In this life we have many difficulties. Some of those difficulties are experienced simply because we live in this corrupt and fallen world, others are specifically due to the fact that we are Christians. Paul and Barnabas taught the disciples of the LORD that We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God (Acts 14:22). Notwithstanding this, there is the promise of the Word that The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles (Ps. 34:17). How are we to reconcile these scriptures? One of them promises us hardships the other promises us that we will be delivered from all our troubles.
First of all, let us set ourselves in an eternal perspective. In Revelation 21:4 we read that God will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. Here is the fulfilment of all things. Here is our entrance into the kingdom of God. And in that situation we are truly forever delivered from all our troubles. One day, all our suffering will be over: praise the LORD.
But we can also know that the LORD is delivering us from troubles in this world. In fact, if we only knew what was going on behind the scenes, in this life, we would soon know that every day we are delivered from a multitude of troubles. There are also anticipated troubles that we face where the Lord steps in to deliver us from so that we never have to pass through them. For example, we read of the three ladies on resurrection morning that very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?” But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away (Mark 16:2-4). They did not have to pass through the anticipated difficulty because the Lord had intervened!
However, the general experience of life is that the Lord takes us through difficulties and then delivers us out of them when His purpose has been fulfilled. Sometimes the deliverance is in this life, sometimes the deliverance has to wait until the eternal heavenly dawn. It is so important in saying this to discern that the Lord is not primarily interested in our comfort, but in our godliness. We read something of this in Malachi 3:3 when the LORD says He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the Lord will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness. Furthermore, Job says But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold (Job 23:10). The skilled metal refiner knows exactly what processes to put the molten metal through so that it will come out the best. And so it is with the Lord; the skilled refiner of our souls. He knows how to test us so that our characters are refined to be more like His Son. We gather something of this process when we read in Romans 5:3-5 we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame us, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. When we are going through sufferings we need to know that the Lord has not got a “downer” on us. Rather the reverse is true. He loves us so much (and that is proven by Him giving us the Holy Spirit) that he actually takes us through suffering in order to do us good.
This idea is contrary to how many Christians understand their faith. What people often think is that if we are obedient Christians, knowing God’s favour on our lives, then we will have no troubles. Alternatively, if we are disobedient then we will have difficulties in our lives. This can be true, but it can also be very wrong. Some of the most godly of saints have gone through the most suffering. Think of what Job went through, for example. Paul is interacting with some of this thinking when he says Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us (Rom. 8:35-37). God has not stopped loving us when the difficulties of life come. Rather, he is showing in the difficulties of life how we can be victorious. This is impossible for the worldly mind to conceive of, because the natural mind either collapses under suffering or just “grins and bears it”. The spiritual mind is different. We say this because a Christian can know that their Father is taking them through difficulties in order to further His purposes to make His people as holy as possible. So we don’t just go through suffering and simply conquer it. But we are transformed through suffering and that makes us to be more than conquerors.
In saying this, though, some of us will immediately think: “I am very weak and I do not know how much of this suffering stuff I can take.” To this, Paul would have us know that God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it (1 Cor. 10:13b). We must also know that all suffering is just for a time; it is not forever. Jesus, our LORD, encourages the suffering Smyrnan church to not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victors crown. (Rev 2:10). We must notice that a time period of ten days is stated. Whether that is to be taken literally or not is immaterial in this context. The most important thing to know is that such days of persecution are for a limited time; they do come to an end.
We have to acknowledge finally that God is sovereign in all these issues of suffering for His people. It is interesting in Hebrews 11 that faith is a universal principle in that chapter. And what God does with those who are of faith is radically different. Some escaped the edge of the sword (34b) while others were sawn in two (v37b).
Life then is not about being just delivered immediately from every problem and difficulty. Rather, because God has a great plan to work good for His people He is in the business of delivering us through our difficulties, and then in due time out of them. He knows best. So let us, by faith, rest in His good purposes and plans.
(Taken from Feltham Evangelical Church newsletter of March 2013)