What the Bible Says About Suffering

Scripture writers are honest about the reality of trouble and suffering in this world.

In John 16:33 Jesus said, “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

The guy who wrote about half of the New Testament, Paul, talked a lot honestly about his own suffering. In Philippians 1:29 he wrote to Christ-followers and said, “For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him.” That is a statement that catches my attention; especially in light of some Bible teachers who do ‘theological gymnastics’ to try and eliminate suffering from their paradigm. In this broken world, suffering and trouble are realities for a time. And admitting this is not a lack of faith in a powerful, miracle working God either.

Below are Bible verses to read (I suggest biblegateway.com if you don’t have a Bible). It’s good food for consideration in preparation for our Sunday gathering on May 29th where we will be looking at what the Bible says about suffering, and then on June 5th Evan & Shelley Schmidtke will share their story about the painful experience of losing their young adult daughter, Stephanie, in a vehicle accident in 2013. 
See: Psalm 56:8; Acts 14:22; II Corinthians 4:16–18; II Tim. 1:11–12; James 1:2–4; I Peter 4:12–13; I Peter 5:10

Generosity Feels Great!

In my previous blog I made reference to some ECC Sunday messages about becoming like God in our character. We know that God is generous and we experience his generosity in life. God showed his immense generosity by giving Jesus, His son.

Whether we realize it or not, we become more like God when we grow in generosity.

Think of a time when you were the recipient of someone’s generosity. As great as that feels, many would agree that the giving side of generosity feels even better. We certainly have examples of this coming out of the current tragedy in Fort McMurray.

On Sunday, May 1, 2016, I led our church family in a participatory object lesson. I asked them ahead of time to bring cash – not for an offering but for the experience of surprising someone with generosity. Halfway through that Sunday message about generosity I told the congregation that I had ordered a pizza to be delivered five minutes before the conclusion of our gathering that day. I explained that we were simply going to express generosity by collecting a tip for the pizza delivery person. We did not know who was going to deliver the pizza, but we simply wanted them to know God’s generosity through our hands and our humble giving.

The young man with the pizza arrived on time. I invited him up on stage and in front of about 250 people I paid for the large ham and pineapple. I asked him if I could select “no tip” on the credit card machine. He said, ‘That’s an option.’ One of our ushers then came to the stage with the cash tip from the church family to the tune of $2,031.30 that I happily presented to him.

It was awesome to see the surprise and gratefulness on the face of this young man. I told him we were doing this simply to be generous. It was a fun and inspiring experience for all of us.

Becoming Like God

By the title ‘becoming like God’ (a 3-week Sunday message at ECC starting April 17/16), I do not mean that we as human beings can progress to become ‘deity’ or ‘divine’. That is not possible nor is it an idea that is, in any way, based on teaching in the Bible. If you are a Christ-follower, you will probably already know that ‘becoming like God’ is a reference to representing Jesus Christ well and showing God’s character in our interactions with all people!

Whether you are a Christ-follower or not, it’s quite possible that you have seen someone claiming to be a Christian but not representing Jesus well nor displaying God’s loving and generous character. That’s sad, and that disappoints God Himself. Please don’t let that interaction negatively shape your understanding of who God is or of who He wants to be in your life.

The three upcoming messages are:

“Living Generously” – by moving through hurt to forgiveness. What does that look like in family and community? God is a forgiving God and if we want to become like Him, we must grow in this grace of forgiveness!

“Loving Generously” – God is a loving God and if we want to become like Him, we must grow in our capacity to love all people and reflect His heart for everyone!

“Giving Generously” – God is a giving God and if we want to become like Him, we must grow in the joyful experience of being generous and in our commitment to lavishly giving in practical ways!