Saturday, July 08, 2006

Are You Discouraged?

We need to remember that the Lord Jesus Christ has given His assurance that the new life to come will overshadow any trial or hardship that is thrown our way and the Joy from this will last for eternity. The trials in our life are only temporary and will one day be gone never to return again. Read: (Rev 21:3-4)
Reflective Prayer: This message was being prepared for next weeks sermon, but as I began reading the replies from the last sermon I mailed out and receiving the prayer requests from people who are under satanic or spiritual attacks this moment I knew that something needed to be done this week. Please remember to intercede for those you know who are intercessors, or simply ask the Father who you should pray for?

Those on the front lines of this Spiritual War The Warriors, The Watchmen and the intercessors are increasingly being singled out and attacked by the enemy. Once again if you know any of these people please remember to pray for them.

When You Come to The End of Yourself!

As we read the words of David in Psalm 38, we find this godly, righteous man at the end of himself. He was downcast and discouraged, and his struggle had drained him of all strength. Listen to his distraught cry:

"I am troubled; I am bowed down greatly; I go mourning all the day long I am feeble and sore broken: I have roared by reason of the disquietness of my heart My heart panteth, my strength faileth me: as for the light of mine eyes, it also is gone from me, I as a deaf man, heard not; and I was as a dumb man that openeth not his mouth. Thus I was as a man that heareth not, and in whose mouth are no reproofs (Psalm 38:6, 8, 10, 13-14).

As I read this psalm, I imagine David slumped in despair. Perhaps what troubled him most was that he could not understand why he was suddenly cast down so low. This man hungered for the Lord, pouring out his heart daily in prayer. He revered Gods word, writing psalms that extolled his glory. But now, in his depressed state, all he could do was cry, Lord, I am at the end of my rope. And I have no idea why it is happening!

Like many discouraged Christians today, David tried to figure out why he felt so empty and broken in spirit. He probably relived every failure, sin and foolish deed in his life. At some point he must have thought, Oh, Lord, have all my reckless acts left me so wounded that I am beyond hope?

Finally, David reasoned that God must have been chastening him.
He cried, O Lord, rebuke me not in thy wrath: neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure. For thine arrows stick fast in me, and thy hand presseth me sore. There is no soundness in my flesh because of thine anger; neither is there any rest in my bones because of my sin. For mine iniquities are gone over my head: as an heavy burden they are too heavy for me (verses 1-4).

Let me point out here that David is not just writing about his own condition in this psalm. He is describing something that all devoted lovers of Jesus face at some point in their lifetime. He is talking about being under a demonic attack from a plaguing spirit of discouragement!

This kind of discouraging spirit comes straight from the bowels of hell. And the time comes when every dedicated believer is overwhelmed by this sudden and unexpected experience. No Christian brings it on himself, nor does the Lord send it. Such an attack usually has nothing to do with any specific sin or failing by the believer.

Very simply, the spirit of discouragement is Satans most potent weapon against Gods elect. Most often, he uses it to try to convince us we have brought Gods wrath upon ourselves by not measuring up to his holy standards. But the apostle Paul urges us not fall prey to the devils snare: Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices (2 Corinthians 2:11).

Paul is saying, You have to see your discouragement for what it really is!

Its a demonic weapon an arrow that Satan shoots at you from his quiver to get you to doubt yourself. He knows he cant tempt you to turn away from Jesus. So he swamps you with vicious lies to make you think you will never be good enough to serve Christ. He wants to get you so downcast that you’ll want to throw in the towel!

Ask Yourself If Davids Heart-Cry Is Your Own Cry whenever you are overwhelmed by the Spirit of Discouragement.

Feebleness, soreness, brokenness, troubles, disquietness, mourning all of these things bowed Davids spirit low. He felt dry and empty, without direction, as if he had learned nothing over the years.

As for the light of mine eyes, it also is gone from me (Psalm 38:10).

David is saying I have lost my spiritual understanding. My vision and revelation of the Lord have left me. I can not reach God as I used to!

