Getting Beyond Ourselves
1 Samuel 10-12; Luke 9:37-62
I have one of those friends who seems to be better than I am at just about everything. He is smarter; he thinks more deeply; and he knows where to find better books to read. He is even a better golfer. Spending time with him challenges me to become a better, more thoughtful person. His standard of excellence spurs me on to greater things.
That highlights a spiritual principle: It’s crucial for us to spend time in God’s Word so we can connect with the person of Christ. Reading about the impact of Jesus’ unconditional love for us compels me to love without demand. His mercy and His free distribution of grace to the most undeserving make me ashamed of my tendency to withhold forgiveness and seek revenge.
I find myself becoming a more thankful person when I realize that, despite my shameful fallenness, the Lord has clothed me in the beauty of His perfect righteousness. His amazing ways and unsurpassed wisdom motivate and transform me. It’s hard to be content with my life as it is when in His presence I am drawn to become more like Him.
The apostle Paul calls us to the joy of beholding Christ. As we do so, we are “being transformed into the same image from glory to glory” (2 Cor. 3:18).
and hearts wide open to all that You are and want us
to become. Thank You for revealing Yourself to us
and for the joy of basking in the greatness of Your glory.
“Not one of all the Lord’s good promises to the house of Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.” Joshua 21:45
I am about to let you in on a deep, life-changing, earth-shattering theological truth. Are you ready for this?
God keeps His promises!
I mean, He really keeps His promises. Even if you can’t see it today, or even if it doesn’t happen in your lifetime, He doesn’t forget and He doesn’t change His mind. If He has made a promise, He’s good with it!
I was reading in the book of Joshua recently when I came to these verses at the end of Joshua 21:41-44. Keep in mind, this is after many stories of the people of Israel rebelling and murmuring against Moses, and 40 years of wandering in the wilderness. Israel had, essentially, tried to put their covenant with God in the dumper by their idolatrous, heretical, apostate ways. Even after God gave them the land of Canaan, they went back to idols. So it’s after they seemingly did all they could to mess it up that we read these astounding words at the end of Joshua’s life:
So the Lord gave Israel all the land he had sworn to give their forefathers, and they took possession of it and settled there. The Lord gave them rest on every side, just as he had sworn to their forefathers. Not one of their enemies withstood them; the Lord handed all their enemies over to them. Not one of all the Lord’s good promises to the house of Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.
Do you realize that the promises Joshua is referring to dated back hundreds of years? All the way back, in fact, to the early chapters of the book of Genesis where God chooses Abraham, promising Him numerous descendants, a national heritage, and land for each subsequent generation. Abraham acted on these promises, trusting the Lord, but the author of Hebrews 11:13 tells it like it is: Abraham and his wife, Sarah, “were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised.” They had one son, Isaac, but that hardly seemed like an auspicious start to a promised nation populated by their descendants—to say nothing of the fact that they never inherited the land.
But the story didn’t end there. From Joshua’s vantage point on his side of history, he had the privilege of seeing that God in His perfect time had kept His promises! God hadn’t forgotten. He hadn’t lost the list of the things He promised to give to Abraham. And so Joshua, standing in the land promised to Abraham, surrounded by the descendants of Abraham, marveled and praised God. No promises were left unfulfilled. Not one of them had failed.
We are so programmed today to be instantly gratified. From instant credit to ATM machines to high-speed Internet and fast-food restaurants, we are wired to getting everything we need and want now.And if we don’t get it now, our blood pressure starts to rise! But God’s timelines are wiser and better than our little antsy, often shortsighted expectations.
So hang in there! If He said it, claim it and cling to it. You can stay the course because the one thing you can count on is God’s faithfulness—regardless! We have the rock-solid witness of history and of Scripture that none of His promises will fail. I love the words Paul wrote to Timothy when he affirmed that though we are often faithless, God will be faithful to us because He cannot deny Himself (2 Timothy 2:13).
God Helps with Your Troubles:
Bible Solutions for Problems, Suffering, and Hardship
Everyone has troubles. We face problems, affliction, suffering, and hardship. We need strength, endurance, and patience. Why do people suffer? Are all trials the result of sin committed by the one who suffers? Why does God allow trials, worries, anxieties, and difficulties? Should we blame God and turn from Him? Can troubles and suffering actually make us better people? Is it possible to faithfully endure our difficulties? What solutions does the Bible offer to help us endure and overcome our problems, afflictions, and hardships?
“Man who is born of woman is of few days and full of trouble” (Job 14:1). We can especially appreciate these words when we think of the suffering endured by the one who spoke them. Different people deal with different problems and afflictions, and it seems that some suffer more hardships than others do. But we all know by personal experience and from the experiences of those we know, that Job’s statement is true.
Troubles concern us, not just because hardship itself is a burden, but also because affliction can lead to spiritual temptations. We may be tempted to feel that our trials justify committing sin. We may become so discouraged that we blame God for our troubles, lose faith in Him, or begin to doubt His goodness and mercy. As Job’s wife said, “Curse God and die” (Job 2:9).
