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 want to share with you today, SEVEN REASONS why God allows us to suffer. There may be more but these are seven that I have seen in scripture and my life.

You may not need this message today but you will need it eventually because life is a series of storms and sooner or later you will find yourself in the midst of a storm.


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

Several years ago June [my wife] bought a Nissan Rouge. I had never seen a Rouge until that day; at least I had never noticed one. I had no idea they made such a vehicle. Then as we began driving this little SUV, I started seeing them everywhere. Has that ever happened to you? They were their all along but I didn’t notice them.

The same is true in regard to suffering: we have hurting people all around us and we do not even notice them– until we ourselves are hurt. 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 who 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.


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

Who are your best friends? Those who have suffered with you.

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.

Preachers are very human and we make mistakes. I have made more than my share. A very wise man who helped mentor me in my formative years made this statement after the LORD called me to preach: he said, “Jack will never stay at one church more than three years.” After being at one church for more than 30 years, he said to me, “Jack, you made a liar out of me.” He laughed and so did I but I confessed…“You were not wrong in your assessment, it was the grace of God that kept me where I am for so long.” The grace of God and good friends. I would not have made it had it not been for the courage of one man in particular who came to my aid when I was practically defenseless. He put everything on the line to save my ministry and when I thanked him he said, “I didn’t do it just for you, I did it because it was the right thing to do.” It took me a while to put it together but a few years earlier, I had stood with him during a terrible loss and it had forged a bond between us. He was a true friend.


“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 people who can handle failure, there is only one who can handle success. I concur! Failure and suffering has a way of bringing us down to earth. Paul was weighted down with trouble. 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.


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

Suffering is a crucible, a refiners fire, it burns up the chaff, separates the metal from the alloys, the impurities, the worthless; 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 and to chip away at everything that is honoring 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 and success 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 park 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 feet 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.


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.


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 51 years and I have never meet a truly thankful person who had not suffered a great deal. Younger generations seem spoiled and ungrateful. They want, want, want and are never satisfied with what they get…much of 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, thank God for the fleas}

Betsie and Corrie ten Boom were captured by the Nazi, arrested and sent to Ravensbrück concentration camp near Berlin. Corrie smuggled a small bible into the camp. It became a drawing card and the women began a bible study in the back of the barracks. There constant fear was that the guards would come back, search their bunks and find the bible but they never came into the barracks. One of Betsie favorite verse was…

I Thessalonians 5:18

In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

When Corrie would fuss about the fleas in the barrack, Betsie would rebuke her. Betsie was small and frail, Corrie was big and robust but Betsie called the shots. Corrie said, “I will not thank God for the fleas.” “Oh yes you will, said Betsie, “you must.” It was a battle but Betsie and Corrie bowed the stiff neck and gave God thanks for the fleas. Betsie’s frail body could not take the horrible conditions and she died in the camp on December 16 1944 but Corrie survived and later shared her story with the world. After the war had ended, she bumped into one of the guards who had been converted and she told him about the bible and the bible study. “Why did you never come into the barracks and check our bunks?” Corrie asked. He replied in a heartbeat, “The fleas.”


The Man, The Moment And The Message

1 This letter is from Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ. I am writing to God’s chosen people who are living as foreigners in the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. 
2 God the Father knew you and chose you long ago, and His Spirit has made you holy. As a result, you have obeyed Him and have been cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ. May God give you more and more grace and peace. 


  • I Peter has become a favorite to me. I don’t know how this happened, but over time, it is the first book I read when ever I begin reading a new translation. This has been going on for some five or so years. If we fast forward to I Peter 5:12, I think we will find out why this has happened in my life. Here Peter says…

  •  I have written and sent this short letter to you with the help of Silas, whom I commend to you as a faithful brother. My purpose in writing is to encourage you and assure you that what you are experiencing is truly part of God’s GRACE for you. Stand firm in this GRACE. [Grace is the theme]

  • In this message, I wish to introduce our study in I Peter: one that I pray will be encouraging and uplifting. If you get a small percentage of what God has given me in the preparation of these messages, you will be blessed. I love this letter.
  • Speaking of this letter: when we get mail, the first thing we do is to see who it is from. If it is from a close friend or loved one, we give it special attention, don’t we. This brings us to the MAN.



