Thursday, May 20, 2010

Suffering -- Personal Spiritual Growth

Here's a version of my notes from Sunday. Enjoy!

We are continuing our series on personal spiritual growth. Last week Morgan lead our discussion about following Jesus, specifically with regard to how others affected how you followed Jesus. This week we’ll be talking about the road bumps that are bound to happen when following Jesus, namely suffering. When we suffer it tends to get in the way of our personal spiritual growth…why do you think this is? What about suffering knocks us off the path of following Jesus? Hopefully today we will learn about suffering and how to respond to it as Christians.

Why are we surprised? 1 Peter 4.12-13Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” The point seems to be that suffering and being a Christian go hand in hand. Why do you think it is that being a Christian and suffering seem to always go together? Because the world hates us… John 15.18 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.” 1 John 3.13 “Do not be surprised, my brothers, if the world hates you.” How can the world hating us lead to suffering? What about in the West where Christianity is much more accepted? Because God uses suffering and pain to discipline us… Hebrews 12.7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father?” (Reminds me of C.S. Lewis quote (From [Problem of Pain] – “Pain is God’s megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”) Have you found this to be true in your life? Why do you think God has to communicate to us in this way? Because we learn and grow through suffering… Romans 5.3-4 Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” Do you think that we can get in the way of this learning process when we suffer?

So how can we cope with suffering? 1. We can rest assured in the fact that we aren’t alone…Jesus suffered, every other human has suffered too, and Christians in particular suffer. Does it really make it easier to know that you aren’t being singled out? Why? 2. We can remember that our suffering is temporary. Romans 8.18I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Can this idea of future glory really help us cope now? 3. We can comfort one another when we suffer. 2 Corinthians 1.3-5 “Give praise to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! He is the Father who gives tender love. All comfort comes from him. He comforts us in all our troubles. Now we can comfort others when they are in trouble. We ourselves have received comfort from God. We share the sufferings of Christ. We also share his comfort.” What will it take for this kind of shared comfort and suffering to become a reality in a community like ours? Any other ways that we can cope with suffering?

Here’s the big point: Suffering is a normal part of following Jesus. We have a choice when we suffer: we can let it get in the way of our personal spiritual growth or we can allow God to use it for its designed purpose. And if we keep things in perspective and help one another, we can better cope with suffering! (Note: no one is saying that we should go out looking for new ways to suffer!)

Take Away: If you find yourself suffering in anyway, try to view it as an opportunity to grow in your relationship with Christ!

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