The Crucibles That Come. When troubles come our way, is it a good idea to try and find out the reasons why we are in trouble?
The purpose of this week’s discussion is to survey the different kinds of crucibles that believers may face in the course of life on earth.
- 1 Peter 4:12-19. Should we try to discover why we are in trouble? Peter tells us not to be surprised when the troubles come. They are inevitable. But sufferings are of two kinds: a) sharing in Christ’s sufferings; in other words, suffering that is undeserved; b) sufferings that result from wrong behavior, the deserved sufferings that come to the thief, murderer, criminal or (Peter adds), even to the “mischief maker.” Is there always a clear distinction between deserved and undeserved suffering?
- Sharing in Christ’s suffering. What is the purpose of such suffering? Does it involve witnessing for him or our own character development or both? Are there other reasons as well?
- Troubles triggered by the devil: 1 Peter 5:8-11. Peter tells us that the devil is prowling the earth, looking for someone to devour. Is the devil’s purpose to devour us with temptations or simply to make us suffer? The context tells us to “resist” him, suggesting that we have some control over what he might do to us. Yet Peter also refers to other believers in all the world who “are undergoing the same kinds of suffering.” Could it be that the passage refers to the temptation to respond to suffering in ways that would not bring honor to God? If so, what might an “unfaithful” response possibly involve?
- Earned or deserved suffering: Romans 1:21-32. Paul’s list of some of the “earned” results of sin recalls a popular Old Testament phrase: “Your blood be upon your own head.” What is the appropriate Christian response to such “suffering”? Would the response differ depending on whether it is my sin or someone else’s sin?
- Refining and Testing: Jeremiah 9:7-16. In Jeremiah 9:7 the prophet speaks about God’s intention to refine and test “my sinful people.” Clearly this refining and testing is in response to the sins of God’s people. How does such “suffering” (from refining and testing) differ from that noted by Paul in Romans 1?
- Character development? 2 Cor 12:7-12. Paul states with some confidence that a “thorn in the flesh” (whatever that might have been) was given to him to keep him from being elated. Is this “character development”? Or is there a better way of describing it? What is suggested by the phrase “power is made perfect in weakness” (1 Cor 12:9)?