WHY CHRISTIANS SUFFER

As God’s people, we believe that God loves the world and that Jesus died for the world. But in the midst of evil, and suffering, and Godlessness, and disease, and natural tragedies, our lives scream out, “Where is the God of love and power?” This is a burning question every believer seems to grapple with. Why is there so much hatred among people? Why are there wars? Why would Africans kill Africans? Why were there killing fields in Cambodia? Why would there be tsunamis killing hundreds of thousands poor people? How do we deal with these? I guess the key is for us to have Biblical world-view that says to us – this is not the world God intended it to be. The Bible presents this very clearly if you’ll only see it. We are made in the image and likeness of God, male and female in the image and likeness of God (cf. Gen. 1:36-37). We were created for fellowship with God. We are of a higher spiritual order in the sense that no angel is made in the image and likeness of God. Jesus never died for an angel. The Bible says we’re going to judge the angels (cf. 1 Cor. 6:2–3). We are of a higher spiritual order than the angelic world because we were created for fellowship with God (cf. 1 Jn. 1:3). But we chose self instead of God, and Genesis 3 is a turning point in the history of creation. From Genesis 3, it has been a reclamation project for God who refuse to give up on creation that chose to go away from Him. It’s the independence and arrogance of man that has reaped the consequences of natural evil and wickedness in a world like ours. I’m appalled when i listen to television and people say, “Where is a good God?”. We’re so used to this syllogism, “God is all-powerful, God is all good, why is the world in the situation it’s in? BECAUSE OF HUMAN REBELLION! If you don’t believe that, read Genesis 3. You cannot understand the Bible without the picture frame of Genesis 1 through 3. Everything from Genesis 3 to Revelation 20 is God cleaning up the mess of independent “I’ll do it my way” human arrogance and pride. This world is not what God created it to be. We live in the consequences of a fallen world, and there are going to be so many storms, so many diagnoses of cancer, and so many traffic deaths, and so many broken families, and so many on and on and on. there is a statistical problem of evil in our world, and on top of that is human greed and evil at every level, from the biggest corporation to the lowest individual. We face here a mystery we simply cannot understand. We have a God-shaped hole in our life, we anything put everything in that hole, but until we find God, nothing in this world makes sense. Nothing in this world feels right, and nothing in this world can prepare us for what’s going to happen in a lost world.

If there’s any text in the Bible that helps us grapple, as Christians with this kind of situation we’re faced with (and this is not the first time, or the last time, or the biggest time, or the most time). It’s just another account of natural evil (e.g. Covid-19) in a world like ours. Our country is in the storm path, with an average of 8-9 cyclones per year. Our country is also in the so-called ‘ring of fire’, and earthquakes happen every now and then, if your happiness and joy is in your house you’re in big trouble. If your peace is in some kind of personal security, you’re in big trouble. But if your peace is in a God who has nothing to do with what you wear, where you live, or what you possess, you have hope that no one can take away from you. One of the greatest theological chapters in all of the Bible is Romans chapter 8. About the end of verse 17 has always been shocking to me because, we are said to be the children of God, we are said to be adopted by the Spirit of God, and we are said to be loved by God, and then in the end of verse 17 it says, “if we indeed we suffer with Him, in order that we may be glorified with Him”. That is a shocking statement to us. I promise to tell you that the analogy is you can’t be glorified with Him if you don’t suffer with Him. Suffering is not abnormal for God’s people in a fallen world. Suffering is the norm. The real key in Christianity is not, “are we going to suffer”? The real key is “how do we suffer”? How do we respond to a world like ours? that’s the key. And if we put it in capsule form, i think the goal of Christianity is not that we go to heaven at the end of our life. The goal of Christianity is Christlikeness now. And what the world wants to see is people in the midst of crisis that still love and trust Him. You remember Job? – “Thou He slay me, yet will i serve Him”? You see we’re conditioned on circumstances that happen before you. If you’re joy, peace, happiness, and faith is conditioned on circumstances, you’re one ‘super storm’ away from losing it; one traffic accident, one financial setback, one broken relationship’ one medical diagnosis that you’ve got terminal cancer away from losing your trust in God. Friends, all these come to God’s people. I don’t know why it comes? But it comes, and why should we be spared anyway? We live in a fallen world of our own doing, and we suffer the consequences. These things happen to all human beings. And it will come to us, so in the midst of these sufferings, “if we suffer with Him, we will be glorified with Him”.

