without one’s onions, cucumbers and other delicacies and comforts.  The Israelites’ reactions are on record as a warning for our sakes. Thus reminded, we may avoid similar griping during our present sufferings by being helped to rejoice as (ASV) 1 Peter 4:13 states, “ but insomuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings, rejoice; that at the revelation of his glory also ye may rejoice with exceeding joy.”

Suffering has several functions, among these functions, it serves as a buffer that helps us to make the transition into either the heavenly kingdom or earth's Paradise under God's kingdom rule by his Christ.  This transition forces us into new and possibly difficult circumstances; however, the fact that sufferings inflicted by Satan and his army then will be an end makes the adjustment period a reason for joy; the future becomes full of hope.

Tempering:

Suffering refines the Christian, and it is therefore a necessary evil as the following scriptures show:

Hebrews 2:10, to make perfect the leader of their salvation through sufferings. (Darby)
Psalm 66:10, For Thou hast tried us, O God, Thou hast refined us as the refining of silver.  (YLT)
66:12, thou hast set men over our heads. We have passed through tire and water, and thou hast brought us out into a refreshment. (DRC)
Isaiah 48:10,  Lo, I have refined thee, and not with silver, I have chosen thee in a furnace of affliction.  (YLT)
Psalm 119:71,  Good for me that I have been afflicted, That I might learn Thy statutes. (YLT)
This refinement proves two things:
A. It is part of the proof that tells us that God doesn't know this, ergo, God is not all-knowing about the future, not because he cannot be but because he wants to give us free will.  (Predetermination debunked)

B. It  proves to God that our faith is genuine.

I Peter 1:1, . . . that the proving of your faith, much more precious than of gold which perishes, though it be proved by fire, be found to praise and glory and honour in the revelation of Jesus Christ.  (Darby)

Weeds Out:

It exposes those who are without faith, and makes them leave God for the pursuit of selfish longings, be this approval by men, riches, or such. 

This should not be taken to mean that these leave all religion; to the contrary, many may be found in various denominations that permit their selfish pursuits.

E.g., it seems to me that many denominations permit all kinds of sexual deviancy to exist withing their midsts.  Elders,  priests, or other church officers are at times only taken to task when it becomes a police matter.
1 John 2:19,  They went out from among us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have surely remained with us, but that they might be made manifest that none are of us.  (Darby)

Heb 10:38,  But my righteous one shall live by faith: And if he shrink back, my soul hath no pleasure in him. (ASV)
Isaiah 8:21, And they shall pass through it, greatly distressed and hungry. And it shall come to pass that, when they shall be hungry, they shall fret themselves, and curse by their king and by their God, and turn their faces upward. (ACV)
 

Endurance, “an approved condition”:

Rom 5:3 says “And not only this, but we also boast of our distresses, knowing that distress develops endurance; and endurance, positive experience; and positive experience, hope.” (Byington)  Endurance coupled with faith under trial and suffering leads to a positive experience—an approved condition. Hope! How so? 
 
2 Pet 2:9, הוה knoweth how to deliver the reverent out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished. (RNKJV)
2 Thessalonians 1:4-5, so that we ourselves make our boast in you in the assemblies of God for your endurance and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations, which ye are sustaining; 5 a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, to the end that ye should be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for the sake of which ye also suffer; (Darby)

1 Pet 5:7, casting all your anxiety upon him, because he careth for you. (ASV)

Heb 4:16b, “and find undeserved kindness for help at the right time. (NW) 

