The Gift of Suffering
Job 1:6 – “Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them.”
This is talking about angelic beings that came before the presence of God. Satan (the accuser) came as well.
Job 1:7-8 – “And the Lord said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the Lord, and said, From going to and from in the earth, and from walking up and down in it. 8 And the Lord said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?”
Job was innocent. He repelled evil. God bragged on Job to the devil.
Job 1:9-12 – “Then Satan answered the Lord, and said, Doth Job fear God for naught? 10 Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land. 11 But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face. 12 And the Lord said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the Lord.”
Rom 8:28 – “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”
Knowing what you know about Job and his suffering, how can you look at and consider your own suffering differently?
People in ancient times were thrown into snake pits and tortured for Jesus. Today, it’s much more secret. There is suffering going on that other people don’t see. Life is causing people to have suffering around them.
Why? If there is a good and just and holy God, why does He allow suffering? For good people why do bad things happen?
There is a hurricane called Michael, not created by man. It is a work created by God. You cannot predict or change the weather and the fact that a category 4 hurricane comes and devastates. It’s called an ‘act of God.’
People use this as proof that there is no God.
Jewish rabbis study the book of Job. God held a council in the highest courts of heaven. We believe and understand that Lucifer is a fallen angel. The real title and term used in Job is that he is an accuser. This accuser questions God and His ways.
He questioned the fact that God blessed Job. He challenged the fact that Job praised God and said that if he wasn’t so blessed he would curse God.
God gave the authority and the ability and the right to destroy a man’s life and to kill people. God set rules: touch, but don’t kill Job. So, all hell broke loose in Job’s life.
Why? Job was not suffering for any wrong he had done. Job had no idea that there was a council going on in heaven.
Why did God allow Job’s suffering? Why might God be allowing yours?
We think: ‘if you do good, you’ll receive good, and if you do bad, you’ll receive bad.’ This is Bible. There are consequences to your actions. Obedience is rewarded, disobedience is punished. However, this doesn’t apply to the book of Job.
Job lost his wealth instantly. His children were all killed in an instant. Job has lost everything, eventually even his health. He had a foul, loathsome odor emanated from his body.
His friends came and sat with him for a week without speaking.
Then, they told him that he must’ve done something wrong for God to allow all this stuff to happen. Job defended his innocence.
People used to think that the disease of AIDS was a punishment from God. People who believe this type of thing say stuff like, ‘That’s what you get!’ when something bad happens. Human nature is to assess blame for the failures of their life (either on self or others). It’s a horrible thing to imagine that suffering can come whether you do right or wrong.
Job asked God for answers.
These friends were probably sent by the devil too. Job was attacked physically and psychologically (by his friends). He wasn’t always a good example of how to handle suffering. He even demanded answers from God. He appealed to God. Be careful what you pray for. God showed up and freaked out Job. He answered him and said that Job was righteous and his friends were wrong. That wasn’t exactly a comfort because it didn’t answer why Job was suffering.
Have you ever considered the psychological suffering that Job endured? How can you apply the good parts of his example to your own life? What bad example from Job can you identify with? How will you choose differently in light of Job’s experience?
If Job was innocent, why was he suffering? He lost his kids, his house, his health. No answer came from God. Instead, He showed him a National Geographic animals and mountains and rocks and stars. God mocked Job. ‘Can you do that?’ Job was suffering and God revealed Himself. God could lead those Leviathans around by the nostrils. Job couldn’t do that. Either submit or get something worse.
Job endured and then he got a double portion. We talk about the double portion, but we need to understand that God doesn’t answer the question ‘Why?’ God says only, ‘I’m powerful.’ But, God wasn’t done with Job yet.
Job ended up being blessed afterward through no work of his own. There was no reason for the blessing, just as there was no reason for Job’s misery. God will show mercy on who He chooses to show mercy and condemn whoever He chooses to condemn. Understand not the why, but the what of suffering.
Suffering is a gift from God
If you’re a Christian and you’ve never suffered, it’s either your first service or you’re brand new. Suffering comes to everybody.
Suffering is not your fault (necessarily). God will use suffering to grow you. You may not get your deliverance or blessing but God is still worthy of praise.
Who do you serve? God doesn’t serve you. You are to serve Him.
Paul talked about the suffering he’d endured, running for his life, being stoned, beat, imprisoned, spoken against. He had the burden of the church on him. He worried about whether or not the people he’d discipled still served Jesus.
Thankfulness relieves pressure. Put your mind at ease when you don’t understand what’s going on. Praise will calm you. For a spirit of heaviness, put on the garment of praise. (Isaiah 61:3) You can receive revelation.
What can you be thankful about right now?
1 Pet 5:8 – “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:”
Peter called Satan the opponent, the adversary, the one who comes against you. He has a voice that accuses. He is looking to devour you with accusations on top of your sufferings. He comes in and points at you and says, ‘it’s all your fault and you’re stupid and you’re a failure.’ This is where disgust and discouragement come. It’s when the friends come and make things worse with their words.
