Suffering; the great Christian Enigma

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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