Lesson 17

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CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

POWER PRINCIPLE ELEVEN : THE POWER OF SUFFERING

OBJECTIVES:

Upon completion of this chapter you will be able to:

C Write the Key Verse from memory.

C Identify the source of suffering.

C List five ways by which suffering comes.

C Summarize the purposes of suffering in the life of a believer.

KEY VERSE:

For though He was crucified through weakness, yet He liveth by the power of God. For we also are weak in Him, but we shall live with Him by the power of God toward you. (II Corinthians 13:4)

INTRODUCTION

The last chapter began discussion of the two power principles of Philippians 3:10:

That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His suffering, being made conformable unto His death. (Philippians 3:10)

Chapter Sixteen concerned the power of the resurrection in the life of the believer. This chapter focuses on the power of fellowship in suffering. Paul said of Jesus:

For though He was crucified through weakness, yet He liveth by the power of God. For we also are weak in Him, but we shall live with Him by the power of God toward you. (II Corinthians 13:4)

We view suffering through human reasoning. By every standard of human reasoning the cross of Jesus was a waste of a great and noble life. But in the reasoning of God it was the greatest demonstration of His power. It resulted in the salvation of man.

Paul understood this important principle of spiritual power. The power of God is disguised in weakness. This is why he could say:

. . . Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

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. (II Corinthians 12:9-10)

We never see power in weakness or failure. This is a strange attitude for people whose center of faith is the cross. Jesus experienced the resurrection after He had suffered . Resurrection power comes through the fellowship of His suffering.

True spiritual power is demonstrated not in the absence of suffering, problems, and crises, but in the midst of them. Power turns what the world calls an ordeal into an opportunity for the demonstration of the power of God.

THE SOURCE OF SUFFERING

God did not create suffering. It originally entered the world through man’s sin which

was instigated by Satan (Genesis 3). When man yielded to Satan’s temptation and sinned, suffering entered the world . Sin, which resulted in all suffering, can be traced to its
originator, Satan. Although there are different reasons why suffering enters your life, all suffering can be traced back to this original source.

Happily, in the life of a believer, God can take suffering, which Satan intends for evil, and turn it for good to accomplish His purposes. It can actually become an opportunity for the power of God to be demonstrated in your life.

THE REASONS FOR SUFFERING

The Bible has much to say concerning suffering, problems, and afflictions. In

summarizing its teaching , we discover five ways that suffering can enter a believer’s life. All suffering you face in life will come through one of these ways:

OTHERS AROUND YOU:

Suffering and difficult circumstances of life may come through others around you.

Joseph is an example of this type of suffering. Through no fault of his own, Joseph was sold into Egypt by his brothers, was imprisoned falsely by Potiphar’s wife, and was
forgotten by those he helped in prison. But listen to his response. Joseph said:

Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither; for God did send me before you to preserve life. . . so now it was

not you that sent me hither but God. (Genesis 45:5,8)

CIRCUMSTANCES OF LIFE:

The second way suffering comes to you is through the circumstances of life. This is illustrated by the experiences of Naomi recorded in the book of Ruth in the Bible. She was bitter with sorrow because of the death of her husband and sons.

Until Jesus returns and the final enemy of death is conquered, death is part of life. Death entered through the original sin of man and it is a natural circumstance which we all will face, for "it is appointed unto man once to die" (Hebrews 9:27).

When Naomi experienced these difficult circumstances of life, she said, "No longer call me Naomi (which means blessed), but call me Mara." The name Mara means "bitter."

YOUR MINISTRY:

The third reason for suffering is because of your ministry for the Lord.

The New Testament speaks of suffering for His name’s sake (Acts 9:16), in behalf of

Christ, (Philippians 1: 2 9) for the Kingdom of God (II Thessalonians 1:5), for the Gospel
(II Timothy 1:11-12), for well-doing (I Peter 2:19 -20; 3:17), for righteousness sake (I
Peter 3:14), as a Christian (I Peter 4:15-16), and according to the will of God ( I Peter
4:1 9).

