Every man who is born into this world begins to live on borrowed time. From God’s point of view, we have all been issued the “death sentence” the moment we were conceived in the womb: “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Rom 5: 12).
So, the undeniable truth is that, irrespective of our age or race, we are all suffering from the same kind of “terminal illness”, that is, death. What varies from person to person is our life expectancy and the manner in which we depart from this life; these have been all predetermined by our Maker.
Man has no right to question the Almighty God Who created the heavens and the earth, or demand a long life without suffering. The apostle Paul said it well in Romans 9: 20-21: “Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?”
But we thank God for His boundless mercy. He continues to allow the sun to shine, and the rain to fall on both believers and non-believers alike for He is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil (Lk 6: 35; cf Matt 5: 45). However, God’s delay in meting out the judgment we deserve for our every sin does not mean that He will never do so. Rather, every “bonus” day we enjoy is an opportunity to accept the only Saviour, Jesus Christ, who came to redeem lost sinners through His blood, that their sins might be forgiven. The onus then lies on us to accept this grace of God in Christ in humility and repentance. Without believing on Him, we can have no salvation: “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4: 12).
However, we should not assume that we will receive perfect immunity to every affliction or sickness after we confess Jesus as our Saviour. In fact, numerous Scripture passages mention the suffering of Christians because of their faith in the Lord: “And when [Paul and Barnabas] had preached the gospel to that city, and had taught many, they returned again to Lystra, and to Iconium, and Antioch, Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God” (Acts 14: 21-22); “For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake” (Philp 1: 29). Thus, we cannot expect to be liberated from all the pain and infirmities common to mankind.
As believers, we have the power and grace of the Holy Spirit to help us overcome the temptation to sin in the midst of sufferings. However, the indwelling Spirit does not “guarantee” full protection from sin. We must also do our part to search the Scriptures to discover how we can endure suffering without sinning, and look to the perfect example of Jesus Christ, who lived a sinless life while He was on earth: “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with
the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Heb 4: 15).
We are assured in no uncertain terms that the afflictions we face were not only experienced by our Saviour, but also by faithful men and women of old without compromise: “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (I Cor 10: 13).
Thus, the more we recall our Saviour’s sufferings, the more we will be endowed with the mind of Christ and peace of God to see us through our afflictions without murmur or complaint: “For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ” (II Cor 1: 5).
Dearly beloved, are we going through a period of affliction? Our God who has granted us eternal life by faith in His Son has also given us the grace to endure the fiery trials of this life. May we never doubt His promises but learn to trust in Him Who has redeemed us through the precious blood of Christ: “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” (Philp 1: 6).
– Pr Kelvin Li