Bible Reading: 2 Corinthians 1:3-7; 11:22-33.
Yesterday we looked at the comfort God gives to us when we face crushing pressure, persecution, and trials. Today I want to go a little further with this subject, and ask the question, “Why does God allow His children to suffer?”
Some years ago I remember that Brother Yuen [known as the Heavenly Man] was invited to speak to a large legislative body in the United States. He was asked how they could best stop the persecution of Christians in China. Brother Yuen’s response was, “Please don’t stop the persecution. It is our life-blood!” I often worked with Brother Yuen and remember how he spoke of himself and Peter Shu joking about whose turn it was next to have a rest in prison! So why does God allow these trials?
Firstly, God allows us to experience suffering so that we in turn might comfort others who suffer. When we have experienced God bringing us through a crushing experience, our testimony can become a powerful means of strengthening the faith of others. Over the years my wife and I have proven that the stories of brokenness and suffering, and God bringing us through, are far more powerful than the exciting stories of our successes.
Secondly, God allows us to experience suffering and persecution because He wants us to grow and become strong in Him. For something to become strong it must go through fire and be tested. I have noticed that many Christians who have a lot of the physical comforts of life do not grow so well spiritually. Job said, “When He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold” [Job 23:10]. Both James 1:2-4 and Romans 5:3-4 speak of spiritual growth through trials and tribulation. Jesus promised us, “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” [John 16:33]. Praise God for His mercy, for both the testing times and the easier times. Paul said, “I have learned to be abased, and I know how to abound. I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” [Philippians 4:12-13]
Thirdly, God allows us to go through tribulation and suffering because that is what it costs to follow Christ. “It is the way the Master went; should not the servant tread it still” [Horatius Bonar, 1843]. Writing to the Philippians Paul said that he wanted to know the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings [Philippians 3:10]. In our Bible reading today he says, “as the sufferings of Christ abound in us” [verse 5]. The sufferings of Christ to redeem us are unique and cannot be repeated, but Paul suffered for Christ as he obeyed and imitated Him.
Why is it a privilege to suffer for Christ?
Why does the church so often grow more quickly and strongly when it goes through times of persecution?
When we follow Christ there will be times when we have to make very difficult decisions. Why is it so important that we make the right decisions?