THE END OF SUFFERING

Scripture Reading: I Peter 5:6-10

“And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” (I Peter 5:10)

Suffering is a consequence of living in this fallen world as we have seen. But the good news is that suffering will come to an end one day. I Peter gives us directions to face suffering:

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the might hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you. Be sober minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in you faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you” (I Peter 5:6-10).

God promises to bring an end to our suffering. There will be no suffering, pain, or death in the new heavens and new earth.

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).

When we are going through times of suffering, we must keep an eternal perspective. God has called us to His eternal glory in Christ. He Himself will restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish us. We are destined for glory where there will be no more suffering, death, mourning, crying, or pain. Paul kept this eternal perspective. He wrote, “For I consider the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18). We must remember that we are destined for glory. Whatever suffering we face on this earth pales to insignificance when compared with the glory that is to come.

Lord God, I humble myself under Your mighty hand. I know You have called me to Your eternal glory in Christ. Thank You for the promise that You will bring an end to all suffering one day. Enable me to keep an eternal perspective when I go through times of suffering. I look forward to the day when Your Son returns and restores all things to perfection. Until that day, let me keep my eyes on You and let me live with an eternal perspective that all the suffering I experience on earth is not worth comparing with the glory that is to come.

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SUFFERING AND SANCTIFICATION (Part 2)

Scripture Reading: II Corinthians 4:16-18

“For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory, far beyond all comparison.” (II Corinthians 4:17)

God uses suffering to prepare us for glory. Our sufferings cause us to focus on eternal things — “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary but what is unseen is eternal” (II Corinthians 4:18).

Times of suffering develop faith, humility, and character. “In this rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (I Peter 1:6,7). God uses suffering to refine our faith and to shape our character.

Faithfulness during times of suffering allows us to be effective witnesses. “As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful” (James 5:10,11). Think of the witness of Job. He suffered greatly but remained faithful to the Lord.

Lord Jesus, I know that momentary, light affliction is producing for me an eternal weight of glory. Let me fix my eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary but what is unseen is eternal. I know that You are using trials to strengthen my faith and to shape my character. I take comfort in knowing that these trials are necessary and that they are but for a little while.

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SUFFERING AND SANCTIFICATION (Part 1)

Scripture Reading: Romans 5:3-5

“Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.” (Romans 5:3-5)

God uses suffering in our lives to strengthen and mature us — “suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” The times I have grown most in my faith have been during trials, pain, and difficulties. God molds us and shapes us through trials.

Suffering allows us to share in a very small way in the sufferings of Christ — “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exultation” (I Peter 4:12,13). Paul wanted to know Christ in all aspects — “that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death” (Philippians 3: 10).

We may easily desire to know Christ in the power of His resurrection, but it is another thing to desire to share in His sufferings. When we suffer, we get a little taste of what Christ suffered. Paul says that we should rejoice that we can share in His sufferings.

God’s will often involves times of suffering in our lives — “Therefore, let those who suffer according to the will of God entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right” (I Peter 4:19). We are not to bring suffering upon ourselves, but when it comes, we must accept it as God’s will and entrust ourselves to Him.

Lord God, I know that You bring suffering in my life so that I may share in the sufferings of Christ. Let me rejoice during these times and do what is right. I want to know Christ and the fellowship of His sufferings. I know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character hope. And hope does not disappoint us because You have poured out Your love in our hearts by the Holy Spirit.

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THE SUFFERINGS OF CHRIST

Scripture Reading: Galatians 3:1-14

“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us — for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.'” (Galatians 3:13)

We have seen how suffering is a consequence of living in a fallen world. Christians are not exempt from suffering. However, we have Christ with us in our sufferings — “Surely He took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows” (Isaiah 53:4a). Jesus suffers with us in our sufferings.

God used the suffering of His Son to accomplish salvation for His people. Jesus was the sacrifice that took away the guilt of the sins of His people –“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). John Murray wrote these words: ” Sin involves a certain liability, a liability arising from the holiness of God, on the one hand, and the gravity of sin as the contradiction of that holiness, on the other. The sacrifice was the divinely instituted provision whereby the sin might be covered and the liability of divine wrath and curse removed” (John Murray, “Redemption Accomplished and Applied”).

God sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins — “In this is love, not that we loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (I John4:10). Jesus Christ bore the wrath and displeasure of God in our place. He bore the very pain of hell for us. He became a curse for us — “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us — for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree” (Galatians 3:13).