The Apostle Paul is an example of suffering resulting from ministry. Some people view suffering as a sign of failure or lack of faith. If this is true , then the Apostle Paul had no faith and was the greatest failure in the history of the church.

Paul said that while in Asia he was so utterly crushed that he despaired of life itself (II Corinthians 1:8). He presents a different image than that of the cheerful evangelist who promises believers nothing but peace and prosperity.

When Paul was first called of God to ministry he was told of great things he would suffer for the sake of the Lord (Acts 9:16). Paul’s response to suffering was to endure "the loss of all things to win some for Christ." He wrote to believers "to you it is given not only to believe, but to suffer for Him" (Philippians 1:29).

Paul was not alone in suffering for the ministry. The whole church suffered in New

Testament times (Acts 8). Hebrews chapter 11 records the stories some of the cruel

persecutions they endured. Many of these men and women of faith were delivered by the power of God. Prison doors were opened and they walked out. They were sentenced to death in fiery furnaces but emerged unaffected by the flames.

But some of these believers, who are also called men and women of faith, did not receive such deliverance. They were imprisoned, afflicted, tormented, and even martyred
because of their testimony of the Gospel (Hebrews 11:3 6-40 ) . We focus on living faith but God also reveals His power in dying faith. This is a faith that stands true in the bad times, not just in good times when mighty deliverance is manifested .

DIRECT SATANIC ACTIVITY:

Suffering can also enter your life as a result of direct Satanic activity.

This is evident in the story of Job. This book wrestles with the question, "Why do the

righteous suffer?" God’s testimony of Job was that he was a righteous man (Job l-2). Job did not suffer because he had sinned, as his friends claimed. They believed if Job
repented, his circumstances would change.

These friends tried to make a universal application based on individual experience . It would be similar to saying that because God delivered Peter from prison He will do the same for you. This is not true. Many have been martyred in prison despite their great faith and sinless lives.

We must be careful when we view the suffering of others that we do not accuse them of sin , faithlessness , or unbelief . The Bible does teach that a sinful man reaps a bitter harvest because of sowing in fleshly corruption (Galatians 6:8). But sowing and reaping cannot be used to explain the suffering of the innocent.

Job did not suffer because of anything he had done. Job was a righteous man. This was God’s testimony of Job , Job’s testimony of himself, and his reputation before man.
Behind the scenes in the spiritual world was the true cause of Job’s suffering. There was a spiritual battle going on over the heart, mind, and allegiance of Job .

There is a warfare going on in the spiritual world over you. That warfare is manifested in the difficult circumstances you experience in the natural world .

An important truth evident in Job’s suffering is that nothing can enter the life of a

believer without the knowledge of God. God does not cause your suffering. It is inflicted by Satan, but its limits are set by God. God’s power is greater than that of Satan, and you will experience victory if you continue to trust Him.

YOUR OWN SIN:

The fifth way suffering enters your life is because of your own sin.

Jonah is an example of such suffering. In disobedience to God, Jonah headed the

opposite direction from Ninevah where he had been commanded to go and preach

repentance. He experienced a terrible storm at sea and ended up in the belly of a great fish because of his own sin (Jonah l-2).

Trouble should always be treated as a call to consider your ways and examine your heart before God. You may be suffering because of your own sin. The Bible reveals that God chastises those who live in disobedience to His Word. Chastise means to discipline,
reprove, and correct:

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. (Hebrews 12:11)

God uses suffering to correct you and bring you back to His will for your life:

Before I was afflicted I went astray; but now have I kept thy Word…

It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes…

I know, O Lord, that thy judgments are right, and that THOU in faithfulness hast afflicted me. (Psalms 119:67,71,75)

THE PROPER ATTITUDE TOWARDS SUFFERING

Trouble is not necessarily a sign of being sinful. The Bible declares, "many are the afflictions of the righteous" (Psalms 34 :19 ).

When you suffer innocently and not because of your own sin, you should maintain a

proper attitude towards suffering . The real test of your spirituality is how you respond in the day of distress:

If thou faint in the day of adversity, thy strength is small. (Proverbs 24:10)

The Bible describes the attitude you should have when you suffer as a believer within the will of God.

