I recently took part in a discussion on suffering, specifically Christian suffering. All the usual anecdotes were offered, the unborn, the premature death, the physically disabled, those born into poverty, or living in war zones. The usual Biblical examples were dragged out – Job and Paul’s thorn. It makes you wonder what Bible people read. Let’s take a look at some of these examples.
In a passage often quoted from Job 1, Satan complained to God because He had placed a hedge around Job, and blessed all the works of his hands to the point that he was the richest man in the East. For Believers, this should be cause for hope. Instead, this passage is often misunderstood as either God, or Satan, removing the hedge and attacking Job. If this is what you have been taught, you need to dig deeper into God’s Word. The Bible tells you exactly what brought that hedge down, and hindered the Blessing. It definitely was not God, or Satan directly.
For the thing which I greatly fear comes upon me, and that of which I am afraid befalls me. I was not or am not at ease, nor had I or have I rest, nor was I or am I quiet, yet trouble came and still comes [upon me].
(Job 3:25-26 <AMP>)
As the Book of Job reveals, he lived in constant fear, sacrificing at “all times” because he feared his children had sinned or disowned God. Makes you wonder what he taught them to have so much fear. (Job 1:5) Job trusted more in the lies of Satan, than the Word of God. Instead of trusting in God’s Goodness, he put his hope in religious works. (see also Hosea 6:6, Ecclesiastes 10:8, 1 John 4:18)
Consider one of the best examples of faith in the OT – Abram/Abraham. When he stopped listening to God, or disobeyed Him, trouble came upon him. He took Lot with him to the Promised Land when he was told to separate from his family. (Genesis 12:1-3) This led to strife, division, and ultimately continual trouble for Abraham’s descendents through the children of Lot’s incestuous relations with his daughters.
During a famine, and without God’s direction, he fled to Egypt. While there he lied about Sarah being his wife, risking adultery and blocking God’s plan for Isaac – the son of promise. Only the mercy of God stopped this. Almost the same story was repeated in his dealings with Abimilech.
God promised Abraham an heir. Instead of trusting God’s Word, he attempted to speed up the process by sleeping with Hagar, Sarah’s handmaid. The seed of this union continues to cause conflict even until this day.
Ever wonder why Rachel died so early in childbirth, a rarity among patriarchs who followed God? She stole her father’s “household gods” and hid them. I think you will find a compelling possibility in a study of Genesis 31:32 & 35:1-20.
You can see similar patterns throughout the Biblical narrative. These were ordinary people struggling to survive in a dangerous world. And just like people today, making mistakes that have consequences. By no means do I think I am better than them. Their lives are recorded for our benefit – as examples to learn from their faith triumphs, as well as their mistakes. (1 Corinthians 10:6, Hebrews 11:1-40, 12:1-10)
And if you look closely and honestly at your own life, examine your words, beliefs, sins, decisions, and those made by your family and others in your life, you can probably pinpoint the source of some of your challenges. I certainly recognize many of mine that have led to needless hardship. Keep in mind that the enemy comes to steal, kill, and destroy. He has to work through mankind to accomplish his mission. He does this through fear, deception, unbelief, ignorance, temptation, etc. Jesus came to give you life, in abundance, to the full, till it overflows. (John 10:10) The contrast could not be any clearer.
And to keep me from being puffed up and too much elated by the exceeding greatness (preeminence) of these revelations, there was given me a thorn (a splinter) in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to rack and buffet and harass me, to keep me from being excessively exalted.
(2 Corinthians 12:7 <AMP>)
Any physical suffering that came with Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” was the result of demonic persecution. In the same verse, Paul himself tells you exactly what the thorn was – a messenger from Satan. And yet some folks still argue it was some sort of disease, or physical ailment, some even suggest from God! Such is the power of religious tradition.
Paul received three great revelations for the Church which he taught, and shares in Romans through Thessalonians. Satan vigorously opposed his teaching (and still does even today) with persecution – strife, division, violence, etc.
Paul’s shipwreck on Malta is a wonderful example of overcoming faith. In his spirit, Paul knew the voyage was in peril. The captain ignored Paul’s warning. In the midst of the storm, everyone was in a panic and full of fear. Facing the same danger, the same threat of death, Paul was at peace. An angel appears to tell him, not that the storm will be over, not that the ship would arrive safely, but that he “must stand before Caesar.” (Acts 27) This was the same Word that started Paul’s journey, and he continued to believe it. He tells the crew to not be afraid, and eat. They will be saved from death, but lose the ship.
After the shipwreck, Paul is once again attacked by the enemy in the form of a viper biting his hand. Paul simply shakes it off without a second thought. He has God’s Word in his heart and is focused on His plan, not the circumstances. The pagan natives think its Dike, divine justice come to kill Paul. When Paul does not die, or even get sick, they assume he is some pagan deity. (Acts 28)
God did not send the storm or the snake. He delivered Paul from both, along with the crew. Now safe on Malta, God takes what was seemingly a disaster, and turns it into a great victory as Paul teaches and heals the residents for three months. God’s favor manifests in their needs being fully met, with many gifts for the journey to Rome.
Because God’s Grace is sufficient against any attack, late in his ministry Paul was able to write confidently:
But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the [Gospel] message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was delivered out of the jaws of the lion. [And indeed] the Lord will certainly deliver and draw me to Himself from every assault of evil. He will preserve and bring me safe unto His heavenly kingdom. To Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen (so be it).
