In our last two studies, we have been exploring why Christians suffer. It is a very common and important question. We have discovered that there are a variety of reasons why Christians suffer. So far, we have found five reasons.
1st Reason For Suffering – Test Your Faith
One of the reasons Christians suffer is to determine if they are a true Christian or not. A non-Christian will be motivated to leave God when suffering comes. That has been the message of the parable of the sower of the seed, and that is also the message of the book of Hebrews. If you recall in the book of Hebrews, the Christians were suffering and the response of some was to abandon the church. They abandoned other believers and remained by themselves. The author of Hebrews repeatedly challenged them as to whether or not they were true Christians. He called them to serve the Lord, called them to attend church services and repeatedly called for them to respond differently.
2nd Reason For Suffering – Because You Are Sinning
Another reason that Christians suffer is that God uses suffering to motivate us to stop sinning. I would refer to this as a rescue operation. God is attempting to rescue us from our sin. In fact, there are a number of examples of that throughout the New Testament and even in the Old Testament. God has sent prophets, preachers and priests to challenge us to flee our sin and turn to God.
3rd Reason For Suffering – Motivate You To Not Sin
A third reason that God uses suffering is to motivate us to stop sinning. Paul the Apostle was a good example of that. Now, I want to make an important comment before I go too far here. I hope this is not an academic exercise for you where you are just getting a list of different reasons why Christians suffer so that you can put them into your notes, put them in your Bible, put them away and then forget about them. That is not the reason why we are doing this.
It is important to have a list of reasons why Christians suffer because I do not think we always ponder the reasons why we suffer. I think most Christians understand that the root cause of suffering is sin, but the reason for our suffering will be different from time to time.
It is important for us to stop and ask, “Why am I suffering? Am I suffering for this reason or that reason?”‘ Then you can review the list of reasons and perhaps gain some insight as to why you are suffering.
There are a number of possibilities. One of them, as we have already pointed out, is that the suffering is a test of whether or not you are a true Christian. Another reason that God uses suffering is to motivate you to stop sinning. That would be a very important discovery. Here you are suffering and you are thinking, “Oh, it is because I did something wrong.” Perhaps, but maybe God is allowing you to suffer to prevent you from sinning. Maybe there is some sin that He does not want you to commit. So He allows you to suffer so that you will not do that. How do you discover that reason? That will be an interesting challenge. It comes by prayer. Ask God to help you discover the reason.
I have to admit that on some occasions when I am going through a period of suffering, I have actually had the thought that the reason I was suffering was to prevent me from committing a certain sin. I have said, “Lord, is this a sin that you do not want me to commit?” The Holy Spirit has led me to believe that sometimes that is exactly the reason I have gone through a period of suffering. This reason is not one that you are going to just going to figure out without the help of God. You are going to need to talk to the Lord about that.
4th Reason For Suffering – Spiritual Growth
We as Christians also suffer in order to cause us to grow spiritually. Now, when I think about this reason, I exclude the idea that I have sinned. I have also excluded the idea that suffering is occurring to motivate me not to sin. I have not sinned. I have not done anything wrong. Yet, God allows suffering in my life to motivate me to respond in holiness. Job is a good example. Job had done nothing wrong to cause the suffering. Yet, he suffered and then he still did not sin. Then he suffered some more and did not do anything wrong. Later in the book of Job, he sinned as people gave him bad counsel, but at the end he responded beautifully and he gave glory to God.
5th Reason For Suffering – Give Glory To God
We saw that the fifth reason a Christian suffers is to bring glory to God. There are a number of ways in which we can bring glory to God in our suffering, and the most obvious is how we respond.
We pointed out that on some occasions God will pick a Christian, maybe put them in a hospital, put them in a traumatic situation, and in that setting he or she has an opportunity to share Christ as opposed to moaning about his or her own suffering. Some will say, “Oh, you are really suffering. I would think you should be complaining and yet you are giving glory to God.” What do you think that does? It gives glory to God. Rather than hearing a complaining, griping Christian, they are shouting and rejoicing in what God is doing in the situation. That brings glory to God. That is a great example of how to give glory to God in the midst of suffering.