You should not be ashamed:

If any man suffer as a Christian let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God on this behalf. . . (I Peter 4:16)

You should commit your soul (your suffering) to God, knowing He works all things for your good:

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. (I Peter 4:19)

You should be happy when you suffer according to the will of God:

And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. (Acts 5:41)

Paul says you should be:

Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer. (Romans 12:12)

. . . being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it. . . (I Corinthians 4:12)

. . . in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much

patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses. . . (II Corinthians 6:4)

Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his

prisoner; but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God. (II Timothy 1:8)

That no man should be moved by these afflictions: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto. (I Thessalonians 3:3)

But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry. (II Timothy 4:5)

You should not think it strange when you experience suffering:

Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing partaker of Christ’s sufferings; that when His glory shall be revealed ye may be glad with exceeding joy. (I Peter 4:12-13)

Paul summarizes the proper attitude toward suffering when he explains . . .

. . . though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by
day.

For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of 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 which are not seen are eternal. . . (II Corinthians 4:16-18)

Paul views suffering as a servant. He said it works for us.

POWER THROUGH SUFFERING

Remember, God does not cause suffering. Suffering is in the world because of sin. But God uses suffering as an opportunity to demonstrate His power. He uses it. . .

TO TURN BAD TO GOOD:

God takes that which was intended for bad and turns it to good . He redeems it to accomplish His purposes. Joseph told his brothers who had sold him into slavery:

Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither; for God did send me before you to preserve life. So now it was not you that sent me hither, but God. . . (Genesis 45:5,8)

Satan caused his brothers to bring suffering to Joseph , but God redeemed it for good.

Despite the negative circumstances, God was at work behind the scenes. Satan inspired men to deliver Jesus to death, but God redeemed it for good. His death resulted in
salvation and resurrection life .

God demonstrates His power when He takes your suffering and uses it to accomplish His
purposes. There are no accidents or chance happenings in the life of believers because
God:

. . . worketh all things after the counsel of His own will. (Ephesians 1:11)

TO TURN LOSSES TO WINS:

God turns natural losses to spiritual gains. Paul wrote of his losses in the natural world:

But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.

Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the

knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ.
(Philippians 3:7-8)

TO TURN WEAKNESS TO STRENGTH:

Paul knew that. . .

. . . the weakness of God is stronger than men. (I Corinthians 1:25)

God told Paul. . .

. . . My grace is sufficient for thee; for my strength is made perfect in weakness. (II Corinthians 12:9)

This is why Paul said. . .

. . . Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

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. (II Corinthians 12:9-10)

Your human weakness provides opportunity for the demonstration of the power of God.

TO TEST YOUR FAITH:

Everything in the spiritual world is based on faith. This is why the strength of your faith must be tested:

That the trial of your faith being much more precious than of gold that

perisheth though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ. (I Peter 1:7)

It is a trial of faith when you pray as Jesus did, for God to let the cup of bitterness pass,
and yet it does not pass. Instead, you are forced to drink deeply of its suffering . Faith
will learn that our prayers are not unanswered just because they are not answered the way
we want.

TO EQUIP YOU TO COMFORT OTHERS:

Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort;

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 Corinthians 1:3-4)

When you share God’s comfort with others you. . .

. . . lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees;

And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed. (Hebrews 12:12-13)

TO TEACH YOU NOT TO TRUST IN YOURSELF:

Paul spoke of the purpose of his sufferings in Asia:

. . . In Asia we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life;

But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God which raiseth the dead. (II Corinthians 1:8-9)

You will come to recognize that. . .

. . . we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. (II Corinthians 4:7)

TO DEVELOP POSITIVE SPIRITUAL QUALITIES:

We glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation worketh patience, and patience experience, and experience hope, (resulting in the love of God being shed abroad in our hearts). (Romans 5:3-4)

. . . after ye have suffered awhile, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. (I Peter 5:10)

These qualities conform you to the image of Jesus, which is God’s plan for you (Romans 8:28-29; Hebrews 2 :10,1).

