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?