“Our once great western Christian civilization is dying. If this matters to followers of Jesus Christ, then we must set aside our denominational differences and work together to strengthen the things that remain and reclaim what has been lost. Evangelicals and Catholics must stand together to re-establish that former Christian culture and moral consensus. We have the numbers and the organization but the question is this: Do we have the will to win this present spiritual battle for Jesus Christ against secularism? Will we prayerfully and cooperatively work toward a new Christian spiritual revival ― or will we choose to hunker down in our churches and denominationalisms and watch everything sink into the spiritual and moral abyss of a New Dark Age?” - Mark Davis Pickup

Sunday, October 2, 2016


About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters: how well they understood
its human position; how it takes place
while someone else is eating or opening a window
or just walking along.
                                                            W.H. Auden
                                           Mussée des Beaux Arts

Have you ever noticed that some people sail through life with no obvious adversity while others live tormented existences? People’s suffering may be the result of their own sin, or lack of faith or their own doing. Sometimes it’s not. Is suffering pointless or is there a purpose to it? C.S. Lewis wrote:

“Well take your choice. The tortures will occur.
If they are unnecessary, then there is no God or a bad one.
If there is a good God, then these
tortures are necessary. For no even moderately
good Being could possibly permit them if they weren’t.”[1]

Both God and Satan have a stake in suffering: Satan’s is to destroy us – God’s is to purify us. Suffering has different results in different people. The 17th Century Christian Poet, John Donne referred to this phenomenon in his Meditation XVII from which we get the famous line “And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” Every persons suffering is a concern for everyone, every person's death affects the whole. How we respond to suffering also has an impact of the community, particularly in areas where euthanasia and assisted suicide are practiced. 

We can choose to let trials (physical or otherwise) mature us or defeat us. Our response to suffering is like the two sides of the same coin.

God can use suffering (and other trials) to increase our capacity to trust in His promises, just as Abraham believed in God’s promises (Romans 4.17-22). All true faith relates to God’s promises. The substance of faith is often forged in the fire of suffering or affliction. We must not be bitter when they come! Faith does not grow in comfortable surroundings.

God may test our faith by putting a situation upon us (or allowing a situation to be put on us) in order to prompt us to acknowledge either that we truly rest in God’s sufficiency or we rely of self-sufficiency. Self-sufficiency is really Pride by another name.
Let’s look at some Scriptures:

We know that Satan can bring affliction (2Corinthians 12.7b), but does God ever bring or allow affliction, suffering or disability? (Exodus 4.11; Job 16.12; Psalm 66.11. Jonah 2.2) 

Is affliction ever a blessing? (Job 23.10; Psalm 119.67; Romans 5.1-5; 2 Corinthians 4.16-18 & 2 Corinthians 5.1 & 2 Corinthians 12.7-10)

(nb: Read, consider and pray about 2 Corinthians 4 & 5. It is the invisible things in life that people want most desperately (even non-Christians). The most obvious example of this is love. I believe this is a residual effect of being made in the Image of God. People have actually died or ended their lives due a lack of love.)

How should Christians consider and respond to affliction and suffering? (Romans 8.18; 2Corinthians 4.1 & 16; 2Corinthians 12.10; Ephesians 3.13-14; Hebrews 12.5-7 & 11). Seek, believe, and trust the true and eternal God (Job 19.25-27).

Suffering and affliction can have a refining influence (whether the suffering be for our faith or otherwise). We must remain open to the Will of God to act in our lives. What Scriptures address this aspect of suffering? (Job 23.10; Psalm 66.10; Isaiah 48.10; Malachi 3.3; 1Peter 1.6-7; 1Peter 4.12; 1Peter 5.10.

God allows or brings suffering to change, confront, or conform us to be more Christ-like. We can curse God or lean on Him. The choice is ours.

[1] C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed, p. 50.

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