- There are at least three kinds of sufferers: I. The Divine Sufferer, II. The Suffering Rebel, and III. The Suffering Saint.
- There are at least two kinds of suffering: Valid and Invalid.
- Regarding the distinction between Valid Suffering and Invalid Suffering, Scripture knows the concept when it tells us, “If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler” (1 Peter 4:15).
- There may be innumerable ways of suffering invalidly. Peter may be taken to indicate the bigger concept (“Invalid Suffering”) by the enumeration of instances of it. This is especially plain when he says, “any other kind of criminal…”
- Herein, I wish to address myself primarily to the holy saint who is suffering validly.
- Those under invalid suffering should find no consolation here. They need repentance, not comfort. There can never be any reason to glory in invalid suffering; it is lamentable.
I. The Divine Sufferer and Valid Suffering
- Suffering is a category proper to divinity first, and then sinners second. We must start with the Divine.
- In all of Israel’s affliction Yahweh was afflicted (Isaiah 63:9). Suffering is not antithetical to deity, but revelatory of it. Emmanuel.
- History is the chronicle of the suffering of God. He has been moved and affected; he came, enfleshed, and died. He is the moved mover.
- Why Jesus suffered so badly? Because he was the first human — the first of the kind that matters.
- The prophets made careful searches seeking what time the Spirit of Christ was indicating the sufferings of Christ (1 Pe 1:10-11).
- Suffering is not what happens to the saint, it is what happens to Christ, and thus to you. Suffering is you learning what God feels when Christ is not enjoyed.
- “If God is good, why do people suffer?” It’s because God is good that his saints are granted to suffer with him. God is good with reference to that which is good. “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him” Phil 1:29.
- You exist because God suffered.
- Suffering exists for reasons greater than your suffering.
- God lets sufferers identify with Divinity. The Incarnated God suffered Satan’s attack. The Innocent One suffered men. He took suffering into His flesh. Now his saints take the news of the suffering of Christ to the lowly.
- God knows the plight of the lowly. Nobody has suffered injustice except God suffered it first: in the Garden, Adam attacked Christ, the Innocent One.
- Nobody suffered except God suffered prior. Human victims are second; the attack on God was first. We are not alone in our distress (Christ went there ahead of us).
II. The Suffering Rebel: Warnings against Invalid Suffering given to those who Claim Christ
- There is an ungodly suffering–one done to myself, by my own hand, because of my own evil. As I suffer it, I gain no comfort in all my knowledge of suffering. Nothing I say herein is to give comfort for invalid suffering.
- The suffering you do to yourself counts for nothing. The suffering God brings upon you counts for everything.
- God casts you down to make you suffer your own depravity, not so that he can teach you, but to kill you, so that he can then resurrect you.
- Look at the suffering all around. Look at the youth who die. God is in control of all of it. He is not guilty, we are. We deserve this.
- If you are not actively setting your mind on Christ, it is set on the world. Jesus suffers no passive minds, but only conscious ones (only active minds).
- If you will not actively set your mind on how and why to praise Christ in your suffering in this age, you will suffer without end in the age to come.
- Do not despise your suffering and your cross, or God will despise you.
- If you love your life in this world, you are a World-Theologian, and suffering isn’t working. If you die in this condition, suffering will eternally avenge itself upon you.
- The ungodly instinctively seek relief from their pain. It is only Christians who seek first the glory of Christ in their sufferings.
- Chronic and anonymous pain is not glorious to the World-Theologian; he refuses to let his mind see the success of God in suffering and the cross.
III. Comfort for the Validly Suffering Saints
- We glory in suffering not because suffering is the value. Rather, suffering is the way of identifying with what causes Christ his grief. Suffering is necessary for understanding Jesus rightly (the man of sorrows).
- We glory in suffering not because suffering is the value. Rather, our Lord is all Value. We must relate to the one who suffered validly to realize him as our own Value. For this reason, the saint glories in suffering (“we also glory in our suffering”, Rom 5:3).
- Suffering doesn’t make us stronger, it makes us weak and humble.
- If Jesus learned obedience from suffering, guess how you are going to learn it; “He learned obedience from what he suffered” (Heb 5:8).
- Suffering is an excellent way to speak of Christ. It lets the sufferer proclaim the excellencies of God through their flesh.
- Your suffering is not the place where Christ leaves you, it is where he is drawing you up into the divine life.
- Christ gives himself in your suffering. He draws near to you as he takes away all comforts and all reason to love your life in this world.
- The saint’s suffering is redeemed by identifying with the divine pain that is Christology. For “if indeed we suffer with him so we may also be glorified with him.” Rom 8:17.
- When you praise Christ in your suffering, fellow saints hear you. When you are vomiting and praising the Lord, heaven hears you.
- Be ready, in season and out, to give a reason for the hope that is in you. When sickness comes upon saints, they exegete Hope and Reason. They exegete Jesus with, by and in the flesh of their suffering.
IV. Why Saints May Suffer Validly in a Church
- Faith sees Christ when He comes in suffering and the cross. False faith sees large budgets, big buildings, and teeming crowds on Sunday.
- When suffering saints die inside from false sermons, they really are suffering. Their suffering isn’t second-class, but heaven-class. Passive congregations who are blind to it only know the kind of suffering that is world-class.
- Jesus is the only valid Message of any valid Church. 98.3% of America’s churches could go away and the proclamation of the glory of Christ would not decrease. Suffering saints know this.
- A minister’s preaching does not suffer when his weeks are lost to making tents, and his Saturdays lost to more work. His preaching suffers not from lack of time, but from lack of Christ-Content (a lack which is amplified by the increased time he spends in sermon preparation).
- To be heard properly, the minister must be silenced and shamed (his identity must be crushed). The Message must increase, the messenger must decrease.