God Permits Suffering for His GloryP>Today, we are not going to go verse by verse through John 9:1 - 34 but I will take a few points out from this story of the miracle of the man born blind who was healed after he washed of the mud Jesus had put on his eyes at the pool of Siloam in Jerusalem.
We will focus on three points:
the Causes of suffering,
the Purpose of Suffering and
the Restoration of Suffering -
CPR of Suffering
The Causes of Suffering
In our story today the disciples connected sin with suffering. Their idea was that if someone was suffering it was because either that person sinned, and in this case, because the man had been born blind, they believed that maybe it was because his parents had sinned. Suffering was seen as a punishment for sin by God.
As we learn in the story of Job last week Lowell pointed out that Job's suffering was caused by Satan trying to get God's children to sin and reject God. God wants to bless, reward and bring healing. Satan wants to kill, rob and destroy. So God is not the cause of pain and suffering. He permits it but does not send it on people. People, when they are disobedient and unrepentant, will receive the wrath of God and the punishment of death for their sin if they do not repent. Many times there are natural diseases and relational consequences for our sin which causes people pain and suffering.
When God created the world it was good. In Genesis 2: 16, 17 we read, "The Lord God commanded the man, 'You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.'" Here we see the principle of free will. Man had a choice right from the beginning. There was a consequence for sin. Ultimately death was the result of disobedience.
Some pain is of our own making. I can remember climbing an active volcano in Japan. We left at 12 midnight and climbed all night. We made it to the top short of breath and legs aching. We also had to be careful that we did not breathe in the sulfur smoke that was belching out of the volcano. Why do such a stupid thing? Our goal was to get to the top to see the view for miles, the beauty of the sun rising in the morning over the horizon, and to conquer the highest peak in the area. Unfortunately we did not climb high enough because we couldn't see the sunrise nor anything else because the clouds were covering the top of the volcano.
Some pain is the result of our sin. Certain lifestyles bring disease, pain and suffering. There's physical, emotional, social and spiritual suffering. Our disobedience can also cause pain for our children, parents and those around us. When we live a hedonistic, rebellious, self absorbed life and we don't care about others around us we can bring a lot of pain on others. We always need to examine our life to make sure that we don't live to cause pain for others especially when we are just living to fulfill our own selfish desires.
Some suffering is punitive suffering when we have done something wrong and suffer the consequence of our wrongdoing. Hebrews 12:6 Says the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son. 10 . . .God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
Where do we find the first mention of pain in the Bible? Genesis 3: 16, 17 the word pain / sorrow is mentioned 2 times once to the woman in reference to child birth and once to the man in reference to the work he had to do. That pain is still felt today. Pain here is a reference to man's disobedience but Jesus said that there was another purpose for suffering.
In John 9: 3 the man's blindness "was not because of his sins or his parents' sins." Jesus said, "This happened so the power of God could be seen in him."
How many of you had a chance to hear Ashley's story 2 weeks ago on Sunday morning at the conference? You can go back and see it on line at the EMConference.ca web site. This was a story of a young lady who died in a car crash near London and was revived after 25 - 29 minutes of death to demonstrate the power of God. This was not an easy healing recovery but Ashley did suffer a lot in the process of healing and rehabilitation but she is completely healed today to show the power of God in answer to the prayers of His people around the world. Her suffering truly was a modern day example of someone who was able to bring glory to God through her resurrection and recovery.
Lisa Elliot told her story of the loss of her son to leukemia at the Ladies' Rally last year. She feels that through that experience her son had a chance to influence people he could have never influenced had he not suffered and passed away. She wrote on the back of her book, "The Ben Ripple," "This is a victorious and candid journey of one faith-filled mother who sought to use her story for the glory of God through her pain, loss and grief. It provided validation for those dealing with a family crisis, hope and inspiration for those who are grieving loss, and practical help for those desiring to be comforters."
How would you like to become famous like the Apostle Paul, Peter or one of the other disciples? Wouldn't that be great? Check out what Paul as a world traveller suffered for representing Jesus in 2 Corinthians 11: 23 - 28. The reason he suffered was because he was proclaiming the story of Jesus and people were changed. Jesus on the sermon on the mount said Mt 5:10 - 12, " Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you." We read in the Old Testament that prophets like Jeremiah, and Isaiah and many prophets were killed by Jezebel in Elijah's day.
So suffering for Jesus' sake at the hands of unbelievers whether it is verbal or physical should be considered something which Christians in the third world expect as normal. You will be attacked! Chinese Christians are constantly harassed, their property confiscated, fined, throw in prison, tortured and even killed. The whole Christian church in Eritrea was killed off or scattered according to Nick Ripkin. You would think that with that kind of persecution and pain, they would give up their faith but they have found such joy and freedom in Jesus who saved them from a life of sin and hell that they cannot deny the name of Jesus.
