The Purpose of Suffering

SERMON TOPIC: The Purpose of Suffering

Speaker: Gavin Paynter

Language: ENGLISH

Date: 21 August 2010


Sermon synopsis: The Bible gives a good deal of attention to the reality of suffering.
It does not regard it as an illusion as some religions and sects do, nor deal with it superficially.
Peter writes, “So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator…” (1 Pet 4:19) It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. (1 Pet 3:17)
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Suffering for

the Christian

The Bible gives a good deal of attention to the reality of suffering. It does not regard it as an illusion as some religions and sects do, nor deal with it superficially. One of the larger books of the Bible, the book of Job, is given solely to this question. The books of Jeremiah and Habakkuk have much to say about it. About one third of the Psalms, the prayers of the OT, are cries that arise out of doubt, disappointment, or pain. 1

Much of 1 Peter and Hebrews is about the suffering and persecution of Christians. Many of Paul’s letters were written from prison.

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Can suffering be God’s will?



Peter writes, “So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator…” (1 Pet 4:19)

It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. (1 Pet 3:17)

Can suffering be God’s will?

Suffering for the Christian is inevitable!

Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble.” (John 16:33).

Paul tells Timothy that “everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim 3:12).

Paul wrote, “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.” (Phil 1:29-30)


During the persecution of the Emperor Nero, in which he was later crucified, Peter wrote, “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you” (1 Pet 4:12).

The Bible does not teach the absence of suffering for believers, but God’s sustenance during suffering and the obligation on our part to endure and overcome through suffering.


If you suffer as a Christian - you’re in the company of:

The apostles

The Lord tells Ananias the following about Paul, “I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” (Acts 9:15-16)

Paul writes, “We had previously suffered and been insulted in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in spite of strong opposition.” (1 Thess 2:2)

2 Tim 2:8-9 This is my gospel, for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal.


When banished by the Emperor Domitian to do hard labour on the island of Patmos, John writes, “I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.” (Rev 1:9)

The prophets

Luke 6:22-23 “Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil… For that is how their fathers treated the prophets.”


The early Church

1 Thess 2:14-15 For you, brothers, became imitators of God’s churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus: You suffered from your own countrymen the same things those churches suffered from the Jews, who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out.

2 Tim 1:8 So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God


The true church throughout the ages.

Tertullian (2nd century) said:

“The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church…”

“The pleasure of those who injure you lies in your pain. Therefore they will suffer if you take away their pleasure by not feeling pain.”


Sunday morning, May 5. Preached in St. Anne’s. Was asked not to come back anymore.

Sunday p.m., May 5. Preached at St. John’s. Deacons said, “Get out and stay out.”

Sunday a.m., May 12. Preached at St. Jude’s. Can’t go back there, either.

Sunday p.m., May 12. Preached at St. George’s. Kicked out again.

Sunday a.m., May 19. Preached at St. somebody else’s. Deacons called special meeting, said I could not return.

1 Source: " ">


Sunday p.m., May 19. Preached on the street. Kicked off the street.

Sunday a.m., May 26. Preached in a meadow. Chased out of the meadow as a bull was turned loose during the services.

Sunday a.m., June 2. Preached out at the edge of town. Kicked off the highway.

1 Ibid


John Wesley

Initially Wesley had avoided marriage feeling that it might distract him from his ministry. However at the age of 48, he finally married Mary Vazeille. His wife travelled with him for some time, but soon grew dissatisfied with a life so restless. 1

1 History of the Religious Movement of the 18th Cent. Called Methodism. (Abel Stevens)


Mary Vazeille Wesley

Unwilling to travel herself, she became equally dissatisfied with her husband’s habitual absence. Her discontent took at last the form of a monomaniacal jealousy. During 20 years she persecuted him with unfounded suspicions and intolerable annoyances. She repeatedly deserted him, but returned at his own earnest instance. She opened, interpolated, and then exposed to his enemies his correspondence, and sometimes travelled a hundred miles to see, from a window, who accompanied him in his carriage. At last, taking with her portions of his journals and papers, which she never restored, she left him with the assurance that she would never return. 1

1 Ibid


In 1739 the Bishop of London denounced George Whitefield . 1 At Moorfields one lout climbed a tree overlooking the preacher and urinated at him. 2

In 1744 Whitefield almost became a martyr. He was attacked by a man uttering abusive language, who called him a dog, villain, and so forth, and then proceeded to beat him unmercifully with a gold- headed cane until he was almost unconscious. 1

1 Source: " "> 2 Victor Shepherd


George Whitefield


The Messiah is described in Isaiah 53:3 as “a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering”. Jesus told his disciples, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.” (John 15:18)


1 Pet 2:19-23 For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God. But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.


