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The Dos and Don'ts of Suffering

Connect with Skip Heitzig / Skip Heitzig
The Truth Network Radio
May 13, 2021 2:00 am

The Dos and Don'ts of Suffering

Connect with Skip Heitzig / Skip Heitzig

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May 13, 2021 2:00 am

To some, that poses a huge roadblock to faith in a good God. In the message "The Dos and Don'ts of Suffering," Skip addresses how a loving God can let such unlovely things happen all around the globe.

This teaching is from the series Rock Solid.

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Whenever you say there is so much evil in the world, or you say, why is there so much evil, you only ask that or say that because you have some notion that there is supreme good.

You see, if I, if I am in a class and I say this student gets a 90, and this student gets a 60, and this student gets a 40, it presupposes there's a real standard of 100 somewhere. There is perfection by which everything else is measured. So if there is no God, then where did we get the standard of goodness by which we measure evil? The world often rejects God with the question, why would a good God allow suffering and evil things?

But the reality is, God is the solution to the evil in our world. And today on Connect with Skip Hitek, Skip shares how you can face personal suffering and still have an abundant life in Jesus. Now we want to tell you about a resource that will spur you on in your own faith journey as you explore the inspiring stories of women in the Bible. You know Proverbs 31, the go-to passage that describes the ideal Christian woman and life. But let's be honest, that ideal can be as intimidating as it is inspiring.

Here's Skip Hitek with more. Can I just tell you, it's exhausting to just read that, let alone how on earth women could you ever do that? Well, let me say first of all, you can't do that in a day. He's not giving the 24-hour description of the virtuous wife. This is a woman over time. Get to know some of the most incredible women in the Bible and in history with two inspiring resources. A six-message CD collection from Pastor Skip on prominent women in Scripture, plus the book Seven Women by best-selling author Eric Metaxas. This bundle is our thanks when you give $35 or more to help expand the Bible teaching outreach of Skip Hitek. Charm is deceitful, beauty is passing, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised. Call now to request these captivating resources as our thanks for your generous gift.

800-922-1888 or give online securely at connectwithskip.com slash offer. Okay, we're in 1 Peter chapter 4 as Skip Hitek starts today's study. You can imagine how puzzled some were in a community when they opened up the newspaper and saw in the little want ad section, the lost and found section of the want ads, an ad that read the following.

Lost dog with three legs, blind in left eye, missing right ear, tail broken, recently injured, answers to the name of lucky. Sometimes we feel about as lucky when we struggle with suffering. Imagine what this would be like. You get up tomorrow and you want to go to Starbucks bright and early and make it there first before all the selfish people get there. And so you're driving down the street, you're breaking the speed limit by let's say 20-25 miles an hour. You're just zipping by and as you go down the road, you notice out of the corner of your eye that police officer and he sees you. And so you look at the police officer and you're amazed as he smiles and waves at you and you make it there without a ticket.

You wonder and you say, that's strange, but let me ask you something. If you're in line at Starbucks after that happened, would you be like filled with remorse? Would you be there going, that wasn't right. I deserved a ticket. I'm going to turn myself in after I have this cup of coffee.

No, are you kidding? You'd say, thank you, Jesus. But if you're on your way to church and you break the speed limit by five miles an hour and you get a ticket for that, that's when you go, God, I can't believe you'd allow that to happen.

I was wanting to serve you. You see, suffering in our world makes us want to avoid it at all costs. Suffering in our personal world makes us want to question God's love.

Most people would probably look around the world and say, God did a pretty good job in making this universe, but he made one mistake. And that's pain. He allowed so much pain and suffering. I remember reading that sentence in a book I read years ago by the great author Philip Yancey. The book is called Where is God When it Hurts? And he begins in the first chapter with that idea that most people would say God made a good world with one mistake.

And that's pain. I thought about that this week because I read an interview, an article where he was being interviewed, Philip Yancey. He's written a new book. It's called Why?

The Question That Never Goes Away. And in this interview, he was talking about how he received a phone call to go back to the East Coast to speak to the parents of Newtown, Connecticut after the Sandy Hook shooting where 26 people were gunned down, 20 children, six adults. They wanted him to come and talk to them about pain and suffering and God. And something dawned on him because he had been researching for his new book and he had been reading some of the books of the new atheists, like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris, all those New York Times best selling atheistic authors. And so here he is on the phone being asked to speak to the Sandy Hook school parents and it dawned on him. He said, there is a question that's much harder than where is God when it hurts.

