February 2, 2006 The “why” of suffering and tribulation in this world when God is omnipotent, sovereign, and omniscient has been addressed by many people. God created the universe and declared it “good”. But sin entered the world and with that entrance began the decay of everything contained therein. Adam and Eve were created to live forever but their sin started their physical death. They lived a long time but they did die. The sicknesses that occur in the world are also produced by sin as all of the physiological functions in bodies began to fall away from perfection. All the forms of life began to de-evolve from perfection. The immune systems began to function improperly and cells began a death process that could not be reversed. God allowed all of these events after the fall to occur.
Since He is omnipotent, sovereign, and omniscient, He could have not allowed this degeneration to occur. However He gave Adam free will to choose either obeying Him or disobeying Him, and Adam chose to disobey Him so the consequences occurred. What we have seen and continue to observe in the time since the fall is then the working out of these consequences in the entire world. Since the fall, death is certain for all, but God has promised freedom from death for His children.
Psalm 102:20 “To hear the groaning of the prisoner; To set free those who were doomed to death;” Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 7:24 “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?
Romans 7:25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin. Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Romans 8:2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.” Our focus now is life after death when we will live in His presence much as Adam did in the Garden. One day God will destroy the present heavens and earth and create a new heaven and earth where again people will live in the presence of God with no suffering and no death. This new state of existence will be forever just as it was originally created and man will no longer choose to enter again into sin for he will be a new creature. This new creature will be in the image of Jesus and we will praise Him forever.
So the sovereign, omnipotent, omniscient God who originally created the heavens out of nothing has allowed sin to enter in this first creation so that the next creation will be perfect forever. The perfect could only occur if the imperfect were allowed to have its way.
But while we are still in this imperfect state let’s talk a bit about the sufferings and tribulations in which we will participate. There are essentially four causes of suffering in the world. Our reaction to our suffering depends upon the cause.
1.) We suffer when we break the law of the land in which we live. In this case, we just have to pay the penalty, repent of our actions against the country, choose to never do it again, and make any repentance required because we are guilty. We often must pay a societal payment for our transgressions of the laws of the society.
Col 3:25 “For he who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong which he has done, and that without partiality.” Romans 2:9 “There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek,” As a child of God, we certainly should be careful to not break such laws.
1Peter 4:15 By no means let any of you suffer as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; But when we do suffer because of this reason, we must instantly go to God in prayer after we have judged ourselves properly and take God’s forgiveness and our new cleansing.
1John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 2.) We may also suffer because we are being disciplined in our walk.
Heb 12:6 “For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, And He scourges every son whom He receives. "
Heb 12:7 It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline?
Heb 12:8 But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.
Heb 12:9 Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live?
Heb 12:10 For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness.
Heb 12:11 All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.
Heb 12:12 Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble,
Heb 12:13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.” 3.) We may also suffer for the cause of Christ.
1Peter 4:12 “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you;
1Peter 4:13 but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing; so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exultation.
1Peter 4:14 If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.
1Peter 4:15 By no means let any of you suffer as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler;
1Peter 4:16 but if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not feel ashamed, but in that name let him glorify God.
1Peter 4:17 For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?
1Peter 4:18 And if it is with difficulty that the righteous is saved, what will become of the godless man and the sinner?
1Peter 4:19 Therefore, let those also who suffer according to the will of God entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.” Jesus promised us suffering because the world hated Him.
John 15:18 “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you.
John 15:19 "If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.
John 15:20 "Remember the word that I said to you, 'A slave is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also.
John 15:21 "But all these things they will do to you for My name's sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me.” Luke 6:22 “Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and cast insults at you, and spurn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man.
Luke 6:23 "Be glad in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for in the same way their fathers used to treat the prophets.” Matt 24:9 “Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations on account of My name.” John 16:33 “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” Rev 1:9 “I, John, your brother and fellow partaker in the tribulation and kingdom and perseverance which are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos, because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.” Be sure to read the eleventh chapter of Hebrews to read “The Hall of Fame” where we learn of many Christians who have suffered for the cause of Christ.
4.) We suffer because of the result of sin that entered into the world.
Suffering occurs because of illness that occurs because of sin.
As a result of the fall, our bodies are not designed to live forever. Adam lived for a long time but he did indeed die. We all have problems with illness and accidents that damage our bodies beyond complete repair. Many wonderful Christians have suffered much as a result of illness and accidents. I have spinal stenosis, degenerative disc disease, and spinal arthritis over my entire spine (http://science.kennesaw.edu/~lcombs/Surgery.htm). As a result of this spine problem I have to deal with chronic pain and the effects of pain medication. A Christian friend of mine also has a similar spinal problem. In our Sunday school class we have a member with Lupus and another with diabetes. Many wonderful Christians in my acquaintance suffer from the effects of the fall that produces such problems. I am sure that many of you also know such people. God uses the witness of Christians who endure such suffering without healing for His glory.
Suffering can occur because of actions of sinners.
Matt 15:19 “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders.” The above Scripture pertains to evil actions and those actions certainly produce much suffering in the world. So much suffering is caused by the actions of such sinners. We read about many horrible murders and how adultery leads to both mental and emotional suffering. Much of the content of our newspapers and TV shows are focused on the outworking of such evil.
While we live we may never know all the reasons why so many children of God suffer, but we can always know that such is for the glory of God. We know that God is sovereign and that He is selective in what He allows into the lives of His children. We know that there is a result of suffering in the lives of His children that will bring positive results both in the lives of those enduring the suffering and in the lives of His children touched by such suffering.
Regardless of the reasons for our sufferings, we must maintain the joy and peace promised by our Lord even in tough times.
Romans 5:3 “And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance;” Rome 12:12 “rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer,” 1Thess 1:6 “You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit,” Rev 2:10 “Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.” Acts 14:22 “strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying, "Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” Romans 5:3 “And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance;” Eph 3:13 “Therefore I ask you not to lose heart at my tribulations on your behalf, for they are your glory.” Heb 10:33 “partly, by being made a public spectacle through reproaches and tribulations, and partly by becoming sharers with those who were so treated.” Regardless of the suffering that we have to endure here, none of it can compare to the suffering endured by the Apostle Paul.
2Cor 11:22 “Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I.
2Cor 11:23 Are they servants of Christ? (I speak as if insane) I more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death.
2Cor 11:24 Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes.
2Cor 11:25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep.
2Cor 11:26 I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren;
2Cor 11:27 I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.
2Cor 11:28 Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure upon me of concern for all the churches.” Despite all of this suffering and much more, Paul could say the following glorious words:
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.” We must continually meditate on the glory that God has promised us and give Him the glory that we can give Him now.