Writing to an audience who were being tempted to fall away because of persecution, the writer of Hebrews reminds them that our heroes of faith suffered:

“Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated — the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.” (Heb 11:35-38)


In this context dealing with suffering we are then pointed to Jesus as an example of overcoming in the face of suffering. The ‘witnesses’ referred to are those who had faith in the midst of suffering.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame… Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Heb 12:1-3)


Scottish-born David Livingstone (1813–1873) opened up ‘the dark continent’ (Africa) to the gospel and also fought relentlessly to stop the Arab slave trade.

In Africa, Livingstone was attacked and left permanently injured by a lion.


He married Mary Moffat, but was later separated from her and the children for 4 years when they returned to England in order that Mary could recover from ongoing illness. Joining him on his next trip, Mary succumbed to fever and died. In grief he exclaimed “Now for the first time in my life I am willing to die! Take me too, O God!”

“I never made a sacrifice. We ought not to talk of ‘sacrifice’ when we remember the great sacrifice which He made who left His Father’s throne on high to give Himself up for us.” – David Livingstone


The book, ‘Why Do People Suffer?’ relates the story of a school that collapsed, killing all the teachers and most of the children. A little boy, badly maimed, was rescued from the rubble and rushed to hospital. For hours a team of doctors and nurses fought to save his life while his mother waited anxiously outside the operating theatre. After 7 hours of painstaking surgery the little boy died. Instead of leaving it to the nurse to tell the mother, the surgeon went himself. As he broke the dreadful news the mother became hysterical in her grief and attacked the surgeon, pummeling his chest with her fists. But instead of pushing her away, the doctor held her to himself tightly until the woman’s sobbing subsided and she rested cradled in his arms. 1

1 Source: suffer8.htm


And then in the heavy silence the surgeon began to weep. Tears streamed down his face and grief racked his body. For he had come to the hospital the moment he heard that his one and only son had been killed in the same school. 1

William Temple, the Archbishop of Canterbury (1942–1944), put it like this: “There cannot be a God of love,” people say, “because if there was, and he looked upon the world, his heart would break.” The church points to the Cross and says, “It did break”.


William Temple (1881–1944)

1 Ibid

Lisa Goertz was a Jewish lady who lost most of her family in the Nazi holocaust, including her mother, husband, brother, son and daughter. At one point, when 16 members of her family had disappeared, she decided to end it all. In her book, ‘I Stepped into Freedom’, she tells what happened: “I walked out into the night, feeble with hunger, half crazy with fear and fatigue, and made my way down to the river Neisse. In a few hours all would be over, I told myself. What a relief! And there it happened. Across the dark river I saw the Cross and Jesus Christ on it. His face was not the face of a victor; it was the face of a fellow-sufferer, full of love and understanding and compassion. We gazed at each other, both of us Jews, and then the vision disappeared.” For Lisa this was the beginning of the road that led to faith and personal healing. 1


1 Ibid


I want my breakfast served at 8, With ham and eggs upon my plate; A well-broiled steak I’ll eat at one, And dine again when day is done. I want an ultramodern home. And in each room a telephone; Soft carpets, too, upon the floors, And pretty drapes to grace the doors.

A cozy place of lovely things, Like easy chairs with inner springs, And then I'll get a small TV – Of course, ‘I’m careful’ what I see. I want my wardrobe, too, to be Of neatest, finest quality, With latest style in suit and vest: Why should not Christians have the best?

But then the Master I can hear In no uncertain voice, so clear: ‘I bid you come and follow Me, The lowly Man of Galilee. Birds of the air have made their nest, And foxes in their holes find rest, But I can offer you no bed; No place have I to lay My head.’ In shame, I hung my head and cried. How could I spurn the Crucified? Could I forget the way He went. The sleepless nights in prayer He spent? For 40 days without a bite, Alone He fasted day and night; Despised, rejected – on He went, And did not stop till veil He rent.

A man of sorrows and of grief, No earthly friend to bring relief; ‘Smitten of God,’ the prophet said – ‘Mocked, beaten, bruised, His blood ran red.’ If He be God, and died for me, No sacrifice too great can be for me, A mortal man, to make; I’ll do it all for Jesus’ sake. Yes, I will tread the path He trod, No other way will please my God; So, henceforth, this my choice shall be, My choice for all eternity.

