Why Do Christians Suffer?

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 1:3-11

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ. Even when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation! For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer. We are confident that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in the comfort God gives us.

We think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters, about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it.In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead. 10 And he did rescue us from mortal danger, and he will rescue us again. We have placed our confidence in him, and he will continue to rescue us. 11 And you are helping us by praying for us. Then many people will give thanks because God has graciously answered so many prayers for our safety.

I. SUFFERING MAKES US SENSITIVE TO THE SUFFERINGS OF OTHERS

“He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others.” [2 Cor. 1:4]

My wife bought a Nissan Rouge a year or so ago. The first time I remember seeing a Nissan Rouge was the day we picked her’s out at the car lot. I had no idea they made such a vehicle. Now that she has one, I see them everyday. They were their all along but I didn’t notice until she bought one.

It is the same way with suffering. It takes a person who has had a broken heart to spot a broken heart. Our heavenly Father is a God of tender mercy. Showing mercy is His default setting–He loves to show mercy and you and I have experienced His mercy as a precious gift but we do not know how to show it or share it until we have suffered. Once we suffer, we become sympathetic with others that suffer: we are equipped to give them the same quality of comfort that the LORD has given us.

This is why your ministry will come from your pain and failure more than from you success. It is always easier to relate to others when we understand what they are going through.

II. SUFFERING FORGES FELLOWSHIP

When ‘they’ are troubled, ‘we’ will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. [2 Cor. 1:4]

I am not going to say I completely understand it but I have experienced it many times and I know it is true: when you come along side a family and suffer with them through a crisis; it forges a bond that will never be broken. When we came to our present church 27 years ago, within a span of three years, we experience the heartbreak of losing a little 8 year boy to Cystic Fibrosis. It was tough: I have no words to describe it. The church was small at the time which meant I had more time. In those last few weeks and days, I practically lived with this family [Children’s Hospital in Birmingham]. I spent night laying in the floor of the waiting room. I think I was with them for the last two or three days. I felt helpless. I was helpless. The only thing I could do was be there as a representative of Christ, just a visible manifestation of HIS divine presence. I said very little because I didn’t know what to say. It broke our hearts when the Heavenly Father took him. There were only two comforts that I can remember, we knew he was in better hands [Jesus] and we knew he would not suffer anymore. Other than these two things, there was a lot of pain and grief. This child’s father became one of my best friends, loyal as bull dog and as courageous as a lion. I told my children last week: Kids, your daddy would never have been able to stay in Danville all these years had it not been of Kenneth Narrell. Recently, I was sick and unable to function, the mother of the above child called to check on me every day. Kenneth was promoted in 2009. My family and his family have endured at least 4 critical storms together and it has forged a bond that I don’t think gossip can break. I’m not plying for your sympathy but I will tell you straight up: most folks are not going to give a preacher the benefit of the doubt but his family is an exception. What forged this unbreakable bond? Suffering.

III. SUFFERING ‘CRUSHES’US: TAKING US TO OUR KNEES

“Even when we are weighed down with troubles…” [v.6] We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure. [v.8]

Chuck Swindoll says for every 49 that can handle failure, there is only one who can handle success. I concur! Failure, suffering has a way of bringing us down to earth. The word picture in the Greek is of a beast of burden who is crushed beneath the load. Sometimes we get so loaded with the cares of this world, anxieties, stress, burdens, even guilt–we are literally crushed by the weight. SUFFERING crushes us like the grapes in a wine press. It brings us to the end of our resources and to our knees where we cry out for God’s help. We never pray more earnestly than when we suffer.

IV. SUFFERING DECENTRALIZES SELF

“We stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God.” [v.9]

Following the same theme discussed above, when suffering crushes us, it separates us from the chaff, from the alloys, the impurities, the worthless. Suffering is like the refiners fire, it purges out the dross. We all know that we are to live dead to self and alive to Christ but knowing and doing are two different things. Suffering can achieve in our lives what nothing else can do. It is a vital part of our sanctification. In order for Jack to decrease and Jesus increase [in my life], suffering is a necessity. I don’t enjoy suffering, I don’t pray for it to come but I do realize that God in His GRACE uses it to burn out the dross.

V. SUFFERING DRAWS US CLOSER TO CHRIST

 And he did rescue us from mortal danger, and he will rescue us again. We have placed our confidence in him, and he will continue to rescue us. [v.10]

I don’t want to be redundant, but suffering has a drawing power. Prosperity can lead us to drift away from Christ whereas suffering can draw us near. A young child got a new sail boat and carried it to the city part where there was a lake. He put his boat in the water but the wind quickly carried his boat beyond reach. He went to get the help of a teenager standing near by: the teenage picked up a few large rocks and started to through them in the direction of the boat: the little fellow began to beg…”No, no, no, I don’t want you to sink my boat, I want to get it back.” The kid brushed him aside and said, “You have to trust me.” With that he threw one of the large rocks a few few beyond the boat and the waves from the rock began bringing the boat to shore. After repeating this process several times, the little boy was able to reach and get his boat.

The adversity that we think is going to sink us actually brings us closer to Christ.

VI. SUFFERING FOSTERS DISSATISFACTION WITH THIS WORLD

The Israelite had to suffer bondage and oppression before they had a desire to leave Egypt. A farmer planned to burn a huge brush pile but when he went to burn, he discovered a birds nest in the rotten brush. He carefully moved the nest to another bush and then waited to see what would happen. When he got back to the brush pile a day or two later, the bird had built a new nest in the brush pile. So he pondered: she will not let me move her nest so how am I going to get her to move? Finally, he lined her nest with thorns and she found a new location.

We would get content with life here if there was no suffering. God puts a few thorns in our nest to give us a longing to live elsewhere. The older you get, the more you feel the thorns.

VII. SUFFERING PRODUCES GRATITUDE

Then many people will give thanks because God has graciously answered so many prayers for our safety. [v.11]

I have been in the ministry for 48 years and I have never meet a truly thankful person who had not suffered a great deal. The generations below us are spoiled and ungrateful. They want, want, want and are never satisfied with what they get…this is because they have not suffered. You cannot learn gratitude apart from suffering and you can never enjoy grace until you have gratitude. {Corrie ten Boom}

 

[unedited]

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