Doctrine of Suffering
I. Pre-salvation warning to unbelievers that as a believer there is suffering for the believer. Matt. 10:37-38; 16:34; Mk. 8:34; Lu. 9:23;14:26-34.
Jesus warned many before they became believers that there would be a cost in one’s life. This involved suffering through loss.
A. There must be a change in family loyalties.
Luke 14:26 “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life (self-psyche), he cannot be My disciple.
Family loyalties cannot supersede one’s discipleship to Christ. Following Christ places him above everyone else, even one’s own self.
B. There must be a willingness to suffer as Christ did if we are to be disciples of Christ.
Luke 14:27 “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.
Carrying the cross is figurative for the willingness to suffer as Christ did.
C. There must be a willingness to give up everything to be a follower of Christ.
Luke 14:33 In the same way, any of you who does not renounce everything he has cannot be my disciple.
The believer does not let anything come between him and Christ.
D. The Apostle Paul’s perspective.
Phil. 3:8 More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, NAS95
Everything we lose for Christ, is but rubbish (skubalon), refuse-dung, compared to the surpassing value of the great gain in knowing Christ Jesus as our Lord.
II. Reasons for Suffering
A. Suffering for spiritual growth
1. Suffering is a test of our faith to produce endurance and bring us to maturity.
Ja. 1:2 Consider it all joy my brothers, when you encounter various trials, (3) knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. (4) And let endurance have its perfect effect, so that you will be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
2. Suffering or trials test the quality of our faith, which when proved genuine brings praise, glory and honor to Jesus Christ.
1Pet. 1:6 In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, (7) so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; NAS95
3. Suffering is an indicator of the believers worthiness of the kingdom of God.
2 Thess. 2:4 Therefore, we ourselves speak proudly of you among the churches of God for your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and afflictions you are enduring— (5) evidence of a righteous judgment of God so that you be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering.
B. Suffering as a testimony to the angels
1. The book of Job gives us one of the main reasons that believers may suffer without knowing the reason. Job is the primary example in all of Scripture.
2. Synopsis of Job
Job was a man who feared God, pure and upright and turned away from evil. He was wealthy with numerous livestock, servants and had a large family. Satan in his status now as a fallen angel, was told by God to look at Job and how he was blessed and lived blameless before God. But then Satan challenged God saying that he was that way because God has been protecting him from harm or loss. Satan told God that if God took away these blessings that he would turn against God. God basically said that Satan could test him, which he did. Then Satan was allowed to have Job’s children killed, loss of his property, servants and even his health. This onslaught of loss and suffering became a testimony before Satan and the angels of the faithfulness that a human being can have towards God.
This undeserved suffering by Job as a testimony to the angels is one of reasons believers suffer undeservedly but with a clear but hidden purpose in the plan of God.
3. Eliphaz friend and critic
One of Job’s critics and friends was Eliphaz. Listen to his words;
Job 5:17 “Blessed is the one whom God corrects;
so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty.
Though Eliphaz spoke truth and tried to tell this to Job, to Job it must have hurt having lost so many family members and in such ill health but the purpose of Job’s misery was hidden to him.
C. Suffering for Discipline
1. God disciplined Israel for disobedience and training.
As the children of Israel were about to enter the promised land after forty years in the desert they were reminded not to forget the Lord.
Deut. 8:1 ¶ Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land the LORD promised on oath to your ancestors.
Deut. 8:2 Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.
Deut. 8:3 He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.
Deut. 8:4 Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years.
Deut. 8:5 Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the LORD your God disciplines you.
2. Discipline was included in the special Father-son relationship between God and the King of Israel.
Speaking of the king of Israel, the Lord says:
2Sam. 7:14 I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with a rod wielded by men, with floggings inflicted by human hands.
3. Wisdom from Proverbs and then quoted in Hebrews.
Prov. 3:11 My son, do not despise the LORD’S discipline,
and do not resent his rebuke,
Prov. 3:12 because the LORD disciplines those he loves,
as a father the son he delights in. NIV2011
Heb. 12:6 because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”
4. The general principle.
Rev. 3:19 ¶ Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent.
III. Rewards of Suffering
A. Suffering results in the believer’s being glorified with Christ.
Rom. 8:17 and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him. [share in His glory].
Rom. 8:18 ¶ For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. NAS95
B. There is reward in heaven for those who are persecuted and suffer for Christ.
Matt. 5:11 ¶ “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.
Matt. 5:12 “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. NAS95
IV. Results of Suffering
A. Rejoicing comes to those who understand that they are suffering for Christ.
Acts 5:41 ¶ The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.
B. Suffering may result in benefits to others.
In this case, the more suffering a Christian leader receives, the more comfort he is able to pass on to others.
2Cor. 1:5 For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ
2Cor. 1:6 But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer;
2Cor. 1:7 and our hope for you is firmly grounded, knowing that as you are sharers of our sufferings, so also you are sharers of our comfort.
When a Christian leader suffers that you know, and receives God’s divine comfort through the Spirit and he tells us about that, that is not only encouraging to know that God graciously provides that but that you too will get that same abundance of comfort in suffering.
V. Principles of Suffering
A. Suffering is a gift of grace (Phil. 1:29).
Phil. 1:29 For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him,
B. Suffering comes with being a Christian.
2Tim. 2:3 Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.
C. When suffering, we should pray
Ja. 5:13 Is anyone among you suffering? He must pray. Is anyone happy? He should sing praises.
D. Suffering is evidence that we are serving the Lord faithfully (2 Thess. 1:4-5).
(4) Therefore, we ourselves speak proudly of you among the churches of God for your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and afflictions you are enduring— (5) evidence of a righteous judgment of God so that you be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering.
Suffering is not only part of the Christian life but it is essential for the Christian’s life. Without suffering we do not grow spiritually, imitate our Lord or prove the genuineness of our faith. Suffering strengthens us for greater trials and sufferings. Suffering provides a testimony and incentive to others.