(This poem titled “My Choice” was written by William McChesney)

William “Smiling Bill” McChesney was a missionary to the Congo. In 1964 at the age of 28 and while suffering from malaria, he was shoved into a truck by Simba rebels, stripped and mercilessly beaten. He was then imprisoned in a small cell with 40 other prisoners. According to TIME magazine of Friday, Jan. 08, 1965: 1

The Belgians were shot, clubbed to death or tied up and hurled alive into the Wamba River. But that was killing with kindness compared to the fate of American Protestant Missionary William McChesney, 28. They performed a mad war dance on his prostrate body until internal bleeding from ruptured organs ended his agony. Then the Simbas plucked out his eyes and threw his corpse into the river.

1 time/ magazine/ article/ 0,9171,833402,00.html


When he was man, he played the man. He was born in poverty and died in disgrace and thought it all worthwhile… During President Ronald Reagan’s presidential campaign in 1979, a woman of about 80 spoke out from the audience at the end of one of his campaign speeches. “Mr. Reagan, everything you’ve said sounds just fine. But what about the old folks? Haven’t you forgotten us?” The man who was to become the oldest president of the US smiled down at her and replied, “Forget you? Heavens, how could I ever forget you? I am one of you.” Does God know our pain ? Yes he does because he became one of us! 1



As Jesus approached Jerusalem “he wept over it” (Luke 19:41).

To the mocking question “Where is your God?” when we face pain beyond expression, we do not have all the answers. But we have a God with wounds. 1

1 “Nothing Else to Fear” – David W. Ellis


One may ask “What then is the purpose of suffering?”

God speaks to us through suffering

C.S. Lewis wrote: “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

This excerpt was from “The Problem of Pain” written in 1940, 20 years before his beloved wife, Joy Davidman, died of cancer in the third year of their marriage. Lewis considered the problem of suffering from a purely theoretical standpoint but years later, struck with the grief of a mourning husband he wrote another classic on pain, “A Grief Observed”.


We learn obedience through suffering (to trust even when we don’t understand)

Heb 5:8 Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered…

Adoniram Judson was a 19th century American missionary to Burma. At age 37 he endured 17 months of imprisonment. Little food was given to him. His feet were bound to a large bamboo pole, his hands to another, and at night his feet were lifted higher than his head. 1

1 Source:

Adoniram Judson (1788-1850)


His heroic wife brought little bits of food to him, although she and the baby were near death at times themselves. Under cover of darkness, she crept to the door of Judson’s den, bringing food and whispering words of hope and consolation.

While he was gone, Ann fell victim to a vicious fever. Before she died she said, “The teacher (husband) is long in coming; and the new missionaries are long in coming; I must die alone and leave my little one. But as it is the will of God, I submit to his will.”

Ann Judson (1789-1826)


She died at 36 years of age. When Judson returned his heart was broken, as he buried his wife under a hopia tree in Amherst. About 3 months later he buried his third child – next to Ann.

What had Judson been doing during these days in prison? Translating the Bible, hiding his work in a hard pillow.

His second and third wives also died because of the physical strain of life in the tropics. Judson buried several children in Burma.

“If I had not felt certain that every additional trial was ordered by infinite love and mercy, I could not have survived my accumulated suffering.” (Adoniram Judson)


Speaking at the dedication of the Judson Memorial Church in New York City, a son, Edward, spoke referring to his father: “Suffering and success go together. If you are succeeding without suffering, it is because others before you have suffered; if you are suffering without succeeding, it is that others after you may succeed.” Judson probably illustrated this truth as much as any man who ever lived. 1



When James Calvert went out as a missionary to the cannibals of the Fiji Islands, the ship captain tried to turn him back, saying, “You will lose your life and the lives of those with you if you go among such savages.” To that, Calvert replied, “We died before we came here.”

There is no painless way to follow Christ. Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For who- ever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.” (Mark 8:34-35)

James Calvert (1813-1892)


Trusting in God’s goodness and faithfulness, despite suffering, deepens our relationship with Jesus

Phil 3:10-11 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead…

“Let trouble come if it will drive us nearer to God.” – D.L. Moody

“We can stand affliction better than we can prosperity, for in prosperity we forget God.” – D.L. Moody.


Paul writes, “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life… But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.” (2 Cor 1:8-9)

Hudson Taylor was the missionary who opened up inland China to the Gospel. His first wife was fellow missionary Maria Dyer.

