Sunday, May 1, 2011

A Theology of Suffering; Why does it hurt so much?

Do you really like to feel pain? 
If you had your choice, would you rather be given a free 10-day vacation in Hawaii would you rather have a nine-inch nail be pounded through your left eye? 

That is a no brainier: the trip, of course!  But wait, maybe on your trip to Hawaii, you’ll fall off the stairs as you board the flight.  You then get your leg cut on some metal piece of something and that causes your leg to get infected. And because it is so bad, you need the leg cut off?  Wait, what happened to the nice vacation part?

For many today, and since the world had situations that could go bad, no sane person really takes pleasure in suffering.  In fact, some would say that suffering is an indication of something abnormal.  Suffering means pain and that means it is bad.  Do you agree?

What we really need as Believers and as people who live in the real world is a better understanding of pain—yes, a theology of suffering that reflects real Biblical reality.  We must go beyond the myths of suffering we get from our cultures and look to the Bible—as our final authority—for a solid Biblical view.  To have God’s view of suffering is essential to being able to handle suffering better than most—like falling off the staircase at the airport.

Suffering is normal, after all.  It is a part of a Believers life. It is part of LIFE!  Especially the suffering we have for the Cause of Christ.  Look to Phil 1:29 For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for Him, あなたがたはキリストのために、ただ彼を信じることだけではなく、彼のために苦しむことをも賜わっている and 1 Peter 2:21 To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps. あなたがたは、実に、そうするようにと召されたのである。キリストも、あなたがたのために苦しみを受け、御足の跡を踏み従うようにと、模範を残されたのである.

I know that some would say this is not so, but we need to be Biblical and find our answers IN the WORD of GOD.

What we are going to do today is look at some views of suffering that effect us, look at the Word of God—at Jesus’ teaching about suffering and look into seeing the joy of suffering.  I will then hand out some papers for you to do some homework—a study guide, if you will, and we will continue our study next week.  Suffer with me, please.

Does Jesus talk about suffering?  The fast answer is YES.  A great deal.  From the Beatitudes, Matthew 5:3-11, we read:
 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
 for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn,
 for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek,
 for they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
 for they will be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful,
 for they will be shown mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
 for they will see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
 for they will be called sons of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
 for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

   11Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.

Mat 5:4  悲しんでいる人たちは、さいわいである、彼らは慰められるであろう。
:5  柔和な人たちは、さいわいである、彼らは地を受けつぐであろう。
:6  義に飢えかわいている人たちは、さいわいである、彼らは飽き足りるようになるであろう。
:7  あわれみ深い人たちは、さいわいである、彼らはあわれみを受けるであろう。
:8  心の清い人たちは、さいわいである、彼らは神を見るであろう。
:9  平和をつくり出す人たちは、さいわいである、彼らは神の子と呼ばれるであろう。
:10  義のために迫害されてきた人たちは、さいわいである、天国は彼らのものである。
:11  わたしのために人々があなたがたをののしり、また迫害し、あなたがたに対し偽って様々の悪口を言う時には、あなたがたは、さいわいである
Matthew 10:28 28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

Matthew 16:24-25 24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. 25 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me will find it.

Mark 10:29-30 29 “I tell you the truth,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel 30 will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life.

Luke 12:49-53 49 “I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! 50 But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed! 51 Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. 52 From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. 53 They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”
Matthew 10:28 また、からだを殺しても、魂を殺すことのできない者どもを恐れるな。むしろ、からだも魂も地獄で滅ぼす力のあるかたを恐れなさい。
Matthew 16:24-25 24それからイエスは弟子たちに言われた、「だれでもわたしについてきたいと思うなら、自分を捨て、自分の十字架を負うて、わたしに従ってきなさい 自分の命を救おうと思う者はそれを失い、わたしのために自分の命を失う者は、それを見いだすであろう。
Mark 10:29-30 イエスは言われた、「よく聞いておくがよい。だれでもわたしのために、また福音のために、家、兄弟、姉妹、母、父、子、もしくは畑を捨てた者は、:30  必ずその百倍を受ける。すなわち、今この時代では家、兄弟、姉妹、母、子および畑を迫害と共に受け、また、きたるべき世では永遠の生命を受ける。
Luke 12:49-53 わたしは、火を地上に投じるためにきたのだ。火がすでに燃えていたならと、わたしはどんなに願っていることか。

On your handout for homework, we will ask you to consider reading Luke 14:26-17, and 33; Luke 21:12-19; and John 12:24-26.

How has our minds and attitudes been challenged in this area of suffering and pain? Our culture has spent a lot of money and time to move us away from the Biblical teaching of suffering and pain. Want to loose weight—don’t take out a gym contract with hard exercise and painful diets-take this pill instead and watch the pounds fall off.   Don’t fight city hall-don’t go against the flow of culture—give in and watch your life get easier…

Cultural Myths About Suffering-all from my point of view.
1.    As Believers in Christ, we should not suffer in this life.
2.    When we are living in God’s Will, living godly lives, we should experience few hardships.
3.    Suffering means something is wrong. It is an abnormal state.
4.    Suffering has no redeeming or positive results.
5.    Suffering means we can have no joy. It robs us of the choice to rejoice.
6.    Spiritual people don’t hurt emotionally when they suffer.
7.    If God really loves us He won’t let us suffer very much. His love means that He will put a hedge around us to keep terrible trials from entering and hurting our lives.
8.    Lastly, when we do suffer, God is punishing us out of anger. He is vindictive and wants us to suffer when He is angry with us.
Do any of these sound like they have made room in your thinking?

