Lesson #10 in the Always Praying series takes a look at the book of James’ teaching on believers being found fit to suffer. I guess the first reaction some folks might have is, “Why would I want to suffer and why on earth would I want to be good at it? I pray all the time for my suffering to stop”.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4)
The answer is simple. Christians have no choice! God actually promises the misery and tells you to pray for wisdom on how to endure joyously through the suffering in the hope of being perfected (sanctified) for heaven.
“In fact, everyone who wants to live a Godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12). “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” (Acts 14:22)
We’ve got to let God mold the problem into perseverance before we find perfection. Don’t you want to be made perfect, in the image of Christ? Bring on the suffering O Holy Father! We can’t just make up our own path to sanctification because it feels fairer and gentler to us. That’s just not what God promises us. He is a big and just God and He knew what He was doing when He crushed His Son in utter misery. Don’t think He won’t do the same to you whom He loves as well. Ah, to be crushed by so great a love! Thank you Lord!
Lest you think I’ve lost my mind; here is God’s word to further illuminate the idea of what a suffering-saint ought to do when suffering.
Get Perspective: (James 1:12)
“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.”
Follow Great Examples: (James 5:10-11)
“Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.”
Even the apostles were flogged for obeying God’s direction to preach in Acts 5:17-42. They rejoiced because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the name of Jesus.
Learn How To Think When Suffering: (James 5:5-8)
“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.”
In other words, if you need to understand what’s happening to you when you are suffering, pray and ask God to remind you that this is for your good. If you know suffering is for your good but act like your suffering is unfair, and therefore ask God to make it stop, you are being double-minded and unstable. Ouch!
Warning On Behavior When Suffering: (James 5:12)
“Above all, my brothers and sisters, do not swear—not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. All you need to say is a simple “Yes” or “No.” Otherwise you will be condemned.”
In other words, don’t swear, be sarcastic or bitter sounding while you are suffering.
Meditate On Jesus’ Promise: (John 18:20)
“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.”
The bottom line is that suffering is good even if it feels bad. God has a divine purpose for suffering. I’m pretty sure I glossed right over Christ’s gruesome crucifixion when I signed up for what I thought was a lovey-dovey, daisy-chains-in-the-hair, perfect-life-now kind of God Club . Thank goodness, I was wrong and I have continual suffering in this life to mold me into something God would be more pleased to look upon.
So, when you are suffering and ask me to pray for you; just know that I am not going to pray that your suffering ends. I’m going to pray for your endurance and assurance while you suffer because that’s real love and real help to a suffering saint.
Next week in Lesson #11 Pastor Wilson looks at praying for suffering in non-believers.
I encourage anyone who hasn’t listened to the Always Praying audio series from Pastor Steve Wilson of Grace Community Church in Bowling Green, to go back and be immersed in the foundational theology of prayer. Each lesson has an accompanying blog post summarization found in Views from the Pew which began April 13, 2017.