Picture of Pastor Gettys

Sermon delivered April 17, 2004 by Pastor Donald J. Gettys

McDonald Road Seventh-day Adventist Church

McDonald, Tennessee

Biblical quotations are from the New International Version NIV unless otherwise noted. Divine pronouns and titles are capitalized.

Blessings of Suffering

My sermon this morning is about the blessing of suffering. Now, we all suffer. You may say, "Pastor you are preaching about something that is not true." Well, do we like suffering? Do we enjoy pain? No, we don't. So, is there any reason why God allows bad things to happen to good Christian people? I would like to propose to you that there are some reasons. I would like to propose to you that if you look for it, you can find a blessing in the things that you have to go through. Some of you have suffered a lot. You've lost loved ones, or whatever.

I talked with a man who just lost a son who had fallen in the swimming pool and drowned. He said: "The Big Man up there surely does some strange things!" And I thought, "God didn't do that!" You know, a lot of times we blame the suffering on Him and it's an accident, it's just a pure accident. That's all it is. We suffer from it, that's true.

Another time I went to visit a mother. She was in the hospital prayer room with her head in her hands, heart broken and bitter. Her little son had just passed away after two weeks of deep pain from an infection. And there she was, in the prayer room at the hospital. She said: "You know, he was such a good little boy. He was always at Sabbath School and loved to repeat his memory verses. He was the most religious member in our whole family. Why did he have to die?" She was just in tears. "If God loved him, why did he suffer so much? He didn't deserve this!" I said, "We don't really understand these things, but someday everything will be made plain. Until that time we just have to trust in the Lord." She said, "You know, if that's your only answer, I'm through! I hate a God like that. I don't want to have anything more to do with God!" And she walked out. It was a bad moment.

Actually the Bible says we should expect troubles. Christians are not exempt from suffering. You're going to get Alzheimer's. You're going to get a cold. You're going to suffer a great loss. You are going to have pain. Problems are going to come. Psalm 34:19, A righteous man may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all.

Well there probably is.

Allow me to share 5 blessings that can be found in suffering if we look for them.

(1)- SUFFERING IS FOR OUR SALVATION

It's a blessing. Even Jesus was not exempted from suffering, was He? He had to suffer. Jesus Christ suffered to save us. Jesus had to die to procure our salvation. Dying is hard. What Jesus did, He suffered a lot. We've just come through the Easter season. And, like Jesus we also must suffer. Luke 9:23. Then (Jesus) said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me." Jesus had a cross to bear, a cross of suffering, and we have a cross to bear, our cross of suffering.

A religion that does nothing, gives nothing, costs nothing and suffers nothing is worth nothing.

"We must be partakers of Christ's sufferings here if we would share in His glory hereafter." Early Writings, p. 47. In other words we can't be saved without suffering. Speaking about the paradise of God Ellen White said: "None will be there who have not, like Moses, chosen to suffer affliction with the people of God." 1T78.

Revelation speaks about the saints. You would expect the saints would be exempt from suffering, of course. Well, we aren't. I suppose that if we all were, everybody would join the church just so they wouldn't get the flu, or wouldn't hit their finger with a hammer. Revelation 7:14 says, ". . . .These are they who have come out of the great tribulation." It's going to be a period of tribulation. In the last days or any day the saints are not exempted from the great tribulation. And even every day we're not exempted from tribulation.

A little girl happened to find a vial of Laudanum, which is an Opium-like poison, and she drank it. I don't know why kids do things like that. They called the doctor immediately and showed him what it was. This was back in the old days. He came to the house. The doctor tried hard to save her life. Before he left he said, "I've done all I can do. You're just going to have to keep her awake, because if she goes to sleep, she will probably never wake up from it. You've got to keep her awake until the poison wears off."

The doctor went out of the house and went to a willow tree and broke off several switches, came back and gave the switches to the father and said, "Don't let her go to sleep, whatever you do. You spank her if need be to keep her awake until the poison wears off."

Sure enough the little girl became sleepy. The father applied the switch for a while, but finally bursting into tears, he cried, "I just can't endure this torture any more." and ran out of the house. Then the mother took up the task until finally the drug wore off, and the child was saved.

What do you think the little girl thought of her parents during that terrible night of spanking? Were her thoughts positive? Did she understand? Only until she got past that experience could she understand. You can't understand the suffering you go through in this world until you get past it. Maybe you won't understand until you get to heaven why you have to suffer, why your wife has to suffer, why your husband and kids have to suffer. Can we not trust God when He allows us to pass through the only thing that will fit us for heaven? You can be sure that God suffers more than we do. Imagine the suffering God must go through every day. He loves our children more than we do.

Look at Hebrew 11:24,25. Moses was saved by suffering. By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh's daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time.

