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CHAPTER 5
 FELLOWSHIP WITH GOD  
 IN PAIN
•••

5.2  Sources of Suffering and the Role of the Holy Spirit

Jesus said,

"In the world you have trouble; but cheer up! I have overcome the world." 

John 16:33 



Waves, Sand and Stones...

Suffering sometimes comes like the waves of the sea, one after another, with each wave leaving its mark and then departing. We strive against these waves one by one... as one is departing another arrives.


Suffering may also come like the sand blowing in the wind, producing a multitude of irritations, each grain being small in itself but wearing its victim down steadily, continuously and methodically.


Then there is the suffering that comes like great stones being placed on one's life, one by one, each stone remaining, pressing down, down, down... As each arrives and bears down, the early stones do not depart, with each stone adding to the weight of pain and helplessness.


2017

In the three years leading to 2017, three great stones of suffering had come to me, each wearing me down in preparation for the fourth stone. Each of the four were different and independent of the others but all carried me along the path that was chosen for me.


The first stone made it painful to eat. The more I ate the greater the pain. I consumed about 500 calories per day, month by month searching for a cure as my weight fell and fell. I lost forty pounds in forty weeks, ultimately falling to 135 pounds. Being six feet tall, I was a bag of bones. All of my ribs were clearly defined. My gastroenterologist said "Your body is in starvation mode."


The second stone was cancer. Just a few years earlier, the mere mention of that word would have caused fear to rise up within me. But when the doctor said "You have cancer", I laughed.


The third stone controlled me by day but was most oppressive at night. The side effects of the medicines were unbearable. The urologist said "You have tried all the medicines. You have to choose between the side effects of the medicines and the consequences of the disease". Every night when I went to bed, I knew that it would be a long hard night. I would sleep usually less than an hour and then my disease would wake me. Then I would do stretches and exercises as therapy for the disease. I would meditate on scripture as I did this therapy for hours each night. I preferred this life to the side effects of the medicines.


These stones had been my constant companion for the years before the forth stone arrived. With years of malnutrition and sleep deprivation, my body was weak. In the mornings I was able to function. But in the evenings it became difficult to think. At times I couldn't figure out how to boil pasta. After 5 p.m. I didn't try to think or talk. For two years I didn't leave home at night.


Then came the forth stone. It produced extreme pain... sharp, unpredictable, day and night. All I could do was grit my teeth. I would wait for it to pass and hope that I didn't fall. After months of extreme pain I prayed "Lord, my existence is nothing more than pain and trying to avoid pain." I asked Him to take my life. He didn't. Then a week later I asked Him again to take my life.


I prayed "What is the purpose of all this pain? What response do you want from me?" I waited for His response.


One thought entered into my mind. "Praise Me". I was clenching my teeth because of the pain. Through clenched teeth I spoke audibly "I praise you Father". I spoke audibly so that the authorities in the heavenly realm could hear (Ephesians 3:10, 6:12). That was the beginning of the end; the end of my discouragement.


After I had received the "gold refined by fire" of Revelation 3:18, these four stones were lightened or removed. The "gold refined by fire" was explained in subchapter 2.7.


Why am I telling you these things? Some of you are oppressed by severe suffering. I have been there. Through my prayers, I am with you now in your suffering. Suffering is a serious and difficult issue. You may find the true causes of suffering to be difficult to accept. I assume this because I have found them to be difficult to accept.


But understanding what God says about suffering has made my journey through suffering more tolerable and profitable. I pray that He will bless you in the same way, and more.



Let's begin...

The causes or sources of suffering for a Christian may be: 

  • Sin
  • Discipline
  • Testing
  • God's plan
  • To provide a sign
  • Pressure to renounce God
  • Persecution as a Christian 


This subchapter 5.2  will reveal each of these sources of suffering from the scriptures. I have prayed for you, that you will understand God's ways and purposes in regard to your suffering. That leads me to a critical and surprising question...



Who is your God?

I ask that you pause and answer this question. Please take a moment to ponder this before you continue.