Let’s look at How God Views Suffering
1.    We are, in fact, called to suffer for Jesus. Phil 1:29, 1 Peter 2:20-21
2.    We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God; we are destined for trials. Acts 14:22, 1 Thess 3:3
3.    Suffering is normal and expected or inevitable in the Christian life. 2 Tim 3:12
4.    God uses suffering for our good, to conform us to the likeness of His Son. Rom 8:28-29
5.    We have a choice to rejoice in our suffering.
6.    Spiritual people feel many painful emotions when they suffer. Mark 14:33-34, 2 Cor 2:4
7.    God did not prevent His own Son from Suffering. Rom 8:32 And He did not prevent Paul, Peter, John the Baptist, Job, David, …. And others He loves from suffering greatly.
8.    Suffering may be God’s loving discipline, for our good and for His Glory.  Heb 12:7-11
Do any of these sound like they have made room in your thinking?

But it hurts so much!  When we see the pain on people’s faces, we feel badly.  When we hear of suffering, we get uncomfortable, wishing the topic would change.  Yes, life does hurt and it is painful. But, it could be way worse.  Without the Grace of God on Earth—things could be a lot harder affecting the lives of so many.

Some find ways of dealing with suffering, other than a Biblical way.  Their view of godliness is challenged.  “I missed my devotions this morning—He won’t give me what I ask for.”  “I need a favor of God, but I don’t want to bother Him with the request—so I’ll go to a Saint and ask him to intercede on my behalf.”
“I have this lucky charm that has helped me in the past…”
“I have this lucky chant I use to get me through hard times…”

All this is NOT the way of the Cross. It is not found in Biblical teaching or practice. You only need to go to Christ DIRECTLY and you will find His love and help.  If you are doing anything like that in your life practice, you will need to, not only stop that, but also seek forgiveness for taking the wrong way through life.  Seek His Hand and His forgiveness.  You will find the end will go better for you. You will be doing life the Master’s Way.

You will be in good company should you doubt your suffering.  As Jesus anticipated being crucified, He felt deeply distressed and troubled  恐れおののき、また悩みはじめて (Mark 14:33).  He was overwhelmed with sorrow  悲しみのあまり死ぬほどである (Matt 26:38 and Mark 14:34). He was deeply distraught  どんなにか苦しい思いをする (Luke 12:50). Jesus was troubled in heart and in His Spirit (John 12:25, 13:21).

One thing people don’t need when they are going through a hard time is people telling them to hang in there.  Things will get better. A slap on the back.  Smile, why don’t you? Be happy!  Truth is, the suffering may be more real than the other person understands. That person who is going through that hard time needs some compassion. Someone who will cry with them—if needed.  Someone who will get down with them and listen and not talk. Some have a hard time listening because they don’t know when to stop talking.  Listen to the hurting person. Let them be silent. Silence is not a bad thing. And you can’t always fix what is wrong anyway.  Allow the Grace of God to touch them. Pray for them in silence.  What can you really say? With Job, his friends spoke a great deal but really did not understand the situation….as Job didn’t understand either. It was a God Thing.

We are to come along side those who are hurting. See how the Lord does it?  In Isaiah 42:2-4 2 He will not shout or cry out, or raise His voice in the streets. 3 A bruised reed He will not break, and a smoldering wick He will not snuff out. In faithfulness He will bring forth justice; 4 He will not falter or be discouraged till He establishes justice on earth. In His teaching the islands will put their hope.”
 彼は叫ぶことなく、声をあげることなく、その声をちまたに聞えさせず、:3  また傷ついた葦を折ることなく、ほのぐらい灯心を消すことなく、真実をもって道をしめす。:4  彼は衰えず、落胆せず、ついに道を地に確立する。海沿いの国々はその教を待ち望む。 

He is not loud.  He will not force Himself on you.  He is not out in the street yelling at you. You are hurting and He will be by your side. You are a bruised reed…a flute that has been hurt—He will fix to make beautiful music once again.  Don’t be thrown away. Encouraged to press on and to be used once again for His Glory.  If you feel you are more smoke than light, He will work with you. It will take time but He restores the broken hearted. In Isaiah 40:29 “29 He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak…31 but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” 30 弱った者には力を与え、勢いのない者には強さを増し加えられる。31しかし主を待ち望む者は新たなる力を得、わしのように翼をはって、のぼることができる。走っても疲れることなく、歩いても弱ることはない。

Is that you this morning, my Friend?  He cares for you in ways you will only start to understand. 43:4 “Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you…I will give men in exchange for you.”  あなたはわが目に尊く、重んぜられるもの、わたしはあなたを愛するがゆえに、あなたの代りに人を与え、あなたの命の代りに民を与える

You are THAT important to Him. He will restore your life…in Christ Jesus the Lord.  THAT is His promise.

Next week, we will look into the saying and strong belief of "There is joy in suffering!"
Purpose and Results of Suffering. 

On May 8th, Lord willing, God is our MAIN Resource in Suffering