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Lesson 6: Suffering for Christ *

Introduction: Who wants to suffer? No one! There is a considerable amount of tension between concepts when discussing a Christian and suffering. On the one hand, God gives us His commandments so that we will live better, more enjoyable lives. On the other hand, Jesus suffered at the hands of Satan. If our Master suffered, then we should not be surprised by suffering. How do we understand these two opposing concepts? Let's jump into our study of the Bible and learn more!

  1. The Benefit of Suffering


    1. Read 1 Peter 1:6-7. What does this say is the benefit of suffering? (Our faith is proven genuine, and we bring glory to God.)


      1. When I was growing up, I understood that God threw problems onto our path so that our faith would grow. Do you think that is true?


    2. Read Job 1:8-12. One of the lessons of the Book of Job is that humans have a very difficult time explaining why bad things happen. As a result, we just need to trust God. Who is the trouble-maker, who is causing harm in Job's case? (Satan. He suggests hurting Job.)


      1. Read your knowledge of Job's story back into 1 Peter 1:7. Who was challenging the genuine nature of Job's faith? (Satan.)


      2. Did Job need this challenge as far as God was concerned? (Not according to Job 1:1. Satan was the one who challenged Job's faith.)


      3. Who was gloried through Job's experience? (God was proven right about Job, and Satan was proven wrong.)


    3. What do you think about this alternative theory (an alternative to what I understood when I was young): 1) Satan is the one who throws suffering into our lives; 2) Satan does this because he believes we serve God only for selfish reasons; and, 3) When we remain faithful we show Satan is wrong and bring glory to God?


  2. The Tension


    1. Read 1 Peter 4:12-14. We are told that suffering is not something that is "strange." Rather, it is something about which we should have joy. Why is suffering a cause for joy? I don't want to suffer!


      1. Why did Job suffer? Why did Jesus suffer? (They were both targets of Satan because they were good. Jesus was the standard-bearer for good. The joy arises when you realize that you have been picked out because you are a person who is bringing glory to God.)


    2. Read 1 Peter 2:12 and re-read 1 Peter 4:14. What kind of suffering do we find described here? (People say bad things about you and insult you.)


      1. When I think about suffering, I think about being tortured or a painful sickness. Of course, that has happened to Christians over the ages, see Hebrews 11:36-38. Is there a danger in thinking about suffering only in the most drastic terms? (Yes. We miss the fact that when we are insulted it is an opportunity for showing God's love.)


    3. Read 1 Peter 4:15. What is a "meddler?" (Someone who is sticking his nose in the business of other people.)


      1. Do you know Christians who are "meddlers?" Those who meddle because they think God wants them to?


    4. Look again at 1 Peter 4:15. How does this show the tension between concepts that I mentioned in the introduction? (I suspect a lot more Christians suffer because they make bad decisions, then those who suffer because of good decisions. The problem is that those suffering for bad decisions want to attribute the suffering to being a Christian.)


      1. Should you correct those people who wrongly claim to be suffering as a result of their good work, when in fact it is because of their bad decisions? (This was the mission of Job's four friends - to convince him he was suffering because of his sins. God rebuked three of the friends for doing this. Job 42:7.)


      2. Can suffering for bad decisions be a good thing? (You can still bring glory to God by your reaction to suffering.)


      3. Peter sets out two reasons for suffering - our bad decisions and our good decisions. Are there other reasons for suffering? (Yes. Our collective sins result in a sinful world. This, and the specific sins and errors of other individuals, create a third reason for suffering. Job teaches us to be careful about trying to pinpoint exact reasons for suffering.)


  3. Christians Suffer Less


    1. Read 1 Peter 4:17-18. Who does this tell us suffers more: Christians or non-Christians? (It suggests that being a Christian is the path to less suffering.)


      1. Think about this a minute. Does this suggest that God is the author of this suffering?


      2. Let's go back and revisit our friend Job. Read Job 1:9-12. Could God had said, "No, Satan, I do not accept your challenge regarding Job?" (Of course. If God left the "hedge" in place Satan would have been powerless over Job.)


      3. What if Job were not a follower of God and did not have God's "hedge around him?" Does Satan have to ask God's permission to harm those who devote their lives to Satan's program?


    2. Read Hebrews 11:32-35. Are these examples of suffering? (I say "yes.")


      1. What is great about these examples of suffering? (They all won! When you think about it, both Jesus and Job won. Instead of only thinking about suffering as being "beaten up" by the forces of evil, suffering includes battles where we win! At the Second Coming of Jesus, we will ultimately win every suffering challenge.)


    3. Let's get back to 1 Peter 4:17. Peter does not say who is bringing judgment in 1 Peter 4:17, but the account of Job's suffering points to Satan as the author of this "judgment." Is our God also one who brings judgment on humans? (Read Genesis 18:25-26, Psalms 96:13, John 5:22-23 and Acts 17:31. Jesus will be the ultimate Judge of all humanity. The story of the flood and of Sodom and Gomorrah show us that God also enters judgment against the wicked now, but I think (without a scientific basis to back me up) that Satan brings most of the bad things that happen to humanity.)


      1. Notice that I called what Satan does a "judgment." Is that true? (It is much more accurate to call what Satan brings "trials," and what God brings as "judgment." God is not bringing suffering to people, He is executing judgment - making a decision on their continued existence.)


    4. Read 1 Peter 4:19. I've been arguing that it is Satan that brings trials. This seems to say that it really God's will ("according to God's will") that people suffer. How should we understand this text?


      1. Was there suffering in Eden? (Read Job 2:3. God tells Satan that there was no good reason to make Job suffer. God does not want us to suffer. When Peter says "according to God's will" he means that God has power over everything. We can have confidence that God controls those bad things that come our way.)


      2. Notice that in 1 Peter 4:19 Peter calls God our "faithful Creator." Why? (He is further bolstering the idea that God is faithful to us, even when we suffer. God created us and He loves us!)


    5. Friend, if you are suffering today, take a good look at why you are suffering. If it is because of your righteousness, then praise God and accept it with joy because you are suffering like your Lord. If you are suffering because of bad decisions, then ask God to help you know what to do to minimize the damage and maximize your witness for God. If you cannot determine the reason for your suffering, then the story of Job teaches us to simply trust God. Whatever the reason for your suffering, if you remain faithful to God, He will take it all away when He comes again!


  4. Next week: Servant Leadership.
* Copr. 2017, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2017 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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