"LEARNING THROUGH SUFFERING."
I. BELIEVING IN JESUS CHRIST DOES NOT GRANT TO US A DIVINE IMMUNITY FROM SUFFERING.
A. Somehow we do not understand suffering and usually look upon it as a curse or possible punishment from God.
1. We would prefer to go through life and never suffer.
2. Suffering is a part of life, and it is through suffering that we often learn valuable lessons for life.
B. We read that when Paul was converted, the Lord said that he would show to him the things that he must suffer for the sake of Christ.
1. Look at the suffering Paul endured for the sake of the gospel.
Of the Jews five times received I forty [stripes] save one.
Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep;
[In] journeyings often, [in] perils of waters, [in] perils of robbers, [in] perils by [mine own] countrymen, [in] perils by the heathen, [in] perils in the city, [in] perils in the wilderness, [in] perils in the sea, [in] perils among false brethren;
In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.
2. Paul later wrote to Timothy,
Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.
a. The Bible is full of examples of the truth of this verse.
b. Jesus said not to be surprised if the world hates us, just know that it hated Him before it hated us.
c. The early church was persecuted unmercifully. All of the apostles suffered death by martyrdom, except John.
d. Stephen, before the Jewish council in Jerusalem just before they stoned him to death, challenged them,
Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers:
e. In chapter 11 speaking of the great men of faith in the Old Testament times the writer said,
And others had trial of [cruel] mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment:
They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented;
(Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and [in] mountains, and [in] dens and caves of the earth.
3. Also in chapter 11 we will read of Moses,
By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter;
Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season;
a. So with Moses it was a choice.
b. A choice made when he considered the alternative.
II. GOD OFTEN USES SUFFERING AS A DIVINE INSTRUMENT TO TEACH US.
A. We learn to trust in Him, and His grace.
1. When Paul was praying to be delivered from his thorn in the flesh the Lord answered, "My grace is sufficient for you, My strength will be made perfect in your weakness."
2. Paul came to the place where he gloried in his infirmity that he might experience the power of God in His life.
B. We learn patience.
1. I think how much Joseph must have suffered emotionally when his older brothers ignoring his tears and pleading sold him to slave traders headed toward Egypt.
2. Just a little boy so cruelly treated by his older brothers, but that was not the end of his problems.
a. When in Egypt his master's wife falsely accused him of rape when he refused her advances, and he was put in prison.
b. He had about as much hope as you would have if you were thrown in a Mexican prison, and no one here knew it.
c. He suffered there for years before the plan of God was revealed.
d. In this book of Hebrews we read of the Old Testament heros, "Who through faith and patience inherited the promises."
e. We are also told, "But you have need of patience, that after you have done the will of God you might obtain the promise."
C. We learn obedience.
1. Our text tells us that Jesus our High Priest learned obedience through the things He suffered.
a. It was in obedience to the will of the Father that He suffered for our sins on the cross.
b. He submitted to the will of the Father, "Not My will, but Thy will be done."
c. Paul tells us that He was obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
2. We often learn obedience through suffering, but ours is usually a little different.
a. Our disobedience often leads to great suffering.
b. I have no doubt but that President Clinton is going through a great deal of suffering today because of his disobedience.
c. Thus we learn obedience when we suffer the consequences of disobedience.
d. Doing the will of God often entails suffering. We suffer, as do many of the parents in the congregation here at Calvary, because of the obedience of our children to serve the Lord abroad. We miss our grand kids.
D. We learn hope.
1. The suffering in this life leads us to hope for the kingdom of God.
2. If everything were perfect here, we would not have a longing for heaven.
3. But we know that the present suffering is not worthy to be compared to the glory that shall be revealed.
4. For our light affliction which is for a moment, worketh an exceeding eternal weight of glory.
III. GOD OFTEN USES SUFFERING TO DEVELOP CHARACTER.
For it became him, for whom [are] all things, and by whom [are] all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.
A. The word perfect is complete or fully matured.
1. They say that in life we must go through certain developmental experiences in order to mature, and if we do not go through these stages we become stalled in our full development.
a. One of these is marriage. Think of all the things you learned through marriage, think of how it has matured you.
b. Another developmental milestone is having children. I could have written a book on raising children until I had children.
2. I am of the opinion that suffering develops a depth of character that cannot be achieved apart from suffering.
a. People who have never suffered are often quite shallow.
b. There is a depth of character that comes from suffering. IV. WHAT THEN SHOULD BE OUR ATTITUDE TOWARD SUFFERING?
A. Not to fear. Writing to the church in Smyrna Jesus said, "Fear none of those things that you will suffer."
1. We are not to fear suffering, we are to realize that God has an eternal purpose for our suffering. He would not allow us to suffer needlessly. The suffering of His Son was not needless.
B. Complete commitment. Peter wrote,
Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls [to him] in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator.
1. First he recognizes that suffering can be the will of God.
2. Our attitude is to commit our souls to Him, as unto a faithful Creator.
3. This is the example that Jesus gave to us, when He prayed, "Not what I will, but Thy will be done."
4. I have personally found that peace in difficult situations only comes when you have fully committed it to the Lord. All the pressure is off when you say, "Not my will, but Thy will be done."
C. Keep the eternal perspective. As with Moses who choose to suffer affliction with the people of God, rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season. Realize that the pleasures of sin are not lasting, but only lead to eternal suffering.
1. A little suffering now can bring eternal joy.
2. A little sinful pleasure now can bring eternal suffering.
D. I have observed that suffering makes some people bitter, and others better.
1. The difference between bitter and better is the I. If I is inserted the result is bitter. If you can keep the I out of it, suffering will make you a better person.
2. Just know that the present suffering is not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed, and if we are called to suffer with Him, we shall also reign with Him.