Suffering

Throwback Thursday ~ God’s Good Purposes in Suffering

Originally published June 16, 2017

In my previous article True or False: Is Your Theology of Suffering Biblical? we examined some unbiblical ideas and approaches Christians often have toward suffering. Why is it important to have a biblical view of suffering? Because suffering is painful enough without piling on things like, “God is punishing me,” or “This wouldn’t be happening if I just had more faith,” that aren’t even true. The biblical view of suffering frees you from from the additional agony of inappropriate guilt, the mindset that God is harsh or unloving, and the burden of striving to appease a God who’s not asking you to. A biblical view of suffering sets you free to rest in Christ and trust Him.

God’s purposes toward you, His child, are always good, even when He permits difficult things into your life. Let’s think about Romans 8:28 for just a second:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

It doesn’t say all things are good. It says that God uses all circumstances for good for His people – even the difficult ones – because He is good and His plans and goals are good.

Even Joseph saw this, way back in Genesis. After everything his brothers put him through, he said,

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good,

As parents, sometimes we give our child ice cream to eat and sometimes we give him Brussels sprouts. Do we give ice cream because we love him and Brussels sprouts because we hate him? No. Both are done out of love, the ice cream because it brings him joy, and the Brussels sprouts because it has the nutrients he needs to be strong and healthy. It would not be loving for a parent to give only ice cream or only Brussels sprouts. In the same way, it would not be loving for God to give us only blessings or only difficult times. Everything God does in our lives, He does for His glory and our good.

So what are some of God’s good purposes in our suffering?

1. To bring glory to God
We touched on Job’s story in the previous article and saw how his suffering glorified God. Another great passage that talks about God being glorified through suffering is John 9:1-3:

As he [Jesus] passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.

If you thought suffering was God’s punishment for sin, you’re in good company- the disciples thought so, too! But Jesus was about to do something amazing in this guy’s life that would showcase God’s glory, and it would not have happened had he not suffered.

2. Suffering can be a witness to the lost
When we suffer without forsaking Christ and trust Him to carry us through it, it’s a testimony to others – especially lost people – that God is faithful and worthy of
their faith and trust. Your suffering might open the door to sharing the gospel with someone.

3. The logical consequences of sin
In the previous article, we dealt with the topic of suffering we “deserve,” and how, even though it’s painful, it’s easier to come to grips with that kind of suffering. That’s because we’re made in the image of God, and one of God’s attributes that is reflected in us is justice. We have this innate sense of wanting to see justice done. And when we, or anyone else, suffer the natural consequences of our sin, that points to God being a just God.
We tend to lump all suffering into the one basket of “that’s unfair!” but this is the kind of suffering that is just.

4. Discipline

Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.
Revelation 3:19

And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
   nor be weary when reproved by him.
6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
   and chastises every son whom he receives.”
7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
Hebrews 12:5-11

When we stray off into a pattern of sin, God can use suffering (often the natural consequences of our sin) to correct us and point us back to the Christlike direction we ought to be heading. He does that because He loves us.

5. Suffering can teach us humility and dependence on God
“Independence” is pretty much a motto for us here in the United States. Independence from England, rugged individualism, pull yourself up by your own bootstraps…Guess what? God doesn’t want you to be independent. He wants you to be
dependent- on Him. And nothing can grow that dependence and humility like suffering. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 12:7:

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.

6. Suffering can grow us in spiritual strength and maturity
Romans 3:3-4 says:

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,

Endurance, character, hope. These are all aspects of Christian character that God wants to build in each of us, and even though we wish He would just hit us on the head with a magic wand and instantly give us these things, that’s not the way He does it. He often produces these things in us by way of suffering.

7. Experiencing suffering gives us compassion for others, and equips us to help them

[God] comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
2 Corinthians 1:4

God doesn’t do anything, including putting you through suffering, for no good reason. It could be to glorify Him. It could be to do something in you. Or, it could be to help someone else (or all three). God never wastes an experience in your life. If you’ve been through something, God can use that “been there, done that” experience to equip you to minister to someone else who’s going through the same thing.