TO MANIFEST THE WORKS OF GOD:

When the disciples saw a man who had been blind from birth, they asked who was

responsible for his condition. Was it the sin of his parents or of the man himself? Jesus answered:

Neither this man sinned nor His parents; but that the works of God should

be made manifest in Him. (John 9:3)
TO PERFECT THE POWER OF GOD:

And He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee; for my strength is made

perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (II Corinthians 12:9)

TO REMOVE THAT WHICH IS UNSTABLE:

Suffering results in all that is unstable being shaken out of your life. You cease to depend
on people , programs , or material things as these all fail in your time of need. God permits
this…

. . . removing of those things that are shaken as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. (Hebrews 12:27)

During the storms of life, everything crumbles that is not built upon God and His Word (Psalm 1 1:89 and Matthew 7:24-27).

TO CHANGE YOUR FOCUS:

When you experience suffering you often focus your attention on cause and effect. You are concerned with what caused the difficult circumstances and the terrible effect it is having in your life. God wants to change your focus from struggling to understand the temporal situation to recognizing the benefits of the eternal:

For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of 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 which are not seen are eternal. (II Corinthians 4:17-18)

Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:

But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when His glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.
(I Peter 4:12-13)

If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him. . . (II Timothy 2:12)

TO CHANGE THE OLD SELF-NATURE:

God said of the nation of Moab:

Moab hath been at ease from his youth, and he hath settled on his lees, and hath not been emptied from vessel to vessel, neither hath he gone into
captivity; therefore his taste remained in him, and his scent is not changed. (Jeremiah 48:11)

Because Moab had not experienced the troublesome pouring out and stirring similar to that necessary to develop good wine, the nation did not change. Moab was at ease and settled in prosperity and because of this did not develop and mature properly spiritually. Therefore there was no change. His "own scent" remained in him .

Suffering rids you of the old self-nature. As you are stirred , troubled, and poured out, your spiritual scent changes from carnal to spiritual.

TO PREPARE YOU FOR MINISTRY:

You have asked to be used by God. You desire to be more like Jesus and prayed to be a chosen vessel for His use. The answer to your prayer may come through suffering:

Behold I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction. (Isaiah 48:10)

It is through affliction that you move beyond the calling as a child of God to become chosen of God. Affliction according to the will of God refines you for His use just as metals are refined in a furnace in the natural world.

TO PREPARE YOU TO REIGN WITH CHRIST:

If we suffer, we shall also reign with him. . . (II Timothy 2:12)

TO GIVE YOU SPIRITUAL BLESSINGS:

Jesus said:

Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness sake; for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.

Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.

Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you. (Matthew 5:10-12)

TO TEACH YOU OBEDIENCE:

Though He were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He

suffered. . . (Hebrews 5:8)

TO TEST THE WORD OF GOD WITHIN YOU:

The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. (Psalms 12:6)

TO HUMBLE YOU:

Who led thee through that great and terrible wilderness, wherein were fiery serpents, and scorpions, and drought, where there was no water;
who brought thee forth water out of the rock of flint;

Who fed thee in the wilderness with manna, which thy fathers knew not, that He might humble thee, and that He might prove thee, to do thee good at thy latter end. . . (Deuteronomy 8:15-16)

TO ENLARGE YOU SPIRITUALLY:

This means you grow spiritually:

Thou has enlarged me when I was under pressure. (Psalms 4:1 Revised Standard Version)

TO HELP YOU COME TO KNOW GOD INTIMATELY:

You come to know God on a more intimate basis through suffering. Job, who suffered much, learned this truth and said. . .

I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes. (Job 42:5-6)

Some of us know God only second handedly. When we are experiencing the blessings of life , God is often a luxury instead of a necessity. But when you have a real need, God becomes a necessity.

Job came to know God more intimately through suffering. Before he suffered, Job knew God through theology. Afterwards, he knew Him by experience. This is why Paul said:

That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death.
(Philippians 3:10)

You can only come to know God in resurrection power through the intimate fellowship of suffering.

