What About Suffering?

Title: What about Suffering?

Text: Romans 8:18-27

Time: October 27th, 2006

In describing the wonderful new life in Christ we have through Christian conversion, Paul doesn’t hide the fact that we will probably undergo suffering in our efforts to live such a life. How different the Apostle Paul is in speaking realistically of suffering for the faith as opposed to many Christian speakers, teachers, and pastors today who teach that the new life in Christ removes us from suffering. These overly-optimistic church leaders use the promise of a Christian “good life” to attract people to the gospel, but what often happens is that converts to this overly-positive gospel soon find themselves facing difficulties, pain, and suffering — and wondering what is wrong. Nothing is wrong, and if they had listened to Paul they would have learned that the new life in Christ brings blessings with suffering also. Why? Because living the truth in a world of lies will bring trouble. Living the right way will collide with people living the wrong way. Look at the example of Jesus. Here is one who lived the truth, lived what was right, lived the good — and look where it got him – death on a cross. Is there a more tragic way to die? For living a perfect life he was tortured and murdered by sinful men. He was opposed by both the religious people and the secular people. He was misunderstood constantly. His motives were questioned; He was accused of things, charged with other things, constantly attacked, finally captured, beaten, and ultimately killed. If it weren’t for the triumphant resurrection and ascension into heaven, Jesus’ life would have been a tragic failure. It’s the same with us today as we go about living a truly Christian life. We will be misunderstood, our motives will be questioned, we will be accused of narrow-mindedness, fanaticism. We will be opposed by friends and family who do not accept the gospel message we bring. We will be rejected by others for the radically different lifestyle we live as Christians as opposed to the sinful lifestyles of the world without Christ. We will be resented for trying to communicate the gospel, the Bible, and the Christian life to others. We may be persecuted in some form for our faith, hopefully not with violence, but in other different ways. All of this is to be expected; that is what the Apostle Paul wants to communicate to Christians. But whatever suffering we have to go through to believe and live the Christian faith, it will all be worth it in the end. In this final section of Romans 8:18-39 (read), Paul states this message of hope even amidst suffering in three different ways using three very memorable and famous Bible quotations. These three sayings are easy to remember and help us hold on when we are facing difficulties and suffering for the faith. Let’s hear what Paul is saying to us about facing suffering for Jesus.

First, God works all things together for good. Romans 8:28-30, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.” No matter how bad our Christian life gets here on this earth, it should comfort us to know that everything is taken care of, nothing will stop God’s plans for our life, even the worst situations here on earth we may have to suffer. Take for example the case of Jesus Christ himself. When Jesus was going through his worse moments on earth during those last few hours when he was betrayed by one disciple, denied by another, and abandoned by rest of his disciples. When Jesus was brought before the leaders of his own people, the Jews, hated, accused, and handed over for death. When he faced the secular authorities, Rome, and was tortured by the cruelty of soldiers and sentenced by Pilate to death. When he was led along the streets to the cross amidst shouting, chaos, and suffering. Finally, when he was stripped naked, humiliated publicly, and crucified – not at any point during his terrible ordeal was there any doubt in the mind of God of Christ’s ultimate success and victory. From the human standpoint, for Jesus, all was lost, all was hopeless, despair. His disciples considered the death of Jesus the final defeat of a vision of hope that Jesus brought to them. From the world’s viewpoint, Jesus’ life ended in failure, a man with a dream for a better world, both in the here and now, and in the life to come, yet whose dream ended with his life. But we know that his death wasn’t the end, rather it was the glorious beginning for all of us of a new life of forgiveness, salvation, and eternal blessings. That’s why Paul can encourage us in our times of difficulties by saying, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, and who have been called according to his purpose,” Romans 8:18. From all eternity, God has had his eye on each one of us who would eventually inherit eternal life, and He’s made sure from all eternity past, as He will in the present, and in the future, that nothing stops us from getting to our ultimate destination – our heavenly home with God. In fact, in the mind of God, it’s already a done deal, even though from our earthly standpoint it has yet to be worked out fully. From God’s point of view, we are as good as home, safe and sound, in heaven. Paul says God knew about us from eternity past, called us to faith, justified us through Jesus Christ, and the glory we will experience in heaven, to God, it’s a done deal, guaranteed. So no matter what you find yourself facing in this life, no matter how hard it gets, no matter how bad the pain and suffering is, know that God is working it all out for the good. Someday we’ll see that, but for now we must accept it by faith. Can you walk by faith in this truth?

Second, If God is for us, who can be against us? Romans 8:31-36, “What then shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all, how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things. Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died, more than that, who was raised to life, is at the right hand of God is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’” The question Christians in each generation have had to ask as they’ve sought to truly live the Christian life is: how bad can it get? In the early church, Christians were arrested and forced to die in the Coliseum of Rome facing wild animals, gladiators, violent fights and tortures. Some Christians were crucified like Christ, others were burned at the stake, or beheaded. But today, we’ve grown spoiled living in a culture that tolerates Christians. We get the false impression that the Christian life is an easy thing. When we face difficulties, hard choices, tough situations we find it easy to pull back from our faith, a little compromise here and there. But if we surrender our faith and faithful living when faced with minor difficulties, what would we do if we faced the kind of difficulties Christians have faced in the past? In the first century, Christians were given the choice — sacrifice to the Emperor or be arrested, jailed, and possibly killed. What would you do? Would you stand firm in your faith? Based on how you face hardships and suffering for Christ now in the present day, how would you have faced the choice those first century Christians faced? The promise Paul reminds us of is that no matter how hard things get, no matter how much pain and suffering we have to face for being a Christian, the love from God will see us through. How bad will it get for us today, that is, in living out our Christian faith? Right now, overall, it’s pretty bearable, but that could change over night for different people. We already know that things can be going fine in life and then suddenly change for the worse. What we have to realize is that no matter what happens, nothing can separate us from the love of God. God has already proven that he loves us by sending Jesus to die for us – that’s love. Now if he’s already proven his love in that, how much more can we trust that his love will remain, and that nothing will interfere with that love in the future no matter what we face. We may find ourselves in the hands of terrorists, like those passengers in the highjacked airplanes. Or we may find ourselves at gunpoint like the girls at Columbine High School. When the girl was asked if she believed in God, she answered yes and the gunmen killed her. We may face that, or something similar, but even if we do, even that awful situation can’t separate us from God. Nothing can separate us from God’s love. That’s our promise.