8. Suffering can cause the lost to cry out to God for salvation
Remember the parable of the prodigal son? Sadly it’s a common tale. Some people basically have to hit rock bottom in their lives before they finally give it up and surrender to Christ, just like the prodigal son.

And how about the story of Jesus healing the woman with the issue of blood? Sometimes life is great. You don’t need Jesus, you’re doing life just fine on your own…until something devastating happens that you can’t handle, and you get desperate. Mark 5:26-28 tells us she

had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. 27 She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. 28 For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.”

She was desperate. And God can use desperation and suffering to turn the heart of a lost person to Himself for salvation.

 

God is a good God, and His purposes in our suffering are always good. So the next time you’re suffering, think of those 8‘s in Romans 8:28, and remember these 8 good purposes God has for your pain, purposes that bring Him glory, work out His good plans, grow us in good ways, and enable us to do good to others.

Mailbag, New Apostolic Reformation

The Mailbag: My friend just graduated from “prophecy school”

 

What would you say to a woman who just graduated from a “school of prophecy“? How do you handle this subject in a graceful way to help her see the truth?

Wow, that’s a tough one! These prophecy, healing, and other apostolic gifts “schools” similar to Bethel’s notorious School of Supernatural Ministry, are popping up everywhere and leading people astray into damnable New Apostolic Reformation heresy.

We love our friends and don’t want to see them deceived by false doctrine, but it can be a difficult topic to address. Why? Because when you get down to the nitty gritty of loving false doctrine and false teachers, the foundational issue is idolatry. And when people love their idols enough to follow them for years, and invest a lot of time, energy, and money in their idols’ schools, conferences, or materials, it’s very likely their reaction to being told they’re following an idol is not going to be…shall we say…pleasant and polite.

Fear of a negative reaction, however, is not something that should keep us from loving our friends enough to speak biblical truth to them. Remember what the Bible says:

Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy. Proverbs 27:6

In other words, if you’re a faithful, godly friend, you’ll risk hurting your friend’s feelings with kindly spoken Scriptural truth. If you lie to her or affirm her in falsehood in order to preserve her feelings, you’re her enemy, not her friend.

Ironically, in this situation, if you’re a true friend to this woman, you will likely lose your friendship with her. If she’s excitedly telling you about the prophecy school she just graduated from, she doesn’t want a true, godly friend who’s looking out for her best spiritual interests and will tell her that she just wasted precious time and money on something that’s dangerously unbiblical. She wants the kisses of the enemy to affirm her in her beliefs.

But, again, that’s OK. It really is OK if your “friend” chooses false doctrine over you (In which case, she isn’t being a good friend to you, is she?). It might be painful, but with the help and comfort of the Holy Spirit, you will not only survive, God will bless you.

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. Matthew 10:34-39

Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. Mark 10:29-30

So, here are my suggestions for responding to your friend in a godly way.

Pray for yourself. Pray that God will help you speak boldly, yet kindly, to your friend. That He will give you the right words to say. That He will prepare your heart for the possibility of losing this friend by trying to help her.

 Pray for your friend. Pray for her salvation. People who are this far gone into heresy are not saved. (See John 10.) Pray that the Holy Spirit will open her eyes to the deception she’s under and the biblical truth you’re speaking to her.

Remember that you don’t have to say everything in one conversation. In fact, depending on the situation, it’s probably better that you don’t. Most women don’t respond well emotionally to drinking from a fire hose of informational rebuke, and she will probably not hear about 90% of what you say. Shorter conversations over a protracted period of time (as you’re continually praying for her) are much more likely to be effective.

✢ Asking questions is helpful. Instead of sitting down with an, “OK, girlfriend, here’s how it is,” approach, try asking your friend questions about the prophecy school and her beliefs. This will help in two ways. First, it helps you get up to speed on exactly what she was taught at this prophecy school and where she is, spiritually, so you’ll be able to give an informed response. Second, asking questions gives the conversation an “I care about you,” tone, which most women will respond to better than an “I’m here to set you straight because you’re wrong,” tone. If you demonstrate by your questions that you care about her and want to learn what she believes, she will be much more likely to reciprocate and listen when you share what you believe.

✢ Share the gospel. A really good verse to keep in mind during this whole process is 1 Corinthians 2:14:

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.

