PROBLEMS AND PAIN

(Trumpet Ministries,Inc. / Word of Righteousness)

PROBLEMS AND PAIN Copyright Š 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright Š 973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.

All Christians experience problems and pain. If we are serving the Lord to the best of our knowledge, problems and pain are sent to us to save us from worldliness, the lusts of the flesh, and self-will. Whether we profit from our many tribulations depends on how we respond to them.

Table of Contents

Responding to Problems and Pain Purifying Us From Sin Teaching Us Obedience to God Changing Our Blood-life to Resurrection-life Enabling Us To Minister and Bear Fruit by Resurrection-life Conclusion

PROBLEMS AND PAIN

And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. (I Peter 5:10—NIV)

Responding to Problems and Pain

All Christians experience problems and pain. If we are serving the Lord to the best of our knowledge, problems and pain are sent to us to save us from worldliness, the lusts of the flesh, and self-will. Whether we profit from our many tribulations depends on how we respond to them.

First of all, we need to understand that our chastening is not going to last longer than necessary. There is going to come an end to our pain. Notice this in the above verse.

"After you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast."

The Lord wounds and then the Lord binds up. This is the way God works with us. The wonderful manner in which God binds us up certainly makes the wounding desirable!

There will come an end to your problems. Just don’t quit! The worse mistake you can make is to quit. Then the Lord has no way of bringing you through your problems. Remain in the race. Stay in the fight.

The following are some prayers that are helpful when you are going through a siege of problems and pain:

"Lord, help me to keep my heart right, to respond correctly in my personality in this distress."

If we are to profit from our chastening we must not blame the tools God uses, or become angry with God or people, or retreat in fear, or spend time rebuking the devil (which he interprets as worship), or suppose if we had enough faith we would never suffer. It is important how we respond, if we are going to receive good from the situation. God will help us respond correctly if we ask Him. He will keep our heart steadfast in Himself if we keep praying, no matter how dark our surroundings become.

"Take out of my personality anything that is making the problem and pain worse than they need be."

Many times when we find ourselves greatly upset over a situation it is because something in our own personality is aggravating what would normally be just an unpleasant or irritating experience. We cannot blame other people if we lose our love, joy, and peace. The problem is within us. The Spirit of God will help us understand what is working in our personality that causes the uproar. The Spirit will remove the source of the unrest if we keep looking to God to help us.

"Guide me to the solution of the problem."

This is a prayer for wisdom. Christ gives us wisdom generously, if we petition Him, and does not find fault with us for asking.

"Show me what I can learn from the distressing episode or prolonged pressure."

This prayer God is more than happy to answer. The purpose of our life in the world is that we may be taught of the ways and Person of God. God loves an eager student. There is much to learn from everything we experience.

It is important that we choose to delight ourselves in the Lord in every circumstance, just as much as possible. Then God gives us the desires of our heart.

After you have gone to the Lord about each of these requests, give thanks to Him, and then keep on praying until you gain love, joy, and peace.

There are at least four reasons why, if we are serving the Lord, we experience problems and pain—most of our problems and pains being mild pressures and irritations although sometimes there are severe crises.

To purify us from sin.

To teach us obedience to God.

To change our blood-life to resurrection-life.

To enable us to minister and bear fruit by resurrection-life.

Purifying Us From Sin

Many of the problems and pains we experience are for the purpose of making us holy.

Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:10,11—NIV)

Notice the expression (referring to our being disciplined) "those who have been trained by it." This expression is important to our understanding. The doctrine of imputed (ascribed) righteousness has been emphasized and overemphasized out of all proportion until the main topic of the New Testament, which is the bringing forth of a new righteous creation, has fallen by the wayside.

Numerous Christians of our day do not understand that God is training us in righteous behavior, and that our conversion from ungodly to godly behavior is as much a part of the Christian salvation as imputed righteousness—in fact, righteous behavior on our part is more important than imputed righteousness in that righteous behavior is the goal of the new covenant. Imputed righteousness is not the goal of salvation, it is a means of developing righteous behavior. When it is viewed as more than this it becomes error.

We have to be trained in righteous, holy living. Problems and pain, the chastening of the Lord, are a very important part of this training.

The entire fourth chapter of First Peter tells us that we suffer in order to purify us from sin; that such suffering is Divine judgment on our behavior; that the fiery trials of judgment produce salvation in us; and finally that the producing of such salvation is a difficult process.

The righteous are saved with difficulty. The reason the righteous are saved, that is, changed from sinful behavior to righteous behavior, with difficulty, is that we are not always willing to surrender our worldliness, lust, and self-will to the Lord. The Lord sends problems and pain on us to burn away the worldliness, lust, and self-will, but we do not want to let them go. This is why it is difficult to save us.

