Friday, September 2, 2011

Why Doesn't God Prevent His Children From Suffering? -Part 5

As we come now to the seventh and last reason God’s children suffer, let us read Hebrews 12:6.  For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. (Hebrews 12:6)

The word “chasten” is a bit misunderstood because it is interpreted as meaning punishment.  Actually it is not that at all. It belongs in an altogether different category. It literally means child training. Our word today for it would be discipline. In other words, God does not have undisciplined children. He disciplines His own, and there are certain lessons He gets through to us by suffering. Therefore we have this matter of discipline. The Judge punishes; the Father chastens.

Punishment is for breaking the rules of the Father, as we have seen. God deals that way with His children. But when He chastises, or child trains, He is doing that in love. It does not have the same background as does punishment. However, this does not mean it is not severe and that it does not hurt.

It’s rather like the old chestnut about the father who took his son out to the woodshed for a little discipline. But before the father whipped the boy, he sat down and wept. As he looked up at the boy, he said, “Son, this hurts me more than it does you.” And the son said, “Yes, Dad, but not in the same place.”

Our heavenly Father, I’m confident, is not severe because He takes delight in disciplining us, but He does it for our benefit. Therefore, the writers of Scripture did not show us, as God’s children, how to escape suffering but how to endure suffering. That is the most important thing.  There is a worthy purpose and a productive goal to be gained in the chastening or the discipline of the Lord. God uses that method.

Thru The Bible by Dr. J. Vernon McGee

Friday, August 26, 2011

Why Doesn't God Prevent His Children From Suffering? -Part 4

There is a fifth reason why God’s children suffer, and that seems to be some lofty purpose of God that He does not always reveal to the believer. Job is an example of this. I am inclined to believe that Job wrote the book that bears his name, and I wonder if Job was made to suffer, not because there was anything wrong in his life, but because Satan had made a spurious remark, an accusation against him and God. In substance, Satan’s charge was, “Job is serving You only for what he can get out of it. If You let me get to him, I’ll show You. He’ll turn against You. He’ll curse You to Your face!” So God then took down the hedge He had around Job and let Satan move in. And, as this man suffered, he demonstrated that he was no paid lover — Job didn’t love God for what he could get out of it. He was really genuine.

Also God said a strange thing about Paul the apostle when he was converted. He said He was going to make him a missionary to the Gentiles, then He said, “For I will show him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake” (Acts 9:16). While it is true that Paul suffered for sins in his life before his conversion and he reaped what he had sown, he also suffered immeasurably in his life as a missionary. He details this in his second letter to the Corinthians:  …In labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. 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 Gentiles, 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. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches. (2 Corinthians 1:23–28).  He suffered so that no one can say, “Well, nobody has ever suffered as I’ve suffered.” Paul has experienced the limit, friend. You and I never have suffered as much as he has. He is to stand as a witness to that for every child of God.

Now we come to the sixth reason Christians suffer. Some believers suffer for their faith in a heroic manner.

Who, through faith, subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again.… (Hebrews 11:33–35)

Here is a group of people who, by faith, gained great victories for God. This is wonderful. And, friend, it is wonderful to be able to say, “I’ve been healed.” No one knows how happy I’ve been to be able to say that. But there are some who haven’t been able to say that. In the middle of verse 35 we are introduced to another company. Notice what we are told about them.… And others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection: and others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover,
of bonds and imprisonment; they were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tested, were slain with the sword; they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins;  being destitute, afflicted, tormented (of whom the world was not worthy); they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.  (Hebrews 11:35–38)

Now this is a strange thing. We first saw a group of people who by faith escaped the edge of the sword. Then here is another group of people who were slain by the sword, and both acted by faith. Frankly, I don’t even propose to reconcile the two. There are some folk whom God permits to suffer — you have known saints like this. I rather think they are His choice saints. James and Peter, you recall, were arrested by old Herod. Herod took James and put him to death. Peter he put in prison, but God got him out. Is the Lord playing favorites? No, He is not. James could endure martyrdom; Peter could not at that time. Later on he was a martyr also, but not then. He was growing in grace. It is my opinion that God does not permit some Christians to suffer for the simple reason that they can’t take it. God lets one group escape the edge of the sword, and they do it by faith. But I don’t think they had quite as much faith as the other group.