One day their little 8 year old Gracie saw a man making an idol. “Oh, Papa,” she exclaimed, “he doesn’t know about Jesus or he would never do that! Won’t you tell him?” 1

1 Source: htaylor.html


He did so, the little girl following with eager interest. Later on she prayed most earnestly for the idol maker and for all the idol-worshiping Chinese. Just a week later Gracie was dying. Their loss was overwhelming and the tempter whispered, “Your God has forsaken you.” But the father wrote a few weeks later: “Our dear little Gracie! How we miss her sweet voice… and the sparkle of those bright eyes. But He who said, ‘I will never leave thee’ (Heb 13:5), is with us… nothing can ever substitute for the Presence of Christ.” 1

1 Ibid

Gracie Taylor (1859-67)


With his wife, Mary, John Paton sailed from Scotland in 1857 and landed on the island of Tanna in the New Hebrides, an island chain northeast of Australia. With them was another young missionary, Joseph Copeland. 1

The people were as fierce as he had been told. Cannibal celebrations took place in sight of the Patons’ home and human blood fouled the drinking water. The natives frightened Joseph Copeland so much that he lost his wits and died; they continually threatened John. 1 Early the next year, Mary bore a son. Both mother and child came down with fevers and died. With a breaking heart, John dug their grave and laid them in it. Later he said, “But for Jesus, and the fellowship He granted me there, I would have gone mad and died beside that lonely grave!” 1

1 Source: Christian History Institute


John remained on Tanna. He went from village to village telling of the love of Christ and translating Scripture into the Tannese language. But finally, when all his supplies were stolen and starvation stared him in the face, he made his way across the island to the settlement of a second missionary. Exhausted he fell asleep. 1 After leaving Tanna, John remarried and worked on a smaller island. He had the joy of seeing the people of Aneityum come to Christ in a way the people of Tanna never had. 1

1 Ibid


Missionaries to West Africa in the 19th century often transported their possessions to the field by packing them in a coffin and shipping them! The expected life expectancy on the field at the time was approximately 3 to 4 years. Upon setting out, missionaries understood that they could die so they brought coffins – for their bodies to be sent back to Europe or America.


Alexander MacKay (1849-1890), pioneer missionary to Uganda said, “Within 6 months, you will probably hear that one of us is dead. When the news comes, do not be cast down; but send someone else immediately to take the vacant place.”

How prophetic his words were. Within 3 months, one of the party of 8 was dead; within a year 5 had died; and at the end of 2 years, MacKay himself was the sole survivor. In the face of overwhelming odds he struggled on for 12 years until he too was felled by malarial fever.


Alexander Mackay (1849-1890)

“We did not come to China because missionary work here was either safe or easy, but because He has called us. We did not enter upon our present positions under a guarantee of human protection, but relying on the promise of His presence. The accidents of ease or difficulty, of apparent safety or danger, of man’s approval or disapproval, in no wise affect our duty. Should circumstances arise involving us in what may seem special danger, we shall have grace, I trust, to manifest the depth and reality of our confidence in Him, and by faithfulness to our charge to prove that we are followers of the Good Shepherd who did not flee from death itself…” - Hudson Taylor


To prevent spiritual pride

2 Cor 12:7 To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.


In our weakness, God is strong

2 Cor 12:8-10 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

So suffering teaches us to rely on God, not self.

When a fellow missionary was stricken with smallpox, Hudson Taylor had barely recovered from another sickness himself but gladly volunteered to nurse the sick man.


Hudson Taylor (1832-1905)

The disease proved fatal to the man and Taylor contracted smallpox, but had a mild attack since he had been vaccinated. He was forced, however, to destroy his clothes, and because he had used his funds to help another missionary, he had no money to buy more. Then a long-lost box of clothes, left behind 15 months earlier, arrived unexpectedly, bringing him just what he needed. He made this note in his journal in November 1857: “I would not, if I could, be otherwise than as I am—entirely dependent upon the Lord, and used as a channel to help others.” 1

1 Source:


David Brainerd, the great missionary to the American Indians, suffered from tuberculosis, but he refused to put his health needs above the salvation needs of the Indians. He fell in love with Jerusha Edwards, the daughter of Jonathan Edwards, but his ill health prevented them from marrying. At the age of 29, while in Edwards home, David Brainerd died of tuberculosis. Brainerd’s work shows that God can use any vessel, no matter how fragile and frail.

David Brainerd (1718-1747)


William Carey is known as “the father of modern missions”.

While serving as a missionary in India, William Carey’s son Peter died of dysentery, causing his wife Dorothy to suffer a nervous breakdown from which she never recovered. Carey’s second wife, Charlotte, died in 1821, followed by his eldest son Felix. In 1812, a fire in his print shop caused £10,000 in damages and lost work.