And that is where is no God when it hurts. And he explains this, the atheists will tell people that the universe is random and there's just sort of the same thing. And he says, it's random and there's just sort of this blind indifference rather than a meaning and a purpose behind it. And he said, I noticed that these atheists are never asked to speak at such places like Sandy Hook Elementary School because whatever they would have to say would never be of comfort to the parents. Can you imagine somebody standing up saying, well, the universe is random, bad things get used to it.

Your children don't live anymore. That's just what happens. There's no comfort in that. Now they ask a pastor or they ask a Christian author like Yancy to speak at those places because the Christian will stand up and say, what happened was tragic, should not have happened. We should be angry at that kind of evil. However, we believe there is a good God who will make all things work together for your good if you trust him.

And there's hope in that. And you see, that's the reason I've always loved being a pastor. I love walking through the gamut of life experiences with people from birth to marriage to raising children to getting sick and even death. I get tickled at the fact that somebody walks up to me and says, will you dedicate my baby? Oh, and by the way, you dedicated me when I was a baby.

I love being able to see that cycle. And we see a lot of death and suffering along with joy. And when we wonder why, Peter is a good guy to ask because Peter writes about suffering no less than 21 times in this letter.

So since he's already discussed it and we've already studied it, we're going to look at something else. It's what I call the do's and don'ts of suffering. Two things not to do and two things to do. Don't be surprised by suffering. Don't be scared by suffering. Do be selective in your suffering and do be sensitized by suffering.

Let's begin with the first. Don't be surprised by it. Verse 12, first Peter, chapter four. Beloved, isn't that a beautiful word? He's writing to a flock, not an audience. He's a pastor.

He's got the heart to say, I love you and what's more, God loves you. Beloved, do not think it's strange concerning the fiery trial, which is to try you as though some strange thing happened to you. Don't think it's weird or bizarre or unusual when you suffer.

It's not. Suffering is common to all. It happens to everyone.

However, when we suffer is not one of the first emotions we have that we think it's strange. No, no, no, no. This shouldn't happen. This is not right.

This is unusual. I was reading an article in Reader's Digest a few years ago, actually. It was called The Untold Story of September 11th, 2001. It was about Flight 93, that flight that crashed in the Pennsylvania field. And in the article, it mentioned that one of the passengers aboard that flight managed to make a cell phone call to his wife.

And the conversation went like this. Our plane has been hijacked. There are three men on board who say they have a bomb. They have already killed one passenger. Please call the authorities.

The wife on the other end of the phone said, the entire conversation as it was going on, my thoughts were these. No, no, no. This can't be happening. We have good jobs.

We have great kids. Things like this don't happen to people like us. But here it was happening to her. And you should know if you don't already that this is some people's favorite reason to reject the God of the Bible. You've heard it a thousand times. How could a God of love, who's all powerful, ever allow evil to exist? The formal term for that is called theodicy. And who hasn't struggled with theodicy? Theologians, philosophers, and everyone has struggled with it. George Barna, in a survey sometime back, said to people, if you could ask God one question and you knew that he would give you an answer, what question would you ask God?

Overwhelmingly, the questions were things like, why would you allow so much evil, suffering, and pain on earth? Now, to make it worse, it's not that just bad people have bad things happen, but so many what we would call innocent people have bad things happen. If only bad people had things happen, I think we would do better with it, don't you? I mean, if only hardened criminals got the broken limbs, if only murderers got the cancer, we could stand back and go, now, that's a piece of celestial justice. But when the innocent are affected, to many people, this backs the Christian up into an impossible corner.

And the one who does not love God would look and go, aha, I've got you. You can't answer that one. I've got you. You can't answer that one. It is a tough one to grapple with, but allow me to just sort of turn that around for a moment. Because whenever you say there is so much evil in the world, or you say, why is there so much evil? You only ask that or say that because you have some notion that there is supreme good. You see, if I, if I am in a class and I say this student gets a 90, and this student gets a 60, and this student gets a 40, it presupposes there's a real standard of 100 somewhere. There is perfection by which everything else is measured. So if there is no God, then where did we get the standard of goodness by which we measure evil? It's called the problem of good. The moral argument, if you will.

