WHY DOES A CHRISTIAN SUFFER?
Anita Clark – Pastor, Carbondale, Kansas
Trials are God’s tools to shape and mold us. Trials are like when a man prunes a tree, so it bares fruit. In this message we will look at what effect trials have upon the believer’s life. How do the hard times in our lives benefit us for His eternal glory?
I. TRIALS PRODUCE GROWTH - Ephesians 4:14-15 says, “That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine...But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into Him in all things, which is the Head, even Christ.” I Peter 2:2 speaks of “newborn babes.” II Peter 3:18, admonishes us to “...grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” Growth takes place as we are tried by trials and learn to prove that God’s Word is true and is our victory day by day. We begin to understand that, “All things work together for our good” (Romans 8:28).
For a tree to grow properly, it must be watered and pruned. The water speaks of the Word of God and the “pruning” speaks of the trials of life God permits to work in our lives. Paul says, “Now unto Him that is able to stablish you according to my gospel” (Romans 16:25). The word, “stablish” in the Greek means ‘to turn resolutely in a certain direction, to set, strengthen.’ This speaks of growth in the believer’s life. Paul says in I Corinthians 3:1, “I brethren could not speak unto you as unto Spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ.” As we go through the trials, we gain insight into what God wants in our lives, and we learn to lean on the Lord, and we grow up into Him in all things.
II. TRIALS BRING CHANGE - Change from being a spiritual infant - to maturity. II Corinthians 3:18 says, “But we all with open face beholding in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” The word “change” in the Greek means, ‘transform, transfigure, to fashion like, or to conform to a pattern.’ Romans 12:2 says, “And be not conformed to this world; but be ye transformed...”. The word “conformed” means the same as the word “change.” This in the Greek is the word, ‘metamorphose.’ The ‘pattern’ is Christ and the Word of God. As we yield to God and walk with Him, we are conformed to His image or likeness. We find out what that is (His likeness) by studying the Word of God. The Word “Transform” speaks of ‘to change in composition.’ As the butterfly in the cocoon -there’s a lot of work going on in the restricted area of the cocoon, but this is the way a worm becomes a beautiful butterfly. This depicts what the trials of life produce in us.
III. TRIALS GIVE US A DIFFERENT PROSPECTIVE - We learn through the trials that this life is just a time of preparation for the time the Lord will come and we will fly away. A poem by C.T. Studd says, ‘Only one life, it will soon be passed, only what’s done for Christ will last.’ Suffering makes us to understand that this life is temporary. Ecclesiastes 3:1-9 tells us “A time to be born and a time to die.” Trials cause us to look at life in a different way. Since life is fragile and only for a moment, and trials are our lot (we all have them), we learn to yield to Him regardless of how we are tested. We see that this life is just a preparation for our place we will have in heaven for eternity. II Timothy 2:12 says, “If we suffer with Him, we shall reign with Him.” We learn to take all things from the Lord, and realize that the victory over the trials is “...working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight in glory. While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things that are not seen are eternal” (II Corinthians 4:17-18).
IV. TRIALS TEACH US SO MANY THINGS - Romans 5:3, “...we glory in tribulations ...knowing that tribulation worketh patience.” God is a very loving, patient Being. He loves this characteristic of patience in His people. He tries our faith and teaches us endurance through the trials. Job 23:8,&10, shows Job’s attitude toward the severe trials he was enduring. He says, “Behold, I go forward, but He is not there; and backward but I cannot perceive Him. But He knoweth the way that I take; and when He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold.”
II Corinthians 4:17 says, “For this light affliction which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” The Amplified Version says these trials ‘produce for us, ...beyond all measure [surpassing all comparisons, transcendent splendor and endless blessedness.’
V. THE TRIALS TEACH US DEPENDENCE UPON GOD - Jesus was so dependence upon His Father, He said in John 5:30, “I can of my own self do nothing.” In John 15:5, Jesus says, “I am the vine, ye are the branches; He that abideth in me, and I in Him, the same bringeth forth much fruit, for without me ye can do nothing.” Trials work this in our lives. We come to the end of ourselves, and finally turn it all over to the Lord. Philippians 2:13 states, “For it is God which worketh in you, both to will and to do of His good pleasure.” We learn to go in the strength of the Lord. Phil. 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheth me.”
Apostle Paul says in II Timothy 4:7-8 “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness which the Lord the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day, and not for me only but unto all those also that love His appearing.” Paul suffered so much as recorded in II Corinthians 11:21-33. None of us have gone through as many varied trials as are recorded in this account of Apostle Paul’s. He said in Colossians 1:24, “Who 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.” Paul did not complain about his sufferings, but rejoiced that God counted him worthy to suffer for Christ’s sake. The early Church believers suffered so much for Christ, and many in foreign countries are suffering extremely right at this present time. Our thoughts go to this fact so many times, when we think we are going through so much.
The Lord tells the Smyrna Overcoming believers (sufferers to death) in Revelation 2:10 “Fear none of these things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and you shall have tribulation ten days; be thou faithful unto death and I shall give you a crown of life.”