I know just how David felt. I have led evangelistic crusades in which thousands at a time have come to Christ. And I have helped lead multitudes of drug addicts and alcoholics to deliverance in Jesus. My life has been full of such rich blessings. But often, within days of these events, I became overwhelmed with discouragement. I ended up thinking, Lord; my life has been a complete waste. I have not accomplished anything for you!

That is the work of Satans spirit of discouragement. It makes us a target for the powers of hell within moments of our greatest spiritual victory!

This heavy, demonic spirit laid David so low; he was dumbfounded in Gods presence. He said, but I, as a deaf man, heard not; and I was as a dumb man that openeth not his mouth. Thus I was as a man that heareth not, and in whose mouth are no reproofs (verses 13-14).

The Hebrew meaning of this last phrase is a man who has no more answers or arguments left. David was saying, Lord, I am too down and discouraged to even lift my hand up to you. I can not pray, because I am too confused to speak. I am drained and empty. I have nothing to say.

Davids trial was not at all unique. I have read many biographies of devout men and women whom the Lord used mightily, and every one of these people struggled through the same kind of crippling discouragement.

The great British preacher C.H. Spurgeon led multitudes to Christ through his powerful sermons. But he suffered awful bouts with melancholy. He often felt as if he had accomplished nothing in his life. He once lamented, I have got the blackest heart in Britain. Frequently he would go into his garden, raise his hands to God and cry, Lord, I have never desired you more, yet my spirit has never been so low. Why is this happening?

David voiced the universal cry of the righteous soul that endures an attack of discouragement: I am ready to halt, and my sorrow is continually before me (verse 17). The word halt here in Hebrew means fall. David was telling God, I am not going to make it, Lord. I am at my absolute end and I am about to fall!

God Will Always Be Tender With Us in Our Helpless Condition But We Are Never to Allow Unbelief to Settle in Our Hearts!

We can talk to God all we want about our feelings of failure. We can tell him about our despair over our sins and foolish mistakes. But we are never to entertain the thought that he has abandoned us. This is a serious accusation, and our Lord does not take it lightly.

We see his immediate response to this kind of accusation in Numbers: (Israel) journeyed from mount Hor by the way of the Red Sea and the soul of the people was much discouraged because of the way. And the people spake against God, and against Moses, Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul loatheth this light bread; and the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died (Numbers 21:4-6).

When the Bible tells me my loving heavenly father sent fiery serpents upon his own people, and that they died from the snake bites, I can not ignore the very clear message: God will not allow such unbelief among his elect! After all that our precious Lord has done for us, the most hurtful accusation we can make against him is that he has neglected us. We are to beware of such unbelief, especially in our difficult times.

David is our example of someone who kept his faith. Even at his lowest point, David would not allow himself to wallow in unbelief. He cried, for in thee, O Lord, do I hope: thou wilt hear, O Lord my God (Psalm 38:15).

If you are enduring an attack from a demonic spirit of discouragement, I suggest you do these three things:

1. Do Not Try to Maneuver Your Way Out of It.

Do not try to escape the attack through your own wits. You are no match for the demonic spirit you are up against. The battle is far beyond your human skill or physical power to wage. Nor can you merely talk it out with friends, or try to overcome it through books, seminars or counselors. The conflict is in the spiritual realm, and it has to be fought in the spirit.

In his time of discouragement, David could not figure out why he was so cast down. He asked, Why art thou cast down, O my soul? And why art thou disquieted in me? (Psalm 42:5).

Yet his questions were not doubts about God. David actually begins the psalm by expressing his deep thirst for the Lord:
As the hart [deer] panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God? (verses 1-2).

In the midst of his discouragement, David cried out for a revelation of the Lord. He was saying, God, there has never been a time when I have loved you more. I thirst for you like the running deer who pants for water. So why am I so cast down? Why am I suffering such overwhelming discouragement?

Of course, at times David experienced despair and depression because of his sin. He endured the Lords chastening for his pride when he numbered his fighting men, which was against Gods law. And he felt the pain of Gods rod when he committed adultery with Bathsheba and arranged to have her husband murdered. His heart broke with dejection over the judgment he brought on his family because of these sins.

