Suffering in the Christian Life-
Establishing the Fact of Suffering
March 23-28, 2008
KLMX Ministerial Alliance
1st Baptist Church, Des Moines, NM
Hello. I’m Bryan Kimsey from 1st Baptist Church in Des Moines. I’ve talked about quite a range of subjects here on KLMX, from “Foundations of the Christian Faith” to “False Idols” and “False Prophets” to “Five Essential Bible Passages”. This week I’d like to cover what is unquestionably the hardest subject I’ve yet covered. It’s hard because it’s been my experience that when I preach on a subject, it’s not long before I have to live what I’ve just preach. It’s hard because of the depth and seriousness of this topic. But, it’s also a topic that’s been on my mind and heart for the past several weeks and so, after much prayer and thought, I’m going to tackle what God has given me to tackle.
Our subject is Suffering in the Christian Life. I’m going to be drawing first and foremost from the Bible, but I’m also drawing examples from 4 books- “Suffering and the Sovereignty of God” edited by John Piper and Justin Taylor, “The Cup and the Glory” by Greg Harris, “The Hand of God” by Fredrick Leahy, and “The Invisible Hand” by RC Sproul. I’m using examples and experiences put forward in these books, but the Bible is the primary source of both me and all the authors mentioned.
Before we start, let me make it perfectly clear that I’m operating on 3 foundational principles here. I’ve already discussed most of these in depth in other messages- feel free to visit our church website at www.fbcdesmoines.org for the text of previous messages. The 3 principles I’m working under are:
1) The Bible is inerrant, infallible, and 100% sufficient for our needs. Sola Scriptura.
2) God is truly Almighty. He is sovereign over all things.
3) All things work to the glory of God. Soli Deo Gloria.
These 3 principles in themselves can generate a lot of discussion, but there they are. I stand upon them. Let’s move on to our discussion of suffering in the Christian life. May God bless this message and may it glorify Him, through the sacrifice of His only begotten son, Jesus Christ. Amen.
First, we know without question that there is suffering in the world, including the Christian life. This is abundantly obvious using examples from Job to many of the Psalms to Paul, Peter, John, and to Jesus Himself. Here are just a few examples:
Deuteronomy 15:11 For the poor will never cease from the land; therefore I command you, saying, 'You shall open your hand wide to your brother, to your poor and your needy, in your land.'
Psalms 6:2 Have mercy on me, O LORD, for I am weak; O LORD, heal me, for my bones are troubled.
Psalms 6:6-7 I am weary with my groaning; All night I make my bed swim; I drench my couch with my tears. (7) My eye wastes away because of grief; It grows old because of all my enemies.
Psalms 31:9-10 Have mercy on me, O LORD, for I am in trouble; My eye wastes away with grief, Yes, my soul and my body! (10) For my life is spent with grief, And my years with sighing; My strength fails because of my iniquity, And my bones waste away.
Psalms 88:1-7 O LORD, God of my salvation, I have cried out day and night before You. (2) Let my prayer come before You; Incline Your ear to my cry. (3) For my soul is full of troubles, And my life draws near to the grave. (4) I am counted with those who go down to the pit; I am like a man who has no strength, (5) Adrift among the dead, Like the slain who lie in the grave, Whom You remember no more, And who are cut off from Your hand. (6) You have laid me in the lowest pit, In darkness, in the depths. (7) Your wrath lies heavy upon me, And You have afflicted me with all Your waves. Selah
Mark 14:7 For you have the poor with you always, and whenever you wish you may do them good; but Me you do not have always.
Matthew 17:15 "Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and suffers severely; for he often falls into the fire and often into the water.
Luke 8:43-44 Now a woman, having a flow of blood for twelve years, who had spent all her livelihood on physicians and could not be healed by any, (44) came from behind and touched the border of His garment. And immediately her flow of blood stopped.
2 Corinthians 11:24-28 From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. (25) Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; (26) in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; (27) in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness (28) besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches.
