Why Do The Righteous Suffer or Why is There Suffering for The Real Christian?
John the Baptist was a special man, he was unique and anyone who truly worshipped God in his time loved and respected him. Yet, he suffered untold hardship as a righteous man. Why Do The Righteous Suffer or Why is There Suffering for The Real Christian?
“And there went out unto him all the land of Judaea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins.” [Mark 1:5]
In Mark 6:20, we have this testimony of him, “For Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just man and an holy, and observed him; and when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly.”
Even Jesus Christ testified of him, “Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” [Matthew 11:11] There could have been no greater testimony than Christ’s for a human being; John got that testimony.
John the Baptist Suffered
But what kind of life did he live? John was a man who:
Wore Sun-baked leather, not the soft Gucci designer-type!
Ate dinner of locusts and honey, not caviar washed down with champagne!
Lived in the wilderness, not in mansion of 10 bedrooms, 20 receptions and whirlpools!
Preached from the door of his wilderness-house, not the Megachurch that counts millions in tithes!
Was found in the company of the poor, not in the parties of the celebrities and royalty!
Stood up against injustice and wickedness, not the compromise of hypocrisy!
In fact, he preached one sermon against the sin of adultery exhibited by the regal Herod, who took and married his brother’s wife due to his position of power and royalty; and John was later arrested as a result.
Mark 6:17 For Herod himself had sent forth and laid hold upon John, and bound him in prison for Herodias’ sake, his brother Philip’s wife: for he had married her.
Mark 6:18 For John had said unto Herod, It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother’s wife.
Mark 6:19 Therefore Herodias had a quarrel against him, and would have killed him; but she could not:
In the end, while John was in prison, he sent a message to Jesus, perhaps expecting Jesus to “speak the word” and get him miraculously set free to continue his “ministry”. He did not get that “comfort” from the Lord.
Matthew 11:2 Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples,
Matthew 11:3 And said unto him, Are you he that should come, or do we look for another?
Matthew 11:4 Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and show John again those things which you do hear and see:
Matthew 11:5 The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.
What an answer!
I am quite sure if this was a prayer request to a church in this generation, we would start a 24-hour prayer chain, campaign relentlessly and fight for “our rights”. But Jesus had a different thing in mind, He saw the whole picture differently, He KNEW something much more beautiful and greater was waiting for John if he would just go the full distance in his sufferings.
“For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” [Matthew 16:25]
Jesus wanted John to lose his life for Him. Why? It was going to be the ultimate suffering of the righteous. It is the thing that makes God to stand up in His throne and receive the saint into his place of rest (Acts 7:55-56).
The road of suffering is a cold and lonely place. It is also the place where no one enjoys walking. David the shepherd boy, a reject of the family, will confirm this to you. Hannah the barren woman will tell you of her endless tears on that path.
God’s Perspective of Suffering…
Looking at John the Baptist, who would argue that he was not mentally imbalanced, considering the type of life he lived or chose to live? He could have chosen to become a hugely successful politician, but he chose to be a preacher!
The truth of the matter is that the righteous that seems to be suffering from the human perspective is seen differently in the sight of God. In God’s Presence, he is highly admired and beloved” (Job 1:8, 2:3).
“Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.” [John 15:15]
“And he said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.” [Luke 16:15]
This is in contrast to the things we hold dearly to, we esteem the financially rich but vile man; we respect the famous but womanizing celebrity; we honour the influential but pompous royalty – the highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God!
So the saint is helped by God through confrontations with:
All these states of poverty or incapability, according to our definition, are situations God has permitted – to help you get into that state of humility, so that you can ask for His grace, and get conformed to the likeness of His Son, which is your true destiny as His precious saint.
Lack of food and a sickly body will not deter Lazarus from loving or denying God. Lack of husband will not make Ruth turn back from following Christ. The treason of Absalom will not stop David from trusting in God. The stones of Hell will not make Stephen to recount his belief in the cause of Christ. The loneliness of the desert will not make Moses turn from the reproach of Christ.
Can the same be said of you, beloved of God? Your harrowing situations and circumstances is only testing the truth of your confessions of loving Him above EVERYTHING else. There will be alternative and easier choices for you to make. The circumstances of the sufferings will also ask you: “…. Will you also go away?” [John 6:67] That is, go away and do what your flesh wants.
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” [Romans 8:28]
All the lack, poverty, persecutions, punishments, trials, reproaches, etc. are God’s instruments that shape you into stars that will shine forever, but you must prove your worth by the way you respond to them, will you get offended and turn back because of self-preservation or emotional trauma? (Luke 9:62, John 6:66).
