Why Christians suffer: Divine revelation on a perplexing subject

Why Christians Suffer


Grantley Morris



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How desirable is ease, riches, popularity, etc?

Certain big name preachers suggest we should become rich and famous to make non-Christians envious and so win them to Christ. That’s about as far from being a slave as anyone can get. I do not want to spend long on this but this matter is highly pertinent to God’s view of suffering.

When a friend recently asked me about this evangelistic strategy, my first worry was how the Author of the Ten Commandments would view a deliberate attempt to entice people to break the tenth commandment: coveting. Dare any of us, in the name of the Holy Lord, join the Evil One in tempting someone? How, precisely, would our Judge feel, after filling his Word with such things as the following?

    * “the deceitfulness of riches choke the word”

    * “it is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter into God’s Kingdom”

    * “You can’t serve both God and Mammon”

    * “Woe to you who are rich!”

    * “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some have been led astray from the faith in their greed, and have pierced themselves through with many sorrows”

    * “Those who are determined to be rich fall into a temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful lusts, such as drown men in ruin and destruction”

    (These and other such Scriptures)

Instead of pursuing this, however, I retorted, “In Jesus’ parable of the rich man and the man who begged at his gate (Luke 16:19-26), who was the hero?”

That got me thinking. Who won Jesus’ praise in the following Gospel stories?

    * Jesus’ parable of the revered priest, the holy Levite and the despised person we call the good Samaritan (Luke 10:30).

    * Simon the Pharisee and the sinful woman whose tears wet Jesus’ feet (Luke 7:37-48).

    * The crazed man with the legion of demons or the locals who were so disturbed by his deliverance that they asked Jesus to leave (Mark 5:15-17).

    * The parable of the guilt-ridden, despicable tax-collector and the clean-living Pharisee praying in the temple (Luke 18:10-14).

    * The prosperous people and the impoverished widow putting money in the temple offering (Luke 21:1-4).

    * Zacchaeus, the tree-climbing runt of a tax collector scorned by the crowd (Luke 19:2-10).

    * The successful man in Jesus’ parable who had to build bigger barns to store all his wealth (Luke 12:16-12).

    * Blind Bartimaeus in the midst of an embarrassed crowd, who tried to hush him up (Mark 10:46-52).

    * The once-blind man whom the ‘righteous’ threw out of the synagogue (John 9:22-41).

On and on I could go, listing all the beggars, nobodies and social outcasts featured in the Gospels.

Don’t like obscurity? Want to make a name for yourself? Then Jesus isn’t for you. He was forever zeroing in on society’s rejects for special attention or praise. They were the ones who warmed his heart.

Consider the twelve Jesus singled out for special training. Even the disciples we know most about were lowly fishermen and a despised tax collector (Matthew 9:9). Who among that motley band could be considered successful, popular or respected? Celebrities, super-heroes or scholars, they were not. In fact, they sloshed around somewhere at the opposite end of the scale.

Educated? Sophisticated? You’re joking! It’s highly doubtful that any had money but even if they did, Jesus told them to give it away. They were hot-heads, forever saying or doing lame-brained things. You would think their sole purpose was to make Jesus look smart and patient – except that they were the ones to whom Jesus entrusted the gospel message and world evangelism.

Jesus could have chosen Nicodemus, the Jewish ruler who came to Jesus asking about being born again (John 3:1-10) and later stuck up for Jesus (John 7:50-52) and still later brought about seventy-five pounds of myrrh and aloes for Jesus’ burial (John 19:39). He could have chosen rich Joseph of Arimathea, the disciple who gave Jesus his tomb and tended to his body (Matthew 27:57-60). There must have been many other candidates more promising and respected than the twelve Jesus singled out. In fact, most of even the twelve barely rate a mention in the Bible. Most of them remain obscure to us, but not to heaven. How the world sees things is of no consequence. What matters is how our eternal Judge sees things. In fact, Jesus said, “Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you!” (Luke 6:26, KJV). Anyone disagreeing with his assessment will be proven wrong for all eternity (Scriptures).