Philippians 2:25-27 Yet I considered it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker, and fellow soldier, but your messenger and the one who ministered to my need; (26) since he was longing for you all, and was distressed because you had heard that he was sick. (27) For indeed he was sick almost unto death; but God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow.
2 Timothy 4:20 Erastus stayed in Corinth, but Trophimus I have left in Miletus sick.
In these verses we see suffering ranging from sickness to Paul’s beatings, shipwrecks, and stonings, to the spiritual sufferings of the Psalms. That pretty well covers the bases and we’ll see more examples as we move through this study. For now, I think I’ve pretty well established that suffering is rampant throughout the Bible and that Christians are certainly not immune.
Let’s now establish the cause of suffering. In other words, why is there suffering at all? The answer is “because of sin.” We go to Genesis for our answer. Adam and Eve have eaten from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, of which God commanded that they should not eat. God has already given a curse to the serpent and to Eve and now turns His attention to Adam.
Genesis 3:17-19 Then to Adam He said, "Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, 'You shall not eat of it': "Cursed is the ground for your sake; In toil you shall eat of it All the days of your life. (18) Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, And you shall eat the herb of the field. (19) In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread Till you return to the ground, For out of it you were taken; For dust you are, And to dust you shall return."
This passage doesn’t say “Man became sick because he sinned”, but we do see that man will work the ground “in toil” and “in the sweat of your face.” These are unpleasant things. The ground itself brings up “thorns and thistles.” Man has been cast out of the Garden of Eden and into the world. Romans 8 expands on this theme a bit:
Romans 8:20-22 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; (21) because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. (22) For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.
In Romans 8, the creation is in “the bondage of corruption” and “groans and labors” until redemption is complete. Note, however, that the subjection to bondage was done “in hope.” We’ll see this key as we go along. One more place where we can see that suffering and sorrow are the results of sin is:
Revelation 21:1-4 Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. (2) Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. (3) And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. (4) And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away."
In the New Jerusalem, where God dwells with men, there will be “no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 22:3 says “And there shall be no more curse…” This is part of the promise for which we, as Christians, hope. The fact that the removal of the curse also means no more death, sorrow, crying, or pain tells us that it is because of the curse that we suffer these things. But, as we’ll see later this week, suffering does fit in God’s plan and He does have a purpose for it.
That’s about all I want to cover today. Today’s lesson is a little short but don’t worry, I’ll make up for it in the next few days. Let me sum up what we’ve seen so far. There is unquestionably suffering of all kinds in this world. There are sicknesses, injuries, chronic pains, deaths, tortures, depression, shipwrecks, robberies, murders, cold, heat, poor people, blind people, crippled people, thorns, thistles, and every other imaginable sorrow in this world. And they’re due to our sins and the resulting curse from our Almighty, perfectly just, God. At the end of time, the curse will be removed, thanks to the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ and all those things will pass and be no more.
However, in order for God to wipe away your tears, you must be found in Christ. You must have your name written in the Lamb’s book of life. Going back to the Revelation, we see:
Revelation 22:3-4 And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. (4) They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads.
Those whom God wipes away the tear are servants of the God and of the Lamb. His name is on their foreheads. For these, there is hope. Be sure that you are one with his name in the book of life. Come to Christ, confess your sin, and cast yourself upon His grace and mercy. Be saved and obtain this hope for yourself, to the glory of God the father.
I’m Bryan Kimsey, from 1st Baptist Church, Des Moines. Join us tomorrow on KLMX radio at 9:45 as we look at who suffers. Weds we’ll see what the Bible says about why we suffer. Thursday, we’ll examine the question of whether or not God merely allows suffering or whether He actually causes it. And on Friday, we’ll see how suffering glorifies God. May God guide us and open our hearts to the truth of his Word, the Word which became flesh and dwelt among us- Jesus the Christ. Amen.
Forward to Part 2