C.S. Lewis put it this way. If the universe is so bad, then how on earth did human beings ever come to attribute the universe to the activity of a wise and good creator? Think about it. If 90% or better, more than 90% of all of the people who have ever lived on earth, usually in more painful circumstances than any of us will ever see, if 90% of the people who have ever lived have believed in God, where did that notion come from?

Why? There's no God, there's no ultimate values. If there's no ultimate values, there's no such thing as good or evil. It's a meaningless conversation. Something else I want you to notice before we jump to the next, go back to verse 12 and notice the two words fiery trial. Let me tell you why I think it's important, especially in this letter. I think you'll find it significant. Fiery trial.

Why does he use those words? I think I know why. We believe that Peter, the apostle, penned this letter at the end of 64 AD.

Now, why is that important? If you know your history, you know that something very significant happened in the middle of 64 AD, in the summer of 64 AD. For nine weeks, beginning on July 16th, Rome burned. It burned to the ground effectively, and most people believed it was the emperor's fault. Caesar Nero started the fire. He had a penchant for building. He didn't like the old city.

He wanted to expand it and renew it. But he would never admit to it. But we do know that when the fire was started, he was watching it with glee. And when people tried to put out those fires, the Roman soldiers stopped them from putting it out and they started new ones. Well, the population who had lost their homes, their goods, the lives of loved ones, were in such furor that they turned against Caesar Nero, almost in an all-out revolt. He knew he needed to do something, and so he looked for a scapegoat. Who do you think he chose? The Christians. Let's blame it on the Christians.

They weren't liked anyway. So I'll say they did it, and he said they did it. And to display the idea that he believed they did it, he took many of them and put them on poles with ropes while they were alive, doused them in pitch, and used them as torches to light up the imperial gardens at night. That began a 200-year reign of terror against the believers that were in Rome. We believe that this letter was written toward the end of that year, so when he writes these words, listen to how they would sound to a Roman Christian. Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you. So don't be surprised by suffering.

Here's the second, don't, don't be scared by it. Verse 13, he has the audacity to use this word, but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ's sufferings, that when his glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part he is blasphemed, but on your part he is glorified. Rejoice. I don't know how that hits your ears, but I imagine for somebody who is suffering the kind of atrocities they were suffering, they are probably even thought, really?

You're going to dare tell me to rejoice during this time? But what Peter is saying to them, and I want you to hear it carefully, is that we have no right to expect better treatment from this world than Jesus received from this world. See, that's the point of his language in these verses. In fact, what Peter does is take suffering and rejoice from this world and lift it up high, give honor to it, extol it. You know, we would want to take suffering and if this were a house, it'd be in the basement with the rest of the junk. He takes suffering out of the basement, moves it into the great room and even higher and says, ah, if you suffer for the right reason, it's a position of honor. You're suffering with Christ. When C.S. Lewis was asked the question, why do the righteous suffer?

He said, why not? They're the only ones who can take it. They will do it differently than somebody who doesn't have that hope. Now, I do want to say that as believers, we're not naive concerning evil. We believe three things about evil. Number one, it's real. It exists.

Evil exists. We are not like those who subscribe to what is called Christian Science. I'm sure you have seen names on buildings or on so-called churches that say Christian Science.

It was a belief system started in the 1800s by a gal named Mary Baker Eddy, Glover Patterson Fry. She had a problem with men. She had an even worse problem with doctrine because she believed that evil doesn't exist. Pain doesn't exist. Suffering doesn't exist. Disease doesn't exist. It's all an illusion. Even death.

She had the audacity to say death is an illusion. I've always been mystified by Christian Science. It's sort of like the cereal my mom used to give me when I was a kid called Grape Nuts. Do you remember Grape Nuts?

Ever looked inside a box? Are there any grapes at all? There are no grapes and there are no nuts. It says Grape Nuts. All there are inside are flakes.

No grapes, no nuts. And Christian Science, there's nothing Christian about it and there's nothing scientific about it. And to play some metaphysical game and not call something what it plainly is doesn't help anybody.