Thru the Bible by Dr. J. Vernon McGee

Friday, August 19, 2011

Why Doesn't God Prevent His Children From Suffering? -Part 3

The fourth way in which God’s children suffer is that we suffer for our past life of sin — sin committed even before we were saved. Now I want to be very careful here because a great many people will say, “But since I came to Christ, doesn’t that mean all my sins are forgiven?”

Yes. If you’ve accepted Christ, you will never come before Him for judgment which will affect your salvation. Never! “Well, if I committed a sin before I was saved, do you mean to tell me that I suffer for that?” You surely will. Listen to Paul as he writes to the Galatians:  Be not deceived, God is not mocked, for whatever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. (Galatians 6:7)

What kind of a man is he referring to? A Christian man. Paul is writing to believers. We reap what we sow. This is, I think, applicable to people in any walk of life, whether they are believers or nonbelievers. But Paul is writing to believers, and he says we are going to reap what we sow.

That principle is at work everywhere in the physical world. You sow corn and you reap corn.  You sow peanuts; you reap peanuts. You sow cotton and you reap cotton. You plant an orange tree, and you’re going to pick oranges someday. “Whatever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”

Saul of Tarsus, a brilliant young Pharisee who hated Jesus and hated Christians, stood one day while men brought their outer garments and put them at his feet. Then he gave the signal to begin the stoning of Stephen. “But,” you say, “Paul was converted on the Damascus Road. God has forgiven him.” He certainly has. Paul is on the way to heaven, you can be sure of that. But, you see, he committed an awful sin. And so on his first missionary journey in Lystra, they dragged him outside of the city, stoned him, and left him for dead.  But you never hear Paul complain about the stoning. Paul knew that whatever you sow, you reap — he’s the one who wrote these words to the Galatians (see Galatians 6:7-9).

Thru The Bible by Dr. J. Vernon McGee

Friday, August 12, 2011

Why Doesn't God Prevent His Children From Suffering? -Part 2

The second reason God’s children suffer is for taking a stand for truth and righteousness.  I turn to 1 Peter:

But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye; and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled, but sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear. (1 Peter 3:14, 15)

In other words, Peter is saying here that when trouble comes to you because you have taken a stand for righteousness, first be sure you are right and that you have a right relationship with Jesus Christ. Then when you are sure of that, you can take your stand knowing that God will see you through.

There is a third reason God’s children suffer. We suffer for sin in our lives. If a child of God commits sin, does he get by with it? The answer, of course, is no. But God says that He will give us an opportunity to judge sin in our lives.

For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. (1 Corinthians 11:31)

In other words, when we sin God gives us an opportunity to confess that sin and make it right. If we do that, God will not judge us.  If we don’t judge ourselves, then God says, “I will judge you.” And I think that is what John meant when he said there is a sin “unto death” (1 John 5:16), meaning physical death for a child of God. In other words, a child of God can go just so far, he can commit certain sins for which God will take him home, remove him from this life. A child of God cannot get by with sin.

There are two good Bible illustrations of God’s dealing with the sins of His children. In the Old Testament it is David. Now David committed two awful sins; he broke two of the Ten Commandments. Did he, as God’s man, get by with it? Well, he thought he had, and how long he concealed it we do not know. David, I think, came in, sat down on his throne, looked about him at his court, and thought, I wonder if anyone knows. He came to the conclusion that no one knew, so he went on with the state business.

One day there slipped into the group a man who actually was a very fine friend of David’s. He was Nathan the prophet. I think David said, “Hello, Nathan,” not thinking that Nathan knew anything about his hidden sin. And when there was a lull in the business of the court, Nathan said, “I have a little story I’d like to tell you.” You will find this incident recorded in 2 Samuel 12. Nathan told him about two men in his kingdom. One was a very rich man with flocks and herds. The other was a poor man with just one little ewe lamb. He loved that little lamb and had raised it with his children. Then a visitor came to see the rich man and, instead of reaching into his own flock and taking a lamb for the visitor’s dinner, the rich man went over and took the pet lamb that belonged to the poor man and killed it. David, who was redheaded, stood up in anger. (It is interesting how we can always see the fault in the other fellow. We can clearly see the other person’s sin, but it is difficult to see our own!)

David said, “As the LORD liveth, the man who hath done this thing shall surely die” (2 Samuel 12:5). I tell you, that’s righteous indignation on the part of David.  But Nathan, who is the bravest man in the Bible in my opinion, pointed the finger and said, “Thou art the man” (2 Samuel 12:7).