William Carey (1761–1834)


Yet William Carey translated the Bible into India’s major languages. He used his influence with the Governor-General to help put a stop to the practices of infant sacrifice and ‘suttee’ (burning of widows on the funeral pyre of their husbands). In addition he provided schools for women and an asylum for lepers.

“God, who foresaw your tribulation, has specially armed you to go through it, not without pain but without stain.” – C.S. Lewis

The first Christian missionary to the New Hebrides Islands was John Williams. As soon as he arrived on the Cannibal Island he was clubbed to death and then devoured at a cannibal feast. 1

1 missions


His labour was not in vain. God had a purpose in allowing this. The news of this tragedy filled the London Missionary Society, which had sent him, with sorrow but also with a strong determination not to be defeated by this event. Immediately 25 new workers volunteered to take the place of Williams. 1

50 years after Williams was murdered, the son of his murderer was laying the cornerstone of the martyr’s memorial, while another son was preaching the gospel for which that martyr died! 1

1 Ibid

John Williams (1796–1839)


Crucifies the flesh and focuses us on the truly important things:

1 Pet 4:1-2 Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin. As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God.

Don’t pray for a light load – pray for a strong back.


Mary Craig had 4 sons, 2 of whom were born with severe abnormalities, one with disfiguring and incapacitating Hohler’s syndrome, and one with Down’s syndrome. In her book entitled ‘Blessings’, Mary Craig says: “the value of suffering does not lie in the pain of it… but in what the sufferer makes of it… It is in sorrow that we discover the things which really matter…” 1

1 suffer8.htm


God uses it to refine and develop us

Heb 2:10 In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering.

I was in my second year of widowhood and I was struggling. Morning after morning my prayer-life consisted of one daily sigh: “Lord, I shouldn’t be struggling like this!” “And why not?” his still, small voice asked me from within one morning. Then the answer came—unrecognized pride! Somehow I had thought that a person of my spiritual maturity should be beyond such struggle. What a ridiculous thought! I had never been a widow before and needed the freedom to be a true learner—even a struggling learner.


At the same time, I was reminded of the story of a man who took home a cocoon so he could watch the emperor moth emerge. As the moth struggled to get through the tiny opening, the man enlarged it with a snip of his scissors. The moth emerged easily—but its wings were shrivelled. The struggle through the narrow opening is God's way to force fluid from its body into its wings. The ‘merciful’ snip, in reality, was cruel. Hebrews 12 describes the Christian life as a race that involves endurance, discipline, and correction. We never get beyond the need of a holy striving against self and sin. Sometimes the struggle is exactly what we need to become what God intends us to be.—Joanie Yoder


Suffering develops perseverance, character & hope

Rom 5:3-4 Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.

James 1:2-4 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

The purpose of Christianity is not to avoid difficulty, but to produce a character adequate to meet it when it comes. It does not make life easy, rather it tries to make us great enough for life.-James L Christensen.


A Ugandan Christian named Henry was traveling by a bus that was ambushed by guerrillas. Half of his face was blown away and World Vision paid for him to go to Montreal for treatment. David Watson, an Anglican clergyman, says that when he met Henry, he flinched when he saw the mangled flesh that had once been his face. But Henry’s eyes sparkled. Unable to speak Henry wrote: “God never promises us an easy time. Just a safe arrival.” 1

1 Source: Watson, ‘Fear No Evil’


John Wimber was one of the founders of the Vineyard church movement in southern California. He tells of a Christian man whose teenage daughter was brutally murdered by a young man who attempted to rape her. Utterly desolate, the father went back to his house and gathered his family and prayed, “Father, I don’t understand. But I trust you.” 1

1 Source: Christianity Today

John Wimber


Over the months and years that followed, he experienced a profound motivation to make Christ known. The story of his daughter’s murder, the pursuit of her killer, the trial, and the father’s forgiveness of the young man were front-page news for months in the Los Angeles area. People knew about him and were willing to listen to him. Through his testimony to Christ, hundreds of people came to faith in Jesus. 1

Some years later, his 22-year-old only son who had just graduated from college - a wonderful Christian, a fine athlete, a brilliant student – was in an auto accident and his skull was crushed. Today this father cares for his big, handsome boy, who functions with significant handicaps and must be watched at all times. 1 1 Source: Christianity Today


However, the mysterious working of God’s purposes, which would have driven many into unbelief, has driven this man on. He continued to pray, “Father, I don’t understand, but I trust you.” He continues to lead people to Christ. Wimber says: “I am one of them. One evening years ago I knelt in this man’s living room, and he prayed for me as I turned my life over to Christ… 1