So Christians are not naive. We go, yep, suffering, evil, hardship, pain exist. But we know something else is true. We know that God allows evil to exist. And we believe, at least I believe, that God is in absolute control of the universe that he made. I know not everybody believes that. There's this, there's a teaching out there called open theism.

Some of you have never heard of that, perhaps. Open theism or process theology, which says God is in the process of becoming a better God. See, God doesn't know what's going to happen tomorrow, they say.

Thus, he's not in control of it. So every day he's learning new things. He's a deity in process or in progress. So today, God is a better God than he was yesterday, because more things have happened, and he's finding out more things. So that's how they deal with the problem of evil. They got a God running around saying, oops, all day long.

No, thank you. Evil exists. God permits evil to exist. But I know something else, and that is God has a purpose in it, that it can actually be helpful. It can actually be helpful.

Peter here says that he is glorified. Really, God is glorified when I suffer? And it can be helpful? Well, you know that's true.

We've studied that, and I hope by now you believe that is true. It does a few things for you, you know that. Suffering does. It makes you pure, number one. It makes you pure, it purifies you like nothing else. We've studied it already in depth, but let me just refresh your memory back in chapter one, verse six and seven of 1 Peter. He said, these trials have come so that your faith of greater worth than gold, which perishes, though it is refined by fire, may be proved to be genuine.

God, like a goldsmith, pours the gold back and forth in its liquid form and scrapes the impurities off, purifies you. The second thing suffering does, it humbles you. It humbles you.

We who have a tendency to walk in pride are quickly brought down to street level with a period of suffering. Did you know that Paul the apostle, though he wasn't prideful, he had the temptation toward pride and he admitted that. He saw and heard God speak. He saw visions from God. He saw miracles of God.

And so listen to this. This is second Corinthians chapter 12. He writes, and lest I be exalted above measure, so filled with pride, I couldn't stand it.

There was given to me a thorn in the flesh, which is a sharp, painful stake in my flesh, my body, some physical ailment, a messenger of Satan to torment me. I suppose it would be hard to be around Paul. Talk about a Starbucks buddy.

Can you imagine? Here is Skip at Starbucks and here's Paul on the other side. Hey, Paul, let me show you what I read today in Psalm 23. You go, that's great. Let me tell you what God verbally spoke to me this morning as I saw a vision of the third heaven.

Okay, nevermind. See you at lunch. So suffering will purify you, it will humble you. Here's another thing it will do.

And we know this to be true. It makes us depend on God like nothing else. It keeps us dependent. You see, when you're weak, you lean on something. A crutch, a cane, a walker, a person, an item. You're weak. You lean on them.

You depend on that. When the Apostle Paul spoke about the thorn in the flesh, you'll recall that he said concerning this thing, I prayed three times. I pleaded that the Lord would take it away. Three times until the Lord finally answered me.

Do you remember what he said? He said, my grace is enough. It's sufficient.

It's all you need. So then Paul says, therefore, I will rejoice and exalt in my suffering because when I am weak, then I am strong. Strange but interesting thing about God's power and God's strength.

It is attracted to human weakness. That wraps up Skip Heitzig's message from the series Rock Solid. Right now, we want to share about an exciting opportunity you have to take your knowledge of God's Word even deeper. Going to church is a great way to learn about God, but what if you want to learn more?

What if you want to go deeper? Calvary College offers classes in Biblical studies, classes like Theopoetics, Life and Lessons of C.S. Lewis. Learn more about God and the Bible on your schedule. Take evening classes on campus or online. An education from Calvary College will impact your spiritual life for the rest of your life. Apply now at Calvaryabq.college.

That's Calvaryabq.college. Did you know that God's Word works in you as you read and study it daily? The Bible is powerful, and it changes lives. And today you can help keep these biblically solid teachings on the air with your generous gift of support. Visit connectwithskip.com slash donate to give today. That's connectwithskip.com slash donate or call 800-922-1888.

That's 800-922-1888. Thank you. Tune in tomorrow as Skip Heitzig shares what God envisioned when He charged shepherds to serve His people. That's you. Be sure to join us. Connect with Skip Heitzig is a presentation of Connection Communications, connecting you to God's never-changing truth in ever-changing times.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-11-19 01:48:04 / 2023-11-19 01:57:22 / 9

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