Now look at verse 18 down through verse 25, where it talks about creation, “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”. Let me remind who wrote this book, this is the Apostle Paul, who wrote all these wonderful passages on faith, and hope, and of courage says in 2 Corinthians 4 starting in verse 7, “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death works in us, but life in you”. Now look at 2 Corinthians 6, beginning in verse 3, “giving no cause for offense in anything, so that the ministry will not be discredited, but in everything commending ourselves as servants of God, in much endurance, in afflictions, in hardships, in distresses, in beatings, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in hunger, in purity, in knowledge, in patience, in kindness, in the Holy Spirit, in genuine love, in the word of truth, in the power of God; by the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and the left, by glory and dishonor, by evil report and good report; regarded as deceivers and yet true; as unknown yet well-known, as dying yet behold, we live; as punished yet not put to death, as sorrowful yet always rejoicing, as poor yet making many rich, as having nothing yet possessing all things”. One more at 2 Corinthians chapter 11 beginning in verse 24 through 28, “24 Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. 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. 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; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches”. This is the man who wrote Romans 8:28, “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose”. That’s the man who wrote that verse, and if you’ll look back in verse 19, it talks about that creation itself is groaning and longing. There are really three things groaning in this text; creation is groaning, Christians are groaning (vs. 23), and thank God, the Spirit is groaning (vs. 26) when we don’t know to pray. Creation is disrupted, the believers are disrupted, and the Holy Spirit prays for us. This really hits me with great impact, and i know from Hebrews chapter 7 and chapter 9 that Jesus’ work on the cross is not finished; that He is at the right hand of the Father interceding for us even today. I’ve got Jesus at the right hand of the Father interceding for me, I have the indwelling Holy Spirit witnessing for me, and interceding for me. I’ve got the whole Triune God interceding for me. Wow! How can we ever feel dejected and disheartened like we’ve been abandoned by God. You’ll never find joy and peace till you realize that He’s with you and for you. Now look at the end of Romans 8, “What can separate us from the love of God…?” and it just goes through a litany of things, “…neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord”. “In all these things, we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (vs. 37) – It’s a perspective, it’s a world-view, it’s a commitment that the words of Scripture are true no matter what our personal condition is. Amen!

Frankly, this problem of evil and suffering haunts me when i see on television helpless innocent children in Africa starving to death; thousands of people being killed by a tsunami in Indonesia; millions of people being killed in wars across the globe. I just couldn’t grapple with the idea that God can say all things work together for good in a world like this. And then just like a curtain was pulled back in my mind – you see the problem with modern Christianity is that we’ve turned Christianity into ‘what’s in it for me?’, ‘what do i get our of it?’, ‘Lord, what do You do for me?’, and the trick is, that is not what Christianity is. The way you define good in Romans 8:28 is 29. The purpose of the good in 28 is not ‘more and more for me’. The good of 28 is that we be conformed to the image of His Son in verse 29. You see, we have just turned Christianity into “God loves me, and He’s going to make me prosperous”. Why, who are you anyway? Why should you be prosperous? Why should you have no problems? Why should you have no flu? You see we often think that when problems come, we must have done something wrong, and God is not just happy with us. May i just clarify that for you? I submit to you that the most powerful witness in our world is the witness of faith from problems. Now when i’v got a big house, i’ve got my insurance, and my bank account, and everything’s good with my family, and i say Jesus loves me the world doesn’t listen. But when my house is burned down, and my kids got cancer, and my wife just left me, and i still say i love Jesus, and i trust Him, my neighbors are going to listen. The problem is, God can’t trust the most powerful witness in the vast majority of His people because they can’t handle it. Maybe the ones who suffer the most are the ones that have the greatest potential for shocking the world into listening to the Gospel. I submit to you that the goal of Christianity is not ‘more and more for me’ until one day i go to sleep, and wake up in heaven. We have turned Christianity into ‘what i get’. And what you get in true Christianity is you die to self and live for Him. What you get is Jesus to live through you. What you get is to be a part of the church of Jesus Christ that has suffered in every age becasue of who she is. Natural phenomenon, natural tragedies, natural evil, evil people, wars, famine, plagues come and go, but the people who know Christ stand as a group and say, “Though He slay me, yet will i serve Him!” God didn’t send this plague. This plague comes in a fallen world. If God’s going to judge us because of our sin, we’d all be dead. If Jesus the Incarnate Son of God was perfected (humanly speaking) by what He suffered (cf. Hebrews 5:8), don’t you know that God’s going to use sufferings to make us be like Him? The trouble with us – we flee from the very thing that God uses to make us more like Christ. We run in fear from the very thing that will accentuate our testimony to the point that a callous secular society will listen. We believe that God is with us and for us though the earth be removed and the mountains fall into the sea because we have experienced His love on a personal level. And no one can take that away from us. And no one can challenge us that He doesn’t care. And no one can tell us He’s not with us and for us because the world around us is falling into pieces. I submit to you, who we are shines at a time like this – Christian shine the world is watching!