Notice how Chapter Four of First Peter commences:

Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin. As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. (I Peter 4:1,2—NIV)

Arming ourselves with a mind to suffer is helpful because much of life consists of various kinds of suffering. If we are always looking for a happy time we will be disappointed—we may even be led into error. To try to always evade suffering requires that we sacrifice our integrity. When a situation becomes unpleasant we flee, betraying those who trust in us and also breaking the laws of God.

Suffering, if responded to correctly (as outlined above), purifies us from sin. We then live our life in obedience to God’s will. Being able to obey God in every circumstance is salvation. God will accept nothing less than stern obedience from His sons.

Teaching Us Obedience to God

In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering. (Hebrews 2:10—NIV)

Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered (Hebrews 5:8—NIV)

The above two verses are difficult to comprehend because we view the eternal Christ as always being perfect. If we are to believe the Scripture, Christ returned to the Father a better Person than when He left.

For one thing, the Lord was better acquainted with the sufferings we experience while living on the earth. He did not fully understand our infirmities until He Himself became a man and found out what it is like to live in this demon-filled charnel house we call life.

Now He knows, and so He can understand our problems and pains.

Christ was made perfect through suffering.

Christ learned obedience to the Father from what He suffered.

Was Christ obedient to God before He came to earth? Doubtless He was. But there is obedience, and then there is tested obedience.

God the Father was about to entrust His beloved Son, Jesus Christ, with all authority in the heavens and upon the earth. This means Christ was to receive God’s own authority.

In order for God to so entrust Jesus Christ with His own authority He first had to make certain beyond question that Christ would remain totally obedient and never take matters into His own hands.

And so the Lord did not count His sonship a thing to be grasped but took a lowly position on earth. His life here was miserable, by our standards.

The struggle in Gethsemane passes human comprehension. What was at issue was Christ’s eternal relationship to the Father. Christ had only the Father’s Word that after He had borne the sins of the world He would be restored to His position in the heart of God.

Even with this at stake the famous cry was uttered: "Not My will but Yours be done."

God knew if Christ would lay down even His relationship to God in order to be totally obedient, He could be entrusted with God’s own authority.

Why couldn’t Christ have learned obedience in the spirit realm? Maybe it is not possible to learn obedience in the spirit realm. Maybe our life on earth is the only opportunity we ever will have to demonstrate stern obedience to the Father.

We, as did Jesus Christ, learn obedience through our problems and pains.

Because of this, all of God’s future rulers must suffer while on the earth.

Changing Our Blood-life to Resurrection-life

The life of the flesh is in the blood, the Bible tells us.

We may think blood-life is a satisfactory form of life. It is not. Compared with the indestructible, incorruptible resurrection-life the Lord Jesus Christ came to bring us, blood-life is seen for what it is—a corruptible, perishable form of energy.

Blood-life, being corruptible and perishable, cannot enter the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is neither corruptible nor perishable.

However, our flesh will enter the Kingdom. We notice that when Christ came forth from the cave He had a flesh-and-bones body. "A spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have."

The flesh is not a problem. It is the life of the flesh that is the problem. Blood is just not an acceptable form of life for God’s children, except on a temporary basis as they learn how to please God and walk in His ways.

The Lord Jesus Christ came so we would not perish but receive the imperishable Life that is in Himself and by which He lives.

Our hope is that in the day of resurrection we shall receive a body of incorruptible life, a body living by the Spirit of God. But before it is possible for us to receive such a body we must attain incorruptible life in our inward nature.

This is why the Apostle Paul was setting aside everything else in order that he might attain the resurrection to eternal life; not just to be brought back from the dead but to be clothed with an immortal body free from all the bondages of sin. Such clothing necessitates the development of eternal life in the inward nature.

The inward must be made alive before the body can be made alive.

The question is, how is the inward personality made alive?

But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. (I Timothy 6:11,12—NIV)

Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so they may take hold of the life that is truly life. (I Timothy 6:18,19—NIV)

We are to flee from the pursuit of money and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness.

The pursuit of these qualities necessitates a fight. The true Christian life is a fight to lay hold on eternal, incorruptible life.

"Fight the good fight of faith."

We receive a portion of eternal life when we first receive Jesus as our Savior. This portion of life enables us to set out on the course of our discipleship. It gives us the desire and strength to accept the denials and pressures that accompany discipleship.

Each day we have to fight to take hold of more eternal life, and then more eternal life. We do not want to live in the sins and compulsions of the life of blood any more than we have to. We desire to live by the Spirit of God, to think by the Spirit of God, to speak by the Spirit of God, to act by the Spirit of God. When we thus live in the Spirit we do not fulfill the lusts of our flesh and soul.

We are to "take hold of the life that is truly life." Blood-life is not "truly life." It is death. Our body is dead because of sin.