Or do you take them in your strides from the bottom of your heart with all the departments of your soul? I will tell you this, the man who has discovered the secret of rejoicing in these things has found the greatest treasure in life!
The barrenness of Hannah will only make her pray more. The disrespect of Lot in taking all the fertile ground to himself will only make Abraham trust Him more. The slanderous remarks of Miriam and Aaron will only make Moses meeker. The threats of Nebuchadnezzar will only make the three Hebrew men surrender their lives at the altar of Christ and daring the weapons of death!”
Precious Stones Are Not Cheap!
The most precious of stones such as diamonds are not formed on the earth’s surface, but deep in the Earth’s crust where the pressure and temperature are extreme! It does not end there, even the rough diamonds are cut into beautiful shapes through the rigours of friction.
“And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.” [Acts 5:41] That is not cheap in God’s sight and estimation; it is seriously precious to Him!
Paul the apostle was one such man. After discovering this secret, he began to take pleasure in his sufferings:
“And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” [2 Corinthians 12:7-10]
This does not mean, however, that a man should deliberately put himself in harm’s way. Such an act or mindset is tempting God and sinful (Deuteronomy 6:16). It is also a display of pride, which God hates and resists.
Where is God in Suffering?
In conclusion, the suffering of the righteous is meant to help the person come into perfection, just like Jesus Christ came into His during His earthly residence (Hebrews 5:8-9). God is ever present with the saint in this process. Jesus has promised that He will never leave you to your sufferings – no, He will always walk the path with you (Isaiah 43:2).
“For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.” [Hebrews 2:10]
Beloved saint of God, you are going through the sufferings in your life because God is bringing you to the place of His glory – perfection!
If you love God and have CHOSEN to live for Him, you must become perfect and there is only one road to perfection, the road is narrow and terribly uncomfortable to the flesh (natural disposition of man); you may call it suffering, but God calls it conforming to the Image of His dear Son, Jesus Christ.
The things you call suffering, if I’m permitted to say this, breeds the luscious fruit of the Spirit in the saint, things such as patience; “But the fruit of the Spirit is love (Jesus), joy (Paul), peace (Barnabas), longsuffering (Job), gentleness (Ruth), goodness (Abraham), faith (Joshua), meekness (Moses), temperance (Esther): against such there is no law.” [Galatians 5:22-23]
And the one “that received seed in the good ground is he that hears the word, and understands it; who also bears fruit, and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.” [Matthew 13:23]
Now that you realize what these so-called sufferings are doing or achieving in you, what does God expect of you? One act. Thankfulness!
You need to be thankful that God has counted you worthy to be conformed to the likeness of His Son and to ultimately reign with Him in the New Earth, “And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.” [Revelation 5:10] There must be a desire in you to experience the fullness of His work in you through the things you suffer.
Anything less than being thankful, would be tantamount to a display of ingratitude and demonstration of selfishness just like Adam and Eve in the Garden. In fact, it would be displeasing before God and a slight or scorn to His goodness; Of this irreverent display, He has written to warn you:
“Because thou served not the LORD your God with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart, for the abundance of all things…” [Deuteronomy 28:47]
The abhorrent display of ingratitude for this beautiful experience is what makes many turn back from Christ or even become anti-Christ.
This is why there are many saints in the Church who have worn themselves out through depression, running from pillar to posts seeking “prophecies” and “special” prayers from pastors. This act leaves them vulnerable, open to serious manipulation, control and deception by such pastors who continually prey on them.
This is sad but true and the reason this is prevalent is down to the fact that the saint does not know and understand The Good Shepherd (Jeremiah 9:23-24).
The love of self, fear of people and worship of worldly things has disqualified many from enjoying the awesome riches of Christ. For He said, “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” [Matthew 10:37, see Luke 14:26]
Where Is The Joy in Suffering?
“But, on the contrary, as the Scripture says, What eye has not seen and ear has not heard and has not entered into the heart of man, [all that] God has prepared (made and keeps ready) for those who love Him [who hold Him in affectionate reverence, promptly obeying Him and gratefully recognizing the benefits He has bestowed].” [1 Corinthians 2:9 AMPLIFIED]
“Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years. [Revelation 20:6]
If you have this hope in you, rejoice, for your redemption is near. Constantly get into His Presence for purification and genuine gratitude.