(Pause)



Now that you have answered my question, I will give you my answer to that question. My God is Yahweh, the God of the Bible. Some pronounce His name as Jehovah. Some call Him "LORD".  All of these names are different renderings of the ancient Hebrew name of God which appears some 7000 times in the Bible in the form of the Tetragrammaton. The Tetragrammaton or the name of four letters (in reference to the four letters Y H W H) is a technical term for the personal name of God. When I ask the question "Who is your God?", I am making a distinction between the Biblical God and the God which has been presented by various institutions through the history of what has been called "Christianity".  


The most important question for this moment is... Who is your God? As you read this subchapter, the answer to this question will become apparent. If your God is your own personal pleasure, comfort and safety, you may become angry as you read this chapter. Even those who do worship the true Biblical God may have significant difficulty with these passages. While scripture does say that God died for us. It also says that we should willingly die for him. 


I have many difficult passages from God's word to bring to you. Please hear them in His presence. Please PRAY through these passages as described in subchapters 1.1 and 1.2. I expect this time in the scriptures to be a challenge for many of you. They have been a challenge for me. Please ask God to multiply your faith before you read on. These scriptures can only be received by faith.




 (Pause for prayer)




I will repeat the scriptural sources of suffering: sin, discipline, testing, God's plan, to provide a sign, persecution as a Christian or pressure to renounce God. 



Suffering as Consequence of sin:

  • Regarding those who were getting drunk at communion, Paul wrote, "But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread, and drink of the cup. 29 For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy way eats and drinks judgment to himself if he doesn't discern the Lord's body. 30 For this cause many among you are weak and sickly, and not a few sleep. 31 For if we discerned ourselves, we wouldn't be judged. 32 But when we are judged, we are punished by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world" (1 Corinthians 11:28-32).

 

Prayerful Observations:

I see oh Lord, that we believers will not be judged if we discern ourselves (verse 31). So, please reveal my sin to me, my Lord. 
I see also, my Lord, that if we believers are judged, we are not judged in the great white throne judgement to be  condemned with the world. Our judgement is a punishment or discipline, but not damnation with the world. 
Praise to Your name!



Suffering as Discipline:

  • "You have forgotten the exhortation which reasons with you as with children, "My son, don't take lightly the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when you are reproved by him; 6 for whom the Lord loves, he disciplines, and chastises every son whom he receives" (Hebrews 12:4-6).


Prayerful Observations:

If you will look up the word "chastise" in a dictionary, you will see that it indicates a severe discipline. The Greek word translated as "chastises" in this passage is translated as "flogged" in John 19:1. In fact, the NASB, KJV and ASV use the word "scourge" instead of "chastise". Notice that the passage states that "every son" receives severe discipline. The rewards of fellowship with God are so incredibly great, that God would be unloving if He didn't use discipline great enough to get our attention. So, no matter how great your discipline is, the rewards of discipline are greater.



  • "7 It is for discipline that you endure. God deals with you as with children, for what son is there whom his father doesn't discipline? 8 But if you are without discipline, of which all have been made partakers, then you are illegitimate, and not children. 9 Furthermore, we had the fathers of our flesh to chasten us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much rather be in subjection to the Father of spirits, and live? 10 For they indeed, for a few days, punished us as seemed good to them; but he for our profit, that we may be partakers of his holiness. 11 All chastening seems for the present to be not joyous but grievous; yet afterward it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it" (Hebrews 12:7-11).


My Prayer:

Lord my Father, I pray to You for myself and all those who read here, grant us repentant hearts, that we may be counted among those who are trained by Your discipline... for our profit, to partake of Your holiness, to produce peace and righteousness. I pity those who receive Your loving discipline but will not yield to You, Father of spirits, to be trained by You. We who yield, will praise You in the depths of pain... and the fallen spirits in the spiritual realm will hear praise rising up out of pain.  Then they will fear Your name. Your name be glorified forever! Amen!