So, too, many believers today are discouraged because of their sins. Some are depressed because the Holy Spirit has wanted to bring them into victory, but they resist. They have chosen the way of the flesh, and that always leads to pain and discouragement.

However, I am addressing repentant believers here those who seek God with all their hearts. These faithful servants are gripped by a different kind of discouragement. This kind comes upon them suddenly, out of nowhere, for no apparent reason. And it totally dumbfounds them. If this is true of you, you can be absolutely sure you are under attack. Satan has sent a cloud of discouragement to overwhelm you. And he has his reasons for doing so!

You see, discouragement is the devils most devastating tool in his attacks on Spirit-hungry saints.

It has been the enemyies weapon of choice for centuries against Gods elect. And from the day you became serious about the things of God determining in your heart to know Christ in his fullness Satan has sought to discourage you. He has watched you dig deeper into Gods word every day. He has seen you changing, growing, and overcoming all worldliness. So he has made you a target for heavy attack.

And you had better believe that attack will come! Right now you may be able to praise God loudly in church, saying, This is the greatest day of joy I have ever had! But watch out for what comes tomorrow. Satan will use his most powerful weapon discouragement to try to bring you down.

However, when the attack comes, do not think it is unusual. God allows this kind of fiery testing with all his saints.

Peter writes, Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you (1 Peter 4:12). Discouragement is a trial Gods people have endured for centuries!

2. Go to Prayer, Giving the Holy Spirit Time to Do His Work!

When you are under attack from the enemies spirit of discouragement, you will not feel like praying. But you must still go to the secret place and be in Jesus presence. You do not need to worry about trying to pray your way out of despair. This is the time for Gods Spirit to go to work in you.
It is his job to lift you out of the pit.

When you go to the Lord, be honest with him. Tell him how weak and helpless you feel. Let him know, Jesus, I am dry. I have no strength left. If I am ever going to get out of this depression, you are going to have to make it happen. In such low times, the Lord is very patient with us. He does not expect us to exert some intense, fervent effort in prayer. He knows our condition, and he sympathizes with us.

So, just sit in his presence and trust his Spirit to do in you what he has been sent to do. It does not matter how cast down you are he will never forsake you! We have the notion that every time we fail the Lord, the Holy Ghost flits away like a bird.

Some Puritan divines taught this. They believed that Gods Spirit leaves Christians for a season whenever has grieved with them. I could never understand or accept this doctrine. How could Gods Spirit abandon me when I need him most? If he leaves me whenever I fail and fall deep into discouragement, how could he be my comforter? That would not provide any comfort at all. In fact, it would leave me in Satans power!

Likewise, if the Holy Ghost is my souls sanctifier, how could he do this work if he flies in and out of my life every time I fail? How could I ever see my sin without the Spirits presence there to convict me of it? How could I know how to change if he was not there to guide and direct me?

Jesus promised us, I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you (John 14:16, 18).

When the devils heavy spirit of discouragement settles over your life, you may be so distraught you can not even whisper a prayer. But even if you can not utter a word, you can talk to Jesus in your spirit. Just tell him softly, Lord, help me. This attack is too much for me. I can not do anything but sit here in faith. I trust your Spirit to drive it out of me.

The First Thing the Spirit Will Do When He Comes Is Expose All of Satans Lies!

The Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you (John 14:26).

I remember experiencing a particularly heavy attack of discouragement at a certain point in my life. It happened when I was as close to Jesus as at any other time. I was diligent about my prayer life, pouring my heart out daily to the Lord. And I spent hours searching his word, devouring both Testaments. I enjoyed sweet communion with the Lord and saw many of my prayers answered. As far as I knew, I was in Gods perfect will, doing everything he told me.

But one morning, as I was preparing a message for the following weeks sermon, something hit me. I was overcome by an intense despair. It came out of nowhere, weighing me down heavily. And it happened for no apparent reason. No matter how hard I tried, I could not shake it. As I sat at my desk with my Bible open, I tried to continue working on the sermon. But I could not get anywhere. Suddenly I was bombarded with doubts about my ability to put together a true message from the Lord. My mind was flooded with horrible thoughts that told me, You do not understand Pauls writings. You have not grasped the old man and new man concepts. You do not comprehend dying to sin when sin still exists. How dare you presume to preach Gods holy word? I sat there for three hours, determined to dig out a message. But nothing ever came.

