This article serves as the preamble to my upcoming series on Christian suffering. There has been so much written and spoken concerning suffering. There are those that believe that suffering is an indication of some existing sin in the life of the one suffering. Job’s three friends took this line of rationale as they attempted to counsel Job in the midst of his pain. There are those that believe that suffering is the Christian’s lot in life and that it somehow signifies the validity of the believer’s faith.

The truth is that suffering does have purpose in the life of the believer. In fact, there are different types of suffering. There is punitive suffering which is punishment for sin and waywardness in association to God’s plan. We see this quite often in the Bible as Israel (God’s client nation) moves contrary to his will.

There is self induced misery; this is the situation when believers and non-believers alike generate anguish within their own souls as well as the overt conditions and circumstance they create around them. Because God designed the human to have volitional freedom, coupled with a sin nature (contracted at the fall of humanity), it is inevitable that man will make decisions that negatively impact their lives. There is a divine law of volitional responsibility which indicates that as a believer exercises their volitional freedom they are directly responsible for the consequences. This keeps us from taking the stance that we are being unjustly punished by God for executing the very freedom he gave. We do have the freedom of choice, but it comes at a price.

There is collective suffering. This is when an entire group suffers because the collective failed as a whole. A good example of this would be when the Israelites tarried for forty years in the wilderness because the majority believed the negative report of the 10 spies and ignored the positive report and vote of confidence from Joshua and Caleb. Not only did the whiners and unfaithful have to languish in the wilderness, so did Joshua and Caleb. Those two did not die with the rest, but they had to suffer through 40 years of delay because of someone else.

There is suffering for blessing, which is a broad topic. In this study, suffering for blessing is assigned to the believer that has steadied himself and positioned himself in the will of God and continues to execute the protocol plan of God. Even someone who was initially suffering as a punitive measure can move from punitive suffering to suffering for blessing. What this means is that the moment a believer realizes that he has sinned and that his sin has resulting in some form of suffering, he has the opportunity to repent and move toward God. If he does this, the suffering may very well continue, it may even intensify, but it is no longer for the sake of punishment, it is now for the sake blessing.

Suffering is a great teacher. It has the exceptional power to conquer ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) of the spirit. God knows how to get the attention of His creation.

There is providential preventative suffering designed by God to keep the believer from moving off course. A good example of this would be Paul’s thorn in the flesh. Paul tells us the thorn was given to him so that he would not become exalted within himself (arrogant and filled with pride [big headed]). The thorn in the flesh was a constant reminder to Paul that God was his source of power and that in and of himself, he was feeble and week.

Suffering comes as a test. You see, adversity is an unbelievable barometer to test the authenticity of one’s faith and their true commitment to God’s plan. I was once posed the following question: Can God trust you with trouble? Could God give the testimony he gave for Job concerning you?

In this study we will explore the importance of doctrinal thinking in the midst of heartache and struggles. So often, Christians take on a victim’s mentality and totally miss the opportunity to advance. There is no greater platform of advancement than suffering. Allow me to elucidate the previous statement. This does not mean that the Christian should look to live in a perpetual state of suffering. The true Christian’s life is characterized by victory and triumph. There will always be resistance and the enemy will always be present, but we are more than conquers (Rom. 8:37). What this means is that when you find yourself in the midst of the storm, you don’t crumble, you don’t cower, you don’t acquiesce to the pressure, you don’t point the finger of blame, you don’t whine and complain. What you do is gird up yourself with faith in your God and His purpose for your life. You allow God to use the storm to elevate you. Ask Joseph and he will tell you that a 13 year storm elevated him to the second highest position in all of the land of Egypt. Ask Job and he will tell you that a whirlwind entered his life, but it resulted in an undying legacy of faith and perseverance.

Actually suffering can be broken down into five major categories and we will become acquainted with them. We will learn how position ourselves in the storm. Remember, God is sovereign and nothing happens without Him allowing it, and if God allows it then it has a positive purpose in your life. So prepare to engage this study with an intensity that will help you grow closer to Christ as you grow thereby in the knowledge and grace of our Savior (2 Pet. 3:18) ~ Dr. Rick Wallace

You are invited to visit me at my Christian Impact site as well!

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