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Sunday, July 26, 2015, 8:27 AM
Part 8 should be my last in this series of posts on suffering. Sometimes it seems that those who strive to follow God's law endure more suffering than those who could care less about God's law. This is because since sin entered the world, sin has become a part of the world system. Striving to escape the world system of sin rubs against the grain of this world.
Ephesians 2:2; 6:12— … the Prince of the Power of the Air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: … For we wrestle not against flesh and blood … (but) against spiritual wickedness …
Romans 12:2— And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind…
Striving not to be conformed to this world is a struggle that the people of this world do not understand. This world wants to keep people conformed to the world system. The world system operates according to worldly wisdom. Anyone who goes against the grain of worldly wisdom is viewed with a certain suspicion. Being transformed is not an easy process and is a lifelong endeavor. We often lose our grasp of the transformation process, but our Creator never lets us go.
John 10:28, 29— And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall NEVER perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them Me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand.
Philippians 1:6— … He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:
If you see someone who seems to walk an easy path and seems to be very well thought of and respected in the community, do not jump to the conclusion that he must be a good Christian. Anyone can go around "loving" people as long as "loving" people seems to serve his/her purposes well. Christians are called to follow Christ, and Christ's steps led to a cross of self-sacrifice. Christians are told to love even our enemies and the only thing to expect in return (at least in this life) is to be misunderstood and hated in this world.
There are many types of suffering, both physical and mental. The best we can hope in this essay is to help bring more understanding about it. Much of the mental suffering can be eliminated if we learn to understand its causes, restructure our way of understanding (“… be ye transformed by the renewing of your minds.”), and respond with patience and faith that the Lord will see us through.
2nd Corinthians 1:5— For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.
Philippians 1:29— For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake;
John 15:17-20— These things I command you, that ye love one another. If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. … If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you …
Romans 5:2— …we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience (proven character); and experience, hope (expectation):
Hebrews 10:36— For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.
Jesus said that those who would follow Him, must take up His cross. He meant that cross to be an easy cross to bear in serving. If one suffers in serving Jesus, he will be comforted and rewarded. If one suffers while serving self rather than the Creator, then likely as not, his suffering is his reward. No one said it would be an easy road to follow. We may fall down. We may fall down a lot. It is not easy to get back up and keep going. But we must go on.
Many have spoken of, and great things have been written about, love. Who has ever traveled the deepest depths of the deepest love? Many have spoken of, and great things have been written, concerning human suffering. Who has lived through and given an understandable and justifiable account of anguish and agony? A string of perfect pearls may inspire lofty thoughts of beauty, grandeur and, love; but who considers that a single pearl began as an irritation in a clam? Who can say how much suffering is represented in a single strand of pearls? Many people have heard the story about the Pearl of Great Price. It is the story of Jesus. How many people consider that this Pearl represents the deepest depths of the most perfect love having been through the greatest suffering of human anguish and agony?
Romans 8:18, 28— I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.
1st Corinthians 2:9— But as it is written (Isaiah 64:4), Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared above for them that love Him.
1st John 3:2— Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is.
Saturday, July 25, 2015, 4:02 PM
Let me start part 7 on suffering by reminding you that it is a complex subject and I cannot touch on but a tip of the iceberg. Also, I do not want to give anyone the impression that I am an expert on the subject (or any subject for that matter). I think it was in part 1 of this series that I mentioned that getting burnt on a hot stove is suffering. As a child, I learned to avoid touching hot stoves. I still sometimes get burned while cooking; will I ever really learn?
If as a child a close friend of mine moved away, and I missed that friend, a proper response would be to learn to cherish the memories. Missing a friend is a form of loneliness; it is the loneliness of wishing for a companion who is not there. Loneliness is a form of suffering. If I have learned to treasure the good that I have, and stored those good memories up in my heart, then the hurt of losing a friend is eased. This growth could help me deal with other losses in the future, such as the deaths of my grandmother and mother.
In all cases suffering is to be with patience and faith that the Lord, the Pearl of Great Price, is the rewarder in the end. King David found his rewards. Job found his rewards. Jesus suffered all things at the hands of men. The rewards sought after by Jesus were for those who sought after Him to find Him. His reward was for us to find peace, love, and eternal joy.
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son…" Jesus came in perfect love, but the world misunderstood Him, abused Him, spit on Him, and nailed Him to a tree. He calls us to follow Him and commands us to love with a perfect love. God is loving, merciful, and forgiving. But anyone who thinks that following Jesus is supposed to be an easy road to follow has been deceived.
