Bible Question:

I know from experience that it can be VERY difficult to hold faith in the Lord during CONSTANT spiritual attack. My question is will God rescue us from all situations, especially the ones where our lives are on the line?

Bible Answer:

It is common for Christians to be told that God will rescue them from all of their problems. It is encouraging and feels wonderful to be told that God will always rescue you from your trials or difficult situations, but it is a lie. God never promised that He would always rescue us from our disappointments and heartaches. Such teaching results in Christians dishonoring God when they become disillusioned, discouraged and as a result criticize God. The purpose of this study is to provide biblical teaching about when God may rescue a Christian from a difficult situation.

Will God Rescue Us In All Situations?

You May Not Suffer When You Sin

Scripture clearly teaches that you may suffer when you sin. The principle is given in Romans 2:4-6.

Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who WILL RENDER TO EACH PERSON ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS: . . . Romans 2:4-6 (NASB)

Here we discover that God tolerates us when we sin. The Greek word for “tolerates” is anoche. This word has the sense of “holding back” or to “show restraint.” That is, God restrains Himself and does not discipline us immediately when we sin but gives us an opportunity to repent and confess our sin. It is important to remember that repentance includes turning away from one’s sin. Romans 2:4-6 then states that God delays punishment in order to give us an opportunity to repent. But if we do not repent, then we will be punished. Ultimately, this refers to a person becoming a Christian, but the principle also applies to a believer’s sins.

Amos 5:4, 6 and 14-15 gives us an example of this principle.

For thus says the LORD to the house of Israel,
“Seek Me that you may live.” Amos 5:4 (NASB)

“Seek the LORD that you may live,
Or He will break forth like a fire, O house of Joseph,
And it will consume with none to quench it for Bethel . . .”
Amos 5:6 (NASB)

“Seek good and not evil, that you may live.” Amos 5:14 (NASB)

Moses is an example of a man of God who sinned but was disciplined immediately because his sin was so serious (Numbers 20:12-13; 27:14; Deuteronomy 3:23-28; 32:51). Also, Jonah sinned by refusing to obey and tried to escape to Tarshish. God disciplined Jonah by having an enormous fish swallow him. As he was dying, he repented, and then God used him to motivate the city of Nineveh to repent and be saved from being destroyed. Moses was an example of a man who apparently sinned and did not repent immediately. Jonah is an example of a man who continued sinning. God had given him time to repent, but he did not. Therefore, God finally planned to take his life and end his ministry. That is, sometimes God gives us time to repent before making us suffer for our sin. If we quickly repent and flee the sin, we may avoid punishment.

Six Reasons You May Suffer — Not Because of Sin

But there are a number of reasons a Christian may suffer even when he or she has not sinned. The first and most obvious reason is when God decides to allow someone to die due to old age. Ecclesiastes 12 describes the process of dying and the first verse says it is an “evil” time. We do not enjoy the final days of life due to the suffering that can occur.

Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near when you will say, “I have no delight in them.” Ecclesiastes 12:1 (NASB)

Why does God allow Christians to die? Psalm 116:15 says that the death of the Lord’s godly people is precious in His sight. Why is it precious? The answer is that we finally go to heaven to be with Him.

Precious in the sight of the LORD
Is the death of His godly ones.
Psalm 116:15 (NASB)

The second reason Christians suffer not because of sin is that God seeks to motivate  Christians to not sin. The apostle Paul is an example of this type of suffering. In 2 Corinthians 12:1-10 Paul explains that he had pray three times for a “thorn in the flesh” to be removed. The thorn in the flesh was apparently an eye disease (Galatians 4:13-15). God answered his prayer for healing by saying, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” That is, God would not remove his suffering. His suffering was designed to motivate him to not be proud.

The third and fourth reasons believers suffer, not because of sin, is for spiritual growth (James 1:2-4) and to give God glory (John 9:1-3; 11:38-40). The passage states,

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4 (NASB)

The patriarch Job is an example of this type of suffering. Job 1:8, 22 and 2:3 state that Job was blameless and upright turning away from evil. If Job did no wrong, why then did he suffer? God allowed him to suffer for His own glory and so that Job would learn to trust God.

The fifth reason God allows believers to suffer, not because of sin, is so that we can help others when they suffer. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 states that God comforts us in our affliction so we can help others when they suffer. 2 Corinthians 7:6 gives us an example of Titus comforting the apostle Paul. Notice that this verse states that God does not remove us from our affliction.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NASB)

Why would God rescue us from afflictions that He has allowed us to experience for  His own purposes?

The sixth reason Christians suffer, not because of sin, is that the world hates us and God allows the suffering for a variety of reasons. Acts 7:59-8:3 records the death of Stepehn and other Christians due to persecution.  1 Peter 4:12-19 explains that Christians share in the sufferings of Christ.

  Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. 1 Peter 4:12-13 (NASB)

In the beatitudes, Jesus encourages us that when we suffer for Him, we will receive rewards in heaven.

Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Matthew 5:11-12 (NASB)

When You Suffer For Sin

A seventh reason we might suffer is when we sin and do not repent and flee the sin. But when God does discipline us because we have refused to stop sinning, Scripture reveals that God is not looking for an opportunity to step on us like a person steps on an ant. Ezekiel 18:31-32 was written to Israel. God tells Israel that He does not take pleasure in the death of anyone as the result of punishment for sin. He just wanted them to have a new heart, to flee sin and seek Him.

Cast away from you all your transgressions which you have committed and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! For why will you die, O house of Israel? “For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies,” declares the Lord GOD. “Therefore, repent and live.” Ezekiel 18:32 (NASB)

God repeats the same message in Ezekiel 33:11 using different words.

Conclusion:

Do you wonder why God does not grant  your request to be delivered from suffering? The answer is that God will and does answer your prayer according to His will (1 Peter 4:19; 1 John 5:14). He does rescue us when the suffering has accomplished the purpose God has for it. Hebrews 4:16 teaches us that God gives us grace and mercy to help us go through a trial, but He gives it only at the right time. Sometimes we do not understand why we are suffering. If it is because of unconfessed and unforsaken sin, God may allow the suffering to continue until we are honest, recognize, confess, and forsake our sin. If our suffering is not due to sin, then we need to accept and believe that God is accomplishing His purpose in our life and trust Him that the suffering is for our good.  When confused or in doubt, ask God for wisdom (James 1:5).

Suggested Links:

Surely God does not willfully cause suffering, does He?
Why does God allow birth defects, illnesses, sickness or disease?
Could Paul have removed the pain in his side?
Should we look for ways to suffer for Jesus?
How can we know if our suffering is from God or the devil?
Choose To Be Blessed In Trials, part 1
Choose To Be Blessed In Trials, part 2
Why Do Christians Suffer? – part 1
Why Do Christians Suffer? – part 2
Why Do Christians Suffer? – part 3