But Paul promises that if the Spirit of God is alive in us, God, at the return of the Lord, will make alive even our mortal body so our flesh no longer is animated by blood-life but by eternal life. This transition is our goal, and the answer to Paul’s cry: "Who will deliver me from this body of death?"

Problems and pain assist us in the desired change from blood-life to eternal life. They beat down our body, frustrating us, keeping us from rushing about in our enthusiasm and passions.

As we respond correctly to the problems and pains the Holy Spirit is better able, now that we have suffered, to express His Life in us. As He does so we are set free from the law of sin and death, in the meanwhile being without condemnation because of the righteousness of Jesus Christ ascribed to us. This is how the new covenant operates.

We have seen then that problems and pain purify us from sin, teach us obedience, and change our blood-life to resurrection-life. This is why the Scripture says we enter the Kingdom of God through much tribulation.

Strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. "We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God," they said. (Acts 14:22—NIV)

Each day we increase in the power of Christ’s resurrection. Each day we share His sufferings, being conformed to His death on the cross.

I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, (Philippians 3:10—NIV)

We must remain in the imprisoning circumstances in which we have been placed if we expect to be crowned with life and righteousness when we are brought back from the dead and face the Lord Jesus.

Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life. (Revelation 2:10—NIV)

Evidently the Apostle Paul was a man of great personal energy and motivation. In order that Paul’s ministry would remain as an expression of resurrection-life and not his pride or blood-life, the Lord permitted Satan to attack Paul’s body. Some scholars believe this affliction was in the form of an eye infection. Whatever it was, it kept Paul leaning on the Lord instead of his own strength.

To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 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 Christ’s power may rest on me. (II Corinthians 12:7-9—NIV)

The Lord made Paul weak in his natural strength. Then the power of Christ served to enable Paul to do what God desired. Now it was no longer Paul but the Life of Christ that was active in his personality. By this affliction Paul changed from his normal blood-life to eternal life.

Paul did not regret this change from his natural strength to God’s strength.

That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (II Corinthians 12:10—NIV)

When Paul was weak in his own strength he was strong in the strength of Christ. God’s Life comes forth from our death. We do not enjoy this process and we must make an effort to keep on delighting ourselves in the Lord no matter what takes place. It is for our good that we change from corruptible life to incorruptible life just as soon as possible.

Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. (II Corinthians 1:9—NIV)

How wonderful to have the sentence of death in ourselves that we should not rely on ourselves for any aspect of our life! We are to rely only on God who raises the dead. This sort of life is greatly to be desired!

Enabling Us To Minister and Bear Fruit by Resurrection-life

Problems and pain enable us to minister and bear fruit by resurrection-life. We keep getting knocked down, sometimes to the point of despairing of life. Then God raises us up by the resurrection-life of Christ. Not only is our strength changed from the human to the Divine, those around us also experience eternal life. This is because God always sends more than enough resurrection-life to lift us up, and the overflow touches other people.

God will not give His Glory to another person. Yet the Lord Jesus said He has given us the Glory that God has given Him.

I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: (John 17:22—NIV)

If God will not give His Glory to another person, and Jesus said He has given us God’s Glory, the same Glory given Him, then we must become an integral part of God to receive the gift of Glory. This is precisely what takes place. Our natural, adamic life is beaten down until we live only as God’s power raises us up. A transfer of life takes place because of problems and pain. Then God can give us His Glory because He actually is giving it to Himself.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. (II Corinthians 4:7—NIV)

God has placed us in "jars of clay" so He can wage His own war against Satan; so He can build His own Kingdom apart from human ambitions and ingenuity.

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. (II Corinthians 4:8,9—NIV)

The problems and pain that insured Paul’s ministry and fruitfulness would be Divine and not human are described as pressure, perplexity, persecution, being struck down. Paul’s entire life and ministry was like that of Jesus in that it was composed of one problem and pain after another—not an enviable existence from the standpoint of flesh and blood.

But look at what was true of Paul!

We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. (II Corinthians 4:10—NIV)

The reason for living according to the death of Jesus being worked out in him was so the Life of Jesus would be revealed in Paul’s body.

Most of us Christians want to minister and bear fruit that other people may receive the Life of Jesus. This is a worthy desire. But for fruit to be borne the seed must fall into the ground and die. We cannot save our life and at the same time perform the eternal works of the Kingdom of God. If we would have Christ live in us we must be crucified with Christ. If we would know the power of Christ’s resurrection we must be ready to share His sufferings, being conformed to His death.

There is no other way. Unfortunately, for the two thousand years of the Christian Era well intentioned people have sought to build the Kingdom of God and at the same time preserve their own life. The result has been, and shall be in the future, Babylon—confusion!