Suffering entered our world when sin entered our world. Sin is anything in violation of God's law. His law is "LOVE." Each person must examine his/her own life and determine personal understanding of LOVE and how well he/she is trying to live within its principles. Living as fully as possible within God's law does not mean a person will avoid suffering, as is illustrated time and again in the Bible.
Hebrews 12:6— For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth.
This does not mean that the Lord takes pleasure in scourging or in a person's suffering, but the Lord takes pleasure in a person knowing not to touch hot stoves. God loves people and wants people to know that where there is suffering, there is a reason. Even that which we may not realize in this life, we must respond appropriately in faith that it will be revealed.
Some people, such as me, are stubborn and hard headed. Sometimes I think that before I can understand a simple message, it has to hit me over the head with a brick. God does not want me to be hit over the head with a brick, but He does want me to get the message. God even loves stubborn, hard headed people like me, and when necessary, will hit me over the head with a brick, because He loves me.
Jeremiah 12:1— Wherefore doth the way of the wicked prosper? …
Why should God's children be concerned if the wicked in this world prosper? We should be more concerned that they find the Lord. Unless they find the Lord, they will have eternity to suffer for their wickedness in this life. Satan has enough power in this world to help his chosen ones prosper in this life. But this life is nothing compared to eternity. In that perspective, if a wicked man lived 1,000 years and was prosperous, it is only a moment next to eternity in Hell.
Still, knowing that the wicked are destined for Hell, God is merciful and wants them to turn to Him. His wrath on them in this life is to demonstrate His power, so that they might call upon Him for mercy.
Revelation 16: 8- 11— And the fourth angel poured out his vial upon the sun; and power was given unto him to scorch men with fire. And men were scorched with great heat, and blasphemed the name of God, which hath power over these plagues: and they repented not to give Him glory.
And the fifth angel poured out his vial upon the seat of the Beast; and his kingdom was full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues for pain, and blasphemed the God of Heaven because of their pains and their sores, and repented not of their deeds.
Not all responses to suffering end in good. But all things can work together for good- not for all- but for those who love God and accept that call to His purpose.
Romans 8:16-18,22,28— The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: 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. 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. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.
Saturday, July 25, 2015, 8:32 AM
Part 6 on suffering let us look at a few Biblical examples and responses to suffering.
Joseph, Abraham’s son, suffered at the hands of his own brothers, who sold him into slavery. In Egypt Joseph was unjustly thrown into prison. But Joseph was a man of integrity who sought to do right in the eyes of the Lord, and the Lord prospered him in all he set his hands to do. Joseph eventually was raised to a position that was second only to Pharaoh in all of Egypt. Through all of this he showed no ill will to his brothers. When they were reunited he said, "Be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: For God did send me before you to preserve life." So Joseph saw his brothers having sold him into slavery as a part of God's plan to provide for his family's future. (His family became the Jewish nation.)
David was said to be a "man after God's own heart." Before David became King of the Jews, he went through a great deal of personal suffering and heartaches. He endured hardships and struggles with no clear understanding of their reasons. In his later life He gave in to sin with a married woman and then had her husband murdered. For this he endured some of the bitterest heartaches that any man has ever had to suffer. As David was leaving Jerusalem, the capital city of Israel, fleeing his own son, a man ridiculed him. One of David's officers asked David for permission to kill him. David told him, in essence, "No. Perhaps the Lord had sent him; and if the Lord had not, then the Lord would return the man's impudence and repay David for the injustice." The main point is to reward good for evil, and trust the Lord to make amends.
Proverbs 15:1— A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.
Matthew 5:44— But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you, and persecute you;
Romans 12:14— Bless them which persecute you: bless and curse not.
1st Thessalonians 5:15— See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men.
The Bible speaks of Job as a just and righteous man. Yet what man could read of Job's losses, heartaches, pain, and misery and say he understands the depths of Job's suffering? Would anyone say that God was unjust because of Job's suffering? The Bible says it was Satan who gave Job so much misery, so do we blame Satan? Yes— and rightly so. Then comes the really difficult question: Was it not God Who allowed Satan to cause Job harm? Yes. It is not yet given unto man to understand the depths of God's wisdom or His ways. Men have each their own capacity to learn and understand; but ages have shown time and again that men's capacities are finite. Everyone who has read the Book of Job knows that his end was rewarded over and above his beginning. But that still doesn’t give us understanding of his reasons for suffering. Yet, for our finite capacities, God did not allow Satan to go beyond Job’s capacity. Who else on earth has so much capacity as Job. If someone wishes to think their capacity so great, then expect that capacity to be tested. But we (Christians) have a much greater reward to look forward to, so we must strive to be patient in suffering.
