by Mike Ratliff
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4 ESV)
Suffering is part of life. It is part of the curse that fell upon all creation after Adam’s sin. (Genesis 3) There are some preachers who have taken sections of the Bible out of context to make it say that suffering happens only to those who “have sin in their life.” Well, I suppose part of that is true. We all sin. However, the suffering that comes upon us is not necessarily a punishment from God for some specific sin. Our tests and trials are painful and stressful. They are tests of faith just as much as they are sickness or mental problems. In fact, God uses our suffering for His own purposes in our hearts as well as in the hearts of those whom we minister to.
I have never met a Christian who has survived some big trial in their life who was not also eager and able to help others who are going through trials like that of their own. Of course there are some professing believers whose faith does not survive the trial. They were not genuine Christians. However, those whose faith is genuine will endure the fires of tribulation. They may indeed have doubts and struggle for long periods of time with trust of God, but He does preserve those who are His.
God’s comfort becomes evident only if we suffer. Look in v4 in the passage I placed at the top of this post. God does not promise that His people will be free from affliction no matter how much the Word/Faith preachers try to make the Bible say that it is possible for Christians to be free from suffering while always prospering. Actually, the Bible teaches that Christians are not immune from the suffering that plagues all of creation. The promise is that Christians will have God’s comfort in and through their afflictions. Why does God do this? He gives comfort to those who are His who are suffering so that they may be able to comfort others who are likewise suffering.
5 For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. 6 If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. 7 Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort. (2 Corinthians 1:5-7 ESV)
Did Christ suffer? He was beaten, tortured, and crucified. He also suffered mental anguish before and during all of this. All who suffer as a result of their faith in Jesus Christ are sharing abundantly in His sufferings. God then comforts those whom He takes through suffering for the name of Christ. The passage above speaks of persecution or suffering for the sake of faith in Jesus Christ. Is this happening nowadays?
10 You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, 11 my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. 12 Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. (2 Timothy 3:10-13 ESV)
All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. No one is exempt. This wasn’t just for Paul’s day. In fact, in most countries in the world today, professing Christians are always in danger of some form of persecution. It is only in the “evangelical wasteland” of America where Christians seem to have protected “rights.” However, even here, if we obey our Lord in all things, living out our lives in bold brokenness, we will find that the world still hates us and we will suffer persecution. The fact that this is a seemingly rare event should not be a comfort to us. In fact, it should indict us that we are not living out our faith as we are directed by God. If we do this, we will suffer some form of persecution, but take courage my brethren because the God of all comfort will give us the grace that is sufficient for all of our circumstances.
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