If I can remember my theological studies from way back there arose in the early church two divergent biblical understandings of suffering, evil and pain. This whole question of suffering has perplexed most Christians for we love to hold onto the myth that if we are walking in God's will, living 'godly' lives nothing can touch us. But the reality is so much different, hence there arises the false teaching that if we are suffering we just do not have enough faith.
The prevalent view and the view that church has adopted to evil and suffering is known as the Augustine view, which we know as the doctrine of original sin. Because Adam sinned the human race and the world fell into a world of struggle, disastrous events, suffering and unhappiness, this making humanity a massa damnata.
The other view of which I have forgotten its title, espoused that God created the world with its flaws and sin as outlined in the creation story. Hence this world view of suffering and disasters taught that the world as we know it was created by God in this manner; hence there is no need of the fall and original sin. The teaching went onto explain that through suffering and struggles one would find their way to God and cling to him for help and bring people together in much the same way as the world has responded to the Nepal earthquakes.
The book of Job, an ancient writing that may precede the Pentateuch sets forth an explanation of suffering. For many scholars of the scriptures this book is not to be trusted as it incorporates aspects of mythology from other ancient civilizations. Even well meaning Christians find the book a little too far out with its concepts and images of God and Satan as belonging to an old world view. The fact that it is a hard read does not assist in hearing Gods voice from its pages.
Of late I have been drawn to 1 Peter who, as we have discussed addresses the problem of suffering in a profound manner, not the least that Peter under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit set out Gods answers.
1/ As followers of Christ we must expect to suffer. It is my contentions that the more we surrender and allow the life of Christ to be manifest in our life we will encounter greater suffering. 1 Pet 2 v21
To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.
2/ Therefore we should rejoice for we are becoming more at one with the Father and the Son in whom the Father is well pleased. His blessings in abundance will rest on us. 1 Pet 4v16
However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name
3/ Such suffering is refining our faith and preparing us for greater glory for the works that we will do, in his name will be greater than the works Jesus performed while on earth. 1 Pet. 1v7
These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith - of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire - may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed
4/ Suffering will release us from leaning towards sin, in that we will be restrained from sin in much the same way that Jesus through suffering learned obedience. 1 Pet. 4v1
Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because whoever suffers in the body is done with sin
5/ Suffering prepares us for his glory when we see him face to face for we have come to the attitude of Job; 'even if he slays me I will still trust him.' For I delight to praise him whatever he does to me. 1 Pet 4v19
So then, those who suffer according to God's will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.
If we are series about serving God and following Christ, seeking to place the cross before us, God we do extraordinary things to us and place us in circumstances that will bring honour to him, but will bring agony to our heart and soul as he works his word into our soul crushing out all notions of self. If we allow God to bruise us, he will, by a supernatural transfiguration destroy any idea we have of self-determination.
Only when we suffer according to Gods will can we be used by Him to blog, teach and witness biblical truths, for the outworking of our life is the very nature of Christ seen in our words and actions.
It was God will to bruise his Son and we his servants are not greater than our Master.
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Thank you John for sharing this - I have really learned something about the challenging book of Job as well as the lessons from 1 Peter.
You are right and I think that sometimes we tend to 'cover up' suffering and pretend it doesn't affect us ... when actually this does a great disservice, because so often we are helped by God, or saved by him, through the difficulties and struggles we face and have faced. We can be embarrassed to talk about problems publicly in case it comes over as "complaining" - when I know this isn't logical thinking, because that is not the impression I have ever had, from reading blogs on the subject. As Christians we are spiritual "building sites" in different states of repair - and in every one God is working for good - even if it means tearing down a wall here, or digging a new foundation that may look a lot like a pit to begin with.
Having read this blog, in the context of knowing you are suffering at the moment, makes me think about the meaning more and helps to revise my own thinking.
The book I had just finished reading prior to my brain aneurysm rupture, was a book given to me by a dear friend for my birthday 11 days before. The title of that book is "A Sacred Sorrow" by Michael Card. He takes a look at the suffering of Job, David, Jeremiah and even Jesus. It is well worth the read.
I think we tend to believe that Peter was referring to religious persecution exclusively but as the years have gone by, I don't think so. I think it refers to any "challenge" we might face in life. A friend of mine refers to them as a challenge rather than a problem and I think she is right. I think it changes our whole perspective when we view problems as challenges. How are we going to respond to our challenge? Will it be a stumbling block or will it be a stepping stone that leads us closer to God?
How I love the testimonies of people who have overcome a challenge, not because of what they have done but because it gives me a glimpse of God at work, enabling us to face the challenges of this life. I love to see God at work in us, through us and around us.
I think it is a lofty goal to have written of us what John wrote about the Church in Smyrna in Revelation 2:8-11. Great blog with much food for thought to munch on.
Love your blog and you have given so many references both OT and NT of suffering to be expected and in your 2nd point, we are to share in the sufferings of Christ. many in the US are beating the drums of how Christianity is 'under attack' as if Christ did not warn us this is inevitable.
Take heart ... he has overcome the world and if we share in his sufferings, he makes us as Him.
Thank you for the words offered.