but that the works of God should be revealed

And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.  [1]

John 9:2 – 3 

 

At some time or another, every human being will experience suffering. A person causes pain by being born. Most suffer pain and eventually all experience death. While it’s true that believers who are alive at the time of Christ’s return to this earth will be transformed in a moment and will not die, except for these, it is the lot of all to suffer and die. For some, the trial of pain and suffering is the manifestation of iniquity wrought by the sins of their past, and to others it is the crucible of the refining fire of God, chastening and correcting them, growing them up and making them into an instrument of God’s glory. Often, it is by the means of these sufferings that God is able to whittle away that which is unpleasing in our lives and form the character of the Lord Jesus Christ within us. The apostle Paul said, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” [2] Paul knew through revelation of the Lord that what he was going through presently in his own life, would some day bring about the glory of God within him.

 

But if suffering that is endured by a Christian has purpose, surely we are not out of line in asking what that purpose is. If we are to learn from it, we must ask what it is we are to learn; if we are to profit, we must ask how. The answers to these questions are suggested to us by Christ’s words uttered on the occasion of his healing of the blind man.[3]As illustrated in the case of the man who had been born blind, some suffering is merely that the grace of God might be revealed in the life of the Christian. Job was such a person. Lazarus was another. In Job’s case glory was given in the demonstration, observed by Satan and all the angels, that Job did not love the Lord for what he could get out of him but because the Lord was worthy to be loved and obeyed. This was true regardless of what happened to Job personally. Ultimately Job was vindicated and received his reward.

 

Would God Almighty permit a man to be stripped of his family and all his possessions, to be struck with such illness that he would find himself sitting in ashes bemoaning that he had ever been born, just so that God himself might be vindicated? Would God permit a man to be struck with total blindness throughout the better part of his life so that in God’s own time he might become the object of a miracle performed by the Lord Jesus Christ? Would God permit a child of his to die, bringing suffering not only upon himself but also upon his sisters who mourned for him, just so God could be glorified? In the light of the Word of God we answer not only that God would do such things but that he has done them and, indeed, continues to do them in order that he might bring victory for himself and all believers in that great and invisible war between the powers of good and of evil. Moreover, those who know God well know this and (in part) understand it. They know that God is both perfect and loving and that he does all things well.

 

The apostle Paul came to know this in his own life. As the Lord said to Ananias, “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.” [4] Often we forget that it is appointed for all of God’s chosen people to suffer and experience pain, and often, the greater the victory for the Lord, the greater the suffering for His sake. “For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.” [5]

 

 

In the midst of all the miracles performed through Elisha, the prophet suffered greatly the consequences of the judgment wrought through him. As the Lord God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew or rain these years, except at my word.” [6] And so it was brought about that both Israel and Elijah were simultaneously learning the lesson of the littleness of man before God. In the silence of the wilderness, hidden in the clefts of the rocks which fall into the Jordan valley, Elijah was dependent on God’s hand for his daily food as the ravens commanded by God brought it to him, and gradually he learned to sympathize with his suffering comrades and to rest on God. It is ironic that he who seemed to have the dominion of the heavens in his hands, who prayed that it should not rain and it rained not, should share in the famine which resulted; and should learn to sympathize with poor suffering, even if sinful, humanity, like that greater one who was yet to come and learn also how to sympathize with us through His participation in our grief. [7] And Elijah learned his lesson well as we read in one of the most Christlike narratives among all the Old Testament miracles. For, as Israel was prepared for repentance, the prophet was prepared inwardly to be a fit messenger to his suffering brethren, bringing them relief from their horrific affliction.

 

If we were to bemoan the fact that God had brought suffering to us for the sake of His own vindication, our regret would be amiss, for if it’s for the sake of His glorification it is a worthy honor. What would you say if a man was sentenced to death, but you held the power to save him, would you do nothing? What if you had the power to save another from the pit of Hell, yet you again chose to do nothing. Could you live with yourself? Yet again, what if God selected to use your life to save the soul of another and bring life to another individual. Would you allow Him to use you?

 

In the movies we consider the one who gives his life to save others a hero, would we be that hero even if it meant pain to ourselves? We may hold a selfish attitude and let bitterness toward our Heavenly Father set in our hearts concerning our pain and discomfort, or we may let the Lord work in our hearts and adopt His will for us; a Heavenly perspective as Christ when He set His face like flint,[8] “who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame” [9] 

 

May we have the mind of Christ and come to know that our pain today may be the glorification of God tomorrow.

 

 

 


[1]The New King James Version. 1982 (Jn 9:2-3). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[2]The New King James Version. 1982 (Ro 8:18). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] [3]Boice, J. M. (2005). The Gospel of John : An expositional commentary (Pbk. ed.) (687). Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books.

 

[4]The New King James Version. 1982 (Ac 9:15-16). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[5]The New King James Version. 1982 (Php 1:29). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[6]The New King James Version. 1982 (1 Ki 17:1). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[7]Warfield, B. B. (2008). Faith and life (5). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

[8] The New King James Version. 1982 (Isa. 50:4). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[9]The New King James Version. 1982 (Heb 12:2). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

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