Saturday, September 24, 2005

Handling Adversity - Sources of Suffering: Temptation, Persecution, and Sin

Sources of Suffering
Temptation, Persecution, and Sin

These three things, temptation, persecution, and sin, are all the tools of Satan as he seeks to destroy us. Peter gives a very sobering warning about Satan in his words

1Pe 5:8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:

They all seek to inflict pain, anguish, and sorrow on us in order to deter us from serving God. Recalling the figure of the athlete in training sometimes they are going to experience great hardship from injury, accident, or illness. They don’t intend to hurt themselves but it is a risk of training, or sometimes just being in the wrong place. After receiving attention for their injury, they have a choice before them: endure and overcome or turn away and stop all together. We read of athletes that overcome extreme injury or disease by a lot of effort, perseverance, mental toughness, and good medical care. But it is a choice that they make to take that path in order to continue to pursue their original goal.

The simple truth of life is that Satan will throw everything he can at us to get us to stop pursuing our goal of Heaven and being with God. Temptations are those things placed in our way that seek to take us off the path. Persecution is focused on the Christian that is living righteously because there are people that hate everything that is good and pure in Christ. Sin is the great weapon of Satan that separates us from God. We are going to sin as we can read in Romans 3:23 but God has also provided the way back as can be seen in the verse following, Romans 3:24.

We started by seeking Biblical answers to our “Why….” questions and we’ve seen some of the broader answers as to what is going on in our lives. However, it at this point that we begin seeing that the real objective in handling these things is not having a specific answer but in what we choose to do about them. We need to be prepared to recognize them and already know in our minds what action we must take to remain on our path to the goal, Heaven.


1) Persecution

2) Temptation

3) Sin

4) Forgiveness


1) Re-read the context of James 1:12-15 about the process of temptation. When can it be stopped? And what is required of us individually in order to stop it? Paul says some things about this in his letters to back this up.

2) Persecution is a specific form of temptation to get the Christian to stop. What did Jesus tell his disciples about persecution?

3) Find other cases of persecution in the OT or NT. What is revealed about the individuals enduring the persecution and why were they able to endure?

4) What does God provide for Christians in order to endure persecution? This is a very broad question with many different aspects of Christian life.

5) What if we’re not experiencing persecution? What can that say about our life as a Christian?

6) What does James say about sin and death in James 1:15? What type of death is this and why is it so bad?

7) Is it possible for the Christian to give up and be lost spiritually? Provide examples.

8) What is said about the Christian that gives up and turns away? What are some of the figures used in scripture?

9) How can someone be forgiven by God but still suffer the consequence of the sin?

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Handling Adveristy - Trials and temptations: What's the difference?

Trials and Temptations
What the difference?

In looking at the “Big Picture” backdrop of our lives we examined two major aspects. The first is that suffering is a guarantee. The other is that there are two forces working in our lives beside ourselves: Satan and God. It is easy for us to comprehend that Satan would work against us but, it may be a harder concept to grab hold that God may be bringing some suffering and difficulty in our lives. We see evidence of God being the active force behind why the man was blind as found in John 9:1-5. So, as we begin to find Bible answers to our many “Why…” questions, we need to keep an open mind as to what it will tell us. This study will provide some information on how temptation and trials work in our lives but why it is present will be left for the next two subjects.

The first place we need to start in understanding how God and Satan influence our lives and experiences is to look at the difference in what each is trying to do. We are told in Romans 8:28

Rom 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

What exactly does this mean? Some would say that this is a promise by God of health and wealth to His followers. However, we must first define what the “good” is identified in this scripture. What is it that God wants most above all? Recall what is said in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world…” God most definitely is interested in the souls that live in His creation. Jesus’ goal on this earth was reaching souls to show them the way to the Father. The good that is identified in Romans 8 is what is stated as the purpose of writing the book of John in John 20:30-31

Joh 20:30 And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book:
Joh 20:31 But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.

The good that God wants for us is to have a relationship once again so that we can have everlasting life through Jesus.

Contrast this with what Satan is trying to achieve. As we noted in 1 Peter 5:8

1Pe 5:8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:

Satan is only seeking to devour and destroy. There is no everlasting “good” that he is attempting to bring into our lives. Notice that I said everlasting good because there are temptations that will come our way that will seem good to this life at the time but will result in our destruction. Remember what is said of Eve when she was tempted, that she looked on the fruit and saw that it was good for food, pleasant to the eyes, and desired to make one wise. Those can all be “good things” but when you consider that taking and eating of this tree was forbidden, what was “good” in the short term had a long-term consequence of destruction and separation from God. There is no good that is accomplished following Satan.