The purpose of this study is to offer Bible answers to questions people often ask about suffering. Why do people suffer? Can good come from suffering? Is it possible to endure affliction with patience and faithfulness? How can God give us strength to endure our hardships and overcome our temptations? What does the Bible say?
Question #1: Why Do People Suffer?
The Bible Teaching
There are several reasons, not just one reason, why people suffer.
Sometimes people suffer as a result of their sins.
King Saul lived a miserable life and eventually was slain because he had rebelled against God (1 Chron. 10:13,14).
Judas killed himself because he had betrayed Jesus (Matthew 27:3-5).
Likewise today, alcoholics may develop disease, thieves may be imprisoned, etc.
Some people think this is the only reason people ever suffer, but we will see that it is not.
Sometimes innocent people suffer as a result of other people’s sins.
This may result from cruelty or accident, as when innocent bystanders are killed by a drunken driver, or when a thief violently attacks his victims.
In other cases wicked people may harm righteous people because they resent them. This kind of religious persecution is described in many verses.
1 Peter 2:19-23 – Jesus is an example of one who committed no sin at all, yet He was persecuted and killed by wicked men. So we may follow His example and suffer, not for our faults, but when we do good.
John 15:18-20 – The treatment Jesus received should warn us of the treatment we can expect. The world hated Him and persecuted Him, and it will do the same to His servants.
2 Corinthians 11:23-26 – Paul’s life shows that Jesus’ followers truly often are persecuted.
2 Timothy 3:10-12 – All who live godly in Christ shall suffer persecution.
(See also 1 Peter 4:12-16; Heb. 11:35-38; 1 Thess. 3:2-4; Acts 14:22; John 16:33; Gen. 50:20)
All people suffer as a result of Adam and Eve’s sin.
God originally placed Adam and Eve in a state of bliss with no problems of any kind. But He warned them of the consequences of sin. When they sinned anyway, He decreed they would endure pain, suffering, hardship, and eventual death (Gen. 3:16-19). All people since that time have endured these same problems. In particular, because of Adam, all people die (1 Cor. 15:22; Heb. 9:27).
Much of the suffering people endure, therefore, cannot be attributed to any particular sin committed by anyone now living. It is just the common lot of mankind because sin is in the world.
This does not mean, as some teach, that people today are born guilty of Adam’s sin or will be eternally punished for it (Ezek. 18:20; 2 Cor. 5:10). But we do suffer in this life because of it.
Some suffering is simply a temptation from Satan.
Job 1:1-2:10 expressly states that Job’s suffering was a temptation from Satan. He hoped that, because he was suffering, Job would turn away from God.
Many other passages teach that Satan is responsible for the suffering of other people. (See 2 Cor. 12:7-10; Luke 13:16; Acts 10:38).
Lessons We Should Learn
Suffering is not limited to those who are wicked.
Some people think that only wicked people suffer, but God is on the side of the righteous and will remove all their troubles. It follows that, if a person is suffering, he must have committed some sin he should repent of.
This was the theory of Job’s friends (Job 4:7-9); disproving this idea is a main theme of that book. This same false doctrine is taught by many “faith healers” who teach people that God must remove all their problems if they are right with Him.
But we have learned that even righteous people suffer. This is important for the following reasons:
* We should not conclude that we have been guilty of sin every time we have a problem. Maybe we are suffering because of sin, so we should examine our lives. But maybe we are suffering for other reasons, perhaps because we are righteous.
* We should surely never reject a Bible teaching just because it may lead to suffering. If all suffering was the result of our own sin, and if a course of action led to suffering, then we would conclude it was a sinful act. But we have learned that godly people often suffer for doing right.
* We should not become Christians thinking it will automatically solve all our problems. If this is our motive, we may fall away when the hardships come.
But the main lesson to learn is the next point:
God should not be blamed for the existence of suffering.
If we believe that all suffering results from a person’s own sin, and if we see good people suffering, we may be tempted to blame God or to think He is not keeping His promises. But we have learned that all people suffer, whether or not they are righteous.
The command to endure suffering is just another part of a Christian’s life, like the command to study the Bible, pray, worship, etc. Faithful Christians of all ages have suffered; we are not the only ones. We should expect suffering to come, so our faith will not be shaken when it does.
The ultimate and primary blame for suffering rests on Satan who tempts people to sin and thereby brought sin into the world. The secondary blame rests upon people, ourselves included, who have given in to temptation and committed sin that led to suffering.
Yes, God did create suffering as a punishment for sin, but only after He had given people a life without problems and had warned them of the consequences of sin. When they chose to sin, He should no more be blamed for punishing them than a parent should be blamed when he must punish a rebellious child. (Cf. James 1:13,15.)
Remember, if you blame God and reject Him because you are suffering, then you are doing exactly what Satan wants you to do. He has defeated you! The only way to defeat Satan and really overcome hardship is to maintain your faithfulness to God in spite of it.