Joe R. Price
Pain and suffering exist in this world because of sin. According to Genesis 3:16-19, they are the clearly stated consequences of sin entering into the world. We have experienced the words of Job as he says, "Man, that is born of a woman, is of few days, and full of trouble" (Job 14:1). Suffering is inevitable because sin is present in this world.
The Bible reveals several different types of suffering. Here is a brief overview of some of them.
1. Punitive suffering results when one violates established laws. Whether it be the natural laws (like gravity), moral laws (such as do not murder) or civil laws (paying taxes), one cannot violate the laws under which he lives without experiencing some degree of punishment. We have sufficient incentive to obey law to avoid punishment (Rom. 13:1-4).
2. Disciplinary suffering occurs to warn us and to improve our lives. It is true that men often respond favorably in times of adversity to what they would reject in times of prosperity. The adage, "there are no atheists in a foxhole" speaks to this point. Suffering can be to our good if we will learn from it (Ps. 119:71; Heb. 12:10-11; 1 Pet. 1:6-7).
3. Consequential suffering is the sort where innocent ones suffer due to the actions of others. The drunk driver kills an innocent victim, the unborn baby's life is taken by abortion. Millions suffer daily in this world through no fault of their own (Gen. 3:17-19; Mark 14:7; John 9:1-3). But, as we have already noted, sin is ultimately the root cause of it all.
4. Persecutionary suffering occurs when one is afflicted for what is right (Matt. 5:10-12). Those who live godly can expect to undergo this form of suffering (2 Tim. 3:12). Just as the world hated Jesus, his followers will also be hated (John 15:19; 17:14). Although this kind of suffering is unjust, Jesus teaches us not to fear man and what he may do to us (1 Pet. 3:13-14, 17). We must fear God and always serve him (Matt. 10:28).
5. Sacrificial suffering occurs when one willingly suffers in the place of someone else. This is the essence of love (Rom. 5:6-8). Jesus suffered on our behalf, leaving us an example to follow (1 Pet. 2:21-24). Having been the recipients of Christ's tremendous love and sacrifice, Christians are to be ready to suffer for others (1 John 3:16).
Following is an outline of additional thoughts from God's word on suffering, with special attention being given to rejoicing in spite of the tribulations which we face. Please open your Bible and study God's word, and commit your-self to the joy of suffering for the sake of righteousness (Matt. 5:10-12).
Rejoicing in Tribulations (Rom. 5:3)
1. Seems contradictory, yet possible.
2. Matthew 5:10-12 Blessings as we rejoice through trials.
3. We must learn to rejoice in tribulations.
I. What Is Tribulation?
A. Defined: Pressure (thlipsis).
B. Illustrated (John 16:21; Matt. 24:20-21).
C. Defining Characteristics (John 16:33; Mark 4:17; Acts 20:33; 2 Cor. 2:4; Acts 14:22).
II. How Do We Rejoice in Tribulations?
A. Develop the spirit of early Christians who counted it an honor to suffer for Christ's sake (Acts 5:41; Col.1:24; 1 Pet. 4:13-16).
B. Recognize that suffering can prepare us for greater usefulness in the kingdom (Rom. 5:3-4; Jas. 1:2-4; 2 Cor.12:10).
C. Understand that suffering will make us long for heaven with greater intensity (Matt. 5:12; 1 Pet. 1:6-7; 4:12-13; 2 Cor. 4:16f).
D. Remember that God's grace is sufficient to sustain us (Rom. 5:2; 8:35f; 2 Cor. 12:9).