6th Reason For Suffering – Suffer For Christ
The sixth reason for suffering that we are going to talk about today is that on occasions we will suffer for Christ. That is an important one to talk about. Turn to 1 Peter 4:12, if you would. That is the passage we have been planning to teach and finally we are there.In this passage, Peter makes some incredible statements. We want to make sure that we understand these statements because I believe that Christians are going to suffer more and more in the weeks and years ahead.
We need to have a good perspective on how to suffer and why we suffer for Christ. In 1 Peter 4:12, the apostle Peter writes under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit,
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 . . . 1 Peter 4:12 (NASB)
Now, Peter makes a number of important comments in this verse, and I want to look at one of them very carefully. I want you to notice the little phrase that has two words in it, “among you.” You have to ask the question, “Who is ‘you’? To whom is he talking?” If you go to 1 Peter 1:1, we discover that Peter wrote this letter . . .
. . . to those who resided as aliens scattered throughout; Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, Bithynia, who are chosen. 1 peter 1:1 (NASB)
So to whom is he writing? He is writing to the chosen, or to Christians. But watch what He says about them. He calls them aliens. This reminds me of a song. I am sure most of us are familiar with it. The title of it is “This World Is Not My Home.”
This world is not my home; I’m just a passing through.
My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue.
The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door,
And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.
Oh, Lord, you know I have no friend like you.
If heaven’s not my home, then Lord what will I do?
The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door,
And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.
The message is that your real treasure is where? In heaven. Now, you might value your car, your house, maybe your bank account, your job or your whatever. But the song reminds us of where our treasures really are. Jesus said to store up treasure where? In heaven! That is what He said, and not here on earth.
The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door,
And I can’t feel at home In this world anymore.
It is important that we do not feel comfortable in this world. It is important that we do not try to make this world our home. When we live as though the world is our home, things do not go right. The song reminds us that our real home is in heaven. So Peter opens this book in chapter 1:1 with aliens. Then in chapter 4, Peter says “among you.” He is talking to aliens. He is talking to Christians. The next phrase is, “Do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you.” Some of us are surprised when trouble comes our way. We are surprised when we get persecuted, insulted, or something happens that we consider to be bad. We are surprised.
Do you remember Matthew 5? In Matthew 5:10-12, which is part of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said this,
Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of 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 5:10-12 (NASB)
In this passage we are told that persecution includes false things being said about us, and yet He says we are blessed. In verse 12, He says, “Rejoice and be glad for your reward in heaven is great, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
As Christians, I think we are surprised. Persecution comes our way, sufferings come our way and we are surprised. One of the things that happens to us is we get down. We get discouraged. We get despondent. In verses 10-11, Jesus says, “Blessed” and in verse 12 He says, “Rejoice and be glad.” Then Jesus says your reward is great. Where is your reward? It is not here! Your reward is where? Your treasure is in heaven. “This world is not my home; I am just a passing through.” My treasures are laid up where? In heaven.
He has already told us that we are going to be persecuted in verses 10-12, and then in verse 13 He tells us why. He reminds us that we are the salt of the world. Notice that He does not say, “Please be salt of the world.” He says “You are salt of the earth.” The message is you are salt; the only question is what kind of salt are you?
Then He says that if the salt becomes tasteless, how can it be made salty again? The message is: you can be tasteless and no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. So you do have a choice. You can be salt; but you can be tasteless salt. Tasteless salt is like saying you are a secret Christian. You are a Christian but you do not let anybody know you are because you are afraid that someone is going to be upset with you. You might lose that job promotion.
I know of a Christian who was looking for a promotion. Every time he was interviewed for a particular job, he honestly answered the questions knowing that he would probably not get the job. I asked him, “Why do you know that?” He said he had interviewed for the same job before and he had been asked the same questions before. In fact, he had been informed that he did not get the job because of his answers.
So, he said that he had decided that next time he would not tell them the truth because he wanted the job. Secret Christian!
Jesus introduces the idea of suffering in verses 10-12. Then He tells us that we should be rejoicing and be glad when we are insulted, when we are persecuted, and false things are said about us. Then He says, “You are the salt.” The question is what kind of salt are you? In verses 14-16, He says, “You are the light of the world.” He has not challenged us to become the light of the world. Instead, He says we are the light of the world. Then notice that He says,
You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16 (NASB)
He does not ask us to be light. He tell us that we are the light. Then what does he do in verses 15-16? He challenges us to let our light shine. Do not be a secret Christian. Do not hide it. Let your light shine. He says let your light shine before men, and what are we to let them see? Our good works! Notice what He says! When we let people see our good works, we bring glory to the Father who is in heaven.