Suppose I, a stubborn and hard-headed man, refused to follow the Lord's law of LOVE. He could justly and rightly give me up as a lost cause. Or He could say, "You foolish, stubborn, hard-headed man. Because you refuse to live in my law of LOVE, I am going to allow Satan to give you suffering until you come to your senses, and turn back to the way I want you to go." Many people never learn anything from their suffering; they grow more adamant and stubborn, reaching out to grab whatever they think may give them peace.
People who sincerely search for their Creator, and recognize Him to be Lord and Master, learn many virtues in suffering. An irritation in a clam is turned into a beautiful pearl. Jesus is called the Pearl of Great Price. When people who are searching for the Pearl of Great Price suffer, this suffering can become a pearl necklace of virtues that can give beauty to all creation. I said "can" become... A person may be suffering because he brought suffering on himself, and in all cases, the key is the correct response to suffering.
Friday, July 24, 2015, 8:09 PM
Part 5 of this series of posts on suffering continues with more love. Why love. One really needs to read the whole series but I will try to recap some. In discussing suffering, there are many types. People can have different responses to suffering- pain, mental anguish, blame game, withdrawing from social situations, retaliation, or the best option is to seek what may be learned about one’s self and his relationship with his Creator. As suffering is primarily the result of mankind’s separation from God because of violation of God’s law, then we need to better understand God’s law, which has love as its foundation. Love can mean love for one’s self, and love can mean love for material rewards of this world, or feeling that lack of love is a form of suffering in itself. Being alone is not loneliness because sometimes a person can enjoy the solitude of being alone. Loneliness does not necessarily mean being by one’s self, because one can be in a crowd of people and still feel lonely. Loneliness can be a form of suffering, and in chapter two of Genesis, the very first thing that God said was “not good” was being alone. So now I plan to pick up with where I left off from part 4.
Many people growing up experience another aspect of this feeling called love. Someone does something for us and we appreciate it, and wish to do something in return for them. Most people learn that love is not just something for themselves, but for others as well.
Others learn to go a step further. Seeing someone in need they feel compassion and do something with no real thought for themselves. These we call "Good Samaritans." Some people become quite regular in being Good Samaritans. A curious development occurs here. Many people who understand "I love you," as, "What you can do for me," view these Good Samaritans with a certain contempt. Does someone think I am exaggerating? Think about it: why do some people think of others as "goody-two-shoes"?
Suppose we lived in the days of World War II and went from one Small Town, U.S.A., to another teaching people we should really love the Japanese and German people. Would we expect most God-fearing, flag-waving Americans to love us? Jesus taught that we should love our enemies and pray for people who would do us harm. He also warned us that if we love in the way He commands us to, we could expect to be misunderstood, not loved, and even hated by the people in this world.
Too often people, all people, are selfish. We are all pulled by the world around us and give in to some driving force that makes us think our wants are our needs, while neglecting the love of self-sacrifice we are to have for all people. Too often our love for others is based more on selfish reasons and less on love for the worth of others. When the quality of love is diminished, suffering abounds. Because one person's life has an impact on so many others, the suffering of one can spread like a shock wave. Many people are suffering without understanding why it is that suffering seems to fill the land. A lack of understanding leads to confusion, and confusion to frustration. Frustration can cause people to become desperate, to lash out, or maybe to withdraw into themselves.
1st Corinthians 12:26— …whether one member suffers, all the members suffer with it…
We need to understand that because some people seem to have little suffering in their lives, this does not necessarily mean that they are better people than others. It also does not mean that they suffer little. Many work very hard to keep private sufferings private. Also because some people seem to suffer much does not necessarily mean that they are more wicked or evil than anyone else.
So many feelings and emotions; so little understanding. We are told to love, pray for, and forgive our enemies. It seems impossible to look someone in the eyes when you are expecting them to hurt you or drive the proverbial "knife in the back." No one on earth may fully understand why there seems to be so much suffering in the land. But if we search for our Creator with all our heart, we will come face to face with a man who gave perfect love; a man who we (by sin) ridiculed, spit on, and nailed to a tree. In spite of that, He looks us in the eyes and says, "I love you." Then He looks to His Father and says, "Father, forgive them; they know not what they do."
