THE SERVANT GENERAL
OUR THEME FOR 2010
is there suffering in the world?
is suffering because there is evil. When people sin, there
will be consequences, not just on themselves, but on others
whose lives they affect. When a child becomes a drug addict,
the parents suffer anguish. When a thief steals, the victim
suffers deprivation. When terrorists strike, innocents suffer
loss of life or limb.
these cases, we see that the innocent, just like Job, may
real question then might be: why does the all-loving God allow
the innocent, or even the just and righteous, to suffer? Here
we come to the reality of redemptive suffering. God does allow
suffering, because suffering is redemptive. As such, allowing
His loved ones to experience suffering is a great manifestation
of God’s love.
How is suffering redemptive?
for those who are guilty of sin, suffering through affliction
is a way of God’s discipline. God does not want us to
persist in our sin, but we do. Unless something drastic happens,
we will go on our merry way to perdition and ruin. When something
drastic does happen (such as a life-threatening accident or
illness, or bankruptcy, or the death of a loved one), when
we are brought to the depths of pain or helplessness and hopelessness,
that is the time we rethink our lives. And when everything
seems to be collapsing around us, when we are in despair,
when we have nowhere else to turn, we turn to God.
God afflicts us, as befits the loving Father that He is. “God
treats you as sons. For what ‘son’ is there whom
his father does not discipline? If you are without discipline,
in which all have shared, you are not sons but bastards.”
then should our proper posture be with regard to such suffering?
“Endure your trials as ‘discipline’”
(Heb 12:7a). But we should not only endure, we should be grateful
for such discipline, because God “does so for our benefit,
in order that we may share in his holiness” (Heb 12:10b).
If such is the case, then we not only are grateful, but we
must rejoice in such affliction. “At the time, all discipline
seems a cause not for joy but for pain, yet later it brings
the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who are trained
by it.” (Heb 12:11).
is suffering that reflects God’s discipline redemptive
But how about those who are not great sinners? Why do they
second reason has to do with God’s purposes, that is,
He desires our holiness. Thus Peter instructs us: “as
he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in every aspect
of your conduct, for it is written, ‘Be holy because
I am holy.’” (1 Pet 1:15-16). Further, Jesus himself
tells us to “be perfect, just as (our) heavenly Father
is perfect.” (Mt 5:48).
if we are to attain to the holiness and perfection of the
Father, then we need to be purified. As gold is purified
through fire, we are purified through the fire of affliction.
It is only when we are cut down that we truly learn humility.
It is only when we suffer great material loss that we learn
true detachment. It is only when we are stripped of power
and position that we become true servants.
is the great fire that burns out the impurities in us. Just
as we saw with discipline, God afflicts us with suffering
in order that we may reap “the peaceful fruit of righteousness”
and that “we may share in his holiness.”
But how about those who are basically good and upright people,
like Job? Job was “blameless and upright, fearing God
and avoiding evil (Job 1:8). God even boasted about him before
the accuser Satan (Job 1:8, 2:3). But God allowed terrible
suffering to be inflicted on him, where he lost everything
except his wretched life.
was not sinful, he did not need to be purified further, he
was a person whom we would consider holy, but his affliction
was even greater than that of most great sinners! Why? Here
we encounter the profound mystery of suffering.
could not figure it out. He even went to the point of challenging
God! “Let God weigh me in the scales of justice; thus
will he know my innocence!” (Job 31:6). But Job was
missing the point (as we with our human understanding often
do). This is perhaps the reason why God did not answer him
directly, why God did not justify why He was allowing him
did God say? God simply pointed to His awesome majesty. In
the end, Job surrendered, and he finally “understood.”
Job then made his wonderful profession of faith: “I
know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours
can be hindered. I have dealt with great things that I do
not understand; things too wonderful for me, which I cannot
know. I had heard of you by word of mouth, but now my eye
has seen you. Therefore I disown what I have said, and repent
in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:2-6).
