Why Does God Allow Suffering?

 Gifts Wrapped In Suffering

Am I the only one who really struggles with trusting God’s wisdom and love when I see Him allow His own people to suffer? This is probably the greatest weakness in my faith walk, but the following paragraph from Elisabeth Elliot’s book, A Path Through Suffering, helps me put my struggle into perspective – Lord, help my unbelief!

“God gave to the widow of Zarephath her poverty, that out of her poverty she might give something to His prophet [Elijah]. God gave to Joseph, through his sufferings, the power to save the lives of the brothers who had hated him. He named his son Ephraim because “God has made me fruitful in the land of my hardships” (Gn 41:52). God gave Paul his thorn, gave him the happiness of suffering for other Christians. Jesus spoke of His own cup of suffering as the cup which the Father had given Him. Is it too hard for us to believe that the Shepherd who leads in paths of righteousness has good reason to lead us in the pathway of suffering? Too hard to believe His word [which says], “This day, as ever, thy decrees stand fast; for ALL THINGS serve thee” (Ps 119:91)? Too hard to believe that God is giving us gifts—from which, by His transfiguring power, will come something that will matter very much not only to us but to others as well? Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.”

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Is Speaking In Tongues The Main Evidence Of The Holy Spirit?

SignatureOfHolySpirit

A powerful argument against the idea that tongues are the main evidence of the Holy Spirit is found in the writings of John where he talks about the moment a person passes from death to life – this would be the moment a person receives the Holy Spirit, because it is the Spirit of God which gives life. John spelled it out for us so that there should be NO confusion about how we can know if a person has the Holy Spirit. He told us that LOVE is the evidence we should look for. And this teaching is supported by Jesus’ statement that all men will know we are with Him if we have love for one another.

We know that we have passed from death to life, because we LOVE our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death. ~1John 3:14 NIV

By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you LOVE one another. ~John 13:35 NIV

Lifestyle Evidences Of The Holy Spirit

Jesus taught His disciples that it is important to pay attention to the fruit of a man’s life because our fruit gives evidence of what is inside us. He explained that this evidence is how we will know who is being lead by His Spirit and who isn’t.

Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them. ~Mat 7:15-20

To help us better understand Jesus’ teaching about fruit, or evidence, of the Holy Spirit, we can look at Paul’s letter to the believers in Galatia. When he wrote his dear friends there, he included a brief list of the kind of fruit which gives evidence of the presence of the Holy Spirit and a second list of the kind of fruit which gives evidence that the Holy Spirit is not in power.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. ~Gal 5:22-23a

Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. ~Gal 5:19-21

As you can see, all these evidences of the Holy Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, etc) have to do with our new lifestyle, and the reason is that when we are born again we receive the Holy Spirit as a teacher, or counselor. When the Holy Spirit is given to us, He immediately begins His work of guiding us away from anything that is impure and offensive to God. The purifying work of the Holy Spirit is a progressive work and it is a maturing work. Step-by-step, bit-by-bit, we shed the ways of the flesh and “put on” the ways of the Lord. If our lifestyle does not give evidence of the Holy Spirit (the fruit of the Spirit), our “salvation experience” is questionable and perhaps even worthless.

But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts. ~Rom 13:14

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. ~Col 3:5-10 NIV

Supernatural Evidences Of The Holy Spirit

There are also supernatural evidences of the Holy Spirit which show up in our life at specific times and for specific purposes. Some people show favoritism toward one of these supernatural evidences by teaching that speaking in tongues is THE evidence of the Holy Spirit in the life of a born again believer. But Scripture teaches that God gives supernatural evidence of His Spirit in MANY different ways.

But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all:
for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit,
to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit,
to another faith by the same Spirit,
to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit,
to another the working of miracles,
to another prophecy,
to another discerning of spirits,
to another different kinds of tongues,
to another the interpretation of tongues.
But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.
~Corinthians 12:7-11

Did you notice how Paul explained that one person will have one evidence of the Holy Spirit while another person will have another evidence? He did not say that all people will have the evidence of tongues, nor did he in any way, indicate that speaking in tongues took priority over all of the other evidences. It is simply listed as “another” evidence which the Holy Spirit might express at some point in a believer’s life.