1 Peter 5:9-11 – “Whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. 10 But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, establish, strengthen, settle you. 11 To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.”
Suffering makes you perfect, establishes you, strengthens you, settles you in your faith in Jesus.
Correction is different. Chastisement is from the Lord, and He corrects you because He loves you. This kind of suffering is different, suffering for no fault of your own.
Psalm 119:67,71 – “Before I was afflicted, I went astray: but now have I kept thy word. 71 It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes.”
Jer 29:18 – “And I will persecute them with the sword, with the famine, and with the pestilence, and will deliver them to be removed to all the kingdoms of the earth, to be a curse, and an astonishment, and an hissing, and a reproach, among all the nations whither I have driven them:”
God uses chastisement to train you to battle for use in the Kingdom of God. Discipline has purpose and is useful.
But, what about the suffering you don’t understand.
Heb 12:11 – “Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.”
Afterward, is what you’re suffering for right now. Some suffering we see has a purpose from God that is good. Joseph went through suffering for the sake of his family.
Joseph’s suffering was not for Joseph. Sometimes, suffering is not always for your good. Sometimes, it’s for others.
Some people die of cancer. Joseph never asked why he was in the pit and jail. He held onto his faith and God’s promises. He knew God would work it out somehow. He kept his attitude right. Joseph suffered for an entire nation—Egypt and his family (future Israel). The purpose of his suffering was to preserve Israel.
How can you use the example of Joseph in your own life?
Paul wanted to know Jesus’ power and resurrection and His suffering. Paul wanted to be a partaker of the divine nature of God.
God wants His nature revealed in you. God is more interested in your character than your career. He wants Himself to be revealed in you. Only suffering can reveal God.
Can God trust you with suffering?
The gift of suffering, ‘all the world is a stage.’ God’s amazing power and love is revealed through you. There is a part that you play in this epic production. You may have a very small part, but, in order to appreciate your part, you must understand the whole thing.
An example would be a play called ‘God’s Love Towards Humanity’ which is 7000 pages long and your small part is to go out on stage and slip on a banana peel and lie on the stage helpless and in pain. This tiny part is part of God’s plan. The revelation is that it’s all working together for good, and you just trust Him.
The book of Job is not about answers. It’s about trusting in trials. God showed up and instead of giving an answer said simply, ‘I’m here.’
God has infinite wisdom.
Either you’re suffering because you’re being disciplined, you’re in training, or it’s time to play your part in God’s infinite plan.
Will you trust God in your suffering?
Silver is tried in a furnace seven times. ‘Silver is tried by fire, men by adversity.’ There is purity in there. The fire gets hot and the impurities are brought to the surface and exposed and the silversmith removes the top layer of impurities and cools it looking for something specific. Heat and fire cause impurities to rise to the surface. It cools and the silversmith looks for his own reflection in that silver. When Jesus can see Himself in you, you’re being purified.
The sooner Jesus can see Himself in you, the sooner you can get out of the fire.
If you’re suffering, let what comes out of your mouth not be complaining but praise. God has a purpose in the suffering.
Rom 5:3 – “And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience;”
God is doing something, working patience. Suffering produces endurance. People who understand this don’t quit.
Rom 5:4 – “And patience, experience; and experience, hope:”
Experience is character. God wants to build you. He wants to build your character. The result of character is hope. You’ll come out like gold.
Rom 5:5 – “And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.”
This hope is confidence in God. God uses suffering to build confidence, hope in Jesus. You can glory in your tribulations (your sufferings). God is interested in building YOU!
Will you allow God to build you in whatever way He chooses, even suffering? Will you praise Him in the midst of your pain? Will you trust Him?
Rom 5:6 – “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.”
God allowed Jesus to suffer for you!
Rom 5:1-2 – “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: 2 By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”
We get to go to heaven because of what Jesus did for us!
The famous actor Christopher Reeves played Superman in several movies. He had a terrible accident and fell and broke his neck confining him to a wheelchair for the rest of his life. He wanted to die. He wanted to commit suicide and tried to talk his wife into pulling the plug. She persuaded him to use his suffering to help others. In the end, he liked the person he became through the suffering more than the person he had been before the accident.
Why is there suffering? A rabbi answered, ‘Because God is desiring bread.’ There was a beautiful field of grass and flowers and someone bought the field. While the child watched, tractors came and removed all the grass and flowers and it became a muddy field. The child was horrified. Then, seeds were sowed and wheat grew. Then, more destruction followed as the land was plowed again and the wheat harvested. The wheat was then ground into powder so we could have flour and have bread.
The Holocaust was horrible, but the whole world felt guilty and allowed Israel to be independent and have its own state.
Excerpted from a sermon preached by Pastor Anthony LoCascio.
For the full YouTube audio/video, click here.