By mid-morning, all the words on the pages of my Bible seemed to run together. My mind was confused, and my spirit was dull, unable to hear anything from the Lord. I sank deeper into despair, thinking, I am totally ignorant of Gods word. Yet I keep churning out sermon after sermon, week after week. I’m not really serving anybody. After all these years, I still do not understand the Bible. My light has gone out! I was convinced I had nothing to give the people in our church. So I closed the Bible and left my study.

As I walked around the house, my discouragement only grew. I tried to figure out why it had come upon me in the first place, but I did not have a clue. I did not have any financial troubles. I had no family crisis. I felt great physically. And I had no known sin. I did not have a single reason to feel the way I did.

Finally, I went into my prayer room and sat on the floor. I could not even muster up a word to say to the Lord. Instead, I cried out to him from my spirit: Lord, I do not know what to do. I feel so down I can not even reach out to you. Yet I know I have never loved you more than right now. Why is this happening? Please, God help me.

When the devil comes with his spirit of discouragement, he bombards you with one lie after another. He lies to you about your marriage, your family, your friendships, your calling, and your walk with the Lord. Then he begins to replay in your mind every sin, failure and foolish thing you have ever done. By the time he has finished, you are crying, Oh, God I will never make it!

This is just what the devil did to me. While in prayer, I endured his bombardment of hellish lies for about half an hour. That is when Gods still, small voice broke through to my spirit. He spoke to me words full of love and compassion: David, you are greatly loved. Do not worry my hand is upon you. You are under severe attack, but you do not have to fear. You do not need any strength of your own for this battle. I have everything you need.

The first thing the Holy Spirit does in such times is to bring to your remembrance all the precious promises of Jesus. And so he did with me. He flooded my soul with dozens of promises I knew from Gods word. And he assured me, Your life is not over. You do not know it, but you have not even started yet. The best is still ahead of you. My spirit soared within me. As I stood to my feet I thought, Why did I ever put up with any of this discouragement? It is not from my Lord!

That is the work of the Holy Spirit. He undoes the lies of the enemy and brings encouragement from on high!

3. Dare to Believe the Incredibly Good Things the Holy Spirit Is Going to Tell You!

Multitudes of Christians enter Gods presence every day expecting to be reproved by him. How that must grieve our Lord. When we go to prayer, we ought to be prepared to hear a good word from our loving father. But many believers rarely are. I lived that way for years. Every time I entered my prayer closet, I expected to hear a rebuke from the Lord. Thank God, he has taught me a better way.

On the other hand, there are entire denominations that avoid any mention of holy reproof. They say very little about sin because they want to preach only positive, upbeat messages. In the process, they ignore all the convicting, life-giving reproofs spoken by Christ and the New Testament writers. Such churches claim to preach a gospel of love, mercy and grace. But, sadly, they misuse Gods grace, turning it into a license to sin.

I realize I am not writing this message to that kind of people. Rather, I am speaking to overcoming Christians who avoid sin as one way of loving the Lord. I am speaking to those who enjoy intimacy with Christ because they hunger and thirst for him constantly. If this describes you, and you are downcast and depressed, please know its happening not because you have gotten easy on sin. It is happening because you are under attack for loving Jesus!

Be assured all who wait on the Lord will receive his glorious promises: Since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee, what he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him (Isaiah 64:4).

As it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God (1 Corinthians 2:9-10).

Let us take a closer look at two phrases from the passage in Corinthians:
1. the things which God hath prepared for them that love him (verse 9). Satan can attack you, flooding you with lies and discouraging words. But if you will simply wait on the Lord, his Spirit will come to you in the midst of the attack and drive out all the devils lies.

How? He will give you a revelation of all the good things God has prepared for you because you love him! Our Lord has a wonderful plan for every single child who loves him. And no satanic attack against his children can ever alter those plans.