That's what Moses did. He chose to suffer. He could have exempted himself from it. Had he chosen the plush pleasant palace of Egypt, Moses very well would never have seen the miracle at the Red Sea. He never would have seen the pillar of fire, no magic rod, no smiting of the sea. All he would have experienced would have been the 40 years in the desert watching his sheep. Moses is alive today (he was resurrected, you know) in Heaven because he choose to suffer with God's people. God's people do suffer. Suffering often results in salvation and eternal life.

2 Corinthians 1:6 If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation... You suffer for your salvation.

Have you ever been in a foxhole? Yes there are a few who have been in foxholes, probably with particles of lead flying overhead. You know, foxholes seem to make soldiers more inclined to pray. How many times have we been in a hospital stay and we've gotten closer to the Lord? I've seen people do that. They seem to have a spiritual turnaround spiritually. God whispers to us in our joys but He shouts to us in our agony.

This week, I talked with a Collegedale, TN man who had suffered in a battle with cancer. He said, "You know, through this whole thing I've finally come to the place in my life where I know that we are really here for only two purposes in life. One is to be here long enough to experience a saving relationship with Jesus. I'm ready to go, whatever. The other is to lead others to Jesus." That's all the reason we're here. We need to live long enough to find that. And you need to help somebody else find that.

And, death can help us to find salvation. Even death helps. Isaiah 6:1. In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord. It sounds like Isaiah wasn't fully converted until someone special died. The trauma stimulated his conversion. So agony and pain do help to bring us to God.

(2) PAIN MAKES HEAVEN MORE VALUABLE

Is this the ideal place where you want to live forever? It's pretty nice here in Collegedale. But is this the ideal place? Pain makes heaven more valuable. Those who suffer most will surely appreciate heaven the most. The crippled here will enjoy their heavenly legs more than all the others. My own father, who has been deaf in one ear will enjoy stereo sound supremely because he has been deaf 95% of his life. You take that for granted, don't you. 1 Chronicles 4:10. Jabez prayed for an exemption from pain. Jabez apparently suffered. Jabez will enjoy heaven where there will be no more pain... Revelation 21:4. "He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." And you will enjoy heaven a lot. Our former trials and suffering in this world will be forgotten and lost amid the glories of the new earth.

(3) SUFFERING MAKES US BETTER It improves us.

A woman had to face a sudden crisis in her family and friend came over to talk to her about it and tried to console her. The friend said, "The Lord will take care of you." The lady exclaimed bitterly, "I wish I had never been made!" Her friend said: "You're not made. This is the process of being made and this is the Maker's process." And it is.

Look at James in your Bible. James1:2-4. Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. There's a lot of blessing and benefit in suffering.

I know a man who operates a grape vineyard. He's one of our members. He's a husbandman. That husbandman must prune off so many branches that little is left. If the vine had a voice and could feel pain it would probably cry out in great agony, "Don't do this!" But the vine submits to the sharp cutting shear that it may bear even more fruit. Why does God allow things to happen in your life that are harmful to you? So that you might grow from it.

I saw a sign on the wall of an exercise spa: No Pain, No Gain! If you're just relaxing in your exercise program, it isn't helping you very much. This world has been advanced most, I think, by those who have been tried the most. Look at the apostle Paul. He was perhaps the greatest of the apostles. He wrote the most books of any apostle. He was an intellectual giant. And he suffered much. During his greatest hardships he produced his greatest Epistles. The greatest services that Martin Luther ever did beside introducing gospel again, he translated the Bible into German, the language of the people.

And, John Bunyan wrote his greatest book the Pilgrim's Progress behind iron bars.

Beethoven composed some of his greatest musical works when he faced total deafness. In fact, he felt his hearing disorder made his music better. He never heard some of his greatest compositions that he produced. How often the best singers have gone through the most pain.

Even in our own church hymnal we find many of the finest hymns written by Fanny J. Crosby, who lost her eye sight at the tender age of six. Someone apparently mistakenly put a very hot poultice to her eyes and she got up blind. She regarded her impediment as a blessing. She lived almost 95 years in total blindness yet she wrote 8000 hymns! She wrote "Safe in the Arms of Jesus" in just 20 minutes! Her suffering became a blessing to both her and millions of Others. Pain can be a blessing. Her suffering became a blessing to us because we sing her hymns.

I Corinthians 10:13 God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. You are not going to have something you can't handle in Jesus Christ. Malachi 3:2,3. But who can endure the day of His coming? Who can stand when he appears? For He will be like a refiner's fire or a launderer's soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver... Now, we are the silver and God is the Refiner, isn't He. Our Heavenly Refiner will permit only enough fire of affliction to consume the dross of worldliness from our character so that His character may be more fully reflected in our life. The purification of the people of God cannot be accomplished without their suffering. You can't do it without suffering. It just won't happen.