Emphasizing the immense value of what is seen by God alone is, of course, fully consistent with Jesus’ teaching:

    Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18 Be careful that you don’t do your charitable giving before men, to be seen by them, or else you have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. Therefore when you do merciful deeds, don’t sound a trumpet before yourself, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may get glory from men. Most certainly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you do merciful deeds, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand does, so that your merciful deeds may be in secret, then your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.
    When you pray, you shall not be as the hypocrites, for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Most certainly, I tell you, they have received their reward. But you, when you pray, enter into your inner room, and having shut your door, pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. . . .
    Moreover when you fast, don’t be like the hypocrites, with sad faces. For they disfigure their faces, that they may be seen by men to be fasting. Most certainly I tell you, they have received their reward. But you, when you fast, anoint your head, and wash your face; so that you are not seen by men to be fasting, but by your Father who is in secret, and your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you.

For many more such Scriptures, see The Immense Value of Doing What Only God Sees.

If there are times when only God is aware of what you think or do, never forget there is no such thing as ‘only’ God. Place God on one side of the scale of importance and put on the other side the entire universe, along with every living being, and the scale would not budge. Relative to him, everything else weighs less than a speck of dust (Scriptures).

We live in a world that ignores God. It is therefore to be expected that it would measure people’s achievement not by how God sees things but by their fleeting fame and/or impact on this world. The sad thing, however, is how swayed many Christians are by such worldly thinking.

You might recall Naaman, the military commander struck with leprosy who would eagerly have done anything great for God, but crept precariously close to missing his miracle by dismissing as too humdrum what God actually asked of him (2 Kings 5:9-14). May we muster the humility to end up choosing as wisely as him. Often, the way we handle what seems insignificant is a better test of devotion than the spectacular.

Remember the origin of the saying that obedience is better than sacrifice. The Lord told Saul to destroy all the enemy’s captured livestock. That seemed a waste. Wouldn’t it be better to turn this into a spectacular sacrifice – an enormous thank-offering to the Almighty? The king tried telling himself that this would be nobler. So important is simply obeying God, however, that Saul lost his dynasty over choosing an impressive display of devotion and worship over what we might dismiss as a useless waste (1 Samuel 15:1-23).

Think of Sarah and Abraham suffering all the shame and emptiness of childlessness, year after year after year after year after year after year after year after year after . . . I’ll stop. I’m too embarrassed to waste a millisecond of your life for every year that they suffered this. For them, every interminable moment became as much a testimony to the power of faith as every moment spent proudly displaying their baby. Who would be impressed by the greatness of the miracle if Isaac had been born when they were in their twenties? How could that inspire others to hold on in faith year after year?

Every torturous prolonging of their agony ended up bringing more glory to God (and ultimately to themselves) as they faithfully endured it, and every slip-up on the way – and there were several – is instructive to us.

We can see how God could treasure suffering for Christ as an exquisite act of love but what Scripture says about slaves enduring their indignity opens for everyone enormous other opportunities to delight our Lord – opportunities many of us might never have seen.

The mysteries of suffering might be profound but they are strewn with beauty because the stupendously compassionate Lord, whilst most definitely not the cause of suffering, is himself an active participant. We never suffer alone. The lover of our souls suffers with us.

Human feelings are such poor indicators of spiritual truth that it can feel as if God is aloof, even though nothing could be further from reality. One of the practical implications of the infinity of God’s love and knowledge is that he is highly sensitized to everything about you.

Christian, the Almighty is so intimately connected to you that Scripture emphasizes over and over that he is in you and you are in him (Many Scriptures, with notes). You and he are one; more intimately intertwined than co-joined twins. He has invested more in you and is more alert to everything affecting you than is humanly possible. He is more aware than even you are of your every thought and feeling, your hopes, your dreams, your fears, your astonishing potential, your past, your present, your future.

And your pain cuts him like a knife.

The Story So Far

Having barely begun this series of webpages, we have so many wondrous things yet to discover. Nevertheless, we have already progressed by glimpsing two very different types of suffering spotlighted in Scripture: persecution and slavery. We have seen that not only can suffering for Christ be heroic and bring both God and us eternal glory, as it did for Christ, so can any suffering achieve this, if endured – indeed endowed – with the right attitude, the most important of which are love and faith (Galatians 5:6; Ephesians 1:15; 1 Thessalonians 1:3, 6; 2 Thessalonians 1:3; 2 Timothy 1:13; Philemon 1:5), which lead to the final part of the glorious triplet (1 Corinthians 13:13; Colossians 1:5; 1 Thessalonians 5:8): the sure hope of eternal reward.

Continued: Part 9

Not to be sold. © Copyright, Grantley Morris, 2018, 2019. For much more by the same author, see www.net-burst.net   No part of these writings may be copied without citing this entire paragraph.


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