God can show His power through a believer in any of these ways any time He finds it necessary or desirable. In fact, He might express Himself in several of these ways at once through one single believer. For example, He may allow the same believer to speak in tongues and interpret the message. Or He may allow one believer to discern spirits and speak a word of knowledge. All of these evidences are tools God uses in order to make His presence and His power recognizable to those who are watching us, and they are also meant to strengthen or instruct us as we participate in His kingdom work.

More Evidence Of The Holy Spirit

Scripture also talks about spiritual gifts which are sort of like personality traits because they are consistently expressed throughout our entire lifetime. In His letter to the Romans, Paul identified seven of these giftings which God might give a person in order to enable him to accomplish his part of the kingdom work.

Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them:
If prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith;
Or ministry, let us use it in our ministering;
He who teaches, in teaching;
He who exhorts, in exhortation;
He who gives, with liberality;
He who leads, with diligence;
He who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.
~Rom 12:6-8

Paul knew that some people would be tempted to lord their gift over others who don’t have the same gift, so he warned that God never intended for one believer to think himself better than another believer because ALL the gifts come from God and they ALL to be used together to accomplish one purpose – the work of God’s kingdom.

For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. ~Rom 12:3-5

Peter agreed that ALL giftings and manifestations of the Spirit are intended to be used together in ministry, and he instructed us not to grumble and complain about who has what gifting or manifestation of the Spirit.

Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen. ~1Peter 4:9-11

Different Gifts For Different People

Paul explained that God intended for these giftings to be used as a way of life among believers so that we would edify each other with them and strengthen the church – and he says we should “earnestly desire” to have these gifts from God.

And God has appointed these in the church:
First apostles,
Second prophets,
Third teachers,
After that miracles,
Then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues.

Are all apostles?
Are all prophets?
Are all teachers?
Are all workers of miracles?
Do all have gifts of healings?
Do all speak with tongues?
Do all interpret?
But earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I show you a more excellent way.
~1Cor 12:28-31

The obvious answer to Paul’s list of questions is, “No.” For example:

Are all workers of miracles? No!
Do all have gifts of healings? No!
Do all speak with tongues? No!

Paul was making the point that God gives DIFFERENT gifts to each believer in order to edify each other and strengthen the church. Did you notice that, once again, Paul did not indicate that all believers would speak in tongues? He did not place a priority on that evidence in any way. In fact, he consistently leveled the playing field when he referred to tongues and the other supernatural evidences of the Holy Spirit. But did you notice what Paul did at the end of this list? He directed our attention to one evidence of the Holy Spirit which he says DOES takes priority over all other gifts and evidences – and that is LOVE!

Love Is A More Excellent Way

Paul declared LOVE, not tongues, to be a “more excellent way” than any of the other giftings or evidences – and to avoid all confusion, he immediately launched into a comparison of the gifts and evidences of the Holy Spirit, and as we will see, in each comparison LOVE is shown to be more excellent.

Love is greater than speaking in tongues:

Though I speak with the TONGUES of men and of angels, but have not LOVE, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. ~1Cor 13:1

Love is greater than prophecy, words of knowledge, and faith:

And though I have the gift of PROPHECY, and understand all mysteries and all KNOWLEDGE, and though I have all FAITH, so that I could remove mountains, but have not LOVE, I am nothing. ~1Cor 13:2

Love is greater than the gift of giving and the gift of helping:

And though I BESTOW ALL MY GOODS to feed the poor, and though I GIVE MY BODY to be burned, but have not LOVE, it profits me nothing. ~1Cor 13:3

The Signature Of The Holy Spirit

So we see that in many different places and with many different explanations, God’s Word declares love, not tongues, to be the best way to discern the presence of the Holy Spirit.

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Article Written: June 21, 2010
Last Edited: Oct 15, 2013

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What Is Revival?

The prodigal son walked away from his sin and into the arms of the one who would restore and comfort him.