Now David could very easily have denied that he was guilty. He could have just lifted his scepter, and his servants would have taken this man Nathan out and executed him. Nobody would have been the wiser. But that’s not what David did. He bowed his head and confessed, “I have sinned.” You see, David had tried to conceal his sin. Instead of confessing it to God after he had done it, he went on to commit a far greater sin and was attempting to rationalize that. So God took him to the woodshed, and He never took the lash off his back. Very frankly, when I read the story of David, I feel like saying to the Lord, “You’ve whipped him enough!” But David never said that. He went through it without complaining because he wanted the joy of his salvation restored to him (see Psalm 51:12). He wanted to be back in fellowship with God. So David learned that God judges sin in the lives of His children.

Then in the New Testament, in Acts 5, Ananias and Sapphira illustrate the sin unto death. I believe they were children of God. They lied, but in the early church they could not get by with a lie. Death isn’t the immediate result today, by the way, but because the early church was a holy church, they couldn’t get by with it. God judged them. They committed a sin unto death, and God took them home because God will deal with His own children.

Thru The Bible by Dr. J. Vernon McGee

Friday, August 5, 2011

Why Doesn't God Prevent His Children From Suffering? -Part 1

God can prevent His child from suffering. I don’t think anyone would argue that point. The question is, of course, why doesn’t He? Why has not God kept His children from suffering — especially the severe suffering that a great many saints have had to go through?  Lets discuss seven reasons why.

The first reason God’s children suffer is for our own stupidity, our own willfulness, our own selfishness, and our willful ignorance. Many times we try to blame God for this kind of suffering, but it is our fault. For what glory is it if, when ye are buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently?  But if, when ye do well and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. (1 Peter 2:20)

Now the word here for “faults” is the Greek word hamartano, which means to miss the mark. It is a picture of a man with a bow and arrow who is shooting at a target. He comes short of that target, which simply means he misses the mark. Many of us today, because of our willfulness we miss the mark in many judgments that we make.  Also there are those who get out of the will of God.

Thru The Bible by Dr. J. Vernon McGee

Friday, July 29, 2011

Lilias Trotter's Parables

Two little books, now out of print, wonderfully expand on the imagery Jesus used.  Parables of the Cross and Parables of the Christ-Life.

The Sign of the Cross
     Can we not trace the sign of the Cross in the first hint of the new spring's dawning?  In many cases, as in the chestnut, before a single leaf has faded, next year's buds may be seen at the summit of branch and twig, formed into its very stem blood-red.
     Back in the plant's first stages, the crimson touch is to be found in seed-leaves and fresh shoots, and even in hidden sprouts.  Look at the acorn, for instance, as it breaks its shell, and see how the baby tree bears its birthmark. 

A Clean Severance
     Botanists say that across the leaf-stalk there forms in autumn a layer of thin-walled cells, termed "the layer of separation."  These press and tear the older cells apart, and become disintegrated in their turn, till without an effort the leaf detaches with a severance clean and sharp as though made by a knife.  The plant sentences the leaf to death, and the winds of God carry out the sentence.

The New Leaf
     From the first hour that the layer of separation begins to form in the leafstalk, the leaf's fate is sealed; there is never a moment's reversal of the decision.  Each day that follows is a steady carrying out of the plant's purpose:  "This old leaf shall die, and the new leaf shall live."

Spiritual Pruning
     It is when the death of winter has done its work that the sun can draw out in each plant its own individuality, and make its existence full and fragrant.  Spiritual growth means something more than the sweeping away of the old leaves of sin -- it means the life of the Lord Jesus developed in us.

Life Out of Death
Note this bit of gorse bush.  The whole year round the thorn has been hardening and sharpening.

Friday, July 22, 2011

What God Hath Promised

What God Hath Promised

God hath not promised skies always blue,
Flower-strewn pathways all our lives through;
God hath not promised sun without rain,
Joy without sorrow, peace without pain.

God hath not promised we shall not know
Toil and temptation, trouble and woe;
He hath not told us we shall not bear
Many a burden, many a care.
God hath not promised smooth roads and wide,
Swift, easy travel, needing no guide;
Never a mountain, rocky and steep,
Never a river, turbid and deep.