Positive Experience—Help at the right time

God’s help at the right time, his numerous deliverances of us from the birdcatcher – (Psalm 91:3, AB) “He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler, from every troublesome matter. ”  – do not go unnoticed by the Christian and unequivocally convinces the Christian that Jehovah approves of him and loves him. This fills him with firm hope due to the positive proof experienced by being delivered from many calamities; this bolsters his faith and means that he is noticed and approved by God.
Heb 12:5-7, And you have forgotten the consolation, which speaketh to you, as unto children, saying: My son, neglect not the discipline of the Lord; neither be thou wearied whilst thou art rebuked by him. 6For whom the Lord loveth, he chastiseth; and he scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. 7Persevere under discipline. God dealeth with you as with his sons; for what son is there, whom the father doth not correct?   (DRC)
In this manner the Christian gets confirmation that he is a son of God and not a son of the Devil.  Through personal experience, the wording “help at the right time” ought to be rephrased as ‘help in the nick of time,’ or ‘help just barely in time.’  In the scriptures, Paul shows how God uses this pattern often. This is demonstrated here in 2 Cor 1:9, “. . . in our hearts we felt the sentence of death" (NIV) "that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God who raiseth the dead.” (ASV) 

Again, we are brought back to  Hebrews 10:36-39, “For ye have need of endurance in order that, having done the will of God, ye may receive the promise. 37For yet a very little while he that comes will come, and will not delay. 38But the just shall live by faith; and, if he draw back, my soul does not take pleasure in him. 39But *we* are not drawers back to perdition, but of faith to saving the soul. ” (Darby) 

Desisted from sins

1 Peter 4:1, he who has suffered in flesh has ceased from sin, 2in order to live the remaining time in flesh, no longer by lusts of men, but by the will of God. (ACV)

It may be difficult to understand how suffering can relate in any way to desisting or ceasing from sin.  However, that is what God in his wisdom explains to us below.

Discipline

It relates to suffering because God disciplines a Christian and punished him for his errors when he sins. This must happen so as to make the Christian worthy of entering God's kingdom. A Christian must be morally pure; he must be holy as God and Christ are holy.  Thus, God disciplines us in righteousness with mercy until this condition is attained.  

While the scripture in Hebrews 12:5,6 is a quote from the OT which makes the Lord mentioned here Jehovah, we know that God makes his son the tester of metals, the refiner who will refine his Christians in his temple. It is therefore not improper to say that Jesus is the one that refines us.
Jeremiah 51:56, For, a GOD of recompenses, is Yahweh, He will surely repay.

Hebrews 12:5-6, And you have forgotten the consolation, which speaketh to you, as unto children, saying: My son, neglect not the discipline of the Lord; neither be thou wearied whilst thou art rebuked by him. 6For whom the Lord loveth, he chastiseth; and he scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. (DRC)

1 Corinthians 11:32, 32But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world. (ASV)
The Christian strives to be pure from sin. Purity from sin is sought from the time a person decides to serve God before his baptism:
1 Peter 3:21, baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God.)” (ACV)

1 John 3:3 “ And every man who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as that man is pure. (KJV
The trials he encounters in his Christian life tests his resolve to maintain his purity as a Christian. If he returns to his former sins, he is like a dog turning to eat its own vomit. These apostates Paul warns about in (Rotherham) Philippians 3:2, “Beware of the dogs, beware of mischievous workers, beware of the mutilation; 3For, we, are the circumcision, who in the Spirit of God, are doing divine service, and are boasting in Christ Jesus, and, not in flesh, having confidence.

Such are forever condemned and are unable to return to God. (ACV, Hosea 5:4) “Their doings will not allow them to turn to their God, for the spirit of whoredom is within them, and they do not know LORD. ”   If the Christian remains true to his wow, his dedication, his trials and refinement by fire, though severe, will leave him pure from sin; he is determined to be pure no matter what.  If, however, he fails and sins, the way back to God will be hard and for some impossible. This is why it is said that the one who has suffered is desisting from sins.

What Peter was referring to was intentional sin, the practice of sin, not our day-to-day unintentional sinnin
g. That this is so may be understood by reading Hebrews 12:4, (ASV)  "Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin:”
 

Conclusion

When we mediate upon what this Christian suffering results in, means for us, we are able to rejoice in our hearts; these sufferings of the Christian are proof of  Son-ship, proof of adoption by Christ and God—Abba, Father. Extreme suffering brings the realization that not through our power but through Jehovah’s are we being kept alive – He saved me by the blood of his son Christ Jesus!  and “I am counted his child,” this the Christian realizes.

 

 
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