Throughout the Bible there is a running theme about suffering, trials, and temptations. We live in a fallen world and these things happen, not at the hand of God, but at the hand of satan. As I was pondering this and skimming through my Bible searching for verses, I was amazed at the number of verses I came across. Verses I had highlighted years ago, but now understand.
My ramblings began when I was reading near the end of Acts where Paul is shipwrecked on his way to Rome. At first I thought it was needless because Paul had warned the captain not to sail and he had been ignored. It was the captain’s fault the ship sank. In the midst of the storm, God assures Paul that no one will be lost. As the story continues, you see how the storm becomes too violent for the boat and everyone ends up spending the night clinging to wreckage in order to survive. What was the point of all that?
At Paul’s conversion, Jesus tells Ananias to go lay hands on Paul.
“for I will show him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake.”
Why? Why couldn’t Paul simply travel around the Roman Empire spreading the good news of Jesus and leading people to him? Why was it necessary to suffer?
“My brethren count it all joy when you fall into divers temptations knowing this, that the trying of your faith works patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”
What does wanting nothing mean?
“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you. But rejoice as much as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings that when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy”
How are we partakers of Christ’s sufferings? Peter is referring to persecution here, but our sufferings and trials, how do they relate to Christ’s sufferings? My mourning of my daughter’s death, my friend’s battle with cancer, another friend’s unemployment. How do they relate to Christ’s suffering?
In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus was burdened. He prayed three times, “not my will, but yours be done”.
Jesus, knowing what was ahead, became obedient to the cross. Right there, in the garden, Jesus accepted the will of his Father. He accepted that he needed to suffer in order to fulfill his purpose as Savior of fallen mankind. He was obedient.
Adam and Eve were not obedient and therefore we must struggle to learn this obedience. We must allow suffering to weaken our sinful nature and lead us into the arms of the only one who can save us.
Through suffering we learn obedience.
Trials and temptations all come as a way to perfect our hearts to accept the will of God. “That ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing”. If you have learned obedience, you are satisfied with the course your life takes because you know that God “works all things for your good” and you trust Him.
Through suffering we learn that God is real and He is present in our lives and in our circumstances. We learn that in this fallen world we have pain and suffering, evil people, destructive acts of nature, and accidents, like the one that killed my little girl. BUT we also have a Creator who loves us, who uses these products of our fallen world to bring us into fellowship with Him.
Paul learned obedience to the Father through his sufferings. This is how he could say, “For I have learned whatsoever state I am in to be content” He was content because he was obedient.
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abides alone, but if it die, it brings forth much fruit. He that loves his life shall lose it; and he that hates his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal. If any man serve me, let him follow me and where I am there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my father honor”