“And every man that has this hope in him purifies himself, even as he is pure.” [1 John 3:3 KJ2000]
So, where is the joy in your suffering? Not long after John the Baptist was murdered, Jesus Christ was also crucified. Then something beautiful happened to John the Baptist!
“And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints that slept arose, And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.” [Matthew 27:52-53]
John the Baptist Suffered – But…
John the Baptist experienced the resurrection power of Christ! That was what Jesus KNEW would soon happen to John, but did not reveal to him at the time, except that He encouraged John not to take an offence against God for leaving him to “suffer” in prison and even getting beheaded (Matthew 11:6). John experienced the ultimate suffering, but he also partook in the ultimate glory of man!
John experienced the ultimate suffering, but he also partook in the ultimate glory of man!”
Can you now see why Jesus seemingly ignored his request to be delivered from that prison and the impending beheading? Do you now understand why you are suffering? Do you now understand better why it seems God is ignoring your cries for deliverance from that painful situation? Do you now appreciate God in your sufferings?
Remember, the end of Job was better than His beginning and so was John the Baptist. For the righteous, departure from this world is not his end, but just the beginning of a glorious chapter. Praise God!
“For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” [Romans 8:18]
Beloved of the Most High, though your beginning was small, your latter end shall be great! Beautiful and great things are awaiting you at the end of the race.
Paul said, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.” [2 Timothy 4:7-8]
“If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us:” [2 Timothy 2:12]
Remember to SHARE with your Friends & Family.
Have you read the FIRST part of this Series – Prosperity of The Wicked?
What a completely awesome article! Now I have this to say…
The key to going through ‘suffering’ is TRUSTING God. It is imperative that we recognize His power and might and just say, “Lord, I trust you regardless of what I’m going through. I know you love me and I give you full charge of my life. I know you will never harm me. Lord, I walk by faith and not by sight. Lord I know that you, the Almighty, are not fazed by my circumstances and neither should I be. You are the King of the universe; the ALL KNOWING GOD and there is no limit to Your power. If you permit me to go through these things, then you must have a good reason for doing so. HAVE YOUR WAY LORD”.
It is my personal experience that God sometimes allows us to go through certain trying times in order to strengthen us in areas where we are weak. Sometimes He allows us to feel all alone and in order to do so, he removes all our crutches (those persons or things we have always counted on and leaned on in our life). It is because He wants us to lean solely on Him so he can strengthen our faith and draw us closer to Him. Believe it or not, HIS ALLOWING US TO ‘SUFFER’ IS A DEMONSTRATION OF HIS LOVE FOR US. In the end, if we submit to Him; if we cease our murmuring and complaining, we will find that we are stronger, better, more faithful and beautiful people.
And yes, Brother John, I completely agree with you that we should be thankful when we go through these things. It means that God is paying ‘special attention’ to us. He has singled us out for a ‘special lesson’ designed to propel us to greater growth in Him ; our spiritual ears and eyes become better tuned and we are better able to hear His voice and see the things He is showing us. One thing I recognized when I was going through a period of ‘suffering’ is that through it all, He never ceased to comfort me. I felt His comfort like a tangible thing; I knew He was there through it all because He constantly talked to me; my fears disappeared and my faith grew stronger.
Thanks Ingrid. Great to have share those comments with us, I believe they are insightful and helpful to anyone going through the school of hardknocks.
Particularly, I like the phrase: “The key to going through ‘suffering’ is TRUSTING God. It is imperative that we recognize His power and might and just say, “Lord, I trust you regardless of what I’m going through. I know you love me and I give you full charge of my life. I know you will never harm me. Lord, I walk by faith and not by sight. Lord I know that you, the Almighty, are not fazed by my circumstances and neither should I be. You are the King of the universe; the ALL KNOWING GOD and there is no limit to Your power. If you permit me to go through these things, then you must have a good reason for doing so. HAVE YOUR WAY LORD”.”
Yes, we must learn to trust the Lord for those periods. He DEFINITELY has our best interests at heart.
This article is like water to my thirsty and wearisome soul. Thank for sharing.
I have a question – what is the hope of the man who suffered all sorts in order to live for God?
Thanks for your comment and question. The hope of the believer who may have “suffered” all his life because of Christ is that he will reign with Him.
“If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us:” [2 Timothy 2:12]
A good reference is the story of the rich man and Lazarus. You will remember that Lazarus suffered all his life and even died as a beggar, but his transformation came in the afterlife.