I am sure that if I were designing a program to prepare an evangelist, I would never come up with anything like that… But God’s action in this man’s life produced a broken and contrite heart, and a highly motivated personality. He went out and has done the job the Lord gave him from that day forth. 1

1 Ibid


If we are going to pursue the things of the Lord, we will often not understand what he is doing… As my friend always used to tell me, ‘Sometimes God crushes a petal to bring out its essence.’ Sometimes he offends our minds to reveal our hearts. God may not remove our suffering, but he can transform it into something that will bring benefit to us and glory to him - if that is what we desire, and if we will trust him to do so.” 1

Suffering, with dignity, may enable you to mark more lives for Christ than anything else you say or do for Christ. - Bill Hybels

1 Christianity Today


Suffering is used by God as a form of discipline (It is a sign of sonship.)

Deut 8:5 Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the LORD your God disciplines you.

Heb 12:4-11 And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.” Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father?


If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.


“God calls some of his children through long seasons of extremest suffering, obviously as a means of purifying their hearts; yet many pray for pure hearts and for the Spirit to purify their hearts, who would rebel at once if God should answer their prayers by means of such a course of providence. Or, God may see it necessary to crucify your love of reputation, and for this end may subject you to a course of trial which will blow your reputation to the winds of heaven. Are you ready to hail the blessings of a subdued, unselfish heart, even though it be given by means of such discipline?” – Charles Finney


It may be a test of our integrity

God allowed Satan to inflict Job with suffering to test his integrity. When Job learnt that he had lost his livestock, servants and all his children, he “fell to the ground in worship and said: ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.’ In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing. (Job 1:20-22)


Then the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity…” (Job 2:3)


Can Satan still test us like he did Job? Despite the teaching of some that Satan is powerless and ‘can only roar, not bite’, the context 1 of 1 Peter (written during Nero’s persecution) 2 makes it clear that the lion has teeth.

1 Pet 5:8-10 Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

1 Don’t build your doctrine from ‘one-liners’ in the Bible – look at the context! Beware of those who use one verse out of context simply as a launch pad for unbiblical teaching. 2 Tacitus writes of the persecution of Christians by Nero, “They died in torments, and their torments were embittered by insult and derision. Some were nailed on crosses; others sewn up in the skins of wild beasts, and exposed to the fury of dogs; others again, smeared over with combustible materials, were used as torches to illuminate the darkness of the night. The gardens of Nero were destined for the melancholy spectacle…”


Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.

We are instructed to ‘resist’ Satan and to stand ‘firm in the faith’.

God’s restoration comes “after you have suffered a little while”.


Trials prove if our faith is genuine.

In Rev 3:18 Jesus speaks of gold which is “refined in the fire”. In many Scriptures fire is used to symbolise suffering. Just as fire refines the gold, so our faith is refined by suffering.

Job 23:10 But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.

Proverbs 17:3 The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the Lord tests the heart.

Zech 13:9 This third I will put into the fire; I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, 'They are my people,' and they will say, 'The LORD is our God.'"


1 Pet 1:6-7 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith - of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.


We can choose to either:

FALL AWAY – “The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away” (Matt 13:20-21)

CONTINUE TO DO GOOD - “So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.” (1 Pet 4:19)


Horatio G. Spafford was fairly well-known in 1860’s Chicago, and this not just because of his legal career and business endeavors - the Spaffords were also prominent supporters and close friends of D.L. Moody.

In 1870, however, things started to go wrong. His only son died of scarlet fever at the age of 4. Horatio had invested heavily in real estate on the shores of Lake Michigan. In 1871, every one of these holdings was destroyed by the great Chicago Fire.

Horatio Spafford (1828-88)


Aware of the toll that these disasters had taken on the family, Horatio decided to take them on holiday to England. And not only did they need the rest – D.L. Moody was traveling around Britain on one of his great evangelistic campaigns and they planned to join and assist him later.

Just before they set sail, a last-minute business development forced Horatio to delay. Anna and the children left with Horatio to follow on later.

9 days later, he received a telegram from his wife in Wales which read: “Saved alone.” Their ship, the ‘de Havre’, had collided with another ship and sank in only 12 minutes, claiming the lives of 226 people. Anna had stood on deck, with her 4 daughters clinging desperately to her.


Her last memory had been of her baby being torn violently from her arms by the force of the waters. Anna was only saved from the fate of her daughters by a plank which floated beneath her unconscious body and propped her up.

When she was rescued, her first reaction was one of complete despair. Then she heard a voice speak to her, “You were spared for a purpose” and she immediately recalled the words of a friend, “It’s easy to be grateful and good when you have so much, but take care that you are not a fair-weather friend to God.”


