Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Unexpected Blessings from Affliction and Suffering

NOTE=This article is a great reminder of the place God has ordained for suffering in the life of a believer. So if you are suffering at this time, take comfort in this knowledge that your God knows and He cares. May you honour God greatly in your suffering just as Jesus did in His suffering when he was here. If we suffer well, we will also share in his wonderful glory. Learn the example of Job, dont ever curse God in your suffering; instead, rejoice evermore, and these words come from one who were suffering in prison for his faith. Yet he counted his sufferings very light, not worth comparing with the glory which he will share with the Lord of Glory when he comes again.

Unexpected Blessings from Affliction and Suffering

From "The Cocoon and the Butterfly", Author unknown

A man found a cocoon of a butterfly. One day a small opening appeared. He sat and watched the butterfly for several hours as it struggled to force it's body through that little hole. Then it seemed to stop making any progress. It appeared as if it had gotten as far as it could and it could go no farther.

So the man decided to help the butterfly. He took a pair of scissors and snipped off the remaining bit of the cocoon. The butterfly then emerged easily. But it had a swollen body and small, shriveled wings.

The man continued to watch the butterfly because he expected that, at any moment, the wings would enlarge and expand to be able to support the body, which would contract in time. Neither happened!

In fact, the butterfly spent the rest of its life struggling around with a swollen body and shriveled wings.It never was able to fly.

What the man in his kindness and haste did not understand, was that the restricting cocoon and the struggle required for the butterfly to to get through the tiny opening were God's way of forcing fluid from the body of the butterfly into its wings, so that it would be ready for flight once it achieved it's freedom from the cocoon.

Sometimes struggles are exactly what we need in our life. If God allowed us to go through our life without any obstacles, it would cripple us. We would not be as strong as what we could have been. And we could never fly.


Dear Friends in Christ, God has built into His creation many examples of His wisdom for us to learn from. This is hinted at in this interesting verse:

Prov 6:6 (KJV)
Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise:

The example of the butterfly and the cocoon is yet another such source of wisdom. It reminds me of the Christian song lyrics which say, "If I never had a problem, I'd never know that He could solve them". The point is, God allows and designs suffering and affliction to come into our lives to give us the ability to grow as we ENDURE the problem. Our reaction to the problem is also a measure of our maturity in the Christian walk, and may change as we grow in our faith.

Just as there are three opponents to our walk with Christ, the devil, the world and the flesh, so are there three kinds of sufffering that we must endure:
Persecution or suffering for our faith;
Affliction or medical problems and the accompanying pain or inconvenience; Temptations to sin or worldiness, or idolatry.

Persecution for our Faith, or "Suffering"

In the concordance you will find that whenever the word "suffering" or "suffer" occurs, it seems to be related to our Christian testimony. The devil works overtime to try to negate our Christian testimony. He does this through fear, lies and intimidation. His aim is to get us to cowar and go silent about what Christ has done for us and what He can do for others. Either by our words or our actions, we are tempted to deny our Lord in response to the fear of threats or lies or damage to our reputation or to our life.
1 Pet 1:3-7 (KJV) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope
by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, {4} To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you,
{5} Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.{6} Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season,
if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: {7} That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:

Pain and Affliction-Affliction is physical or medical suffering that we may have to endure. Of course, the book of Job shows us that the devil is also the one who tries to encourage God to take away our health so that we will perhaps "curse God and die".

Job 2:7-9 (KJV)So went Satan forth from the presence of the LORD, and smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot unto his crown. {8} And he took him a potsherd[broken piece of pottery] to scrape himself withal; and he sat down among the ashes. {9} Then said his wife unto him, Dost thou still retain thine integrity?
curse God, and die[H=kill yourself].

Here in a nutshell is satan's true goal for causing pain and suffering to a Christian: he wants you to have to endure such pain and depression that you will curse God for putting you through it, and then deny your faith, and then to kill yourself...a triple victory for satan from bringing suffering into our lives.

Of course, the story of Job's affliction does not end in defeat, but in continued and persistent faith as he endured the suffering. Consider his response to the faithless response of his wife from the above verses:

Job 2:10 (KJV) But he said unto her, Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips.And at the end of Job's trial of medical affliction and loss, we find the true result of what God had in mind for Job all along. Although He permitted all the evil things to happen to this good man, His intent was to deepen Job's faith and give him a personal relationship with Himself that Job did not have before:

Job 42:1-6 (KJV)Then Job answered the LORD, and said, {2} I know that thou canst do every thing, and that no thought can be withholden from thee.{3} Who is he that hideth counsel without knowledge? therefore have I uttered that I understood not;
things too wonderful for me, which I knew not. {4} Hear, I beseech thee, and I will speak: I will demand of thee, and declare thou unto me. {5} I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. {6} Wherefore I abhor myself,
and repent in dust and ashes.

Worldliness or Riches- Idolatry of worldly things.

We also often find ourselves struggling with the alure of money and material things to take our attention away from serving Christ. As Jesus teaches in the parable of the Sower and the Soils:
Mat 13:22 (KJV) He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word,
and he becometh unfruitful.

1 Tim 6:8-12 (KJV) And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. {9} But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition{Gk=eternal damnation}.
{10} For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
{11} But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. {12} Fight the good fight of faith,
lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.

And as we endure the suffering or temptation, and struggle to overcome it, Christ is watching us and limiting the intensity of the temptation so that it will not be above that which we are able to bear.

1 Cor 10:9-14 (KJV) Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted,
and were destroyed of serpents. {10} Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer. {11} Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.{12} Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. {13} There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man:but God is faithful, who will not suffer{cause} 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. {14} Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry.

The unexpected consequences of suffering and affliction for the Christian are Christian growth, and experiences of victory that you will have as a treasure with which you can help and counsel others. Observe:

2 Cor 1:2-4 (KJV) Grace be to you and peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. {3} Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort;{4} Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble,
by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.

Verses for further meditation:

Isa 30:20-21 Though He give you the bread of adversity and water of affliction,
yet He will be with you to teach you--with your own eyes you will see your Teacher.
And if you leave God's paths and go either to the right or to the left,you will hear a Voice behind you say, "This is the way; walk ye in it."

Rom 8:16-18 (KJV)The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit,that we are the children of God:{17} And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. {18} For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.

2 Cor 1:3-7 (KJV) Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; {4} Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. {5} For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ. {6} And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation. {7} And our hope of you is stedfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation.

Phil 1:29 (KJV)For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him,but also to suffer for his sake;

Phil 3:7-10 (KJV)But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.
{8} Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things,
and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, {9} And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law,but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: {10} That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings,
being made conformable unto his death;

1 Th 3:3-4 (KJV) {3} That no man should be moved by these afflictions: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto. {4} For verily, when we were with you, we told you before that we should suffer tribulation;even as it came to pass, and ye know.

Rev 2:10 (KJV) Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.

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