Trusting the Lord when suffering comes (Part 2)

Speaking truth even in love is not always received well. Pharaoh didn’t receive it well from Moses. And it led to suffering. But we are called to endure.

Speaking truth even in love is not always received well. Pharaoh didn’t receive it well from Moses. And it led to suffering. But we are…

Called to Endure Suffering

The same day Pharaoh commanded the taskmasters of the people and their foremen, “You shall no longer give the people straw to make bricks, as in the past; let them go and gather straw for themselves. But the number of bricks that they made in the past you shall impose on them, you shall by no means reduce it, for they are idle. Therefore they cry, ‘Let us go and offer sacrifice to our God.’ Let heavier work be laid on the men that they may labor at it and pay no regard to lying words.” So the taskmasters and the foremen of the people went out and said to the people, “Thus says Pharaoh, ‘I will not give you straw. Go and get your straw yourselves wherever you can find it, but your work will not be reduced in the least.’ ” So the people were scattered throughout all the land of Egypt to gather stubble for straw. The taskmasters were urgent, saying, “Complete your work, your daily task each day, as when there was straw.” And the foremen of the people of Israel, whom Pharaoh’s taskmasters had set over them, were beaten and were asked, “Why have you not done all your task of making bricks today and yesterday, as in the past?” Then the foremen of the people of Israel came and cried to Pharaoh, “Why do you treat your servants like this? No straw is given to your servants, yet they say to us, ‘Make bricks!’ And behold, your servants are beaten; but the fault is in your own people.” But he said, “You are idle, you are idle; that is why you say, ‘Let us go and sacrifice to the Lord.’ Go now and work. No straw will be given you, but you must still deliver the same number of bricks.” The foremen of the people of Israel saw that they were in trouble when they said, “You shall by no means reduce your number of bricks, your daily task each day” (Exodus 5:6-19).

We are not necessarily destined to be persecuted to the point of enslavement. But we have been promised hardship and persecution for Christ’s sake.

I think that American Christians are in a sweet spot in history that is quickly eroding. Our country has prided itself on the freedom of religion, and Christians have been a major recipient of that freedom. It is really cool to think that we have freedom to worship in an entire building without much fear that the government will come after us.

But many, many brothers and sisters around the world do not have that benefit. And listen, we are not promised that it will remain.

Our promise is suffering in this life but favor with the Almighty.

“Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,” (2 Timothy 3:12)

“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:3-5).

Our promise is hatred from men and even potential death in this life but eternity with the King of Kings.

“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:11-12)

“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:18-19).

“And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (John 14:3).

Evil people will continue in evil actions, maybe not as totally evil as they could be, but evil nonetheless. And since we can see that suffering is a reality to be expected by believers, how can we process these things in light of the gospel?

How can we understand this passage where things get much, much harder on very real people as a part of God’s plan to free his people from their bondage?

We must remember the promised end of the gospel. Well, it’s really the promised forever of the gospel.

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18).

We must remember. Remember the words and promises of God.

These circumstances and even the temptations to sin that we face, sometimes it’s so strong, almost bearing down on us, these are not here because God is not. They are here so that in the end we will be a part of the greatest story – God bringing glory to himself in the salvation of sinful men and women.

What then? How can we look at suffering with redemptive eyes?

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4).

God is setting up the conditions of our lives to glorify himself more fully in us.

We should default in our expectations that we will not receive worldly honor and ease of life on account of Jesus. We should see it as joyful to endure the shame and persecution and sufferings of this life. God is with us.

And what if God prospers us? If God prospers us in this life, as he has many of us, we should ask ourselves: “What is God calling me to do with this prosperity?”

What is God calling you to do with your prosperity?

Pastor Matt Turner said it like this: “It’s not sin to enjoy God’s blessing, but if that blessing terminates with you, you’re missing it completely. We reflect God by being a conduit of blessing.”

So how are you being a conduit of blessing?

In part 3, we will see that no matter if we endure extended suffering or have times of plenty, we are called to trust God.

James Hammack is a regular contributor to The Rope. He also is digital services manager for The Alabama Baptist/TAB Media. He also serves as worship pastor at Sovereign Grace Church, Prattville. He and his wife, Alicia, have three children.


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