King's Business - 1948-08

allergic to the moral and spiritual wrongs of life, his suffer- ing will naturally be keener than it was previously. Furthermore, being a Christian imposes new responsibilities upon a man. When Paul was converted, God said to Ananias, his sponsor, “ I will show him how many things he must suffer for my name’s sake” (Acts 9:16 A.S.V.). His calling involved danger, not only because of the new trend in his spiritual nature, but also because of the commission given to him. The pioneer who is sent to build a road through a trackless wilderness must undergo many privations which his brother who remains in the center of civilization escapes en­ tirely. Suffering is part of the Christian’s task for Christ. Suffering Is Profitable Suffering, however, may bring benefits of its own. It is not to be regarded simply as an unavoidable evil, like a husk that must be stripped slowly and painfully from fruit before the inner sweetness can be enjoyed. For the person who sees suf­ fering from the Christian viewpoint, there are at least three blessings that may accrue from it. Suffering cleanses. It is not always punishment for evils; it may be a preventive of evils. God pronounced Job “ a per­ fect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and. turneth away from evil” (Job 1:8 A.S.V.). The infliction of suffer­ ing on such a man would seem to be irrational, since he did not deserve the disasters that befell him. Nevertheless, when the long siege of trouble was ended, and when God had re­ stored to Job double for all he had temporarily lost, he said: I had heard of thee by the hearing of the ear; But now mine eye seeth thee: Wherefore I abhor myself, And repent in dust and ashes (Job 42:5, 6 A.S.V.) The harsh experience of physical, social, and mental suffer­ ing had stripped Job completely of any tendency to self- righteousness. His previous conduct had been righteous, but perhaps he was a little.too conscious of his own integrity. After the catastrophes that he endured, he attained a true humility. A similar situation was apparent in the national affairs of Israel. Prior to the captivity the nation dabbled in idolatry, and finally fell a victim to the enchanting allurements of other gods than Jehovah and of other ethics than His law. The bitter lesson of defeat and deportation with the interim of seventy years in Babylon purged them of their duplicity. Whatever other sins may be laid at the door of orthodox Judaism today, idolatry is not one of them. Suffering, like a surgical operation, is sometimes beneficial because it removes a spiritual cancer from men’s lives. Again, suffering brings understanding. Only those who have themselves suffered can aid others who are suffering. Every pastor knows how helpless he feels when he tries to comfort some parishioner who is undergoing a sorrow that the pastor himself has never experienced. Sometimes that parishioner will say with perfect justice, “ You do not know anything about it.” The measure of an effective ministry is often the extent to which the minister has suffered. Finally, suffering may draw men to Christ. If it leads them to a new understanding of Him and into a new comradeship with Him, it cannot be an unmitigated evil. Of course, He can be a companion in joy as well as in sorrow. The Chris­ tian life is not predominantly a gloomy and depressing affair; but sometimes the Good Shepherd is never closer than when He and His servants walk the valley of the shadow together. Paul sought to know Christ in “ the fellowship of his suffer­ ings” (Phil. 3:10), perhaps because he felt that in such a comradeship the deepest knowledge of Christ would be achieved. What shall the Christian do with suffering? If it is inevi­ table, explicable, and profitable,, how shall he meet it? Suffering need not be sought. Suffering for the sake of “mortification of the flesh” in the spirit of medieval asceti­ cism is nowhere taught in the Scriptures. The believer does not search for suffering that he may add to his merit or drama­ tize himself. There may be a crown for martyrs, but none is promised for a martyr-complex. If the Christian will seek to A U G U S T , 1 94 8

)t J l e e b f t o $ r a p When prayer delights the least, then learn to say "Soul, now is the greatest need that thou shouldst pray." Crooked and warped I am, and I would fain Straighten myself by Thy right line again. O come, warm sun, and ripen my late fruits; Pierce, genial showers, down to my parched roots. My well is bitter; cast therein the tree That sweet henceforth its brackish waves may be. Say, what is prayer when it is prayer indeed? The mighty utterance of a mighty need? The man is praying who doth press with might Out of the darkness into God's own light. White heat the iron in furnace won, Withdrawn from hence, 'twas cold and hard anon. Flowers, from their stalk divided, presently Droop, fall, and wither, in the gazer's eye. The greenish leaf, divided from the stem, To speedy withering doth itself condemn. The largest river, from its fountain head Cut off, leaves soon a parched and dusty bed. All things that live, from God their sustenance wait, And sun and moon are beggars at His gate. All skirts extended of thy mantle hold When angel hands from heaven are scattering gold. —Author Unknown do the will of God at all costs, the sufferings and successes involved in the pursuit of his aim will take care of themselves. Enough hardship will come without self-immolation; but what does come should be borne bravely. Suffering need not be shunned. This present generation is more likely to shrink from hardship than to seek it. The comforts of civilization have accustomed men to taking them for granted, and the least privation evokes a wail of com­ plaint. Do Christians suffer? So did Christ, “Who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising shame, and hath sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2 A.S.V.). Suffering should be regarded as the normal accompani­ ment of Christian progress. It is the growing pain that fol­ lows the new birth, the logical consequence of the tension that is created by repudiation of the world, the flesh, and the devil. The Christian’s own inner development and his min­ istry for God may necessitate a struggle which must be en­ dured bravely and fought through to the end. If such a view­ point be adopted, suffering will be seen in its true light. In itself it may be an evil ; but in the perspective of God’s broader purpose it may ultimately be productive of good. In the light of eternity, it appears transitory, a normal part of the total process of redemption. So the Scripture says : Wherefore we faint not . . . For our light affliction, which is for the moment, worketh for us more and more exceedingly an eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but thè things which are not seen are eternal (2 Cor. 4:16-18 A.S.V.). Page Nine

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