Here’s what this means in your situation: You can perfectly present – the right tone, an uber-caring demeanor, all the right verses, the exact right words – every biblical argument against the things your friend was taught at prophecy school and she’s still not going to “get it” if she’s not saved. It will be “folly” to her and she will not be “able to understand them,” because she does not have the Holy Spirit indwelling her. Saved people embrace and submit to Scripture even when it’s hard because the Holy Spirit enables them to. Lost people kick against Scripture’s requirements because they’re devoid of the Holy Spirit.

Your friend needs the gospel first. You may want to show her my article Basic Training: The Gospel or some of the Scriptures in it, and ask some questions like,  “What do you think this article is trying to say?” or “What did the prophecy school teach you about this passage?” or “You said the prophecy school taught you _____. How does that match up with this verse?”. Another great question for assessing someone’s understanding of the gospel is, “If I had five minutes to live and I asked you how I could go to Heaven when I died, how would you answer me?”.

Once she’s saved, the Holy Spirit will do the heavy lifting of correcting her theology. He is the one who will have to open her heart and mind to the truth of Scripture.

✢ Give her a graduation gift: A MacArthur Study Bible (I’d recommend the ESV translation.). Tuck in a bookmark with the gospel printed on it.

Share biblical resources. If your friend is open to it, give her gospel-centered, Scripture-rich books to read, sermons to listen to, podcast recommendations, etc. Invite her to services and events at your doctrinally sound church. (Do this occasionally. Don’t bombard her constantly.)

✢ Share Lindsay’s testimony. Last year, Lindsay Davis, while a student at Bethel’s School of Supernatural Ministry, got saved after viewing the film American Gospel (a wonderful biblical resource to share with your friend), and was subsequently expelled for sharing the gospel with her fellow students and questioning the unbiblical teaching at the school. Lindsay has given her testimony in dozens of video, audio, and print interviews. Just Google “Lindsay Davis testimony” or “Lindsay Davis Bethel” and choose the one you think your friend would respond to best.

 

I hope things go well when you talk with your friend. I’m taking a moment to pray for both of you now, and I ask that everyone reading this would do the same.

Additional Resources:

Basic Training: The Bible Is Our Authority

Basic Training: The Bible Is Sufficient

Weak Women and the Idolatry of Personal Experience

God’s Not Like “Whatever, Dude,” About The Way He’s Approached in Worship

Clinging to the Golden Calf: 7 Godly Responses When Someone Says You’re Following a False Teacher

Words with Friends: How to contend with loved ones at A Word Fitly Spoken

Words With Friends at Berean Examiner


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Christmas

The Shepherds’ Gospel

Originally published December 22, 2015

Shepherds' Gospel

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest,
    and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
Luke 2:8-20

The Christmas story just wouldn’t be the same without the shepherds, would it? Just a bunch of blue collar guys out doing their jobs one night, when God stepped in and gave them a story they’d be telling for the rest of their lives. We don’t know their names or how many of them there were, but they’re more than just pieces of our nativity sets. They’re a picture of the gospel.

Called Out of Darkness Into Light

The shepherds had no idea God would reveal His Son to them that night. They were just going about their lives, day in and day out, oblivious, until God intervened and brought them the good news of Christ. In a similar way, the Bible says that we walk through life day after day, dead in our trespasses and sins, until that glorious moment when God draws us to Himself, opens our eyes to the gospel, and makes us alive in Christ.

The Clean for the Unclean

The nature of the job put shepherds frequently in contact with the remains of dead animals and insects, rendering them often, if not nearly perpetually, ceremonially unclean according to Mosaic law. While unclean, they were separated from fellowship with God. They were not allowed to enter the temple to worship until they had offered a lamb to atone for their sin. And God chose these unclean men – guilty under the law – to be the first to meet His perfectly clean and spotless Lamb who would offer Himself to make the final atoning sacrifice for their sin, and ours. Through Christ, we are no longer separated from God by our sin and guilt.

Given, Not Earned

Because the shepherds had no way of knowing Christ would suddenly be revealed to them, there was nothing they could do to prepare for His coming or make themselves worthy of Him. God met them right where they were – dirty, smelly, and lower class – and brought them to Christ. Not because they were good people or had earned this honor with commendable deeds, but for God’s own reasons and His own glory.

