Every year on the fourth Thursday of November, we set aside a day and a time of thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is not just a national holiday where you don’t have to go to work; it is not just the day that proceeds Black Friday when people forget all about being thankful and are willing to trample one another over for the best deal. You will likely find yourself in a setting that involves friends, family, and a lot of good food. But Thanksgiving is more than that; It is a day to reflect on being thankful. Thankful for the good things that have transpired in your life over the last year, and if you are a Christian, it is time to be thankful for everything that the Lord has brought you through.
As a Christian, you are commanded to not only be thankful for the good things in your life, but you are commanded to be thankful in the suffering and tribulations of life as well. Please notice that I did not say that you are to be thankful “for” suffering and tribulation, but that you are to be thankful “in” suffering and tribulation.
Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. - Romans 5:1-5
Expect suffering to come
The first step in preparing yourself to be thankful in suffering is to realize and understand that suffering is going to come. We have many precious promises as a Christian; promises that we cherish and look forward to receiving. Such as the return of the Lord Jesus Christ and the promise of a new body at his return. We also have the promise that the Lord will work all things together for our good:
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. - Romans 8:28
But we also have other promises in the Bible that we are not so eager to latch onto, such as all of the promises of suffering and tribulation:
These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. - John 16:33Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. - 2 Timothy 3:12
Suffering is a part of this life, and you are not going to avoid it. Some will say, if living godly will bring suffering then I will just avoid living godly. The Bible does say that you will suffer persecution for living godly, but it also says that you will suffer by doing the opposite as well:
But and if ye suffer for righteousness' sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; But sanctify the LORD God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ. For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing. - 1 Peter 3:14-17
The storms of life will come whether you placed your foundation in the Lord Jesus Christ or if you place that foundation in the world. The storms are coming, the question is, how will you go through those storms?
Don’t view all trouble as a departure from Gods plan
Most people have the wrong perspective when it comes to suffering. We have been conditioned to think that suffering is always a result of sin, but that just simply is not true. The Lord Jesus went through plenty of suffering while he was on this earth, and he never sinned. In fact, when he was suffering in the wilderness in Matthew 4:1-11, he was led there by the Spirit of God for that purpose. Also remember, that he asked the Father in the Garden (Matthew 26:36-39) if it were possible to take away the suffering that he was about to endure, he could not have been any more in the will of God then he was at that moment.
The word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying, Arise, and go down to the potter's house, and there I will cause thee to hear my words. Then I went down to the potter's house, and, behold, he wrought a work on the wheels. And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it. Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying, O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the LORD. Behold, as the clay is in the potter's hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel. - Jeremiah 18:1-6
We are the clay, and he is the potter. He can do with us whatever he wants. This passage is viewed most times as an example of what the Lord can and will do with someone when they fail. He can restore us when we fail, he can take whatever our circumstances are and use them to accomplish his will, and this is true. But it also shows that he can change our path if he so chooses to do so.
Suffering prepares us to fulfil his plan
We may think that we know what Gods will for us may be, and we very well may. However, that does not eliminate his option to alter that plan or to make a change of direction in our lives. Sometimes suffering is part of his plan for us:
And Joseph said unto them, Fear not: for am I in the place of God? But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive. - Genesis 50:19-20
For Joseph, it seemed as if his life and therefore Gods plan was put on hold while he went through all the suffering of hatred from his brothers, slavery, and unjust imprisonment. But in reality, all of those things happened to prepare Joseph for the task that God had planned for him to accomplish. WIthout the suffering and the lessons learned through that suffering, Joseph would not have been properly prepared to save his family and two nations from starvation.
Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ: - Philippians 1:6
Proper perspective is essential
But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel; So that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places; And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. - Philippians 1:12-14
Paul had the proper perspective when it comes to suffering in the Christian life. He did not view suffering the way that most of us would view the same suffering. He had his mind on the big picture. Paul said that the things that happened to him:
I speak as concerning reproach, as though we had been weak. Howbeit whereinsoever any is bold, (I speak foolishly,) I am bold also. Are they Hebrews? so am I. Are they Israelites? so am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? so am I. Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. - 2 Corinthians 11:21-27
- Forty stripes save one (5 times)
- Beaten with rods (3 times)
- Stoned to death
- Shipwrecked (3 times)
- Arrested (Falsley)
All of these things, according to the Apostle Paul, happened to further the gospel of Christ. Because of these sufferings, others were made bolder in the word of God; his sufferings also caused Christ to be preached:
Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will: The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds: But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel. What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice. - Philippians 1:15-18
Paul said that some preached Christ out of sincerity, while others only preached Christ to cause him more afflictions. He was happy either way; because his goal was to have Christ preached, and his suffering was the avenue that caused that to happen.
Four things that are accomplished in the life of the believer through suffering
But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. - 1 Peter 5:10
Some of the sufferings that you must endure are the will of God for your life:
For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing - 1 Peter 3:17
If we refuse to go through the sufferings that arise in our lives with the correct attitude and perspective, then we will miss out on the following four things that can only be accomplished in the believer through that suffering:
- Suffering will make you perfect (complete)
- Suffering will establish you (make firm) in the faith
- Suffering will strengthen you (encouragement)
- Suffering will settle you
Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the LORD delivereth him out of them all. - Psalms 34:19
The holidays can be a rough time of the year, especially if you are experiencing trouble or distress. Remember that you can remain joyful and thankful in tribulations if you put your mind on the right things, and you maintain the proper perspective.
Our hope at Irvington Bible Baptist Church is that this podcast provided some encouragement and has helped you to develop a closer relationship with the LORD Jesus Christ.