Upon hearing the terrible news, Spafford boarded the next ship to join his bereaved wife. During the voyage, the captain called him to the bridge to point out the spot where the ‘de Havre’ had gone down. Horatio then returned to his cabin and penned the lyrics of his great hymn.

“When peace, like a river, attendeth my way When sorrows like sea billows roll Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say It is well, it is well, with my soul”


“The Touch of the Master’s Hand” was a poem by Myra Welch. She was in a wheelchair suffering from severe arthritis, which had taken away her ability to make music and so she spoke through her poetry. She would take a pencil in each of her badly deformed hands and, using the eraser end, would slowly type the words, the joy of them outweighing the pain of her efforts. Her words were a joyful expression of a soul that was touched by the Master’s Hand.


What is our response to suffering?

In our lives – will suffering be a stepping stone or a stumbling block to our faith? WE CHOOSE!

“We decide whether suffering in this life will harden us or soften us.” - Lee Strobel

Paul writes that “we also rejoice in our sufferings” (Rom 5:3-4) and “Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.” (Col 1:24) He tells the Thessalonians, “You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.” (1 Thess 1:6)


Suffering is inevitable – misery is a choice.

James 1:2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds…

Heb 10:34 You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions.

1 Pet 4:13-16 But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed… if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.


“I think there is a difference between happiness and joy. Happiness is caused by things which happen around me, and circumstances will mar it, but joy flows right on through trouble; joy flows on through the dark; joy flows in the night as well as in the day; joy flows all through persecution and opposition; if flows right along, for it is an unceasing fountain bubbling up in the heart; a secret spring which the world can’t see and don’t know anything about; but the Lord gives His people perpetual joy when they walk in obedience to Him.” – D.L. Moody

When the apostles were flogged and ordered not to speak in the name of Jesus, they “left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.” (Acts 5:40-41)


Not all who attended George Whitefield’s outdoor meetings were fans, as evidenced by his testimony about preaching at Moorfields outside London, “I was honored with having stones, dirt, rotten eggs and pieces of dead cats thrown at me.” 1 In 1756 George Whitefield almost met death in Ireland. One Sunday afternoon while preaching on a beautiful green near Dublin, stones and dirt were hurled at him. Afterwards a mob gathered, intending to take his life. Those attending to him fled, and he was left to walk nearly a half a mile alone, while rioters showered him with stones until he was covered with blood. He staggered to the door of a minister living close by. He later said that in Ireland he had been elevated to the rank of an Apostle by having had the honor of being stoned. 1

1 Source: " ">


Hab 3:17-19 Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Saviour. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights.


Jesus said “Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven.” (Luke 6:22-23)

Is there not something captivating in the sight of a man or a woman burdened with many tribulations and yet carrying a heart as sound as a bell? Is there not something contagiously valorous in the vision of one who is greatly tempted, but is more than conqueror? Is it not heartening to see some pilgrim who is broken in body, but who retains the splendour of an unbroken patience? What a witness all this offers to the enduement of His grace! - Dr. John Henry J. H. Jowett (Biography)


“Blessed Be Your Name” was written by Matt Redman and his wife, Beth, in 2001 as a song of praise in the midst of suffering. Both Matt and Beth had difficult childhoods and came to realize that worshiping God is a choice to be made especially in the face of difficulty. Matt and Beth were in the U.S. during the 9/ 11 terrorist attacks and they wrote “Blessed Be Your Name” in the aftermath of that tragedy. They wanted to encourage the church to find its voice before God and to respond appropriately to God in the dark times of life. 1

1 http:// cuyahogavalleychurch.


Blessed be your name in the land that is plentiful Where your streams of abundance flow, Blessed be your name And blessed be your name when I'm found in the desert place Though I walk through the wilderness, Blessed be your name

Every blessing you pour out I’ll turn back to praise And when the darkness closes in, Lord still I will say Blessed be the name of the Lord, Blessed be your name Blessed be the name of the Lord, Blessed be your glorious name

Blessed be your name when the sun’s shining down on me When the world’s all as it should be, Blessed be your name And blessed be your name on the road marked with suffering Though there’s pain in the offering, Blessed be your name

You give and take away, You give and take away My heart will choose to say, Lord, blessed be your name


Rom 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

“God did not create suffering, evil and death. Even though suffering is never good, God can and does use it to accomplish good.” - Lee Strobel

“I believe in the sun even if it isn't shining. I believe in love even when I am alone. I believe in God even when He is silent.” - written on a wall in a concentration camp

Do you see difficulties in every opportunity or opportunities in every difficulty?