Why do Christians suffer? We suffer because of our good works. Do you remember what Jesus said in John 15:19? He is speaking to his disciples and says,
If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. John 15:19 (NASB)
Jesus says that the world hates us; why? Because we are not of the world.
Remember the word that I said to you, a slave is not greater than his master? John 15:20 (NASB)
He is talking about His relationship to the disciples. He says, “A slave is not greater than his master”, and “If they persecuted Me they will also persecute you.” But not if you are a secret Christian.
. . . if they kept my word they will keep yours also, but all these things they will do to you for My name sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me. John 15:20-21 (NASB)
I have to admit that there have been times I have not spoken up because I was afraid of being persecuted. Have you done the same thing? I think the answer is yes. Every one of us at some point has been quiet. In the gospels we find that there were some men who came and buried Christ, and one of them was referred to as a secret Christian. He was afraid to let anyone know that he was a Christian because he feared the Jewish leadership.
The Apostle Peter says, “Do not be surprised.” In fact, think about this for a second. In 2 Timothy 3:12, we read,
Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. 2 Timothy 3:12 (NASB)
What is the message? If you desire to live godly and you are doing it for Jesus Christ, you are going to be persecuted. So, if you think you are a Christian and you are not suffering, there is something wrong because the Bible says you will be persecuted. It is going to happen! You cannot be a Christian, live godly, stand for Christ and not be persecuted.
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal. 1 Peter 4:12 (NASB)
He calls it fiery. I do not think he means that we will literally go through fire, but the point is it is like fire.
1 Peter 4:13 says,
. . . 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 4:13 (NASB)
I am just amazed at verses 12 and 13. First, he says do not be surprised. He is talking to us! He says testing is going to come upon us. The implication is that, as a result of living a godly life, standing for Jesus Christ, you are going to be tested. It is a test that will reveal what kind of Christian you are. It is a test that will reveal whether or not you are a Christian.
Then in verse 13 He makes this incredible statement. He says “Rejoice.” He says, “Keep on rejoicing.” The implication is you have been rejoicing. Now come on, keep rejoicing. At the end of the verse He says, “You may rejoice with exaltation.” You are not just rejoicing; you are also exalting.
In verse 14 He says,
If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 1 Peter 4:14 (NASB)
We are to rejoice with exaltation. Now we are told that we will be blessed. That does not sound like a miserable Christian in the midst of suffering, does it? Peter’s message is do not be surprised at what happens. Come on, rejoice, exalt, and be blessed because you suffer for Jesus Christ! In verse 15 we are told,
Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler . . . 1 Peter 4:15 (NASB)
Now, I thought this was an important statement that He makes. As I was preparing this message, I was thinking about the fact that someone might say, “Hey, I am suffering for Jesus. I lost my job. I am getting sued. Someone is calling me names. Someone is insulting me.” That has happened to me. Then I thought, yes, but what happens if there is a Christian who sins and somehow they think that they are suffering for Jesus? That is, a Christian does something that is wrong and they think, “Oh I am suffering for Jesus because I am a Christian.” Peter has an answer for that situation. “Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer or a thief, evildoer or troublesome meddler.” I think Peter says this in case someone does not understand. He is not talking about suffering as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or troublesome meddler. He is talking about suffering for Jesus. That is why you are suffering!
Peter wants to make sure we understand the reason why we are suffering. We are not suffering because we did something wrong. Verse 16 says,
. . . but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name. 1 Peter 4:16 (NASB)
Wow. So, if we do suffer we are supposed to do what? We are supposed to glorify God in this name. We are to glorify God in the name of Jesus Christ.
So why do we suffer? We suffer for many reasons. One of the reasons we suffer is that we are living a godly life; we are standing for Jesus Christ; or we are sharing the gospel with other people. Yes, it is intimidating. Just read the last verse in Acts 4. There we discover that some Christians prayed for boldness to preach Christ. That is, it is not always an easy thing to preach Christ. But let’s keep reading. 1 Peter 4:17 says,
For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And if it is with difficulty that the righteous are saved, what will become of the Godless man and the sinner? 1 Peter 4:17-18 (NASB)
Now we are told that it is with difficulty that Christians are saved. Now you say, “I thought it was easy.” That is not what Peter says. Peter says you deserve eternal punishment. Jesus had to come and die on a cross and His body came back to life. That was difficult. Then he tells us what happens to those who do not accept Christ. I think we know the answer.
