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WHY DOESN'T GOD KEEP US FROM SUFFERING?

A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT

THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS

10 NOVEMBER 1996

BY Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor

SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES:

Psalm 70:1-5
Amos 5:16-27
Romans 8:16-17
2 Corinthians 6:16

When we listen to the words of Psalm 70, it is very easy to assume that God will always deliver a believer and pass judgment upon those who seek to harm believers.

Listen to what we are told in Psalm 70:

1. O God, hasten to deliver me;

O Lord, hasten to my help!

2. Let those be ashamed and humiliated

Who seek my life;

Let those be turned back and dishonored

Who delight in my hurt.

3. Let those be turned back because of their shame

Who say, "Aha, aha!"

Most of the time the Lord did deliver David, but that was when he was fully serving the Lord.

But when David did things that dishonored God, He allowed him to be afflicted and humiliated.

God didn't do this simply as a punishment or reward because of David himself.

Since David was the leader of Israel, the people noticed everything he did.

Thus, if he did what was right before the Lord and was blessed because of it, then the people would be inclined to do likewise.

But because of human nature, if they also didn't see the results of living unrighteously before the Lord, they might easily assume that they could do anything, and that the Lord would still bless them.

Thus, David and the people suffered when he did things against the will of God, in order that the people, seeing the results, would weigh the difference between doing good and doing evil.

4. Let all who seek Thee rejoice and be glad in Thee;

And let those who love Thy salvation say continually,

"Let God be magnified."

5. But I am afflicted and needy;

Hasten to me, O God!

Thou art my help and my deliverer;

O Lord, do not delay.

Now, there are times when a believer does just about everything as God wishes, and yet their plea for deliverance seems to go unanswered.

Why?

Let's take a look at one answer that appears in Amos 5:16-27:

16. Therefore, thus says the Lord God of hosts, the Lord,

"There is wailing in all the plazas,

And in all the streets they say, 'Alas! Alas!'

They also call the farmer to mourning

And professional mourners to lamentation.

There is wailing in the plazas and in the streets because there is not enough food to eat.

They call the farmers to mourn with them, because they have not produced a crop suitable to go to market.

They are suffering together, and thus they think they should mourn together.

But there is something very curious taking place here.

Professional mourners are not really mourning; they are just making a lot of noise, and they are being paid to act as they do in order to make other people think that there is concern about what is happening.

It's make-believe.

And that's what most people do when they confess their sins.

When they are caught, or when they are afflicted, they say they’re sorry; but in their heart, they seek to sin again.

Thus they continue to suffer.

And if this is the behavior of the majority of the people in the land, then the righteous who are among them will also suffer, when the Lord punishes the people.

17. "And in all the vineyards there is wailing,

Because I shall pass through the midst of you," says the Lord.

It seems strange that often even the people who are suffering the most don't see the presence of the Lord in their midst.

18. Alas, you who are longing for the day of the Lord,

For what purpose will the day of the Lord be to you?

It will be darkness and not light;

19. As when a man flees from a lion,

And a bear meets him,

Or goes home, leans his hand against the wall,

And a snake bites him.

20. Will not the day of the Lord be darkness instead of light,

Even gloom with no brightness in it?

The righteous look upon the judgment of the Lord as being necessary because of the evil around them, that they would be delivered from it.

The unrighteous always seek for the good things; and yet they won't serve the Lord, and complain when things don't go their way.

They even fake being religious, but they only fool themselves, for God sees the intent of their hearts.

And when they seek the day of the Lord, they will only find themselves being condemned to hell.

21. "I hate, I reject your festivals,

Nor do I delight in your solemn assemblies.

22. "Even though you offer up to Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings,

I will not accept them;

And I will not even look at the peace offerings of your fatlings.

23. "Take away from Me the noise of your songs;

I will not even listen to the sound of your harps.

Why won't God listen to the people or accept their offerings?

Because they won't listen to Him.

Amos brings our something very interesting and important about the whole sacrificial system:  It is not something God desires, it is a concession that God granted the people because of the hardness of their hearts.

If the people listen to the Lord and are obedient, there is no need for a sacrifice.

God desires our obedience and not sacrifice.

But even though the people don't listen, He continues to remind them:

24. "But let justice roll down like waters

And righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

This is what the Lord desires; but what do most people do?

They do just as the Israelites did.

25. "Did you present Me with sacrifices and grain offerings in the wilderness for forty years, O house of Israel?

26. "You also carried along Sikkuth your king and Kiyyun, your images, the star of your gods which you made for yourselves.

What good does it do to say and pretend we are worshiping God, when at the same time we bring along our idols, and do homage to that which is not God?

It does no good.

It only brings harm to the people who do such things.

27. "Therefore, I will make you go into exile beyond Damascus," says the Lord, whose name is the God of hosts.

Thus the innocent who are among the guilty suffer along with them.

There is another reason why God doesn't always keep us from suffering.

Let's begin by going back and looking at our preparation verse for this morning, Romans 8:16-17:

16. The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,

17. and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him.

The question comes down to this, "Do you know that you're saved?"

If you truly and whole-heartedly believe in Jesus Christ, and likewise understand that He died to pay the price of your sins, and thereby feel the pain of your own sins, and those of the people around you, and have remorse for the things you do against God's will, then the Holy Spirit should be witnessing to your spirit that you are a child of God.

If this is the case, then you should know that you are saved.

But let's go back to something we just said: that we feel the pain of the sin in and around our lives, and thereby suffer because of it.

If everything is perfect in our lives, and nothing bothers us, we are less apt to think about the sinful things that are taking place around us, and even within us.

We enjoy what we're doing, and that's all that matters for the present.

God knows all about this aspect of human nature.

So what does He do?

He allows a little diversity in our lives, in order that we would remember to focus upon Him more often, if not at all times.

However, if we don't respond to this little diversity, we get some other problems that are more serious, in hopes that we will then remember God.

Now, there's a positive aspect to this, also.

If our suffering is spiritual in nature, because we see the evil in this world as does the Lord, and respond to this suffering by having the Lord with us at all times and by doing what we can to live as God desires us to live, then we might not have any external suffering or problems at all, for we are focused upon the Lord.

It's similar to our relationship with our own bodies.

If we don't take care of ourselves, we may soon find ourselves suffering from some pain or problem.

And if we neglect the warning signs of the little pains and problems, they might just become major problems.

Our body warns us of the problems that it has.

If we touch something too hot, we feel instant pain; if we continue to hold on to it, we could get a serious burn.

Now consider, as we are told in 2 Corinthians, that "we are the temple of the living God…" (2 Corinthians 6:16)

And if God indwells us spiritually, as He does all believers, then why do we not more easily recognize the warnings God gives us, just as we respond to our body’s physical reaction to something that is hot?

Those who don't respond to God's spiritual warnings are not focused upon Him; thus, God may use some physical adversity to attract their attention.

So why doesn't God keep us from suffering?

Because we don't continually respond to Him (individually and collectively), and He uses these sufferings to keep us, and the world around us, focused.

And remember, if we believe and suffer even unto death, we will still live again without suffering any more.

Amen.

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