Revival is the process of restoring life to those who are broken, crushed, and contrite. Moses reveals the process in Psalm 90.

Psa 90:3 You turn man to destruction [i.e. You make them broken, crushed, and contrite], And say, “Return, O children of men.”

Why are they broken and contrite? Because they have strayed away from God’s presence. See how it says, “Return”? Revival is about returning to God. He longs for us to live with Him, not away from Him.

Moses goes on to explain how God makes men broken and contrite. He does it by exposing their sin.

Psa 90:8 You have set our iniquities before You, Our secret sins in the light of Your countenance.

We sometimes forget that God is the ONLY source of life, but He never forgets. That is why He is willing to expose our sin and let us be crushed and broken because of it. It is for the purpose of getting us to come running back to Him.

We see God’s heart for the revival process beautifully pictured in the New Testament where we see Jesus, after preaching hard for three years in and around Jerusalem, exposing sin and commanding men to “come unto me,” sitting on a hill overlooking the people of that city and morning as he speaks these words:

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets
and stones those who are sent to her!

How often I wanted to gather your children together,
as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings,
but you were not willing!

See! Your house is left to you desolate;
for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say,

‘BLESSED is HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD!’ “

~Mat 23:37-39

The heart of God was broken, because He had sent many prophets, and eventually even His own son, to expose their sin and command them to return to Him. But they killed the prophets, and even His son. They refused revival; they would not have it; they were not willing to mourn over their sin and walk away from it.

God has made it clear that He is willing to revive and heal and guide and restore and even live with those who will mourn over their sin when He reveals it.

For this is what the high and lofty One says – he who lives forever, whose name is holy:

“I live in a high and holy place,
but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit,

to revive the spirit of the lowly and
to revive the heart of the contrite.

I will not accuse forever, nor will I always be angry,
for then the spirit of man would grow faint before me
- the breath of man that I have created.

I was enraged by his sinful greed;
I punished him, and hid my face in anger,
yet he kept on in his willful ways.

I have seen his ways,
but I will heal him;
I will guide him and
restore comfort to him,
creating praise on the lips of the mourners in Israel.

Peace, peace, to those far and near,” says the LORD.
“And I will heal them.”

~Isa 57:15-19

THIS is revival! It is the process of being broken and contrite over any sin we recognize in our life, and running away from it. The path that leads us away from sin, is the same path that leads us into the arms of the One who will revive us and comfort us and heal us.

 

Keeping it real,
Tammie Signature Black

Article Written: Nov 6, 2011
Photo courtesy of: The Work of God’s Children Illustrated Bible

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Did God Really Forsake Jesus When He Hung On The Cross?

In Psalm 22, David prophetically writes of Jesus’ death, beginning his song with the words, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? Why are You so far from helping Me, And from the words of My groaning?” The song goes on to prophecy many more details of the conversations, actions, and even emotions that would occur during Jesus’ time on the cross.

Hundreds of years later, God confirmed David’s prophecy by directing Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John to report the details of what actually took place during the last moments of Jesus’ crucifixion. Yet many who study the Bible, question the validity of one detail in particular – Jesus’ statement, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

Jesus Forsaken on Cross

In all honesty, it IS a difficult concept to wrap our mind around. We may not be able to fully understand it in this lifetime, but Scripture gives us enough tidbits to confidently answer the question, even if we don’t know all the details of how God did it.

The first and most important tidbit comes from Isaiah’s prophecy which includes an insight into the character of the coming Messiah, and this character trait is confirmed in the New Testament by Peter. Both writers tell us that Jesus never deceived anyone. In other words, he never bore false witness.

Isaiah 53:9 And they made His grave with the wicked— But with the rich at His death, Because He had done no violence, Nor was any deceit in His mouth.

1Peter 2:22 “WHO COMMITTED NO SIN, NOR WAS DECEIT FOUND IN HIS MOUTH”;

If God did not forsake Jesus while he was hanging on the cross, then Jesus was either deceiving us or he was being deceived, himself, when he asked God why He had forsaken him. According to the Scriptures we just read, Jesus NEVER deceived anybody, so if God did not truly forsake him, at least for a moment, while he was on the cross, that only leaves one other option – Jesus, himself, was deceived.