(2 Timothy 4:17-18 <AMP>)
Therefore humble yourselves [demote, lower yourselves in your own estimation] under the mighty hand of God, that in due time He may exalt you, Casting the whole of your care [all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares for you affectionately and cares about you watchfully. Be well balanced (temperate, sober of mind), be vigilant and cautious at all times; for that enemy of yours, the devil, roams around like a lion roaring [in fierce hunger], seeking someone to seize upon and devour. Withstand him; be firm in faith [against his onset—rooted, established, strong, immovable, and determined], knowing that the same (identical) sufferings are appointed to your brotherhood (the whole body of Christians) throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace [Who imparts all blessing and favor], Who has called you to His [own] eternal glory in Christ Jesus, will Himself complete and make you what you ought to be, establish and ground you securely, and strengthen, and settle you.
(1 Peter 5:6-10 <AMP>)
Peter writes that the adversary is like a lion, and he is seeking someone whom he may devour. You don’t have to be his victim. He can’t harm you if you are vigilant, sober, know and speak the Truth. This agrees with Paul, who writes with a proven confidence in God who delivered him out of the jaws of the lion often. That confidence belongs to all Believers by faith.
I take great comfort from the ministry of Jesus. He never told someone hungry, crippled, or even mourning the dead, to keep on suffering for my sake. He fed the hungry and left plenty to spare. He healed the sick, who approached him in faith, out of compassion, and through the faith of others. He was only restricted by unbelief. (Mark 6:4-6) No funeral was safe when he was around, because the dead would be restored. The Gospels only record a fraction of all the things he did while on Earth. And its comforting to know that he does not change, or love His Body any less than those he met in the flesh. (Ephesians 5:22-33)
So even in suffering, persecution, or a demonic attack, we can look to Jesus, The Word made flesh, for a solution.
Jesus Christ (the Messiah) is [always] the same, yesterday, today, [yes] and forever (to the ages).
(Hebrews 13:8 <AMP>)
Anyone who does not [really] love Me does not observe and obey My teaching. And the teaching which you hear and heed is not Mine, but [comes] from the Father Who sent Me. I have told you these things while I am still with you. But the Comforter (Counselor, Helper, Intercessor, Advocate, Strengthener, Standby), the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send in My name [in My place, to represent Me and act on My behalf], He will teach you all things. And He will cause you to recall (will remind you of, bring to your remembrance) everything I have told you. Peace I leave with you; My [own] peace I now give and bequeath to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. [Stop allowing yourselves to be agitated and disturbed; and do not permit yourselves to be fearful and intimidated and cowardly and unsettled.]
(John 14:24-27 <AMP>)
Jesus faced storms, angry mobs, temptation, and even a possessed naked man. Nothing rattled him. He was always at peace. (see also Psalm 23, 27:1-14, 91:1-16, 119:1-176, Isaiah 26:3-4, John 14-16, Philippians 4:4-9, 1 Thessalonians 5:14-24, Hebrews 13:20-21)
The question must be asked, can Believers share this peace? Can they enjoy the same overcoming faith in adversity that moved Paul? I believe they can.
In Ephesians 3, Paul prays for Believers. Read this as if it was written straight from the heart of God, because it is His will!
For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,
That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man;
That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love,
May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height;
And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.
Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,
Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.
(Ephesians 3:14-21 <KJV>)
That covers every need, desire, dream, and is beyond what you could ever imagine. This is where Believers need to establish themselves. God’s Word is GOOD NEWS!
And what about when difficulty arises? In Colossians 3:14-17, God has a plan for those times – let the peace of God reign in your heart. How is that done? Let God’s Word dwell in you. Think, talk, sing, and pray His Word. Get your mind focused on your Heavenly Father, the solution, and not the circumstances.
In this life, you may never know the why of suffering. You should settle it in your heart that the enemy is the source, not God. The last thing you want to do is start speculating, or even worse, accusing God of negligence. God is Love. He is more eager for your success than even you are. There is no bad in Him.
And if you are led by the Spirit, He is your Heavenly Father. You are a joint-heir with Jesus, and part of the Body of Christ. Your body is the Temple of the Holy Ghost. Do you really believe Jesus desires even a hangnail on the pinky toe of his body? It sounds funny, but think it through and see the Truth. (Romans 8:14-17, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, Ephesians 2:1-10, 1 John 4:7-21)
For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
(2 Timothy 1:7 <KJV>)
Continually renew your mind to the Truth of God’s Goodness. That He loves you and wants the very best for your life. Study the Bible and see the many promises, promises that cover every aspect of human existence in this life and the next. Put those verses on your lips and in your heart. That is how faith is built. (Romans 10:17) When hard times come, and you are pressured to talk fear, there will be none present. Out of your heart will come the faith you have abundantly stored. Your mind will be free from any torment. Your lips will only talk of God’s goodness, and glorify your Heavenly Father who rescues YOU from every evil attack.
What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?
He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?
Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth.
Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.
Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.
For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
(Romans 8:31-39 <KJV>)
Let The Peace Of God Guard Your Heart And Mind
You are the Body of Christ, a Believer. Victory belongs to you because you are more than a conqueror. Don’t let the enemy, or the world, talk you out of your inheritance.
Praise the Lord!
For my post on Paul’s shipwreck on Malta: A Viper Fastened on Paul’s Hand
Image Source: Prayer – Image: graur razvan ionut / FreeDigitalPhotos.net