The curse that Jesus bore was not the nails in His hands and feet, it was the hole in His heart where His Father had been. Christ suffered the loss of all things, even being cut off from His Father for a season. There is no way for us to comprehend the extent of the suffering of our Savior. Through His sufferings, we were saved.

Lord Jesus, I cannot begin to grasp the extent of the suffering You experienced on my behalf. You became a curse for me. You bore the pain of hell in my place. You are the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. I can never thank You enough for what You did for me.

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ENDURING SUFFERING

Scripture Reading: Isaiah 43:1-10

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you, when you walk through the fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior…” (Isaiah 43:2,3a)

Suffering, pain, and sorrow are consequences of living in a fallen world. We should not be surprised when we encounter difficulties and trials. Until the Lord Jesus comes back again, we will continue to suffer in this present world — “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you” (I Peter 4:12).

Christians are not exempt from suffering, pain and sorrow. Christians and non-Christians alike will face these difficulties. There is a false theology that teaches when we come to Christ, we will no longer suffer. This is not true! Christians will experience tragedies, pain, death and suffering.

The difference between Christians and non-Christians is that Christians have Christ present with them during their sufferings — “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you.” Notice who makes that promise — “the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” We have the sovereign, all powerful, all knowing God with us in times of suffering. When we face times of suffering, let’s remember these promises from God:

“Because you are precious in My eyes, and honored and I love you…Fear not, for I am with you” (Isaiah 43:4a,5a).

“Fear not, for I am with you, be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).

Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, my Savior, thank You for promising to be with me during times of suffering. Thank You for strengthening me and helping me. Thank You for upholding me with Your righteous right hand. Because You are with me, I have nothing to fear.

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CALLED TO BE WITH JESUS

Scripture Reading: Mark 3:14,15

“And He appointed twelve (whom He also named apostles) so that they might be with Him and He might send them out to preach and have authority to cast out demons.” (Mark 3:14,15)

Our primary calling as Christians is to be with Jesus. When Christ appointed the apostles, it was clear that they were to be be in a close relationship with Jesus. They were to spend time with Him, learn from Him, and follow Him. So many people fail to understand that Christianity is a relationship, not a religion. The more time we spend with Jesus, the more we will become like Him.

Throughout this week we have seen the great blessings we receive from Christ living in us. The more time we spend with Him, the more of His love, power, joy, and peace we will experience. When we are in His presence, we will find comfort and rest. Jesus invites us to come to Him.

“Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

The more time we spend we Jesus, the more we will learn from Him. We will get to know His heart — “for I am gentle and humble in heart.” Jesus has called us to be with Him. He delights when we are with Him. This is our primary calling.

Once we have been with Jesus, we will be ready for our second calling — to serve Him in ministry. We are called to be His ambassadors — “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as thought God were making HIs appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf. Be reconciled to God” (II Corinthians 5:20). Being with Jesus qualifies and equips us to minister in His name.

Lord Jesus, I desire to be with You. I want to know You better and better. I want to learn from You. I want to know Your heart and to find rest in You. Thank You for calling me to be with You and making it possible for me to know You, to really know You. My desire is to serve You as I minister in Your name.

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A NEW INWARD PEACE AND JOY

Scripture Reading: John 15:11; John 14:27; John 16:33

“These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:11)

Today we will look at three passages that deal with promises from Christ. As we have seen, because Jesus Christ lives in us (Galatians 2:20), we have a new control factor — “The love of Christ controls us” (II Corinthians 5:14). We also have a new power — “That you may be strengthened with all power according to His glorious might” (Colossians 1:14).

Because Jesus Christ lives in us we can also experience a new inward peace and joy. Both of these qualities are fruits of Christ’s Spirit (Galatians 2:20). Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11). Notice He says that “MY JOY may be in you.” Christ’s joy is full and abundant. We can experience joy even when we go through times of suffering (Romans 5:3) because we have Christ’s joy in us.

Jesus also promised to give us His peace — “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (John 14:27). Again, the promise is for us to experience the peace of Christ which surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7). Because we have the peace of Christ, we have nothing to fear or to be anxious about — “Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

In this world we will have trouble — “I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). We can experience Christ’s peace and joy even when we face the troubles of this world. Christ lives in us. His joy is our joy and His peace is our peace.

Lord Jesus, thank You for giving me Your joy and Your peace. When I practice Your presence, I experience these fruits of the Your Spirit. I can rejoice even when I face troubles, because You live in me and give me Your joy and Your peace.