Is it possible that Jesus, “the way, the truth, and the life,” could be deceived? If “the truth” can be deceived at any point, then it will contain a bit of error, and it will no longer be the truth. So if Jesus was confused and deceived about being forsaken for a moment on the cross, then He had accepted a bit of error, and He disqualified himself from being “the truth.”

Also we are told that the fullness of Deity resided in the physical body of Jesus, and Jesus claimed that He only spoke what the Father told Him to speak. Can Deity be deceived or become confused? Can Deity “misspeak,” as so many of our politicians do?

John 14:10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works.

Col 2:9 For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form,

John 12:49-50 For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak. And I know that His command is everlasting life. Therefore, whatever I speak, just as the Father has told Me, so I speak.”

Even when the father of all deception (Satan) tried to work his ‘charms’ on Jesus, he was not deceived.

Mat 4:9-11 And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD, AND HIM ONLY YOU SHALL SERVE.’ ” Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him.

If Jesus was deceived at any point, then we cannot have full confidence that he had never been deceived prior to that point. But we need not be concerned, because Scripture gives us abundant evidence that Jesus was at no time deceived, confused, or misleading. Therefore, when he uttered those words from the cross, he was stating a truth. We may not completely understand the HOW part, but we dare not suggest that the One in whom the fullness of the Godhead dwelt was guilty of being deceptive OR of being confused!

Keeping it real,

Photo Courtesy Of: Unknown

Article Written: Sep 27, 2011 / Edited: Oct 15, 2011

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Does Our Lifestyle Automatically Change When We Become A New Man?

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What Is The Old Man And The New Man?

The “old man” is one who is living according to his old habits, or lifestyle. The “new man” is one who has a new knowledge that is “like” (or according to) the knowledge of the One who created him. When we are born again, we are said to be a new man.

Col 3:9-10 Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him,

John 14:26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.

So as a new man, we have new knowledge, and this knowledge is given to us by the Holy Spirit, who is sent from God to be a helper for His people. But HAVING knowledge and USING it are two different things. WE are responsible for putting this new knowledge into practice in our life. This knowledge is whispered into our conscience by the Holy Spirit as He teaches us and reminds us of the things Jesus has said. In other words, the Holy Spirit will help us understand things we have never been taught, plus He will help us understand God’s written Word.

Does Our Lifestyle Automatically Change When We Become A New Man?

Although we are immediately given access to new knowledge when the Holy Spirit comes into our heart, the lifestyle changes are not automatic. Learning to abide in Christ by doing what pleases Him is up to us. We have to listen to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, then use our self control to overcome old habits. This is what Paul meant when he wrote that we should find out what pleases the Lord and walk in that way.

Eph 5:8-10 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord … Walk as children of light finding out what is acceptable to the Lord.

Col 3:8 But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth.

Col 3:12-14 Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.

Obviously when Paul said that we, ourselves, are to “put off” certain things and “put on” others, he was indicating that there is no automatic change in our lifestyle. The guidance and advice of the Holy Spirit is made available to us, and by walking in obedience to His counsel we will develop a changed lifestyle, but we are always able to override His advice and follow the desires of our flesh.

1Thes 5:19-22 Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.

When we choose to ignore what the Holy Spirit whispers to our conscience, we are quenching the Spirit, and Paul warns that we should not do this. He does, however, encourage us to test what we think our conscience has heard from the Holy Spirit, and we do that by comparing it to what is written in the Word and by comparing it to what we know is true of God’s character. The Holy Spirit will never, ever advise us to do something that is contrary to either of these.

So we see that the new man immediately receives new knowledge, but our lifestyle will remain unchanged and fruitless unless we  choose to listen to and obey the Holy Spirit’s counsel.

 

Keeping it real,
Tammie Signature Black

Photo Courtesy Of: Joe Houghton, on Flickr
Article Written: Oct. 13, 2011 / Edited: Oct. 19, 2011

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