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Monday, December 15, 2014

The Purpose of Suffering and Comfort (part 3): The Seven Fruits

Have you ever thought of suffering and comfort as two elements that work together in your life to produce something good, something fruitful? Notice what Paul writes concerning comfort to the Corinthians church: the comfort your receive is not for you to keep. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (2 Cor 1:3-4)

The more God comforts us, the more we can comfort others. Adrian Rogers said “we are more like God when we encourage and more like the devil when we don’t.” There are seven kinds of fruit to share from the harvest of suffering:

1. Suffering makes us seek either God’s face or turn away. Notice the contrast: Ahaz became unfaithful to God in his distress (1 Chron. 28:22) while Manasseh humbled himself before God while in affliction (2 Chron. 33:12).

2. Suffering helps us experience Christ. Paul wrote to Philippi “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.” (Phil. 3:10) Think for a moment about your spiritual desires:
  • Do you want to know Christ? (Yes!)
  • Do you want to know the power of His resurrection? (Of course!)
  • Do you want the fellowship of His suffering? (How about two out of three?) 
We want to know Jesus and his resurrection power but who likes the taste of slow death? If you feel rejected, alone and/or mistreated, remember that Jesus, Paul and Timothy experienced the same. If you want to know Him, know that God uses suffering to make us like Jesus by giving small tastes of His sufferings.

3. Suffering exposes Sin. Faith does not mix with unbelief. God comforts us in Christ by His victory over temptation and sin. We have a way out because Jesus experienced temptation as we do, yet did not sin.

4. Suffering Exhibits His Fruit, giving us opportunity to show Jesus to others. Look at Matt 5:13-14. Now answer these questions: 
  • What is the follower of Christ to the world? 
  • What is the context of being salt and light? (see Matthew 5:10-12)
5. Suffering Engages the Body of Christ to Activity. (1 Cor 12:26), “And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.” Suffering causes the the body of Christ to draw closer in meaningful ways. In other words, suffering ensures we are not building our own church, in our own name.

6. Suffering Equips Us For Ministry (see our key verse, above --2 Cor 1:3-4)

7. Suffering Elevates our Hope of Heaven. “Blessed [is] the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him." (James 1:12)

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