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A NEW POWER

Scripture Reading: Colossians 1:1-14

“Being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience.” (Colossians 1:11)

We can experience the very power of the resurrected Christ because He lives in us. We must remember that Jesus is all powerful. Nothing is impossible for Him. He is in control of all things. Paul prays that we would be strengthen “with ALL power according to HIS glorious might.” It is Christ’s power in us that enables us to have “great endurance and patience.”

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” (II Corinthians 4:7). It is not our power that sustains us; it is Christ’s power that is at work in us. We are frail jars of clay, but we can experience the surpassing power of Christ at work in us.

Christ’s power is perfected in our weaknesses — “‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (II Corinthians 12:9,10). Like Paul, we must realize that Christ’s power comes to us when we are weak. He will strengthen us with His power and enable us to face insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities — “for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Lord Jesus, I am weak but You are strong. You alone can strengthen me so that I may have great endurance and patience. I, like Paul, boast in my weaknesses so that Your power may rest upon me. I desperately need Your power to face the challenges and difficulties of living in this fallen world.

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A NEW CONTROL FACTOR

Scripture Reading: II Corinthians 5:14-17

“For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and He died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for Him who for their sake died and was raised.” (II Corinthians 5:14,15)

The great compelling force in a believer’s life after conversion is the love of Christ. It is the love of Christ that controls and constrains us. It is not our love for Christ that controls us; it is His love for us that its he controlling factor — “We love because He first loved us” (I John 5:19).

Consider the extent of the love of Christ — He gave up everything for us, even being cut off from His Father for a season when He became a curse for us on the cross (Galatians 3:13). Christ’s love is a love that goes beyond comprehension — “And I pray that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge — that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:17b-19). Paul prays that we grasp the love of Christ, but he knows it is beyond our ability to do so fully.

Christ’s powerful, sacrificial, unconditional, and unending love is available to us. We can love with His love and be controlled by it. When we are being controlled by Christ’s love, we will no longer live for ourselves, but for Him who died and was raised for our sakes. This also means that we can love even the most unloving people. His love constrains us and enables us to love with the love described in I Corinthians 13:

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails” (I Corinthians 13:4-8a).

Lord Jesus, I so desire for Your love to control and constrain me. It is Your love that gives me the ability to no longer live for myself, but to live for You. May Your love fill me this day and may I learn more and more how to love others with Your love. Enable me to love with the love described in I Corinthians 13. I cannot do these things in my own strength, but I have You living in me and Your love controlling me.

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EXPERIENCING CHRIST’S PRESENCE

Scripture Reading: Galatians 2:20

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)

We are living in a fallen world. Jesus made it clear — “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). In the days ahead, we will look at passages that help prepare us for living in a broken, troubled world. Life will be difficult at times. We will experience temptation, pain, trials, difficulties, and suffering. But we are never alone in them. Christ by His Spirit is present in us — “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.

Jonathan Edwards wrote about this passage in his “Treatise concerning Religious Affection” in 1746 — “So the saints are said to live by Christ living in them (Galatians 2:20). Christ by His Spirit not only is in them, but lives in them and so they live by His life.”

We have Christ living in us! We must learn how to appropriate His presence. We must be aware that He is always with us. In order to appropriate His presence, we must spend time with Him. As we do, we will learn how to live by His life.

One of the mot helpful books I have found on developing a devotional life is Nancy Leigh DeMoss’ book entitled “A Place of Quiet Rest. In it she reminds us that we must make a conscious effort to be with Christ:

“I also know that there is only one place where that angry, reactive, overwhelmed self can be transformed — the same place Mary chose — the feet of Jesus. I must make a conscious, deliberate, daily choice to sit at His feel, to listen to His Word, to receive His love, to let Him change me, and to pour out my heart’s devotion to Him.” (Nancy Leigh DeMoss, “A Place of Quiet Rest”)

We will have trouble in this world, but take heart! We have Jesus living in us and He has overcome the world.

Lord Jesus, I am so thankful to know that I am never alone. You are always with me. It is no longer I who live but You live in me. I know that I will continue to face troubles, difficulties, and pain in this fallen world. But it is so comforting to know that You will be with me in my times of trouble. My desire is to know You in deeper and better ways. Let me sit at Your feet, listen to Your Word, and receive Your love. Let me learn how to live by Your life.

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