Thus we can see that God seeks to work good in our lives, a good that achieves everlasting life with Him. Satan only seeks our destruction, to devour us. This brings us to a subtle but very important difference between two words: trial and temptation. By understanding the difference between these two words and how they work in our lives we will be far along in dealing with them when they occur. Recall the introduction and the simple illustration of an athlete in training. They train themselves continually often causing pain physically in order to achieve something more important: winning the event. Is their training good for them? If you consider only the pain, you would say no. But to really answer the question you must look at the result achieved and when the event is won, the training is good.

I had a manager when I was fresh out of college that was always trying to keep our spirits up about the problems we’d have at work. He would say, “They are not problems, but opportunities to excel.” That’s a glass is half full perspective on problems! This piece of wisdom is mirrored and much more meaningful in what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians.

1Co 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.

Think about the great hope and promise that this should provide. I can spiritually win at everything in my life because God will only allow things and events in my life that I can endure and be the victor. When you have a problem facing you that seems difficult or impossible to overcome, remember this: God knows you can do what’s right or He wouldn’t allow it to be there. This is not a promise that the conditions leading to the temptation will be removed or eliminated but there is a way provided to endure it.

Hint: look these two English words up in both a regular dictionary and a Greek dictionary such as Vine’s. Provide the root Greek word along with the definition.
1) Trials

2) Temptation


1) Read the context of James 1:12-15. What is said about the following things:
· Temptation

· Trials

· God

· Desire

· Lust

· Sin

2) What other scriptures can you find that talk about temptation?

3) What other scriptures can you find that talk about trials?

4) Coming back to the context of Romans 8:28, what painful events in your life have resulted in something good?

5) Read 1 Peter 1:7. What is it that is tried and what is the result achieved? If you can, try to find out the process to refine gold.

6) What are some of the other names used for Satan? List scripture.

7) Can a trial turn into a temptation and if so, when does it happen? Provide some examples.

8) In some scriptures the word “test” is used. List some of these and define the word based on the context. Who is it that is giving the test in each of them?

9) Find scriptures that talk about testing or tempting God. What is being discussed in these passages?

10) Thought question. As we can read in John 1:1, 14, Jesus is God in the Flesh. We see throughout the New Testament, the word used in the English, that Jesus was tempted. Yet as we read in James 1:12-15, God is not tempted. How can you harmonize scripture in these cases?

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Handling Adveristy - The Big Picture: What are we up against

The Big picture
What are we up against?

When an athlete or sports team is preparing for an event, they study many aspects in order to be prepared. A runner will study the route and pay careful attention to the environmental conditions. A football team will look at film of their opponent to study their strengths and weaknesses. A coach may even simulate the opponent’s stadium and crowd if they are playing away from home by setting up speakers during practice to allow players to become accustomed to the tremendous noise of the “home crowd.” We can easily see the value of understanding the opponent in sports and the same is true of our spiritual lives. The fact remains that suffering, troubles, and trials in life will all come our way. It is important to understand the forces, conditions, and sources for the troubles of life so that we can be prepared and ready with a strategy and plan of how to succeed.

Paul makes this basic observation about understanding what we’re up against in Ephesians:

Eph 6:11 Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
Eph 6:12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
Eph 6:13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

Notice what Paul says that a Christian will face in verse 12:

· principalities
· powers
· rulers of the darkness of this world
· spiritual wickedness in high places.

That’s quite an intimidating list especially if we don’t understand what this means as we wage this spiritual warfare. There is an important principle of warfare established by the Chinese General Sun Tzu in his text The Art of War: Know Your Enemy. This is exactly what Paul is trying to do for us by identifying who and what it is that is behind the spiritual battles in our life.

Sometimes we can be our own worst enemy. Peter writes in 1 Peter 2:20 about suffering because of the wrong that we commit. This can be especially hard when there are long-term consequences to our sinful actions. Another case that is very difficult for some to grasp is that God is directly in action for some very hard things in life. This does not make God our enemy as we will see further in our study but there are definitely some reasons why God creates some trials in our life. Consider again the context of John 9:1-5 and the exchange between Jesus and his disciples about the blind man. Remember Jesus answer to their question:

John 9:3 “Not this man or his parents but that the works of God might be manifest.”

We will explore all of these in much greater detail through the next few lessons. With this though we complete setting the stage of our lives on what will happen and who is involved as events unfold. As we see the broader picture laid out for us in the Bible, the information we have about the source and cause of life’s trouble is so much less than what the Bible tells us about what to do when presented with these challenges. This speaks enormously to the emphasis placed by God on what do during trouble than why it’s there.

Hint: You may want to do these definitions as you go through the questions

1) Principalities

2) Powers

3) Ruler

4) High place (heavenly places)


1) Paul makes reference to principalities earlier in the book of Ephesians 1:21. Read the context, provide a summary and then fill in the definition above.

2) The prince of power is referred to in the context of Ephesians 2:2. Read the context, provide a summary and then fill in the definition for powers and rulers.