Watch verse 19,
Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right. 1 Peter 4:19 (NASB)
Did you notice? We suffer according to the will of God. What does that mean, the will of God? First of all, the obvious meaning is that it is God’s will that we suffer. I think we miss the point sometimes that God does want us to suffer. Now, you might say “Well, he is talking about God’s permissive will. That is, God permits us to suffer.” Can I make an important comment? If God permits you to suffer it is still His will. It is His will. It is His will whether it is permissive or not permissive. It’s still His will. He made the decision to let you suffer. It was His choice. It was His will. So Peter says that you suffer according to the will of God. He is talking about suffering because you are living a righteous life; you are living a life for Christ.
It is God’s will for you to suffer to prevent you from sinning. It is obvious that God allows people to suffer for His own glory. It is God’s will that you suffer in order to motivate you to grow spiritually. In every example of suffering, it is clear that it is God’s will that you suffer. In every situation, God has a different purpose. You will say, “Wow, God is really unloving and mean.” No, He is not. One type of suffering is a rescue operation. Another type of suffering is to prevent you from doing something that is not beneficial. Another is to perfect you to become like Jesus Christ. Another is for His own glory, and on goes a list of all the benefits of suffering. Do you know what this means? God can even use evil in this world to bring blessing.
We are living in a fallen world, and it hates us. The world hates Jesus. So, if you are living like Jesus and they hated Jesus, guess what? By default they are going to hate you. That is Jesus’ point. So it is God’s will to “Let you suffer.” That is the point. I was thinking about Christians suffering in our world. I saw this statistic not too long ago. It says in France that anti-Christian attacks have risen 245% in 2016.
On the chart there were four different headlines: “Christian persecution in America” and “ISIS crucified Christians”. Therefore, if you love Jesus, then you can die like Jesus. Recently a preacher was arrested for calling homosexuality a sin in Great Britain. Or, how about a pastor shot and killed in an Ohio church during a religious service? Someone did not like the pastor.
Here are some other headlines: “City officials prohibited senior citizens from praying over their meals”. They were listening to religious messages and singing gospel songs at a senior activities center. How about a public school official who physically lifted an elementary school student from his seat and reprimanded him in front of his classmates for praying over his meal? The child was just praying over his meal. He was not trying to get anyone else to pray along with him. He was doing it by himself. Some school official saw this child praying and thought it unforgivable.
How about the U.S. Department of Justice which argued before the Supreme Court that the federal government can tell churches and synagogues which pastors and rabbis they can hire and fire? The State of Texas tried to regulate what Christian seminaries can teach. How about a federal judge who ruled prayers could be given before a state House of Representatives to Allah but not to Jesus. We are seeing more and more bias against Christians. The practice of our Christian faith is not acceptable, but you can practice any other religions anywhere. Christianity is being targeted. That should tell you who Satan is after. Satan does not mind all the other false religions. In fact, Satan created all of the false religions. Those are his inventions. Satan is in the business of providing a smorgasbord of false religions for people to pick from. He just does not want you to pick Christianity.
7th Reason For Suffering – We Made A Bad Decision
Here is the seventh reason why Christians suffer. We made a bad decision. Did you know that sometimes we have suffered not because we have sinned but just because we were not wise? We made some foolish decision. Proverbs 13:20 is a very good example of this. I think we have all made some bad decisions and suffered the consequences. We did not sin. We just were not wise. The verse says,
He who walks with wise men will be wise,
But the companion of fools will suffer harm.
Proverbs 13:20 (NASB)
The message is that if you spend time with wise people, you will become wiser. But if you spend time with fools, you are going to suffer harm. Why? Because you are not learning wisdom; you are becoming like the fools. The people you hang out with will little by little effect the kind of person you become.
Some time later check out Hebrews 13:7. Christians often talk about mentoring or discipleship. The idea is that someone spends time with someone so that they can be discipled and grow spiritually. But invariably what happens? You pick your friend as a mentor. You pick somebody you like. Hebrews 13:7 tells us exactly who we should choose. We are to choose a leader in the church. We are to choose someone who has taught us the word of God. We are to choose someone who is a Godly example. That is who we are to choose to disciple us. Why? “He who walks with wise men,” or we could say a mentor. Make sure it is a wise person and you will be wise. The rest of the verse says that if we spend time with “the companion of fools” we will suffer harm. How about Proverbs 19:15? It says,
Laziness casts into a deep sleep,
And an idle man will suffer hunger.
