26 Question 4

We need to understand, first of all, that hardships are not an indication of punishment from the Lord.  Some of the great men of faith in the scriptures went through some very hard times.  Listen to the words of the Apostle Paul as he describes some of the things he suffered in 2 Corinthians 11:24-27, “Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.”  In spite of all this, Paul would later say in 1 Timothy 1:12, “And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry.”  Even though Paul suffered greatly, he was still thankful that the Lord enabled him to minister the Word to many people.

There are several reasons why the Lord may call upon us to suffer.  2 Corinthians 1:3-4 tells us, “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.”  Sometimes the Lord may cause us to suffer so that we can use our experiences to help others that go through similar things.  As the Lord comforts us in our sufferings, we can help others when they suffer by telling them of how the Lord ministered to us and brought us through the suffering.  When we are able to identify with others, the opportunity to minister God’s Word is so much better.

Sometimes the Lord may call upon us to suffer so that we may learn important lessons.  Again, let’s look at the life of Paul as an example of learning through suffering.  2 Corinthians 12:7 says, “And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.”  Paul was used greatly of the Lord.  He was given wonderful revelations to share with us through his writings.  Realizing man’s tendency to be boastful, the Lord gave Paul a thorn in the flesh so that he would not be exalted.  The sufferings taught Paul to be humble although he was used mightily of the Lord.  The Lord may see fit to bring hardships upon us to teach us lessons that we need to learn.  Of course, one valuable lesson we all need to learn is to depend on the Lord for all our needs.  I have often asked the Lord to meet my needs in a particular way, but at the same time, I would come up with a backup plan in case the Lord didn’t do what I thought He should do.  The Lord has brought me into situations where all I could do was depend on Him, so that I might learn that important lesson.  It’s one thing to read Philippians 4:19 which says, “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”  It’s another thing to realize the truth of that verse and truly trust in the Lord to supply our needs.

We are assured in the scriptures that if we indeed faithfully serve the Lord, we will suffer.  As Paul told young Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:12, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.”  The world has no appreciation for the Lord and when we truly live to honor Him, we will suffer for it.  What an honor it is to suffer for the Lord’s sake.  We read in 1 John 3:13, “Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you.”  The Lord, Himself, tells us in John 15:18, “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.”

So, as a believer on the Lord Jesus Christ, you will be called on to suffer.  The Lord may bring some trial on you so that you can learn from it.  The world will cause you to suffer when you seek to live for the Lord.  However, we have a wonderful promise from the Lord in 1 Corinthians 10:13, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”  The Lord knows what we can handle and He has promised that He will not put more on us than we are able to bear.

Realizing these things, may we learn to be like Job, who said in Job 13:15, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.”