For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so his life may be revealed in our mortal body. (II Corinthians 4:11—NIV)

Problems and pain are sent upon us that our ministry and fruit-bearing might be of the Life of Jesus Christ and not of the strivings of our adamic personality.

The Charismatic movement is at a crossroads today. The godly remnant will wait on the Lord that He may use them as He will. The majority will go forth with their gifts to save and heal a "lost and dying world," as they describe it. (But how about lost and dying Christian churches—believers who, because of unbalanced teaching, are worldly, bound by the lusts of the flesh, and living according to their self-will?)

The majority always will slander and persecute the godly remnant because Satan, who also is bound with worldliness, lust, and self-will, will accuse the remnant through the majority—accuse the remnant of whatever imperfections he can locate. This is taking place today. "Come down from the wall," Satan cries. "You are in passivity. You have no love. You do not care about people" On and on the slander and accusations continue while the remnant patiently look to the Lord and hope in His Word.

But the remnant will continue to look to Jesus, and the majority will continue to busily attempt to build the Kingdom of God according to their own desires, wisdom, talents, and strength, just as they did in Paul’s day.

So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you. (II Corinthians 4:12—NIV)

It appears most of the Christian literature of today is pitched toward advising the believer how he can profit from serving God. The emphasis is not on cross-carrying obedience but on formulas for spiritual success. Go into a Christian bookstore and read the titles. Observe how the emphasis is on improving the lot of the Christian in some manner. The accent is on how we are to profit, not how Christ and His Kingdom are to profit from our being His slave.

All things were made for God’s pleasure. The only significant actions of our life are those that bring pleasure to God, whether or not we enjoy the results or profit from them.

If others are to experience eternal life we must permit God to slay us with problems and pain.

Conclusion

In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And you have forgotten word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: "My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you," (Hebrews 12:4,5—NIV)

The writer of the Book of Hebrews is reminding the Jewish believers that although they were struggling against sin, and had had their belongings confiscated, they had not been martyred as yet. I think most Christian believers are unaware they are in a fight against sin and death, believing Christ did it all for them on the cross. So the first sentence of the above passage does not appear to apply to us.

But we may be experiencing the Lord’s discipline (perhaps thinking our problems and pain are coming from the devil and if we have enough faith we can drive all our problems away). We are exhorted to not lose heart. Jesus has warned us that He rebukes and disciplines everyone He loves.

Because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.  Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? (Hebrews 12:6,7—NIV)

We American Christians, many of us, are babies. We do not like the idea of discipline. We do not like the idea of God punishing us. We do not like the idea of hardship. But these are realities of life. People in other countries know a great deal about hardship, as do many American Christians. But by and large we are soft and spoiled by the comforts of our culture. If I am hearing correctly from the Lord, this is going to change—perhaps by the time you read this brief essay.

If we do come to times of hardship, let us remember that if we are to profit from our problems and pain we must pray as follows:

"Lord, help me keep my heart right and respond correctly in my personality. In the day of mortal danger I do not want to go around screaming like those who do not know you.

"Take out of my personality anything that is making the problems and pain worse than they need to be. Remove all fear from me. Remove all anger at people and circumstances. Help me to show forth love, joy, and peace to those who do not know you as I do.

"Guide me and my loved ones to safety and health once again.

"Show me what I can learn from the present distress. I want to grow in the knowledge of God and His ways."

Then keep on giving thanks as well as you can, praying always for God to give you the desires of your heart.

Remember, these problems and pains, as miserable as they are, will, if you let them:

Purify you from sin.

Teach you obedience to God.

Change you from blood-life to resurrection-life.

Enable you, in your helplessness, to minister and bear fruit by the resurrection-life of the Lord Jesus Christ.

We understand, therefore, that problems and pain play a very important role in our redemption. Apart from them we remain adamic creatures, living in the impulses and passions of the flesh and soul.

The normal life of the human being is the Holy Spirit, the eternal, incorruptible resurrection-life of the Lord Jesus. All saved people of the new world of righteousness will live by the Holy Spirit, as I understand it. But not all will have the Life of God to the same extent. This is why the Bible speaks of the crown of life, that is, the authority and power to rule by the Spirit of God.

We of today who are serving the Lord have a firstfruits of that which one day will release the whole physical realm from the bondage of corruption.

Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. (Romans 8:23—NIV)

God never intended that the people He made in His image would crawl on the surface of the earth as animals, suffering the infirmities of the life of flesh and blood. God subjected His future rulers to this miserable existence in order to test them, to make sure that when they are entrusted with true life they will always obey Him.

Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. (Deuteronomy 8:2,3—NIV)

"Lord, help us to speedily learn to lean on you for every detail of our life, to live by Your Spirit.

"And to always remember the unchangeable Word of the living God: ‘All things work together for good for those who love God, for those who are called according to His purpose in Christ.’

"All things!"