Purpose of Suffering:
You would think that an all powerful God could protect us from pain and suffering. Not all pain and suffering is the result of Satan's attack on Christians. Not all pain is bad. Have you thought God was not fair? Have you experienced times when you doubted God because you or someone you knew was experiencing a tough time - sickness, divorce, abuse, poverty, pain! CS Lewis said that labelling pain as a gift is something that we can do if we believe that God is orchestrating our life for a higher good.
Pain is an alerter of danger. What if you were born into a world without being able to feel pain? You might think that would be great especially those of you who are slated for joint replacements, have migraine headaches, suffer from arthritis, and tumours.
Gabby Gingras was born without the ability to feel pain which is an extremely rare disorder called congenital insensitivity to pain. Her mom says "Pain teaches. . .Pain protects. Pain can save you from a lot of bad things in life.". For unknown reasons, the connection between the nerves that sense pain and the brain's recognition of pain is missing. She would chew her tongue and fingers until they was bloody because she couldn't feel any pain. She poked her eyes with her fingers so now she is legally blind.
Experiencing pain helps us understand that earth is not our home, and our time here is fleeting. We are to look forward to our eternal home with God in heaven. Hebrews 13:14 "For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come." (NLT) Revelation 21:4 "He (God) will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever." Pain stops us from becoming too attached to the things of this world.
There are many different kinds of suffering and pain. There is Physical, Mental, Addictive, Emotional, Spiritual, Social suffering or any combination of these. We might wonder which is the worst of these. Some might think that the physical pain is hardest to bear but with modern medicine and pain killers people I spoke to felt that emotional pain was the most difficult to deal with.
Suffering to keep humble. Paul had a "Thorn in the flesh" that God said, his grace was enough for Paul to endure it. 2 Corinthians 12: 7 Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." Your response to pain can either draw you away from God or draw you closer to God.
CS Lewis says that it's not that God comes with consolation for us, but rather, "the necessity to die daily: however often we think we have broken the rebellious self we shall still find it alive… and this process cannot be without pain."
Suffering shapes us and pushes us to depend on God. God strips away our independence, our, self-reliance, our pride by painful experiences that will draw us closer to Him.
Restoration from Suffering:
Pain and suffering no matter what the source or cause is an opportunity for Christians to make a difference. In about 250 AD, plagues broke out in Rome. Christians helped but pagans got out of town. Christians saved many and stemmed the disease by helping to the peril of many believers dying trying to help others. Even though there was much persecution, Christians reached out in love to help the sick and dying. Many of those who they helped in turn became believers.
We see the same thing happening recently when the Ebola epidemic broke out in West Africa, Kent Brantly helped hundreds who had the disease but one day he contracted the deadly disease working with Samaritan's Purse in Liberia. He almost did not survive but God spared his life and he is now a doctor working in the United States.
Social pain comes from loneliness and loss of loved ones or thinking the world would be better without us. These pains are extremely hurtful and drive people to do many kinds of terrible things including loss of life.
How can we help those in suffering to bring glory to God? We often feel helpless when people we love are in pain. What is our responsibility to those in pain?
1. Pray. As believers in the one who wants to console and help those suffering and in pain, we need to get involved. How can we help those who have experience trauma, pain and suffering? If we don't have a relationship with someone going through pain and suffering we can begin with praying for them. Pray that God will open up and opportunity to care for them.
2. When that opportunity comes, we need to showing that we are concerned and care about people in pain. Visit with them and spend time with those in suffering. Try to help them in practical ways. I was asked to cut grass for a lady that has cellulitis, a very painful disease on her legs requiring her to stay off her feet. She also can't work to support herself and her son. Because she is also off work, she has economic needs.
3. We can listen to people who are suffering and show empathy. We can listen to their story and what is bothering them. Everyone perceives a situation differently and those who have caused some of the suffering a person is experiencing might have a different story. Be careful not to quickly judge people. If a person's story has inconsistencies, you can point those out in a questioning way but otherwise listen quietly and hear the whole story. Many people feel comforted just by having someone listen to them. Some of them have just experienced rejection and hate not patient listening. Allow them to get their story out.
Pain helps us realise we are blessed with some incredible friends. God has blessed us with many fantastic friends. Job had friends but they did not help him, they just blamed him for the situation he was in. What kind of friend are we? Have the painful experiences we have faced taught us how to empathize with others. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4a. (NLT) "All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others."
4. Ask Jesus how He can help bring healing to this person's pain. This is where I have learned so much from John Regier who counsels people and has helped hundreds by his patient listening and understanding of their problems. Then he brings them to Jesus to have Him show the people how He can heal their pain. Jesus brings a picture, a verse or other ways to help a person realize that He cares about them. Jesus is the great healer.
God does not want us to suffer if there is another way out. Our responsibility as believers is to pray for those who are in some kind of pain and suffering. I would like to pray this morning for people who are struggling. We want to see Jesus bring healing to your body, your emotions, your spirit and your relationships.Sermons Index