This is a message that I heard in church last Sunday, and it is so important that I believe it needs wide coverage over the Internet. It is a message of great comfort for all suffering people, especially for those who are in Christ.The gist of the message is as follows:
i. The Lord Jesus Christ is God’s provision for all our needs, all our problems. Just as safety, security and salvation (from the avenger) were found in the six cities of refuge in Joshua 20:7,8, so all needs of salvation, security and sustenance are found in the Lord Jesus Christ. But we must get to know the Lord Jesus by experience. It is experimental knowledge of Christ that is important.
ii. While talking about the third city of refuge, Hebron, the preacher spoke of the great human problem of loneliness. So often we hear of children complaining, ‘My parents are too busy to spend time with me.’ Because of lonely lives, so many seek solace and friendship on the Internet.
iii. But true fellowship is found in the Lord Jesus Christ. Hebron means fellowship. We can enjoy continual communion with the Lord Jesus, walking with Him and talking with Him every day of our lives. Further, it is in the church, in the company of the redeemed saints of God, that we enjoy wonderful fellowship, comfort and blessing. When we are saved, we are not only indwelt by Christ through the Holy Spirit, but the Lord adds us to the Church, which is His Body, Acts 2:47.. The fullness of God is found in Christ, and the riches of Christ are enjoyed in the Church. Eph 1:23, 3:21.
iv. The riches of grace and glory are to be experienced and enjoyed by the believer in Christ right here on earth. God wishes to reveal His glory to us, and that glory comes to us by faith. ‘If you will believe, you will see the glory of God.’ John 11:40. It depends on our faith, and God aims to increase, purify and strengthen our faith.
v. How does faith grow? By suffering. 1 Pet 1:7 says our faith is purified and made strong by suffering, by our undergoing fiery trials. We are chosen in the furnace of affliction, Isa 48:10.
The preacher then went on the mention certain Facts regarding Suffering:
i. Suffering is integral to the Christian experience. All who live godly lives in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. 1 Tim 3:12. There is a false teaching prevailing these days that suffering is not the will of God. But the fact is that God takes all His children through painful trials of faith. To us believers, it is granted not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, Phil 1:29.
ii. For a child of God, there is nothing that comes by chance or accident. There is no such thing as good luck or bad luck. All is appointed by God, all is ordained by God. There is nothing accidental, there is no chance happening in the lives of God’s children. God apportions to each saint his or her share of trials in this life. But for what purpose?
iii. God explains in Deut 8:16, that the Israelites were tested in the wilderness, and humbled (by trials), so that He might prove them and do them good ‘at the latter end’. We know the ‘latter end’ of Job. How he received twice as much for all that he had suffered, Job 42:12. For all our shame and suffering, God will reward us with ‘double honour’, Isa 61:7.
iv. Suffering never works against a child of God, but actually works for him. Jacob cried out in grief in Gen 42:36 that all things were working against him, but at that very time in fact God was working for him. He was to see his beloved son, Joseph, elevated as ruler of Egypt, and becoming a blessing to the world.
v. Every disappointment is God’s appointment. Observe how the Lord tarried two more days, when He heard of Lazarus’ death. This delay of His was to strengthen the faith of His loved ones, John 11:15. We cry out to God, like the Psalmist, ‘How long, O Lord? Why have You forgotten me?’ But we know the glorious result at Bethany, how Lazarus was raised from the grave; and we too will declare one day, ‘Lord, it was good that You delayed for me.’
vi. All sufferings are under the control of God. He sets the thermostat, as it were. How much (heat), and how long (timing) – are two aspects which are under His grip. He will not keep us one minute more in the crucible of fire. He will provide a way of deliverance, which only He knows. 1 Cor 10:13.
vii. All things work together for our good, Rom 8:28. ALL things. Every disappointment, every delay, every apparent denial – every bitter experience – is actually working for our good, and for His glory. We, from our earthly point of view, see only the ugly underside of what is actually a glorious tapestry of a saint’s life that is being woven by God in heaven.
viii. All contrary forces, such as gales and storms, are meant to strengthen and deepen our roots in God. The eagle flies in the face of the storm and spirals upwards till it becomes a speck in the sky. And by resisting the wind, the eagle’s wings become large and strong. The trials which oppose us are creating the necessary lift for us to rise higher and higher. God wants to bring us to ‘higher ground’ – and to acquire a deeper, stronger, unshaken faith in Him.
ix. In Mark 6, we see that the Lord Himself constrained His disciples to get into the boat and into the storm. But He was watching them from the mountain top, and He came to them, walking over the waves, Mark 6:48. He knows all our problems – family problems, financial problems, health problems, job problems, ministry problems, every kind of problem. He sees us; He cares for us; and He comes to us…just when we are at the point of giving up.
x. In all our afflictions, He is afflicted, Isa 63:9. He shares in our sufferings. In Mark 4, He is in the boat with the disciples; He is going through the terrible storm with them. He has not left them alone. He wants us to have faith in the midst of the storm – real, living, practical faith.
xi. Tribulation produces godly character, the fruit of the Holy Spirit. The Greek word for tribulation means pressure. Tremendous heat and pressure are needed to create diamonds. God seeks the best materials – gold, silver and precious stones. Left to ourselves, living easy and comfortable lives, we will produce only wood, hay and stubble. 1 Cor 3:12. But precious stones and gold are found buried deep in the earth. God takes us into the depths of suffering, so that we may enter into His abundant glory.
© Tom Prato/Tan Pratonix, 2010