Third, we are more than conquerors. Romans 8: 37-39, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Paul is speaking from experience and from faith, because he faced many or most of these difficulties in his work as a traveling missionary pastor. If we read the Book of Acts in the New Testament we’ll see the many problems Paul faced. Animals attacked him, natural forces beat against him, enemies tried to kill him, people opposed him, Romans jailed him, Jews stoned him, even Christians misunderstood him and at times opposed him! We have no description of Paul’s physical appearance, but he probably had cuts, scars, injury wounds, physical conditions caused by broken bones, bad food or inadequate food, sicknesses, lack of sleep, exposure to cold, exposure to the sun and heat, beatings and bruises. And those were just the physical descriptions. What about the emotional suffering he suffered? Rejected by his fellow Jews, probably disowned by family, the constant stress of the responsibility of leading different churches in different locations, facing rejection by many Jewish Christians for ministering to Gentiles – that must have deeply hurt him being such a devote Jew himself. Paul must have basically given up any normal life, as we would consider normal. There is no mention of a wife or family, no children, no relatives (except for one vague reference), nor casual friendships. Paul had certainly given up everything for the sake of Jesus Christ. Now most of us are not called to sacrifice everything, but aren’t we called to sacrifice anything? From the looks of things today, most Christians don’t seem to be willing to sacrifice anything to live the Christian faith. If our Christian testimony gets us in trouble, we quickly back away and keep silent. If our dedication to living the Christian lifestyle loses us friendships, we might compromise our faith a little rather than lose a few friends. Yes, it seems that sacrifice and suffering are not part of the Christian vocabulary today. But we need to rethink our Christian faith if this is so. If God’s love for us will never leave us no matter what, maybe we’d better not let our love for God leave us either. If God is so committed to us, maybe we’d better be seriously committed to him. We don’t ever have to fear persecution or suffering because Paul tells us “we are more than conquerors.” There might possibly be reason to fear pain or death as Christians, that is, if there were a question whether we could make it through, but there is no question — we are more than able to conquer through faith in Christ. In other words, whatever it is you are facing today or will face tomorrow, you can make it through, you are more than a conqueror through Christ.

Someday we will all face the last enemy, death. How will we face death? Will we face it with fear and trembling? Will we be afraid? Paul says that we don’t have to face death with anxiety because we are more than conquerors even in death. Through Jesus Christ we can face any situation knowing that however bad it gets, in the end we win. No matter how hard it gets, in the end, we’ll make it through to a better place with the help of God. But in the meantime, we’ll face difficulties other than death. We may have to go through a great time of trial physically. We may be hospitalized, or face sickness or injury to our bodies. But no matter what we face, Paul says, we are more than over-comers with Christ. We may have to go through financial distress in this life. Who knows what the future holds? I’m sure those folks who went through the Great Depression in the 1930s didn’t think anything that bad could hit the economy of the United States, but it did. People went through lots of trials and tribulations over that, but if they were Christians, they had the words of Paul promising them that through the power of Christ they are more than able to face any financial situation that comes their way. We may have to go through great emotional and psychological turmoil in this life. We can normally cope with different situations that come up in life, but who knows what kind of trials we face in the future? Who knows what grief, sorrow, heartache, or despair may be in the future? I’m sure the people of Europe never imagined that they’d have to live under the stress and anxiety of Nazi bombs dropping overhead at any time. I’m sure the emotional toll of a World War was great on the people of Europe. How could they cope with such emotional turmoil? If they were Christians they had the same promise we have today, that with Jesus Christ we are more than able to go through anything that life puts in our way on the road to heaven. We are more than conquerors in Christ Jesus. Now this is not some empty wish or fanciful dream. Paul did not write this as flowery poetry, because Paul didn’t write pretty poetry, he wrote truthful promises. These are things we can take with us into any situation we face. Paul gives us promises along the same kind as the 23rd Psalm: “Ye though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me.” Do you ever wonder how you’ll do when faced with difficult and painful situation in the future? Do you even question whether you’ll have what it takes to go through it? If so, take these promises that the Apostle Paul reminds us of in these verses and keep them with you, either in memory or in your Bible, and pull them out during just such occasions when you need them. That’s why you can know you can face any situation with faith and not have to be afraid.


3 Responses to “What About Suffering?”

  1. Atmajyoti Kapoor Says:

    According to Buddhism cause for suffering are attachment, anger and ignorance. It is true, humans can’t escape suffering until their minds are totally dedicated to their Souls

  2. null Says:

    錦糸町 風俗
    千葉 風俗
    千葉 風俗
    千葉 風俗

  3. Cheryl Toliver Says:

    So many of the great cloud of witnesses in the Bible suffered terribly, but I think we miss the point when we associate happy life with God’s blessings. Instead, God used the suffering of those who witnessed to his truth and love to bless those who came after them. We are blessed through their and Christ’s suffering. Others will blessed by what we suffer. We shouldn’t seek suffering, but Paul said it would come, so we need to see God’s presence with us in whatever difficults we face – that is our blessing, that he is with us!

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