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                        "THE PROBLEM OF SUFFERING"

                          Why Does God Allow It?

INTRODUCTION

1. There is a question which is as old as the first tear, and as recent
   as the lastest newscast:

   "Why?  Why does God allow suffering, sorrow, heartache, and death,
   even among His own children?"

2. This question was asked by Job, and has been asked by every person
   who has walked upon the face of the earth and who believes in God

3. It was asked by a Christian whose wife...
   a. Received in a car wreck a broken arm, ribs, back, pelvis, leg, and
      over 200 fractures in her skull
   b. Required over a month in ICU, and more than a year for complete
      recovery!

4. The answer he received from the Word of God were such an encouragement
   to me that I would like to share them with you...

[Our purpose in this lesson is not to determine the ORIGIN or CAUSE of
suffering (that we will do later), but to better understand:

   * Why God allows it

   * Why Christians can even rejoice in the midst of trials!

The first reason suggested by this Christian was...]

I. SUFFERING KEEPS THIS WORLD FROM BECOMING TOO ATTRACTIVE

   A. THE BIBLE TELLS US THAT WE ARE "PILGRIMS" AND "SOJOURNERS"...
      1. This world is not truly our home
      2. God has prepared something better for us
      3. Consider the following passages:  1Pe 2:11; He 13:14; 2 Co
         5:1,5

   B. IF THERE WAS NO SUFFERING...
      1. No one would want to leave this temporary world
      2. No one would desire the "eternal" home, and therefore prepare
         themselves for it

   C. BUT THE AFFAIRS OF THIS LIFE ARE SO ORDERED...
      1. That the world soon loses its attraction
      2. Most young people may want to live forever...
         a. But by the time a man reaches his "three score and ten"
         b. He begins to desire something better

II. SUFFERING CAN BRING OUT OUR BEST

   A. THE MAN WHOSE WIFE WAS SERIOUSLY INJURED SAW THIS...
      1. In the constant support by friends
      2. In the preparation of food
      3. In the financial support

   B. WE SEE THIS OCCURING QUITE FREQUENTLY...
      1. In times of natural disaster
      2. When someone loses a house to fire, tornado, etc.
      3. In times of terminal illness

   C. THIS MAY BE ONE REASON WHY EARLY CHRISTIANS REJOICED IN THEIR
      TRIALS...
      1. They understood that tribulations could develop character
      2. As Paul wrote in Ro 5:3-4

III. SUFFERING GIVES AN OCCASION TO SILENCE THE ENEMIES OF GOD

   A. REMEMBER THE STORY OF JOB?
      1. Satan wanted to prove God wrong about Job, that he served God
         only because God had blessed him
      2. But Job's patience under suffering silenced Satan!

   B. LIKEWISE, GOD DESIRES THAT WE SILENCE "FOOLISH MEN" - 1Pe 2:15
      1. Who ridicule the teachings of Christ as foolishness
      2. Who say we are Christians only for what good we can get out of
         it

   C. BY PATIENTLY ENDURING, OR DOING GOOD IN TIMES OF SUFFERING...
      1. The value of being Christians really shines through
      2. In the faith we have that sustains us in suffering, and in the
         love we show towards those who suffer

IV. SUFFERING MAKES US APPRECIATIVE

   A. WE ALL RECEIVE SO MANY GOOD THINGS IN THIS LIFE...
      1. It is easy for us to become prone to take them for granted
      2. Instead of receiving them with gratitude toward God

   B. SUFFERING CAN HELP US APPRECIATE MORE FULLY...
      1. Good health
      2. Good friends, and a loving family
      3. A good example of how suffering can make one appreciative is the
         apostle Paul when he was in prison - cf. Php 1:3-8

V. SUFFERING MAKES US MORE DEPENDENT UPON GOD

   A. TOO OFTEN, WE THINK OURSELVES SELF-SUFFICIENT...
      1. "But when a dozen of the most skilled men in their profession
         tell you they have done all they can and it is completely out
         of their hands..."
      2. "...you suddenly realize how much you depend on God."

   B. AT NO OTHER TIME...
      1. Is one more likely to realize that we depend upon God for our
         very breath!
      2. As Paul proclaimed:  "in Him we live and move and have our
         being" - Ac 17:28

VI. SUFFERING HELPS PURIFY US

   A. CONSIDER THE IMPORT OF TWO PASSAGES...
      1. 1Pe 1:6-7 - Suffering can be like fire purifying gold
      2. Jm 1:2-5 - Maturity can be developed through trials

   B. TO ILLUSTRATE HOW, CONSIDER THE MAN WHOSE WIFE WAS INJURED...
      1. "Many times I searched my own life during these past six weeks
         in order to confess my every failure and shortcoming to God..."
      2. "I surely did not want my own sins to stand in the way of God
         hearing my prayers for Jane..."
      3. "It was absolutely necessary to be truthful with God and myself,
         and I am a better man today than before."

VII. SUFFERING MAKES US SYMPATHETIC

   A. PAUL WROTE OF THIS VALUE OF AFFLICTION...
      1. To the church at Corinth, in his second epistle - 2Co 1:3-4
      2. It helps us to be better able to comfort others in their
         affliction

   B. WE MAY THINK WE CAN SYMPATHIZE WITH SOMEONE...
      1. But until we have been there personally, there is no true
         understanding of their hurt
      2. Experiencing suffering...
         a. Makes us more likely to "weep with those who weep" - Ro
            12:15
         b. Better enables us to serve others

VIII. SUFFERING TEACHES US HOW TO PRAY

   A. WE ALL MAY BE A PRAYING PEOPLE...
      1. We pray at the right times
      2. We pray for the right things

   B. BUT IN THE MIDST OF SUFFERING WE LEARN HOW TO PRAY...
      1. "Earnestly"
      2. "Perseveringly"
      3. "With groanings which cannot be uttered" (Ro 8:26)

   C. AS OUR FRIEND SAID:
      1. "I have been a praying man since I became a Christian.  But
         never like this."
      2. "I have learned more about prayer in the past six weeks than
         in the previous twenty years.  My prayers will be different 
         for the rest of my life."

CONCLUSION

1. Can we begin to see why a RIGHTEOUS and MERCIFUL God would allow
   suffering, even to the innocent?

2. If we look at suffering purely from MAN'S point of view, we will not
   understand why suffering is permitted

3. But remember what God said through the prophet Isaiah:

   8  For my thoughts [are] not your thoughts, neither [are] your ways
   my ways, saith the LORD. 9  For [as] the heavens are higher than the
   earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than
   your thoughts. (Isaiah 55)

4. When we look at suffering from GOD'S point of view, from the viewpoint
   of His plans for us in preparation of eternity, then we can begin to
   appreciate why He would allow suffering to occur...

5. And never forget those words of Paul, which reminds us of God's never
   failing love:

   35  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? [shall]
   tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness,
   or peril, or sword? 36  As it is written, For thy sake we are killed
   all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. 37
   Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him
   that loved us. 38  For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life,
   nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor
   things to come, 39  Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature,
   shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in
   Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8)

May God be praised!
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