Suffering acts as a guardian or parent in life. The disciplines and restraints imposed by our parents in childhood are now replaced by the disciplines and restraints of suffering in adulthood. It is a warning that we are doing something wrong, or it is a means of greater blessing when we are doing it right. In both instances, it is a teaching aide to propel us forward in our walk with Christ.
As a guardian in our life, suffering is designed by God for our good, because it does two things.
- It restrains us from sin, human good, and evil.
- It challenges us to advance in the plan of God, to grow up spiritually.
Suffering never leaves the believer as it found him. He either is the better or the worse for it; you will never be the same again. If during suffering you react through arrogance with bitterness, vindictiveness, self-pity, or implacability, you will become a loser and start to go backward. On the other hand, if when you are suffering, you respond through the application of metabolized Bible doctrine and occupation with the person of Christ, you will advance to the point of becoming more mature with a faith rest life and a relaxed mental attitude, resulting in being a winner of rewards believer. No one stands still when under pressure, you either move forward or backwards.
Suffering for blessing is accomplished while you are going through some form of adversity in your life, while at the same time remaining predominantly under God’s Divine Power system, (GPS), which is the enabling power of God the Holy Spirit (i.e., being filled with the Holy Spirit through Rebound), while also applying God’s Word that is resident within your soul to your life. As a result, you will have momentum from the Word applied from your soul, and all suffering will be for blessing. In other words, while in fellowship with the Holy Spirit, as you reside in the temple of your soul, any suffering that comes to you is designed for your blessing, for your wisdom, for the function of your common sense, and for the correct application of doctrine to the situation. All of which results in Divine Good Production with blessings and rewards in eternity, (i.e., the gold, silver, and precious gems of 1 Cor 3:10-16, the brighter star resurrection body of 1 Cor 15:41; or the rewards for being an overcomer beyond salvation in Rev 2-3).
1 Peter 3:14, “But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. AND DO NOT FEAR THEIR INTIMIDATION, AND DO NOT BE TROUBLED.”
1 Peter 3:17, “For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong.”
Yet, if you live outside of God’s GPS, which means you are functioning in sin and are not Rebounding, 1 John 1:9, for recovery of fellowship with God, (including the filling of the Spirit), all suffering is designed for blessing on a limited basis; (i.e., to bring you back to reality, to bring you to the point of rebound, to bring you to the point of recovery, and to show you that your scale of values is wrong, and you must change your priorities). This is called Punitive Suffering or Divine Discipline.
Punitive Suffering originates from the believer’s negative volition toward Bible doctrine and his accumulated bad decisions related to sin and evil. But even punitive suffering is resolved by Rebound and Recovery. When you Rebound, the result is that all suffering left over is changed from suffering for discipline to suffering for blessing. Therefore, whatever suffering comes into your life, it is designed for blessing, 1 Cor 11:27-32.
1 Peter 4:15, “By no means let any of you suffer as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler.”
Suffering for Blessing has three categories. These concepts come from the application of John 15 where God prunes us, the branches, so that we can produce “fruit, more fruit, and much fruit.” These three align with the three stages of spiritual adulthood; Spiritual Self Esteem, Spiritual Autonomy, and Spiritual Maturity. The three categories of suffering for blessing then includes:
- Spiritual Self-Esteem – Providential Preventative Suffering.
- Spiritual Autonomy – Momentum Testing.
- Spiritual Maturity – Evidence Testing.
Providential Preventative Suffering, (PPS), is used when the believer reaches Spiritual Self-Esteem, (SSE), to keep him from getting arrogant as a result of success, achievement, and advancement in the Spiritual life. It is the first category of suffering for blessing, from the context of 2 Cor 12:7-10, the “thorn” testing.
Suffering and pain is the result of sin entering into this world, cf. Gen 3:16. We will have pain in the world until sin is completely removed in the eternal state. That is why John said in Rev 21:4, “And He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there shall no longer be any death; there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” So, until that time, we need to deal with suffering and pain and overcome it through the strength and power of God.
2 Cor 12:7, “And because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, to keep me from exalting myself!”
These thorns include four areas of testing called weaknesses in 2 Cor 12:10, that are warm up tests for the four main areas of testing within our lives. They include People testing, System testing, Thought testing, and Disaster testing; Prosperity testing is the fifth category of testing that proves our faithfulness to God.