v.1…This letter is from Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ. {Silas wrote it but Peter dictated the content. I Peter 5:12}

  • Note: It was from Peter the Apostle, not Simon the fisherman, but Peter the Apostle {a messenger, a delegate, one sent out} of Jesus Christ is writing to encourage these persecuted believers in the Northern part of Asia Minor, modern day Turkey and he does so with gentleness and grace. I think my love for this letter is the grace that exudes from Peter’s words. Oh how I love GRACE because it was grace that taught my heart to fear and grace my fears relieved. How precious does that GRACE appear when I read and meditate on the Epistle of I Peter.
  • Think with me for a moment, how did Peter come to know the marvelous grace that he writes about? Peter was the first to confess Christ but he was also the first to deny HIM. Shortly after confessing Christ, he attempts to rebuke Jesus. One minute Peter is exclaiming the truth and the next minute he was acting as an agent of Satan. So we are talking about impetuous Peter, the man who only stopped talking long enough to change feet. We are talking about the oldest of the twelve who lead them boldly but also failed them miserably. We all know the story of Jesus renewing Peter after the resurrection. It was Peter who preached at Pentecost and it was Peter who became the leader of the church. So this letter is written some 30 years later. Peter is not an old man but he is probably in his early 60’s. He knows what it is like to fail and be restored. He has been growing in grace for 30 years.
  • This letter is not just from anyone, it is from Peter the Apostle: one who witnessed the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This Apostleship and eyewitness account was a passing thing. These folks understood that in a few years, there would be no eye witnesses left, many of the twelve had already departed this world and Peter was only months away from his departure. Peter himself was awaiting trial under Nero who was possibly the most vile man who ever ruled the empire. He was a sexual pervert and had a touch of insanity.
  • To get a letter from an Apostle is one thing, but to realize that he is a dying man adds weight to his words.
  • I think the main thing we need to understand about the author of this letter is his experience in GRACE. After denying Jesus for the third time, I imagine Peter felt like he was finished but Jesus did not write him off although he did a terrible thing.
  • Jesus heard the denials but He did not reassess or disclaim His call on Peter’s life. Had our LORD been merely human, He might have said, “I made a mistake choosing Peter. He has too much pride and too big of a mouth. I will never be able to use him. I should have chosen John to be their leader. Peter is not cut out for this.”
  • NO! This is the great thing about GRACE. Jesus knew in advance that Peter would fail, it was Peter who didn’t see it coming.
  • Jesus changed his name from Simon [to hear from] to Peter [rock] because He knew what He could make out of this impetus and temperamental Galilean fisherman. Jesus transformed this loud mouth into a flaming witness. He transformed the impetus fisherman into a rock solid leader. He transformed a fisher of fish into a fisher of men. Only Jesus could do such a thing.
  • If there was anyone on the face of the earth who could talk about Grace from experience, it was Peter.


My purpose in writing is to encourage you and assure you that what you are experiencing is truly part of God’s grace for you. Stand firm in this grace. [I Peter 5:12, NLT]

Now a word about the people to whom Peter is writing. Scholars are divided concerning their ethnicity: some believe he was writing to Jewish Christians, other think Gentiles but it really doesn’t matter. He uses three words [all in verse 1] to identify these people:

  • Elected/Chosen {eklektos} [selected, chosen, picked out]
  • Strangers {parepidēmos} [Pilgrims, aliens, used again in 1 Peter 2:11]
  • Scattered {diaspora} [dispersed, spread out]

In the Greek they come together in the above order… Πέτρος ἀπόστολος Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐκλεκτοῖς [elect] παρεπιδήμοις [strangers, aliens] διασπορᾶς [dispersed] Πόντου Γαλατίας Καππαδοκίας Ἀσίας καὶ Βιθυνίας