(4) SUFFERING TEACHES US OBEDIENCE

That's how you learn to obey. Your mother say not to touch the hot stove. "Well, Yes, I kind of believe it. I wonder how hot it is." And you touch it. And the obedience is enhanced by the pain. Speaking of Jesus Hebrews 5:8 says, Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from what He suffered. So, if Jesus had to learn obedience through suffering, we are not exempt from that either. Your kids might not understand why they have to stand in the corner, but they are learning to obey. Some have to stand in the corner more than others. Some go through the school of "hard knocks."

Some suffering is an alarm signal telling us that we are at odds with the Law, the physical Law and God's Law.

Acts of the Apostles, p. 524 by EG White says, "Trial is part of the education given in the school of Christ, to purify God's children from the dross of earthliness. It is because God is leading His children that trying experiences come to them. Trials and obstacles are His chosen methods of discipline, and His appointed conditions of success." 2 Timothy 3:12 says, In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.

The Devil often grinds the tools hanging over God's workbench. God allows it to happen to hone our character to a more perfect obedience and be more effective. You can't cut wood with a dull saw or a dull chisel.

Suffering is one of the required courses in the college of Christianity. I've noticed that some pay a higher tuition than others. Maybe because some of us have so many rough edges to come off. Maybe because the material in us will take on a higher polish and shine brighter than some others. Adversity is the diamond dust Heaven polishes its jewels with. If you are being polished a lot try to think of the high quality jewel that God is making out of you. Just trust your life to Him.

I know several of you who have had hip-replacements, knee-replacements, and knee- replacements, and all kinds of suffering and pain you've been through. You just trust your life to Him. He'll see you through.

(5) SUFFERING BRINGS US MANY BLESSINGS

II Corinthians 1:5. Much comfort comes to us through Christ. When you are discomforted, Christ will bring you much comfort. The Bible says that when we suffer much, much comfort will follow that.

Is pain a curse or a blessing? What if you didn't have any pain. What if you had no pain nerves of any kind in your whole body? What if you could not experience a headache? The sciatic nerve pain shooting down your leg would not happen. You would never experience pain of any kind?

Well there are people like that. There are people that are born with no pain receptors in their body. One little fella that had this medical condition had several fingers missing and ugly scars over various parts of his body. He was unaware of getting too close to a fire until he could smell the burning flesh. He could not detect the cut of a sharp knife or razor blade until he saw blood flowing. Then it was too late. He had no sense of pain. Really, pain in this old world is a blessing! Of course we would wish the level of pain was quite a bit lower. But pain is a blessing.

Proverbs 3:11, My son, despise not the Lord's discipline.

With what attitude do you approach suffering? Well, one day I went out to visit a man who had just cut off one of his fingers. I still have all of my fingers, fortunately. I'm glad for that. He had just cut his finger off in his workshop. He said, "Why does this have to happen to me? I have to make a living with my hands. I don't deserve this. I pray but God does not protect me. I'm not sure I can ever trust a God like that again. So much pain has happened in my life. I have suffered and suffered. Why? When will it end?" I was just in agony.

Another time I went to visit a man who had just cut off one of his fingers in his workshop. You men need to be careful. This man said to me, "Well, I have all the others left, praise God!" He smiled. "I am thankful God kept it from being even worse. At least It's a quick way to lose a little weight," he laughed. Keep your attitude as positive as possible. And the suffering won't bother you as much.

"God never leads His children otherwise than they would choose to be led, if they could see the end from the beginning, and discern the glory of the purpose which they are fulfilling as co-workers with Him." Desire of Ages, by EG White, p. 224-225.

You know, the stitches and threads we weave into life's garment may seem wrongly placed to us. But when God tells us that we are looking at the back side of the pattern, we can understand the reason for the dark threads that we would never have placed there are there. Life cannot be entirely beautiful without some tribulation. It takes clouds in the sky to make beautiful sunsets.

Much depends on the way we come into trouble. Paul and Jonah were both in a bad storm. One was on God's business, the other running from God. One had a beautiful island waiting for him and the other had a whale ready to swallow him up.

Three times Paul asked for his affliction and suffering to be removed from him. Was it removed? It was not, was it. 2 Corinthians 12:9. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.

May we be like Paul when the miseries of life overtake us. May we trust in God entirely that we may live with Him eternally! It's alright to ask for it to be removed, but if it isn't, then accept it and reap the blessings from it. May we trust God entirely that we may live with Him eternally .

I'm going to conclude by reading James 1:12. Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. May God bless you in your suffering and your pain, and may you be faithful until that day when you see your crown. And then, I think you'll understand why your life has been the way that it was.

Hymn of Petition: #70,  Praise Ye the Father
Scripture:  James 1:2-4 and 12
Hymn of Response: # 525,  Hiding in Thee

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