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 (Manna 5)
When One Suffers
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            “Memory is a golden thing that binds us till we meet again. Those that loved him lost so much at his parting but gained so much from his living.”

These are the words from a tomb - sincere and meaningful words. At the time when he loved God most, death took him away from us. His wife and his four children have lost his love and care. Everyone seemed to need him a little longer, but why did the Lord call him back?

There was a sister who worked hard for the Lord. She worked alone and silently for the Lord without any complaint or boasting, and her actions often touched me. One day, to our shock and horror, we learned that she had cancer. We could almost feel the pain just by watching her suffer. As time went on, her condition worsened and eventually she passed away. Watching her, many of us began to ask, “Why did she have to die such a painful death?” She had always been faithful to the Lord, and never uttered a complaint against God for bringing her the pain and sickness. Why did this happen? The above two instances lead to a common question: “Why did God allow such things to happen?” To answer this question, one must first take into consideration that the cost of being a Christian is to bear the cross of Jesus. Meanwhile, it is important to understand the reasons for sufferings. By explaining why suffering is necessary, this article hopes to help all of us stand firm in the faith, even in the midst of affliction.

God wants to try our hearts

Has there been a time in your life when things went so badly that you wished to leave the world? Why do such things happen?

            “I, the Lord, search the mind and try the heart, to give to every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings,” answers the Lord. (Jer 17:10)

But wouldn’t God know the results of our trials ahead of time? The Lord does know how we would do, but He tries our hearts for several reasons:

1.       God wants to test our hearts and let us know how much we can withstand before we fail. It is only through trials that one may fully understand the extent of his own faith and trust in God.

2.       He wants to show us the extent of our obedience to Him. Many Christians with apparently strong faith fall when afflictions come. When problems arise, doubt also comes, and the true nature of faith is manifested.

3.       Afflictions and trials are opportunities for us to prove ourselves to Him. God is just. He rewards only those who have proved themselves worthy of such blessings, and punishes those who deserve it.

It is therefore a privilege to be tried. Regardless of whether we meet with trials or joys, we should remember that these events are ultimately for our own good.

Sufferings prepare us for the better things to come

God is merciful and loving, and does not enjoy seeing His children suffer. However, He wants to make use of these sufferings to prepare us for the blessings which He has promised us.

1.       Sufferings can be said to be a form of spiritual training which helps to build up faith until we are fully equipped to complete the commission God has set for us.

When we are faced with a series of problems that seem endless, we should remember the encouragement of apostle Paul: “God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape that you may be able to endure it” (I Cor 10:13).

2.       As the Lord is a just God who rewards those who are worthy, sufferings can be one of the means of ensuring that we receive His blessings. If we succeed in the test God has assigned, then we are worthy to receive blessings.

The scriptures have promised that “provided we suffer with Him... we may also be glorified with Him” (Rom 8:17), and “If we endure, we shall also reign with Him” (II Tim 2:12). Moreover Jesus Himself has said that “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven” (Mt 5:10).

3.       God has continued to shower us with grace and love. Perhaps this is now taken for granted, and we may even think it is God’s duty to do so. Through sufferings, we learn to appreciate the goodness of the Lord.

Joseph was sold as a slave by his brothers and imprisoned for a crime he did not commit. Throughout the tribulation, he did not complain to God. On the contrary, he feared Him all the more. As a reward for such endurance and obedience, Joseph became a prime minister of Egypt and later saved Israel from a terrible famine. Through suffering, God had made Joseph fit for his post and worthy to receive greater blessings.

Sufferings bring a strayed believer back to God

Sin has a deadly effect on a believer. Every time he sins, the voice of God becomes more dull. The longer he continues in this path, the fainter the voice of God will become until he no longer knows that he has sinned. The time will come when he can not hear it anymore. Once this happens, he will have lost his guide to heaven.

God loves us and wants all to complete the journey to heaven. Through His chastisement, He would bring his stray child back “For the Lord disciplines him whom he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives” (Heb 12:6).

By putting us through “fire,” we would be refined just as gold is. Malachi 3:3 tells us that God “will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, till they present right offerings to the Lord.” Through our sufferings, God notes our progress. From time to time, He would help. When, in the midst of suffering we show the image of God, our test is complete.

The fiery trial of the children of God

Daniel chapter three records an incident concerning Daniel’s three friends - Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. They were Israelites who were taken as captives to Babylon. The story tells of King Nebuchadnezzar, who make a huge image for the nation to worship. The three young men disobeyed the king by refusing to carry out his wishes. As a result, they were thrown into a furnace of tire. To the king’s surprise, they were unharmed by the fire. They were loosed from the ropes that bound them; moreover, there was a fourth person in the fire who resembled the Son of God (Dan 3:2). God’s protection on those who continue to remain faithful to Him until the end is clearly demonstrated here.

There are three lessons we can learn from this story:

1.       Just as the three friends of Daniel were unharmed in the furnace, God will not let us he harmed in our fiery trials. We must remember that Jesus puts us through these trials and hardships to build us up so that we can be ready for great missions, to prepare us for greater blessing, and to bring us back to Him. The apostle Paul reminded us in II Cor 4:8-9 that as Christians, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted but not forsaken; struck down but not destroyed.” In all matters, we should continue to praise Him.

2.       The Israelites were loosed of the cords that bound them. We may still be bound by our sins, short­comings and weaknesses. Through the painful process of trials and afflictions, we will be renewed and freed from the chains of sin.

3.       The Son of God was in the midst of the fire with the Israelites. Likewise, God will be with us in all our trials: to protect us so that we may not be harmed; to comfort us so that we may not be frightened. When met with failure remember that the Lord is always there to comfort us. He will surely bring new hope.

May God be with you and guide you through troubled waters.

            “This would be my consolation;

            I would even exult in pain unsparing;

            for I have not denied the words of the Holy One.

            What is my strength, that I should wait?

            And what is my end, that I should be patient?

            Is my strength the strength of stones,

            or is my flesh bronze?

            I had heard of thee by the hearing of the ear,

            but now my eye sees thee,

            therefore I despise my life,

            and repent in dust and ashes.”

            (Job 6:10-12, 42:5-6)

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