Proverbs 19:15 (NASB)
The key word in this verse is suffer. The message is if you are a lazy person, you will get what you deserve. An idle person will suffer hunger. You cannot think that God is going to provide all your wants and needs if you are lazy. Proverbs says an idle man will suffer hunger. It does not say, “Oh, except if you are a Christian.” There is not an exception clause in the proverb. How about Psalm 34 which says,
O fear the Lord, you His saints;
For to those who fear Him there is no want.
The young lions do lack and suffer hunger;
But they who seek the Lord shall not be in want of any good thing.
Psalm 34:9-10 (NASB)
Now that is great, I love this. “The young lions do lack and suffer hunger, but they who seek the Lord shall not be in want of any good thing.” There are some important conditions to having our needs met. We must fear the Lord. If you seek the Lord, then God is going to meet your needs. That sounds like Matthew 6:33,
But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Matthew 6:33 (NASB)
That is a verse that we just keep revisiting again and again. It connects in so many different ways with so many other biblical passages.
8th Reason For Suffering – Time To Go Home!
Here is the eighth reason why Christians suffer. It is that it is time to go home to heaven. Sometimes we miss this. There are reasons that we suffer that have nothing to do with any of the things we have talked about so far. Sometimes we suffer because we are in a fallen world and our bodies are decaying little by little. We are in the process of dying. How does anybody ever die without some suffering unless you are like Enoch and God just takes you? All of us die little by little as our bodies fail to function correctly. Ecclesiastes 12 is a great example of this.
The opening verse of the chapter says it all. There are people who tell us that we should never be sick; that is, God does not want us to be sick. Every time I think about what they are saying, I remember Exodus 4:11 where God says,
The Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes him mute or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Exodus 4:11 (NASB)
It is a very interesting passage of scripture, but here in Ecclesiastes 12:1 we read,
Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come . . . Ecclesiastes 12:1 (NASB)
Wow, did you catch those two words, evil days? At some point in our lives, the evil days will come and they will cascade like the Niagara waterfalls. They come rushing in the earlier part of our life. It happens little by little. Something fails and then something else fails. Something else does not work quite right. At the end of life it is like a waterfall. You cannot stop it, “And the years draw near when you will say I have no delight in them.”
Solomon is right when he writes this verse. The evil days have come and you have no delight in them. Then in verses 2-7 which we will talk about later in our study in Ecclesiastes, Solomon describes the dying process. He describes the body falling apart and eventually verse 7 says,
. . . then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it. Ecclesiastes 12:7 (NASB)
The message is you are dead. Now, you did not get there without suffering. That is the message of Ecclesiastes 12. When this occurs, God is taking us home; and I tell you I am looking forward to going home. I just do not like the dying process. I just do not like how I get there because there is pain and suffering in the process. But I am looking forward to the day that I can see Him face-to-face and talk with my God whom I cannot see in this life without dying.
Scripture tells us that no man can see God and live. There is no way I can see Him here; and if I did, I would be dead. I could not tell you that I saw Him. The only way that I can see him is to die and go there. Psalm 116:15 is a fabulous verse. I am sure a number of you have it memorized. It says,
Precious in the sight of the Lord
Is the death of His godly ones.
Psalm 116:15 (NASB)
Did you know that there is a point at which God says, “I want to take you home. It is time to come home.” He wants us to come home, but the evil part is that pain occurs. That is part of the curse because of sin. It is unavoidable, unless you are like Enoch. We started this series with the truth that all suffering has its roots in sin.
I want to wrap up our study by making a couple of points. When we started our series on suffering, I asked you a question. I talked about my own suffering and a recent surgery. Then I told you that I was asked what my pain level was on a scale of 0 to 10. So, I told the nurse what my pain level was and then I asked you the question, “What is your pain level today?” I asked that question because I wanted you to think about your own suffering. Then I asked another question, “How do you anesthetize your pain?”
