Suffering
bearbear (#20)
3 Plays

Scripture says only through many hardships will we enter the kingdom of God. This is quite peculiar if you think about it. Let's investigate through scriptures why this would be.
1. Acts 14:22 (NIV)
strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. "We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God," they said.

People in the world prioritize their life to reduce suffering by increasing their comfort. People in general don't like to be inconvenienced and are often tempted to take shortcuts to reduce suffering.

However 1 Peter 4:12-13 says we shouldn't avoid the suffering that comes from following Jesus because suffering allows us to be partners with Christ in his suffering.

2. 1 Peter 4:12-13 (NIV)
Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world.

How is it that the "Christians" in Matthew 7:21-23 did all these mighty works but never "knew" the Lord. Surely they prayed and were involved in many church activities. These aren't lukewarm Christians because they are out in the community performing signs and wonders.

I suspect many of the people in Matt 7:21-23 practiced sin in order to avoid suffering. Judas being one of Jesus' disciples, baptized believers, performed many signs and wonders and was involved in many works, however he never dealt with his love of money. It's very easy to picture that his love of comfort and desire to avoid suffering motivated him to sin when he regularly stole out of the money bags (John 12:6).

The Greek word for "know" in verse 23 is ginóskó which means to know through personal experience.

3. Matthew 7:21-23 (NIV)
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
Mary also uses the word ginóskó when she said she never "knew" or was intimate with a man to the angel Gabriel. ginóskó is then used in contexts of intimacy. It's possible that in Matthew 7:23, Jesus was saying "I was never intimate with you". Perhaps because of their desire to avoid suffering, they actually avoided having true intimacy with Jesus.
4. Luke 1:34 (KJV)
Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?
When we avoid suffering that comes from the cross of Christ, we can actually be serving Satan instead of God. Satan actually tempted Jesus through Peter to avoid suffering by not going to the cross. Had Jesus obeyed his natural human desire to not suffer, we would all have died in our sins.
5. Matthew 16:21-23 (NIV)
From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. "Never, Lord!" he said. "This shall never happen to you!" Jesus turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns."
Job had intellectual knowledge of God, but God never revealed himself to Job directly until he passed through terrible suffering. Once Job saw God he said "now my eyes have seen you" and that changed everything for him.
6. Job 42:5 (NIV)
My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.
Jesus also revealed himself to Stephen as he was suffering while being stoned. In periods of suffering, Jesus reveals himself to us.
7. Acts 7:55 (NIV)
But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.

Saul never passed through a life of suffering before becoming King and was unprepared to lead Israel.

David on the other hand led a life of suffering prior to his kingship and learned to live a lifestyle of trusting in God. His own father in-law Saul wanted to kill him. David's own men often also wanted to kill him. With no one to turn to, David was forced to turn to God.

Instead of removing us from suffering, during times when the enemy attacks us, God comes down to fellowship with us and prepare a table in the presence of the enemy. God also provides us with his presence through the Holy Spirit (anoint my head with oil).

After passing through trials and tribulations, David was prepared to lead Israel more than Saul ever was.

8. Psalms 23:5 (NIV)
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
We rejoice in our sufferings because it is an opportunity for us to mature. Notice how the growth in Christian life in Romans 5:3-5 starts with suffering and ends in love. Also when we pass through suffering we're better able to empathize with others and pray for them instead of judge and criticize them.
9. Romans 5:3-5 (NIV)
Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to
Christians often lose their faith when they get deceived and hurt by authority figures who misrepresent God. Another cause is witnessing or experiencing wickedness and questioning why God does not intervene in our suffering. Such things may tempt us to let our love grow cold. However if we let our love grow cold, it actually means we have let go of faith because whoever does not love, does not know God (1 John 4:8).
10. Matthew 24:11-12 (NIV)
and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold,
The next verse 13 implies that our faith and love have to endure until the end to be saved.
11. Matthew 24:13 (NIV)
but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.

The secret to enduring suffering and testing may be found in the parable of the sower.

The rocky place person actually *believed* for a while but fell away in a time of testing. The testing could include suffering or persecution that comes from following Jesus. It is not enough to believe once in the gospel, but we have to believe until the end.

The Greek word used for "believe" in John 3:16 is pisteuon, which is the present continuous tense of "believe". We only inherit eternal life if we can believe until the end.

The thorny soil believer had a mindset to chase after the riches and pleasures of life. Someone with this outlook would actively avoid the suffering that comes with the cross of Christ.

Jesus tells us the secret to enduring until the end in Luke 8:15. The believer who was the good earth:

  • had a good heart
  • heard the word and held firm to it
  • persevered in patience
  • contrary to rocky soil must have been deeply rooted in God (another way of saying this is growing into intimacy with Jesus)
  • unlike the thorny soil, let go of anxieties in life, don't chase after riches and pleasures
  • unlike the soil on the path, don't just hear God's word but try to understand it

12. Luke 8:11-15 (NIV)
“This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. Those on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.

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