God knows the sorrows, struggles and pain we may be facing today. But he also knows the glorious things he has laid out ahead of us. He knows the revelation we will receive, the usefulness we will enjoy, the fruit we will see, the joy and peace we will possess. He has a good word for all who love him!

2. God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit (verse 10). The Lord desires to show us his good word about what he has prepared for us. And his Spirit is the messenger who bears that good word. The Holy Ghost will give wings to our drooping spirits with Gods revelation to us and well fly like eagles out of Satans snare!

Listen to these wonderful words from Isaiah: Hast thou not known? Hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? There is no searching of his understanding. He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: but they that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint (Isaiah 40:28-31).

That is the work of the Holy Spirit to encourage us. Our work is simply to trust him to fulfill what the father has sent him to do.

Go to your secret closet right now, even in your discouraged state, and quiet yourself before the Lord. Even if you do not have strength enough to speak, you can reach out to him in spirit.

Speak to him this prayer: Lord, I know your Spirit abides in me. And I know you have sent him to comfort me, strengthen me and reveal the mind of Christ to me. So, Holy Ghost, I turn to you right now in simple, childlike faith. Speak to my heart your words of comfort. I do not have any strength left. You’re going to have to lift me up and lead me.

The Spirit of Christ will not let you be deceived. He will show you the good things God has ahead for you. But you must dare to believe he will speak to you! You are not going to faint. You are going to come out of your trial more victorious, because your faith will have been tested and tried as gold. And you’ll see the Lord fulfill every promise he has made to you!

God Bless you all, Rev Ron Morrow - http://ronmorrowministries.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Why Does God Allow suffering?

So many people write to me & ask, "why does God allow suffering?" I cannot claim to be an expert on the subject and truthfully sometimes there are no answers to some of the awful things that happen daily in the World. Its also a fact of life people become sick and die - some sooner than others and we go through times of trials and grief! In these times all we can do is pray, "Lord I don't understand this - I give this to you and choose your ways".

Sometimes suffering is simply because of mans choices and sin and God has provided the remedy for this through His son Jesus (John 14:6).

In the scriptures it also shows sometimes as a Christian God allows suffering to produce fruit, to teach dependence, to rebuke sin, to refine our lives, to enlarge our ministry, or like Job to silence the devil, to make us more like Jesus so we can Glorify God.

I pray the articles below will answer some of these questions and enable you to find Joy in the midst of your situation.

Please know if you are going through trials, challenges or testing you are not alone, God loves you and cares & I am here to pray with you.

"Behold we count them happy which endured. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful and of tender mercy." (James 5:11) "The joy of the Lord is your strength" (Neh 8:10)

Why Does God Allow Suffering?

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? and still he holdeth fast his integrity, although thou movedst me against him, to destroy him without cause.Job 2:3 (KJV)

There's an awful lot of suffering and pain going on in this world around us. Even Americans are not immune, although we cannot even begin to conceive of the kind of affliction people in some parts of the world are experiencing. Furthermore, suffering of some kind hits every kind and class: rich and poor, educated and uneducated, and--yes--righteous as well as unrighteous. In fact, I'm sometimes tempted to believe that the righteous suffer more than the unrighteous, despite a prevalent teaching today that Christians needn't suffer at all.

The Bible is filled with pain and suffering. Wars, persecutions, famines, and sickness are found from Genesis through Revelation, with both saint and sinner at the receiving end. In our opening text, God testifies that Job is a perfect and upright man; nevertheless, he bears the brunt of a satanic attack throughout the next forty chapters. The Word of God finds no fault with Job's faith (as some might today), but for some reason God has actually allowed the devil to move Him against His servant!