There’s nothing we can do to earn our salvation either. None of us are righteous, all of our so called “good deeds” are like filthy rags, and it’s impossible for us to please God in any way before coming to faith in Christ. Jesus meets us right where we are – dirty, smelly, and in the middle of our sin – and saves us. Not because we’re worthy, but for God’s own reasons and His own glory.

Faithful Messengers for God’s Glory

The angel knew God personally and faithfully declared His word to the shepherds for God’s glory. Those of us who know Christ must faithfully proclaim the gospel, from the Word of God, to others. Proclaiming the good news of Christ brings glory to God.

Hear, Believe, Respond

When the shepherds heard the message of Christ, they immediately believed it and responded by coming to Him. In the same way, when we hear the good news of the gospel, Christ calls us to repent of our sin, believe unto salvation, and follow Him.

Do Tell

Once the shepherds had met Christ face to face, they couldn’t keep it to themselves. With great joy, they went out and told others about Him. Some must have believed them. Others, perhaps not. But the news they spread made an impact on everyone who heard it. If only we would share the good news of Christ far and wide as the shepherds did! Some will believe. Some won’t. But God’s word always impacts people and accomplishes His purposes.

O Worship the King

How could the shepherds help but worship, praising and glorifying God, for all they had seen and heard and all God had done for them? And how can we, after all we have seen and heard from God’s Word, and all He has done for us, help but worship, praise, and glorify our King?

Just a crew of rag tag shepherds tending the sheep that would be sacrificed in the temple. But not for long. A new Shepherd had been born. The Good Shepherd who lays down His life for His sheep. The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.


This article was originally published at satisfaction through christ.
Christmas

The Gospel According to Carols

 

This Christmas season I’ve been running a meme series on my social media pages called The Gospel According to Carols. Many of our favorite Christmas carols include the gospel, so this is a series of memes with gospel quotes from Christmas carols to help us keep our focus on the gospel during the hustle and bustle of the season.

Below, you’ll find all of the memes I’ve posted so far. The title of the carol precedes each meme(s) and is linked to a YouTube video of that carol. I’ll continue to add new memes through the 24th, so bookmark this article and keep checking back. In addition to sharing these around on social media to remind ourselves, our friends, and our family of the true reason for Christ’s incarnation, I thought of a few other ways you might like to use these.

Decorative Place Cards

In my article (and podcast) 10 Ways to Share the Gospel During the Holidays, I mentioned printing out these Bible verse memes on thankfulness and placing one at each place setting on your Thanksgiving dinner table as a way of initiating gospel conversations. The Gospel According to Carols memes could be used in the same way at your Christmas party or dinner.

Christmas Cards and Gift Tags

Not crazy about the rapidly dwindling selection of Christmas cards at your local retailer? Choose one or more of these designs, print them out on card stock and use them for Christmas cards. Or, minimize them to gift tag size, add a “to” and a “from,” print them out on card stock, and use them for labeling all your Christmas gifts.

Party Game

Instead of “Name that Tune,” make it “Name that Carol” by reading the quote aloud and having your guests guess which Christmas carol it came from.

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

 

Silent Night

 

Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming

 

Child in the Manger

 

O Little Town of Bethlehem

 

The First Noel

 

Good Christian Men Rejoice

 

We Three Kings

 

Joy to the World

 

Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne

 

While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks

 

Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus

 

Glorious Impossible

Christmas, Evangelism, Movies

Movie Tuesday: Christmas Gone Viral

Originally published November 28, 2017

One third of the world celebrates Christmas. That makes this the perfect time of year to carry out the Great Commission. What could be a more natural transition from chit chat to the gospel than talking about Christmas – the birth of Christ? Watch as Ray Comfort and ordinary folks from all over the world share the good news of Jesus with those they encounter.

If you’re looking for other easy ways to share the gospel in the coming weeks, check out my article, 10 Ways to Share the Gospel During the Holidays. You can also order some awesome Christmas-themed tracts to tuck inside your Christmas cards or share as you’re shopping at Living Waters or Bezeugen.