The Book of Genesis tells us about the transgression of our first parents, Adam and Eve (Gen 3). Their sin of disobedience brought upon them God’s judgment: “Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee. And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life” (Gen 3: 16-17).
Because of Adam’s fall, all mankind fell with him into depravity, sin and death: “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). As a result of man’s disobedience toward his Creator, death and suffering came upon the whole human race.
The Bible tells us that every judgment God metes out is fair and just; He does not overpunish nor underpunish: “He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he” (Deut 32: 4).
Hence, we must never question or accuse God of any wrongdoing. He does not owe us an explanation. Instead, we owe everything to Him; for the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food on our table, and the roof over our heads: “For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring” (Acts 17: 28). And as the Apostle Paul reasoned, this truth alone is sufficient for mankind to search God out and believe on Him. “That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us” (Acts 17: 27).
Thus, as Christians who have embraced Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour, and are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, we should be willing to undergo sufferings and submit ourselves under the rule of the Almighty God – not as a result of forced subjection or for fear of the wrath of God, but out of genuine love for both our Saviour and our fellow men. “For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day” (II Tim 1: 12). We should therefore not be perturbed by the sufferings that we have to endure for our faith. Instead we should be encouraged because of the good that it brings to us, and for the glory of God. “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations” (Jas 1: 2).
Firstly, we must understand that as followers of Christ, we do not merely receive the purchased inheritance by His death, but also share in the sufferings that He had to go through in His life. “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy” (I Pet 4: 12-13). Notwithstanding, the extent of our sufferings does not even come close to the agony borne by our Saviour upon the cross of Calvary.
Secondly, God’s holy work must be done by holy men with holy hands. When we suffer, it does not only identify us with our God and Saviour, but sanctifies us to be worthy vessels fit to do His holy will: “That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world” (Philp 2: 15).
Thirdly, if we refrain from sinning in both word and deed amidst affliction, fellow brothers and sisters who are witnesses of our good testimony may be encouraged and edified: “And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost: So that ye were ensamples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia” (I Thess 1: 6-7).
And finally, enduring sufferings righteously provides us with an opportunity to share the love of God in Christ Jesus to unbelievers. Our Christian conduct ought to be a mirror reflection of the gospel. If we as followers of Christ hardly conform to His image, and live no differently from the unbelieving world, then we are no better than the scribes and Pharisees in Jesus’ time who were known to be hypocrites and condemned by Him. “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness” (Matt 23: 27).
Dearly beloved, do we murmur in our hearts and complain with our lips when things do not go as planned? Would we, for temporary relief, rather give in to temptations instead of stopping our mouths from sinning against God? Consider Job’s wife, who foolishly advised her husband to curse God and end his life because of all the sufferings that suddenly befell him. Know that the Lord did not promise His children freedom from adversities, but an assurance of His presence in their affliction. Let us bear in mind this promise and the purposes of our sufferings, and seek the Lord’s strength to lead us through these trying times unto the praise and glory of our beloved Saviour: “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God; Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace” (II Tim 1: 7-9). May the Lord help us to rejoice, even in our sufferings. Amen.
– Pr Kelvin Li