Throughout his ordeal, Job questioned God as to the cause of his suffering. It is not wrong to question God. Jesus knew the purpose for which He had come into the world was to die for the sins of all mankind. Yet in His hour of suffering He cried out, "My God , My God, why hast thou forsaken me?"

It is what follows the questioning that is important. The Lord’s next words were, "Into thy hands I commit my spirit." Despite the questions, Job’s response was. . .

Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him. . . (Job 13:15)

For I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth:

And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God. (Job 19:25-26)

After all the questioning is finished, the emphasis must change from "me" to "Thee.”
You must commit your suffering, with all its unanswered questions, into the hands of
God.

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. (Proverbs 3:5)

God may reveal some of the purposes in your suffering, but it is possible you will never fully understand it:

It is the glory of God to conceal a thing. . . (Proverbs 25:2)

The secret things belong unto the Lord our God; but those things which are revealed belong unto us. . . (Deuteronomy 29:29)

There are some secret things that belong only to the Lord. As Job, you may never understand all the purposes of your suffering:

Since the Lord is directing our steps, why try to understand everything that happens along the way? (Proverbs 20:24 The Living Bible)

When God finally talked with Job, He used several examples from nature which Job could not explain. God stressed that if Job could not understand what he saw in the natural world, he certainly could not understand that which he could not see in the
spiritual world .

When Job faces God, it no longer matters that he does not get an answer to his questions about suffering. He is in the direct presence of God, and that experience leaves no room for anything else . He is no longer controlled and tormented by human reasoning . He replaces questions, not with answers, but with faith.

When you come to know God intimately through suffering , you see yourself as you really are. You no longer know God second-handedly. That face-to-face encounter with God does what arguments and discussions cannot do.

When Job stood before God, he had no new answers. He was given no new facts about his suffering . But he replaced questions with faith. Job has been in the direct presence of God, and that experience leaves no room for questions or doubts.

YOU ARE NOT ALONE

When you suffer according to the will of God, you should realize you are not alone. Many other believers are experiencing similar battles:

. . . knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. (I Peter 5:9)

Storms of life are inevitable and uncontrollable , as illustrated by the parable of the two houses in Matthew 7:24-27. Storms will come to those who have built their lives upon God’s Word as well as those who have not. The foundation of a man’s life is what will determine the outcome of the storm .

Suffering is to be expected as part of the will of God:

Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. (II Timothy 3:12)

For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake. (Philippians 1:29)

. . . that ye may be counted worthy of the Kingdom of God, for which ye also

suffer. . . (II Thessalonians 1:5)

For verily, when we were with you, we told you before that we should suffer tribulation; even as it came to pass and ye know.
(I Thessalonians 3:4)

Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. (Matthew 24:9)

. . . they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for my names sake. (Luke 21:12)

Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you. . .
(John 15:20)

Now this does not mean that you make yourself suffer believing it would be pleasing to

God. God is never pleased when people suffer. To purposefully make yourself suffer (an act called asceticism) is a sin .

Many people try to do this to try to appease God’s anger or make themselves appear holy
or religious before men. But God is only appeased by the blood of Jesus Christ. God
does , however, take the tragedy of suffering when it does touch your life and redeem it
for good.

Part of the follow up plan in establishing early churches was to teach believers that they would experience suffering. This is missing in many churches today:

. . . They returned. . . confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter the kingdom of God. (Acts 14:22)

The call of Jesus to followers is one of denial and suffering:

And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. (Matthew 10:38)

Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. (Matthew 16:24)

. . . Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross, and follow me. (Mark 8:34)

. . . come, take up the cross, and follow me. (Mark 10:21)

If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. (Luke 9:23)

And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my

disciple. (Luke 14:27)

Jesus called believers to a life of denial , suffering , and the cross because of the powerful potential of the fellowship of His suffering.

Resurrection power and the power of His suffering are like the positive and negative

forces of electricity used in modern societies. It takes both the positive and negative to create power.