  • These scattered believers [not living in the bible belt] are like strangers or foreigners. They are being called to live counter to their culture which was very pagan.
  • There must be no attempt assimilate or blend in and this will [Romans 12:2… Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will]…undoubtedly  lead to persecution. They had already experienced some but Peter, who was in Rome, knew that it was going to get worse and it did. [Nero]
  • Peter understood that a call from Christ is a call to suffer and much of this letter is about suffering. [I Peter 2:21, F]
    21 For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps. 
    22 He never sinned, nor ever deceived anyone. 
    23 He did not retaliate when he was insulted, nor threaten revenge when he suffered. He left his case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly.
    24 He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right.
  • When Christians do what is right in a pagan culture, they are going to suffer for doing good. David Green had to take on the Federal Government who tried to force him to provide funds for abortions in his company’s health insurance. He refused. Ultimately, he was favored in a Supreme Court Ruling but not until he had spent millions, not to speak of the loss of time. All Muslim businesses were given a free pass but the Obama administration targets Christian businesses.
  • Jack Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cake shop in Lakewood, Colo., declined to make a cake for the wedding celebration of two gay men in 2012. Phillips told the couple that he would make a birthday cake but could not make a cake that would promote same-sex marriage due to his religious beliefs. Two lower courts ordered Phillips to serve gays but he carried his cause to the Supreme Court. Two of the Supreme Court justices were outraged at a comment made by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission…. who said, religion  has been used to justify all kinds of discrimination throughout history, including slavery and the Holocaust." You have to understand where these civil rights groups such as the ACLU are coming from...Rich, agnostic Jews, in the mold of Ciaiphas, who hate Jesus. These talking pundits have made slavery, the holocaust and civil rights for sexual perverts the only three sins. It is OK to kill a baby but its immoral to honor the memory of George Washington because he owed slaves.
  • The ACLU along with every civil rights group I know always target Christians. If religion was really their target, they would go after Muslims and Orthodox Jews.
  • Long story short, we live in a Christ hating world and those of us who identify with HIM are going to suffer for it. It is not a matter of if but when...we are going to suffer for Christ.
  • The recipients of this letter had suffered but things were going to get worse and Peter is simply alerting them to get ready.


Peter says in verse 2, God the Father knew you and chose you long ago, and His Spirit has made you holy. As a result, you have obeyed him and have been cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ

  • Note first of all that the TRINITY is at work in our behalf...God the Father chose us, the Holy Spirit is sanctifying us [making us holy] and Jesus made it all possible by dying for us. All of this is God's work in our behalf and it is according to His eternal plan.
  • Like Jesus, we are called to suffer but just as his suffering lead to glory, so will ours.
  • Jesus had the ability to look beyond the pain: the writer of Hebrews said...            "We fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."
  • This is why Peter said in the closing of his letter [I Peter 5:12]...My purpose in writing is to encourage you and assure you that what you are experiencing is truly part of God’s grace for you. Stand firm in this grace. 
  • You might say, "God's gracious plan for you." Jesus coming was a part of a plan. His suffering and death were according to a plan. Our suffering is no different, it is according to God's plan. There is a purpose in our suffering.
  • Peter said at Pentecost, speaking of Jesus....  this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. 
  • Peter says in chapter 4... Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in His suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world


Suffering is never pleasant but it is necessary for our sanctification. Suffering is God's refining fire, his smeltering furnace. Do you want what Jesus wants? Does your heart beat with His? If you answer yes then I know you have suffered.

Greed is no respecter of persons: never doubt that poor people can be just as greedy as the rich. We want to take possession of things. We measure people by the kind of house they live in, the clothes they wear, the cars they drive and their annual income or their net worth. This fallen world has a seductive power that can get to any man. In my life time, the only folks that I have seen OVERCOME THIS WORLD were those who suffered. People who have suffered intensely don't care for this world nor the things in it. They don't fight over land lines and inheritances because they see beyond this world. What was it that destroyed their love for this world? I can tell you, it was suffering. If you look closely into the lives of the great saints, you will see they all have something in common: they suffered.