Friday, July 24, 2015, 6:52 PM
Here I begin part 4 of my posts on suffering. It would be good to read the previous 3 posts to be up to date. Just to refresh, earlier I had said that God looked at all He had created and said that it was good. The first thing that God said was “NOT GOOD” was that the man should be alone. I believe all would agree that loneliness is one form of suffering and I will pick up now from where I left off in post 3 on suffering.
Many doctors boast about the increasing knowledge of human existence biologically, chemically, physically, mentally, psychologically, and behaviorally. They have many "success" stories, and in the eyes of much of mankind seem to be miracle workers. Yet with all of their knowledge poured together, the most honest and intelligent ones are not slow to confess that there are so many unanswered questions. All who are honest, no matter their level of intelligence, would have to agree, "We are fearfully and wonderfully made." (Psalms 139:14). And for all that "fearful wonder" not one would deny that it is not good that the man should be alone.
So God created man and said, "It is not good that the man should be alone." So God created woman and said, "Go forth and multiply." Now we have multiplied. Many say we have over-multiplied. People say we have a "population explosion," a "knowledge explosion," and an "information super-highway." Yet for all this, there is no one who can explain how we are "fearfully and wonderfully made." And in spite of this "population explosion," I doubt that there is anyone who does not know what it is like to feel so all alone.
A child is born. From birth the child begins to learn that needs are met, practically on demand. As babies we learn that we are rulers, and parents are our slaves. We learn to say, "I love you," as though this is the beginning of learning God's law. What we really learn is not so much to love our parents, or others, as to love ourselves. We learn to say, "I love you," but we are so far from comprehending its meaning.
"I need more food." My servant/parent feeds me. "I need another blanket." "I need my diaper changed." "I need you to hold me close, and rock me to sleep, so I will have the assurance that you will always be there for me." I am the master of my servant/parents and I pay them with my love. Whatever love is, people tell me I have plenty of it, and it seems sufficient for my needs.
We grow into children. We see other children with their own servant/parents and learn to play games. As long as the other children do not impinge on our servant/parents, our rights, our wants, or our needs, then maybe we will play with them. If we like to play with them, then maybe we could be so generous as to share some of our cute, cuddly, adorable love people tell us we have so much of. Whether we select the games we play, or let the other children select the games, we can always feel a certain amount of control. After all, we know if things do not go the way we like, we can always go home. But when we do not get what we think we are entitled to, we suffer.
On the playground all children want to play the games they want to play. Who decides what games are played? If I have the strong assurance that my servant/parents can fix anything, get anything, and take care of all my needs (even though what I want is whatever I think I need), then I can say, "We will play what I want to play or I will take my toys and go home." If I do not have so much assurance, and I need more companionship to give me the feeling that I belong, then I would be more likely to say, "I want to play whatever you want to play." Deep down inside, I need the assurance that someone, somewhere considers me a worthy companion.
From birth we experience so many feelings and emotions. We try to put labels on them, but can they ever be fully understood? What do we learn about: aloneness or loneliness; love or self-love; needs or wants? Labels are so inappropriately applied in usage that it becomes difficult to the mind to differentiate subtle meanings. "I know you think you understand what I thought I said..."
Often words are defined by contrasting them. If I said, "What is love?", would someone answer, "The opposite of hate."? But most people know that love is not the opposite of hate. If you do not love someone, it does not mean you hate him, and vice versa. "No love" is the opposite of love, not hate.
If I said that I would love to have something, would that mean that if I had it, I would love it? But I want it so much, I would love to have it. I just have to have it. I need it. So our desires can become so strong we have difficulty differentiating wants from needs, and what we love from what we want or utilize.
I love my servant/parent. My servant/parent takes care of my needs. I love my Teddy bear; it is always there for me. I love my bottle; it takes away that empty feeling called hunger. Empty, hungry- feels the same; must be the same. Lonely is sort of an empty feeling like hunger. I am lonely for my bottle. I am hungry for a companion. Do some people eat too much because they are lonely (hungry for a companion)? Are some people lonely because they have a propensity for eating too much? I love my companion; he/she takes away my loneliness.
I love my computer; it gives me so many options. I love my TV; it offers so many entertaining programs. I love anyone so special that makes ME feel special, worthy, or important. We can love almost anyone who is there for US or meets OUR needs or wants or someone who keeps US from being lonely. Love comes to mean anything or anyone that satisfies some need or any need WE have. So do we love ourselves, because it is ourselves being served?