3) Keep in mind that what Paul is discussing in Eph 6:12 is a spiritual setting. The phrase “high places” is also rendered as “heavenly places” in some versions and can be found in Eph 1:3, and 2:6. Examines those contexts, provide a summary and then fill in the definition above.

4) The book of Job provides us a glimpse into what occurs in the heavenly places. Read Job chapters 1 and 2 and make notes about what is happening, where, and who is noted as being present.

5) What does the insight provided by the book of Job tell us about the relationship between what happens in the heavenly places and then on earth?

6) This principle is also expanded on in the Lord’s prayer in a positive way found in Matt 6:9-15. What does this tell us about God’s will in the events of this world?

7) Looking back again at the book of Job, what can be seen about God and how He uses his power and authority with regards to Job?

8) What other passages can you find that talk of God’s care and protection of those that follow Him?

9) In considering ourselves as a potential source of our problems, read Romans 7:14-25. Paul describes a process of events using himself as the figure. Summarize the context and how dire the results are.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Handling Adveristy - The Big Picture: Suffering is a guarantee

The Big picture
Suffering – it is a guarantee

Wow. That’s pretty strong language that suffering is a guarantee. I’m sure there are many people that would view this statement as pretty pessimistic. However, the Bible says this very thing over an over again. In light of what the Bible says about suffering, saying that it is a guarantee is a realistic look at life and is the reason we will start here with the study of the topic. The next few lessons set the backdrop to the stage of life that we find ourselves on. Keep in mind from our last study that a great many things that we may suffer, we have absolutely no direct control over.

There are many reasons as to why suffering is a guarantee in life. Some are broad and apply to all mankind. Others are more specific to Christians only. We’ll look at both sides of this as we seek Bible answers to these questions. First, consider the Garden in the beginning. It was perfect in every way and given to Adam and Eve to tend and enjoy. In it was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil of which they were not to eat. The instruction from God is found in Genesis 2:16-17. If they ate of this tree, they would surely die. Continuing in Genesis 3 we find the temptation of Eve, her eating of the tree, offering to Adam who eats as well, and their being cast out of the Garden. There are many things to consider from this account as we look at suffering. One of the key items is what God said to them as they were cast out in Genesis 3:16-19. He pronounced some very dire consequences on Adam and Eve, consequences that we still feel to this day.

Now turn your attention to suffering as a Christian. You’ll have some questions later to explore this further but for now we’ll consider a few passages. First, look at what Jesus taught his disciples in Matt 10:25-39. His teaching is of great promise, both positive and negative: Jesus’ followers will experience suffering (persecution) from those that hate Him but great care from God and those that serve Him. Almost the entire book of 1 Peter is spent examining the life of suffering as a Christian. Peter gives what would be considered by some to be a bleak picture of service to Jesus in 1 Peter 4:12-19, a guarantee that His followers will experience suffering and that justice will not be served in this life. This view is brought to life in the imagery we can read of in Rev 6:9-11, of the souls at the altar of the Lord that were killed, crying out and asking when vengeance would be delivered.

There are many, many more passages to consider as we examine what it means to live in this world and live as a Christian. James tells us in James 1:2-3 to count it all joy when we fall into trials. We don’t go around all joyous at the problem, but we focus on the product of successfully enduring through it all: patience. That seems to be an odd conclusion. Some may be saying at this point, “You mean you’re telling me that the best thing that can happen out of enduring suffering is patience?” That’s exactly right. Not to trivialize the discussion but we have an adage in America: “Good things come to those that wait.” This may be one of the hardest things to grab hold of, understand, appreciate, and then use in your life. But when you do, you may be surprised at the improvement you can have in your life.


1. Consider the context of Genesis 2 and 3. Compare and contrast the good things that God prepared for them in the Garden and the curses pronounced on them after their sin:
Blessing in the Garden Curse after their Sin

2. The account of Adam and Eve raises a discussion about free will. First, what does “free will” mean and second, what other scriptures can we look to that demonstrate that God gives us the ability to choose?

3. There is a critical item to understand as we explore handling suffering and trials in life, the difference between responsibility and consequence. Describe the difference and provide scriptures to demonstrate this.

4. Read the context of Romans 5:12-19. This is a difficult context but consider how it discusses and relates the difference between consequence and responsibility.

5. If you have access to a Bible program or concordance, find how many times the following words occur in the Bible (KJV if possible):
· Suffer
· Trial
· Temptation
· Persecution
· Chastise
· Endure

6. Consider this context in Eccl 7:13-15. What is the contrast established? What is the source of either? What is the statement made in the end about the just and wicked?

7. Does suffering imply that God doesn’t care or isn’t paying attention to us when it’s happening? Look at Rev 6:9-11, what does this say about God during these events? What other scriptures speak about God while His children suffer?

8. You may have seen some tele-evangelists preaching a message of prosperity if you give your life to God. This is sometimes referred to as the Gospel of Health and Wealth. What scriptures do they use to back this up? And why is this flawed?