Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Does God Allow Suffering?

Revelation 2:10 says, “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.” Jesus is telling this Church of Smyrna that they are about to suffer persecution. Paul said in 2 Timothy 3:12, "Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution."

I guess the question should be, “Is it in God’s plan that Christians suffer?” The answer is, “Yes.” That cannot be denied. I often hear Christians say "Satan, we bind you in the name of Jesus!" But we must understand something. Just because you want to bind him does not automatically mean that God wants to bind him. Sometimes God does allow Satan to do things out of his sovereignty that we cannot stop. Jesus told the Church of Smyrna to be faithful unto death!

The Example of Job
First, I think of the story of Job in the Old Testament. In Job 1:6-12 it says, “Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them…And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought? Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side?...And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the LORD.” Did God allow Job to suffer? Yes.

The Example of Peter
Second, I think of Peter in the New Testament. Jesus said to Peter in Luke 22:31-32, “…Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren." Notice that Jesus did not pray that Peter would be delivered from the “sifting” that was to come, but that his faith would not fail him when it was over.

The Example of Paul
Third, I also think of Paul the apostle said in 2 Corinthians 12:7-9, "…there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” Wouldn't it have been great if Job, Peter, and Paul could have all just have bound Satan and averted their suffering? Job would have never had such a horrible time by losing everything he owned, his children, and his bodily suffering. Peter could have avoided his three denials. Paul could have escaped the thorn in his flesh. But that was not in God’s plan for their lives.

James said in James 1:2-4, “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations (various trials); Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” God used their suffering to perfect them. Maturity in the faith comes with the realization that God often allows Satan to buffet us for His divine purposes.

Finally, notice that the Christians in Smyrna were promised that if they were faithful in their testing and persevered unto death that they would receive the crown of life. The Bible speaks of five crowns that can be received based upon their faithfulness in this life. The Imperishable Crown spoken of in 1 Corinthians 9:25, Crown of Rejoicing spoken of in 1 Thessalonians 2:19, Crown of Righteousness spoken of in 2 Timothy 4:8, Crown of Life spoken of here in Revelation 2:10 and in James 1:12, and the fifth crown is the Crown of Glory that is given to pastors spoken of in 1 Peter 5:4.

And what will we do with them when we get them? Rev 4:4, 10-11  And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold. The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.

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