Now God doesn't enjoy human suffering, but He does allow it, and sometimes even instigates it (see Micah 4:6, Nahum 1:12). So let's not be afraid to face the issue, but rather, let's deal with it head-on. Let's not redefine suffering, as some have done; we all know what suffering is. Let's not try to read into the Scripture a bunch of our own little ideas, but let's believe what it clearly says Suffering is a fact of life, and God allows it, so let's examine some of the "whys and wherefores," and see if we can't learn something. We needn't blame the Lord for human suffering, but neither should we attribute a sort of humanistic sentimentality to Him, while denying that the Bible means what it clearly says. We do need a clearer understanding of His perspective on this important subject, so let's approach it with an open mind. Who knows, we may even come to understand what the psalmist meant when he said, "I know O Lord that thy judgments are right, and that thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me," (Psalm 119:75).

Why does God allow suffering?

...1. God Allows Some People To Suffer In Order To Bring Them To The Brokenness And Humility Necessary To Their Salvation. This is one of the most common reasons for suffering and affliction in the biblical record. God often used calamities to get peoples' attention and bring them to repentance. Earthquakes, famines, and droughts were all brought on at times by the Lord in order to bring people to salvation, and save them from something much worse than physical suffering -- an eternity in Hell.
Psalm 119:67 says, "Before I was afflicted I went astray; but now have I kept thy word."Similar to this, only directed more toward the believer, is the "chastening of the Lord." Hebrews 12:6 says, "For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth." Like any caring Father our God disciplines us when we get out of line -- not just to vent His wrath, but to redirect us to righteousness. Some people insist that the chastening of the Lord doesn't include physical discipline, but the use of the word "scourge" (to severely whip) seems conclusive to me. Verse eleven says, "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."

2. Affliction Makes Us Aware Of How Carnal We Really Are. It serves as a kind of shaking process that allows us to identify and eliminate some undesirable things in our character that might otherwise have remained hidden (Heb. 12:27). Suffering is a refining process that puts enough heat on us to bring the impurities to the surface. Anyone can act righteous under ideal circumstances, but a little pain or testing may bring out the very opposite. A nagging headache can make a real "bear" out of a person by the end of the day; smashing your thumb with a hammer can evoke a flow of words that seems very uncharacteristic, but is an accurate representation of what still lies undealt with in the heart. This deep down carnality must be uprooted and dealt with, and suffering is an effective way to do it.

3. God Allows Us To Suffer So That We May Learn Obedience. "Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered" (Heb. 5:8). In this case we're not talking about a lack of obedience being dealt with--the subject is Jesus Himself--but rather a proof of obedience. Submission to suffering, and even death, for the Lord's sake, is the very epitome of obedience and commitment to God (see also Phil. 2:8).

Suffering is a test and trial of our faith which Peter says is "more precious than gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire," (I Pet. 1:7). Whether we fail or pass the test, it is valuable: either to expose our carnality, or declare our faithfulness.

4. Suffering Brings Us Into Closer Fellowship With Jesus. This no doubt sounds like out-and-out heresy to some people, but look at what the Bible says... "That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings. . ." (Phil. 3:10), and in I Peter 4:13, "rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings." Someone said Christ suffered so that we don't have to, but the Bible seems to encourage us to join Him in suffering, and rejoice in it as well.You see, the things that bring people into closer and more meaningful relationships are shared experiences and things held in common. You and I may have fellowship with one another because we have our Christian faith in common, but when we spend much time doing the same things, and perhaps go through some hard times together, suddenly our friendship becomes much deeper. So it is with Christ. His was a life of sorrow, acquainted with grief; and when we experience the same things our relationship with Him becomes deeper. I'm not advocating that we walk around being morose and negative all the time, but I am saying that we should appreciate some of the benefits of suffering. "For hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps." (I Pet. 2:21)

5. Suffering Is A Token And Confirmation Of Our Covenant Relationship With God. This is what the Apostle Paul is talking about in Galatians 6:17 when he says, "From henceforth let no man trouble me; for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus." In ancient times, when you entered into a covenant--or sacred agreement--with someone, you would seal it in blood, leaving a scar for all to see. People would then think twice before troubling you; for they'd have to deal with your covenant-partner, too.Salvation is a covenant between man and God. Jesus sealed it in His own blood (and even His resurrection body bears the scars). There is also a sense in which we, too, must confirm the covenant by taking up our cross, living a life of personal sacrifice, and sometimes suffering in a very literal sense for the sake of our agreement with the Lord. It is a little like the Old Testament practice of circumcision, or like a wedding band, if you will. Suffering doesn't make you any more saved, but it can be symbol or token of your new covenant relationship with God.

