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COLUMN: There is hope in the midst of suffering

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By Steve Gettinger

Today’s column is based on a reading from 1 Peter chapter 4 and 5:
“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the spirit of glory and of God rests on you . . . Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.”
Today, I would like to discus two things with you. Why is there suffering?
How do we live in world filled with temptation, sin, and the devil?
There is suffering in the world today because Adam and Eve sinned. They chose to do things their way instead of God’s way. In the beginning, God created everything and it was good. Then mankind chose to disobey and rebel against God, bringing the curse upon creation and this world we live in. Since that dreadful day we have had to live with the consequences of sin and the curse, one of which is suffering in its various forms.
Some suffering comes because of our sin or the sin of others. Let me give you a few examples. Drinking and driving brings untold suffering upon Christians and non-Christians alike. The Bible warns against drunkenness.
Adultery brings untold suffering upon Christians and non-Christians alike. The Bible warns against committing adultery. Uncontrolled anger brings untold suffering upon Christians and non-Christians alike. The Bible warns against uncontrolled anger that leads to hurtful actions. Things like road rage, physical abuse, and even murder.
Some suffering can come to Christians because we live in a world where some people are against Christians. Christians have suffered persecution from the very beginning of the church in the first century. For example, Stephen (the first recorded martyr) and then the Apostles themselves faced fierce persecution and suffered greatly, because they were followers of Jesus Christ. (JN 15:18)
So how do we live in world filled with temptation, sin, and the devil?
We need to live very carefully, because the devil wants us to live a life that would destroy saving faith. If saving faith dies, the devil wins and we lose.
Let me explain. The devil has only one basic strategy that he can use to destroy a Christian. That strategy is to get them to give up their faith and stop trusting in God. The devil uses three basic strategies to accomplish his goal.
Strategy number one is pain and suffering. The devil brings as much pain and suffering into the lives of Christians as he can in an effort to get them to believe that God does not exist, that God does not care, that God is helpless, that God is cruel. All of these beliefs can destroy saving faith.
Strategy number two is getting a person to live out a life of willful unrepentant sin. The devil brings the most attractive sins that appeal to our weak sinful flesh to get us to live a life of willful unrepentant sin. He will bring the most tantalizing, delicious, appealing sins across your path that he knows will tempt you. If he can get you to take the bait and get you hooked on some sin, then he will try to get you to justify it, so that you will start walking away from God and begin living an unrepentant life of sin, which will destroy saving faith. Hear me, a life of willful unrepentant sin destroys saving faith.
Strategy number three is to get a person to trust in their good works or your good behavior to save them. The devil will try to get you to believe that your good works and good behavior are what really saves you. It is a lie! The devil has been quite successful over the centuries at getting many people to believe the lie that God loves them because they are a pretty good person, instead of the truth that God loves and forgives people because of their faith in the Jesus Christ as their savior.
So how to we protect ourselves from falling prey to the prowling devil?
The Apostle Peters gives us the answer in verses 6 to 9. Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith,
We protect ourselves by resisting the devil. We resist the devil when we humble ourselves before God by accepting his grace, when we confess our sins with repentant hearts and receive the forgiveness of sins won for us by Jesus shed blood on the cross, when we trust in God’s to save us. When God’s grace and forgiveness are present in our lives the devil must flee, because he can’t fight against the grace and forgiveness of God that are ours through faith in Christ Jesus our lord.
The Apostle Peter said to: Cast all your anxiety on God, because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7) Did you hear that ? God cares for you. God cared enough to send his only son to die for your sins. God cared enough to give you faith to receive the forgiveness of sin. God cared enough to begin a good work in you and he will see that work through to its completion. He has done all these things, because he loves you.