Once, on a journey to an inland city, Hudson Taylor was robbed of his traveling bed, spare clothes, surgical instruments, and a Bible given to him by his mother. Taylor decided not to prosecute the thief because of the harsh Chinese penal system, but wrote the culprit a letter instead, urging him to repent. He described his plea to the errant servant in a letter sent home to England. That letter somehow fell into the hands of George Mueller of Bristol. He was so impressed by the spirit of the writer that he became a supporter of the mission. Taylor’s sacrifice of the right to prosecute the man who stole his bed resulted in a supporter who would provide over $10,000 per year for the mission and would be a friend and advisor in times of trial. Looking back, giving up the right to justice did not seem like a sacrifice. 1

1 http:// htaylor.html


Sometimes the door of opportunity swings on the hinges of opposition.

“Circumstances may appear to wreck our lives and God’s plans, but God is not helpless among the ruins. Our broken lives are not lost or useless. God’s love is still working. He comes in and takes the calamity and uses it victoriously, working out His wonderful plan of love.” - Eric Liddell, Olympic Champion, and Missionary to China


Here are 2 verses often quoted out of context by the “health and wealth” proponents to show that we should all be prosperous and company CEOs:

Phil 4:11-13 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

The doing ‘all things’ or ‘everything’ that Paul refers to is being “content whatever the circumstances” - including hunger, need and want.


Rom 8:35-37 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

i.e. we are more than conquerors even though we face trouble, hardship, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger and death.


God has promised to comfort us in our suffering

2 Cor 1:3-6 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.


What is God’s response to our suffering?

Jesus promised peace in the midst of trouble:

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

“Sometimes I am amazed to see how little it takes to drive all peace and comfort from some people. Some slandering tongue will readily blast it. But if we have the peace of God, the world can not take that from us.” - D.L. Moody


Born in Ireland, Joseph Scriven migrated to Canada at age 25 after his fiancée drowned the night before their wedding. His association with the Plymouth Brethren estranged him from his family. Thereafter he took the Sermon on the Mount literally and gave freely of his limited possessions, even sharing the clothing from his own body, if necessary, and never refusing help to anyone in need. Upon learning of his mother’s serious illness and unable to be with her in far-off Dublin, he wrote a letter of comfort enclosing his poem (which was later set to music):

Joseph Scriven (1819-86)


“What a Friend we have in Jesus - All our sins and griefs to bear! What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer! O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear, All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.”

Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere? We should never be discouraged; Take it to the Lord in prayer. Can we find a friend so faithful Who will all our sorrows share? Jesus knows our every weakness; Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy laden, Cumbered with a load of care? Precious Saviour, still our refuge; Take it to the Lord in prayer. Do thy friends despise, forsake thee? Take it to the Lord in prayer! In his arms he’ll take and shield thee; Thou wilt find a solace there.


God has promised restoration

1 Pet 5:10 And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.

Paul tells Timothy, “You, however, know all about my … persecutions, sufferings what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them.” (2 Tim 3:10-11).


In October 1871 the Great Chicago Fire destroyed Moody’s church, his home, and the dwellings of most of his members. His family had to flee for their lives, and, as Mr. Moody said, he saved nothing but his reputation and his Bible. His church was rebuilt within 3 months at a near-by location as the Chicago Avenue Church. 1

1 Source: wholesome biography

D.L. Moody (1837-99)


We are blessed

Matt 5:11 Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.

1 Pet 3:14 … if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed.

1 Pet 4:14 If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you..

James 5:10-11 Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered.


We will share in His glory

Rom 8:17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

Any suffering we experience in this life will pale in comparison to what God has in store for His followers. - Lee Strobel.

Rom 8:18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.

2 Cor 4:17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.


The day is coming when suffering will be ceased and evil will be judged. - Lee Strobel

If we are faithful in suffering, we will receive a reward

Rev 2:10 Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.

Matt 5:11-12 Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven…


Heb 10:32-38 Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.


Look! The power of God and the life of his Son are manifested in your weakness. Look! The life of Jesus is flowing through your suffering into the lives of other people. Look! God sustains you in your afflictions and will not let you be destroyed. Look! Your afflictions will not have the last word; you will rise from the dead with Jesus and with the church of God and live in joy for ever and ever. Look! Your afflictions are momentary. They are only for now, not for the age to come. Look! Your afflictions are light. Compared to the pleasures of what is coming they are as nothing. Look! These afflictions are producing for you an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison… 1

1 John Piper (Reformed and Baptist theologian, preacher and author)



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Scripture quotations taken from the NASB:

New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation Used by permission. (

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