As a very young pastor, I stood along side a family who watched their 8 year old son depart this world due to Cystic Fibrosis. Just minutes before his passing, I heard his dad say, "I would give everything I have in this world, for just one more day." I had enough sense not to articulate my thoughts but my thoughts were: "that's crazy, he is terminally sick, he cannot get well, why would you give everything you have for one more day?" I was young and ignorant and not fully convinced that life doesn't consist in the abundance of things one possesses. But the suffering, broken hearted dad didn't care for the things in this world. He loved his son and wanted to spend one more day with him. This man became one of the best friends I've ever had. He came to my defense when no one else would. He had more courage than anyone I've ever known. The LORD promoted him in November of 2009--He died like he lived, without fear. How did he get this way? By suffering. Peter got thrown into the same smelting pot as did Jesus and it bonded them together. I've seen the same think happen when we fellow believers suffer together.

My best friends are not those I played ball with or those I did business with, it is those I suffered with. I am not saying that suffering is pleasant, I am saying it has a purpose and the outcome for a believer is glorious. Hope is looking beyond the pain and seeing the glory that is waiting.

May you be encouraged by this word from God.



The Anguish Of The Soul

Scripture: Psalms 13

1 O LORD, how long will you forget me? Forever? How long will you look the other way?
2 How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart every day? How long will my enemy have the upper hand?
3 Turn and answer me, O LORD my God! Restore the sparkle to my eyes, or I will die.
4 Don’t let my enemies gloat, saying, “We have defeated him!” Don’t let them rejoice at my downfall.
5 But I trust in your unfailing love. I will rejoice because you have rescued me.
6 I will sing to the LORD because he is good to me.


This song was written during David’s flight from Saul. David had been anointed by Samuel the prophet but nothing promising had happened since. David had been waiting and waiting but things seemed to be getting worse not better.

Have you ever been in a situation where you were praying desperately for things to get better and they kept getting worse?

David did the logical thing: He questioned the LORD. Four times in this brief prayer he asked the question HOW LONG?

  • How long will you forget me? Forever?
  • How long will you look the other way?
  • How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart every day? [NIV] How long must I wrestle with my thoughts?
  • How long will my enemy have the upper hand?



David felt forgotten, ignored, struggle to maintain positive thoughts, feeling that the enemy had the upper hand. Even Jesus felt such anguish of soul while He was on the cross for He cried out “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me.”

So, if you are battling this DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL, do not despair. It happens to all God’s servants.

I Peter 4:12-13

Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world.


Jeremiah said, “The heart is desperately sick, who can trust it.” Do not trust your emotions. Put your faith in God’s word. You are not going to get victory over any of your enemies a part from God’s word.

Jesus taught us by His own example to battle the enemy, temptation, doubt and fear with the word of God. The devil will have a fields day if you go against him in your flesh or emotions.

I’ve been preaching the bible for over 45 years and I have learned the hard way…never trust your emotions or feelings. I preached a similar message to this a few Sunday nights ago at a church in Lawrence County and I felt like a miserable failure. I didn’t feel great about the sermon this morning. I prayed, I prepared but it did not come out the way I wanted. I felt like it was just flat, no emotion, void of spirit. You know what that means…absolutely nothing. I went home the other Sunday night and sat back in my recliner to enjoy a little relaxation and my phone rang. The man on the other end said, “Bro. Jack, I know you have no idea what is going on in my life but the sermon tonight was for me.” My first thought was WOW, GOD IS AN AWESOME GOD.

If you want the sparkle in your eye, if you want a song in the night…you get in God’s word and stop relying on your emotions to carry you.


Remember the scene at Lazarus tomb…Jesus had instructed them to roll the stone aside and Martha interrupted…“Lord, he has been dead for four days. The smell will be terrible.” Jesus…“Didn’t I tell you that you would see God’s glory if you believe?”

So they rolled the stone aside. Then Jesus looked up and prayed and then He shouted, “Lazarus, come out!”

It is not over until Jesus says its over. I believe what Jesus says is ‘so’ even before it is ‘so’, simply because He said ‘so’.

Remember Jacob in Genesis 42:36, when Simeon didn’t come home, he said “Everything is against me.” It did appear that everything was going against Jacob but actually, God was working in Jacobs behalf and Jacob didn’t know it. Never trust your feeling and never go by the appearance of things: TRUST ONLY GOD’S WORD.