All of us anesthetize our pain. For some of us we anesthetize our pain with food. We are hurting so we eat something. We buy something that we really like. Some of us drink in order to anesthetize our pain. For some of us, it is some fun activity. Some people get involved in video games and spend hours and hours on video games.
Some of us pursue fame. There are all kinds of things we do to anesthetize our pain. We pursue something that is enjoyable in order to escape our pain. I think we as Christians sometimes forget there is another approach to dealing with our pain and it is not by anesthetizing it. It is by accepting it. It is by realizing that God gave the pain to us for a reason.
Let me show you how to deal with your pain as opposed to anesthetizing it with food or drink or you name it – whatever it might be. I have created a little acrostic I call ITAR. That is, I-T-A-R. The first letter is “I”. The letter stands for “It is God’s will we suffer.” The important point is that it is God’s will that we suffer and we have already seen that in 1 Peter 4:19. So watch this! Rather than trying to escape your pain and disown it, realize that it is God’s will for your life. So, accept it! You will learn a lesson in the process. We will talk about that in a minute. In Philippians 1:6 we are told that God is at work in us to perfect us. The verse says,
For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6 (NASB)
The verse teaches us that God began a good work. God is working in you to perfect you. Romans 8:28 says that all things work together for good. Therefore, if we combine all these verses together, it is obvious that God allows suffering in our life for a purpose. In reality, we have already discovered that truth before. The first letter is “I”.
The next letter is “T”. That is, we are to trust God for his plan. He has a plan. He is working in you to accomplish something that is really good. So, the first reaction is that it is God’s will and He has a plan, and the point is that you trust Him for the plan. I like Habakkuk. I like all of the minor prophets, but Habakkuk may be my favorite. In Habakkuk 3:16 we are told that the Prophet Habakkuk has been told by God that the Babylonian Army is going to invade the country, going to defeat them and take them captive. Then we are told that the prophet is in anguish. Listen to what he says,
I heard and my inward parts trembled,
At the sound my lips quivered.
Decay enters my bones,
And in my place I tremble.
Because I must wait quietly for the day of distress,
For the people to arise who will invade us.
Habakkuk 3:16 (NASB)
The prophet knows that trouble is coming, and he is falling apart on the inside. His knees, I think, are knocking. He said, “Because I must wait quietly for the day of distress.” He says, “I cannot do anything about it. I am just going to wait for it. I am waiting for the people to arise who will invade us.” He says, “I know the invasion is coming. I go to wait quietly in distress.” If you are suffering and you are in the midst of distress and it is not letting up, what do you do? Do you freak out? No! That is not what he says. He says, “I must wait quietly.” Verse 17 says,
Though the fig tree should not blossom
And there be no fruit on the vines,
Though the yield of the olive should fail
And the fields produce no food,
Though the flock should be cut off from the fold
And there be no cattle in the stalls,
Yet I will exult in the Lord,
I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.
The Lord God is my strength,
And He has made my feet like hinds’ feet,
And makes me walk on my high places.
Habakkuk 3:16 (NASB)
He says, “I am going to look to the Lord. I am going to trust the Lord. I am going to exalt in the Lord. I am going to rejoice in the Lord. He is my strength and He will help me go through it.” That is how we get through suffering too! We trust God. So, it is His will that we are to trust God.
The third point is the letter “A”. That is, we are to ask God for wisdom and help. We saw that in James 1:5. If you are suffering, what do you do? You ask God for help. You ask God for wisdom, and in Hebrews 4:16 He tells us that if we will pray, He will help us to go through the trial at the right time. He will help us in time of need. He helps us go through the suffering and He helps us at the right time.
Then the fourth point is the letter “R”. It stands for rejoice. We just saw that in Habakkuk. There are many other passages that encourage us to rejoice or to be thankful. We have already seen it in Matthew 5:10-12; 1 Peter 3:14; 1 Peter 4:13 and James 1:2. 1 Thessalonians 5:16 says it very simply. There are only two words in the verse,
Rejoice always. 1 Thessalonians 5:16 (NASB)
How do you go through suffering? How do you go through trials? ITAR.
It is God’s will we suffer. We are to trust Him, ask for wisdom to help us to go through it. God tells you that He will help you go through it at the right time. Finally, we are to rejoice because there is a purpose for every suffering. Even if you make a bad decision, I guarantee you one thing. You will be wiser next time, Lord willing. You will be driven to the word of God to find out why.