6. If We Suffer With Christ, We Will Also Be Glorified Together With Him. This is the message of Romans 8:17-18, where Paul says, "I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us." II Timothy 2:12 says, "If we suffer, we shall also reign with him." Apparently suffering in this life is a way of securing greater eternal glory in the life to come, of laying up treasure in heaven. One respected minister suggested that perhaps scars would be beauty marks in the next world, that we would retain ours in our resurrection bodies, even as Christ does His. In any case, there will be recognition and glory for those who have suffered with Christ. Some, recognizing this principle, have even been "tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection." (Heb. 11:35)

7. Suffering Allows The Strength Of Christ To Flow Through Us More Freely. Look at what II Corinthians 12:9-l0 says about Paul's thorn in the flesh... "And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee; for my strength is made perfect in weakness... Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong."You can only be a fit vessel of Christ's strength and glory to the degree that your own human strength and confidence is broken. Earlier in II Corinthians Paul said, "We have this treasure in earthen vessels." The vessel is our humanity, and the treasure is the Holy Spirit within us. God desires to flow freely through us without being contaminated and diluted by the earthen vessel, without our pride and natural resources getting in the way. Physical infirmity and suffering is sometimes necessary to humble us enough for Christ's strength to come through. Our bodies, like Mary's alabaster box, must sometimes be broken before the ointment can be released as a blessing to others (Mark 14:3). This brings us right up to our next point...

8. Our Suffering Can Be Redemptive To Others. Colossians 1:24... "[I, Paul] now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body's sake, which is the church."Some suffering is actually the vehicle that imparts the redeeming grace of God to others. Paul's shipwreck and snake-bite in Acts 27 and 28 would qualify as an illustration of this. If he hadn't been cast upon that island and bitten by the viper, the revival that followed would never have occurred. If he hadn't been stoned in Lystra (Acts 14) perhaps the saints of that area wouldn't have been as strong.

As Christ suffered to procure salvation for us, we must sometimes suffer to propagate it. Any missionary can testify to the truth of this. Let's not flinch from it but gladly endure such suffering if called upon to do so.

9. God Allows Us To Suffer So That We May Comfort Others. "Blessed be God... Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God." (II Cor. 1:3,4)

This is pretty self-explanatory, but let's take a quick look at it. If I suffer the loss of a close family member, I am naturally more able to comfort and strengthen someone else in the same situation. It may be one of the most heart-rending things I ever go through, but afterwards I have a wealth of wisdom and experience which will aid me in ministering to others. I can say with authority that God didn't let me down and He won't forsake you, either. I can comfort others because I've been there, and been the recipient of His comfort.

10. Sometimes It's Just Too Deep For Us To Understand. This sounds like a pretty lame excuse for an argument, but it's probably the best reason we've given yet for our question, "why does God allow suffering?" Have you ever noticed the answer the Lord gave to Job? You can read about it in chapters 38-41 of that book. God's answer, in essence, is this: "What do you know about the stars, the clouds, the wild goats, the behemoth and leviathan? If you can't understand simple physical things like that, Job, how do you ever expect to understand an issue as complex as the suffering of the righteous?

"Look at the Job's answer and be content, "I uttered that which I understood not: things too wonderful for me which I knew not... wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes." (Job 42:3,6)

And so we come to the conclusion of our little article. We've seen quite a few things about the subject of suffering, but there are many things that we didn't even touch upon, and many others that we cannot, in this life, begin to comprehend. "For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then shall I know even as also I am known" (I Cor. 13:12).

Until that day, it's a good idea to practice being heavenly-minded, and to remember above all--no matter what kind of affliction and contradiction you may face--that our God still loves you, that He's faithful, and that He'll never forsake you.

Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivereth him out of them all. Psalm 34: 19

Copyright (c) 1998 Kim Harrington, Masterbuilder Ministries.