2 Cor 12:10, “Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, 1) with insults, 2) with distresses, 3) with persecutions, 4) with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”
“Weaknesses” is the Greek Noun ASTHENEIA, ἀσθένεια (as-then’-i-ah) that means, “weakness, sickness, distress, lack of strength.” It is the opposite of “A” STHENOS, σθένος, “strength.” Initially the terms referred to physical weakness and to sickness, and later took on a broader meaning to include vulnerability, poverty, or economic powerlessness. Paul used it to emphasize the “inability” of man to do the will of God apart from the grace and power of God, and to give us an awareness of our dependency on God.
“Insults” is the Greek Noun HUBRI, ὕβρις (hoo’-bris) that means, “insult, insolence, mistreatment, damage, loss, hurt, or disaster.” It means a sin or trespass against you, either physically or mentally, due to arrogance, insult, violence, and contempt towards you by another.
“Distresses” is the Greek the Noun ANAGKE, ἀνάγκη (an-ang-kay’) that means, “necessity, compulsion; distress.” It means the lack of human necessities for existence, poverty, trials, and hardships.
“Persecutions” is the Greek Noun DIOGMOS, διωγμός (dee-ogue-mos’). It means to be chased after, pursued, with the intent to cause harm, due to your faith and relationship with Christ. It also includes the anti-Christian principles of the world’s system, (Satan’s cosmic system), that will clash with the values and morality of faithful believers. As evil men and wickedness increase, persecution will not lessen but will come to a climax during the reign of the Antichrist.
“Difficulties” is the Greek Noun STENOCHORIA, στενοχωρία (sten-okh-o-ree’-ah) that means, “narrowness of space, confined space, affliction, distress, or anguish.” Used only here and in Rom 2:9; 8:35; 2 Cor 6:4. It is related to “being anxious,” but here it would be that which tries to make you anxious and cause anguish.
Paul did not consider these “weakness” as hindrances from God; rather, he saw them as opportunities for the Lord to demonstrate His power through us. As He had told Paul in 2 Cor 12:9, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” cf. 13:4. As long as his suffering was for Christ’s sake, he rested in the assurance that when circumstances pressed him to helplessness, he would then, and only then, experience the help of the Lord, when he faith-rested in Him.
So, PPS prevents, restrains, intercepts, and insulates against sin and evil in the life of the believer, while challenging his SSE to suffer for blessing and profit. It has several goals.
- It insulates against the arrogance complex of sins. That means you begin to eliminate jealousy, self-pity, bitterness, vindictiveness, hatred, inordinate ambition, inordinate competition, and all the other mental attitude sins in the arrogance complex.
- It is a warm up testing that matches the four Momentum Tests under Spiritual Autonomy. There is a warm up for people testing (Insults), for thought testing (Distresses), for system testing (Persecutions), and for disaster testing (Difficulties).
When SSE combines with PPS, it forms Spiritual Autonomy (SA), which is SSE with muscle minus arrogance.
1 Peter 1:6-8, “In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, 7that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 8and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory.”
1 Peter 4:19, “Therefore, let those also who suffer according to the will of God entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.”
James 1:2-4, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4And let endurance have its perfect result that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
Remember that Paul prayed three times for the removal of this PPS, just as our Lord prayed for the “cup” of His Evidence Testing to be removed in the Garden of Gethsemane, Mat 26:39-44; Mark 14:36. Yet, in both instances, the suffering for blessing remained. Therefore, Suffering for Blessing is not always removed as a result of prayer, and in fact, it usually is not removed, because it is designed for great benefit and blessing. What God does not remove He intends for us to bear. Therefore, if you do pray for the removal of any suffering, make sure you also remember and say something like, “if it is your will,” or “not my will, but your will be done.” And instead of praying for its removal, pray for the strength and wisdom to endure and overcome the suffering. Keep in mind that the reason God does not remove the suffering, is because without suffering, the believer cannot fulfill the Plan of God for their life.
Psa 23:4, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”
Phil 1:20, “According to my earnest expectation and hope, that I shall not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ shall even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.”
As you know, there are many things in life which you must do for yourself. The most basic of these is that no one can live your life for you, and no one can die for you. In both living and dying, you have to go it alone. There are certain aspects of living you must do alone, like suffering, feeling pain, making your own decisions, thinking your own thoughts, establishing your own priorities, and eventually doing your own dying. No one can die for you; you must do your own dying. No one can bear your pain; you must bear your own pain. No one can make your decisions for you; you must make your own decisions. You have to live by your own standards. You cannot look to someone else and copy and emulate them.
All this requires spiritual adulthood. In learning how to live and how to die, you will have the key to happiness. You can have tranquility, great happiness and blessing in suffering, as well as in prosperity. The only way to be on top of life in both adversity and prosperity is to be a spiritual adult where you walk in faith with the Lord on a consistent basis. No one else can do that for you, and only you can enjoy that walk.