But God hath promised strength for the day,
Rest for the laborer, light for the way,
Grace for the trials, help from above,
Unfailing sympathy, undying love.

Annie Johnson Flint

Annie Johnson Flint was born on Christmas Eve, in the year 1866, in the little town of Vineland, New Jersey.  Her life was lived, as someone has said, from hand to mouth, but as she liked to have it expressed, the mouth was hers, and the hand was God's and His hand was never empty.  This is one of her sweetest sonnets, "What God Hath Promised," which she says was born of experience of another would never have found expression if it had not been for her own trials.  Annie's sweet songs prove that God's purpose in allowing pain is not to destroy us but to conform us to the image of His Son, for "we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God and not from ourselves." (2 Cor 4:7).

Friday, July 15, 2011

Does God's Children Escape Pain, Disappointment, and Sorrow in Life?

Still a popular question asked today is:   “Why do God’s children suffer?”

One of the factors that has added to the perplexity and complexity of the problem is the unbiblical sales pitch to the unsaved that is given in some quarters. It is claimed that if you will only trust Christ you will move into the green pastures where all is calm and the problems of life are solved. Even prosperity and healing abound as a bonus for believing. Another addition is joy without any sorrow and with no cloud to darken the sky.

Let’s understand one thing: Salvation is a redemption paid by Christ for the penalty of your sin and my sin. And the primary benefit is that a hell-doomed sinner is now going to heaven because Jesus died in his stead, and the Holy Spirit has brought conviction of sin into his heart and life while he was still “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1).

 If you go back as far as Job, which would take you back probably to the time of Moses or even to Abraham, you will find that he illustrates this truth by a great law of physics:

Yet man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward. (Job 5:7)

According to the laws of aerodynamics, because of the heat being generated, sparks will fly upward. Just as that is true, man must experience troubles. We will face trouble in this world.  David wrote:

Many are the afflictions of the righteous; but the LORD delivereth him out of them all. (Psalm 34:19)

And actually the Lord Jesus told His own (sometimes I think we forget Scriptures like this):  These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)

Paul likewise makes the dogmatic assertion:

Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. (2 Timothy 3:12)

There is no if, and, but, or perhaps about that at all. It is an axiom of Scripture that God’s children suffer.  God’s child is not promised that he will escape pain, disappointment, and sorrow in this life.

Thru The Bible by Dr. J. Vernon McGee

Friday, July 8, 2011

Lilias Trotter

Lilias Trotter was born in London in 1853, seventh child of a businessman.  She was tall and slender with large brown eyes, an active and orderly mind, and "a quality of selflessness which gave her a peculiar charm."  When she was twenty-three she met John Ruskin in Venice, who recognized her gift for painting and offered to give her lessons.  "She seemed to learn everything the instant she was shown it, "he wrote," and ever so much more than she was taught."  But her heart was elsewhere.  She had put herself, her gifts, her life at God's disposal, so it was a great disappointment to Ruskin and a surprise to others when she decided to give herself to missionary work.  She was criticized and even ostracized, but her enthusiasm was fed, not quenched, by scorn.

For some reason, North Africa awakened strange vibrations in her soul.  She heard what she believed was God's specific call, and in 1888 landed in Algiers, where she spent the rest of her life.  She was the founder of the Algiers Mission Band which later merged with the North Africa Mission.  She died in 1928.

She found in the plant life of the deserts the fundamental principle of existence-- that death is the gateway to life-- exhibited in a thousand ways, and painted them with her brush and watercolors.  Who is to say she was a fool for turning her back on home, the possibilities of marriage and perhaps an artists career (these, after all, were certainly God's good gifts)?  The last of her water colors in Parables of the Cross is that of the wood sorrel, springing from an apparently useless little pile of twigs and dead leaves.   She writes, "God may use ... the things that He has wrought in us, for the blessings of souls unknown to us:  as these twigs and leaves of bygone years whose individuality is forgotten, pass on vitality still to the newborn wood sorrel.  God only knows the endless possibilities that lie folded in each one of us!

A Path Through Suffering by Elisabeth Elliot

Friday, July 1, 2011

Jesus' Suffering

The words which have the deepest understanding of suffering are Jesus' own, "In truth, in very truth I tell you, a grain of wheat remains a solitary grain unless it falls into the ground and dies; but if it dies, it bears a rich harvest."  This, He told His disciples, was the key.  There is a necessary link between suffering and glory.