What are the lessons of Job’s suffering?
is that we come to God not on our own terms but His. We do
not define holiness but only God does. In our relationship
with Him, we do not set our priorities, define our parameters,
pride ourselves in our human wisdom; rather we humble ourselves,
knowing that compared to Him we are nothing, that even our
good deeds are like dirty rags before Him. We do not expect
to be blessed because we have done good, as if we have earned
it and are being repaid for our acts.
it is that we are called to total surrender to Him and to
His will for our lives. Many times we will not understand,
many times we may have human cause to complain, many times
we may even be tempted to just abandon our Christian lives,
but God calls us to endure and persevere, with full hope and
trust in Him.
we become such, then we will be pure instruments in the hands
of God, that He can use any which way. Remember that God is
about a mighty work in the world today, and He uses human
instruments to achieve His divine purposes. How can a holy
God do what He wills for the world, given that He has already
decided to use human instruments? In this we see God’s
desire to purify, to make holy, to have instruments that are
totally surrendered to His will. Instruments that have experienced
severe suffering are those who are humbled, and such humbling
is necessary preparation for glory, without falling into pride.
Thus is suffering such as Job’s redemptive. Suffering
that forms God’s holy and “perfect” instruments
is indeed redemptive -- for self, for others, for the whole
we wonder then that this is the way God chose for the redemption
of the world, in sending His very own Son Jesus to the cross?
Jesus was perfect, but God anyway allowed him to be afflicted
terribly. God was showing us the way. The way of redemption
is the way of the cross. It is the way of affliction and suffering.
if we have difficulty appreciating the design of God regarding
our salvation through Jesus, how about the design of God in
something that the world experiences from day-to-day? I am
talking about the mystery of human birth, as we look at how
“a woman about to give birth writhes and cries out in
her pains” (Is 26:17a). What was her sin? Is she
in fact not about to bring life into the world according to
then is the way of God. Such is the experience of God’s
people Israel. “O Lord, oppressed by your punishment,
we cried out in anguish under your chastising. As a women
about to give birth writhes and cries out in her pains, so
were we in your presence, O Lord.” (Is 26:16-17). This
was not a cry of despair; rather, it was a cry of hope. It
was looking forward to the redemption that suffering would
What then is our proper response to affliction and suffering?
In this, we also consider what the wrong responses would be.
would be wrong to dislike such suffering. If affliction is
discipline, if suffering purifies and makes holy, then we
must desire it and even rejoice in it. Such is so different
from the normal human responses. We avoid pain, we dislike
suffering, we pray that we might not be afflicted. In fact,
the world has gone further, looking to comfort, convenience,
pleasures. Is it any wonder that the world is in such a sorry
it would be wrong to lose heart when we suffer. It would be
easy enough, especially in times of great affliction. Job
cursed his day and wished that he had just died at childbirth
(Job 3:11). But we must not lose heart because God is just
allowing us to undergo a process. We must understand, as we
have already seen, that pain is just a necessary element of
the process of purification. God is testing our faithfulness.
Are we there for Him only because we receive good things?
How about when we are afflicted; can we still trust? We must
believe that our suffering is redemptive, and simply continue
to run the race.
such, the proper response is to embrace the cross and rejoice
in our suffering for the sake of righteousness.
Suffering, just like the God we serve, is a great mystery.
This is why we need to know that God is just and righteous.
This helps us to accept God for who He is and for whatever
He does. We need no longer ask Him to explain or to justify
His actions. We simply remain in awe of His omnipotence and
great power. He indeed is the Almighty!
seeing His great majesty and our nothingness, tempered by
suffering, humbles us. With affliction we are laid low. When
we know our rightful place before God, then that is when He
lifts us up, and raises us even to the heights.
further, we trust that in the end, just like Job, we will
be blessed tremendously. Not necessarily in this life, but
certainly in the afterlife. This hope enables us to enter
into unquestioning acceptance of God as God, which is precisely
the right posture of awe. Such trust in God is deepened and
strengthened by our suffering.
Elihu had it right when he talked about redemptive suffering
and getting to know who God is and how He works. He affirmed
that God “saves the unfortunate through their affliction,
and instructs them through distress.” (Job 36:15).
the end, Job was properly instructed by God. In the end, after
his terrible suffering, Job was restored by God and blessed
twofold. Job now fully appreciated the mystery of redemptive
We of course could never be perfectly holy as the Father,
for we are not God.
 His suffering was such that Job wanted God to take his
 One might say it is original sin, the sin of Adam and
Eve that we inherit. This is what God said to the woman: “I
will intensify the pangs of your childbearing; in pain shall
you bring forth children.” (Gen 3:16a).
 It is of course OK to pray for God’s protection,
and even, as in the case of Jesus, that the cup would pass
us by. What is not OK is a posture that looks to suffering
and pain as undesirable or unhelpful or to be avoided at all
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Theme for 2010- Part 10[PDF]