Old Testament "Testing to Know" results in intimacy

  • "You shall remember all the way which Yahweh your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, to test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not" (Deuteronomy 8:2).
  • "If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you, and he gives you a sign or a wonder, 2 and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying, "Let's go after other gods" (which you have not known) "and let's serve them," 3 you shall not listen to the words of that prophet, or to that dreamer of dreams; for Yahweh your God is testing you, to know whether you love Yahweh your God with all your heart and with all your soul" (Deuteronomy 13:1-3).


What is meant by the word "know" in the two passages above? Do these passages indicate that God uses testing to acquire information about what is in our hearts? Or does "know" in these passages refer to intimate experience?


Prayerful Observations:

The Hebrew word translated as "know" is yada. It is the same word used in Genesis 4:1 "The man knew Eve his wife. She conceived, and gave birth to Cain, and said, "I have gotten a man with Yahweh's help." The Hebrew word yada, which is translated as "know" can indicate a very personal and intimate experience with another person. So intimate and personal in fact,  that in this passage from Genesis, the conception of a child was the result. The word yada is also used to indicate intimate personal experience in Genesis 19:5 and Numbers 31:17. Yada can be used in other ways as well. The important thing to understand is that yada (know) can be used to indicate intimate experience rather than fact finding.


Now, lets return to the two passages about testing to know from Deuteronomy. I believe that these two passages use the phrase "to know" to refer to knowing by experience, whether favorable or unfavorable.


So, God experiences greater intimacy with us through testing. This seems reasonable, since I also experience greater intimacy with God in testing. The subject of both passages is the relationship between God and His people. So, it appears more reasonable to interpret "know" as entering intimacy rather than fact finding. To posit that God gains information about the heart through testing would indicate that there are things about the heart that God doesn't know until after a test is completed.


This contradicts 1 John 3:20 " because if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things." According to this passage, God knows everything that is in our hearts, not just what He has observed through testing.

To posit that these passages indicate that Israel came to know about their own heart through testing would be to contradict and deny the passage. Yahweh is the subject in both sentences. It is the subject in each sentence who comes "to know".


I will repeat the passages here for your convenience:

  • "You shall remember all the way which Yahweh your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, to test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not" (Deuteronomy 8:2).
  • "If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you, and he gives you a sign or a wonder, 2 and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying, "Let's go after other gods" (which you have not known) "and let's serve them," 3 you shall not listen to the words of that prophet, or to that dreamer of dreams; for Yahweh your God is testing you, to know whether you love Yahweh your God with all your heart and with all your soul" (Deuteronomy 13:1-3).


Summary: I believe that "know" reflects intimate experience that Yahweh has with His children when they are tested. That is why I titled this section "Testing to Know Results in Intimacy."



Suffering as Testing in the New Testament: 

  • "Beloved, don't be astonished at the fiery trial which has come upon you to test you, as though a strange thing happened to you. 13 But because you are partakers of Christ's sufferings, rejoice, that at the revelation of his glory you also may rejoice with exceeding joy" (1 Peter 5:12-13).
  • "Don't be afraid of the things which you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested; and you will have oppression for ten days. Be faithful to death, and I will give you the crown of life" (Revelation 2:10).

Prayerful Observations:
Being faithful to death may seem impossible for you. Being unafraid may seem impossible. They are. If you ask God to multiply your faith and love, He will do it in you. There is no time as good as now to ask. Continue in this prayer. The Endorsed Prayer of Faith is discussed in micro-subchapter 4.3a.



Suffering removed by healing is a sign:

  • "As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" 3 Jesus answered, "This man didn't sin, nor did his parents; but, that the works of God might be revealed in him... (Jesus then healed him)... 16 Some therefore of the Pharisees said, "This man is not from God, because he doesn't keep the Sabbath." Others said, "How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?" John 9:1-16).
  • "Many indeed, therefore, other signs also did Jesus before his disciples, that are not written in this book; 31 and these have been written that ye may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing ye may have life in his name" (John 20:30-31).


Prayerful Observations:
The Old Testament prophesied that the messiah would perform signs. Jesus healed many before His crucifixion as signs that He was the messiah.

So, miracles were performed by Jesus as signs. They were perceived as signs. Miracles can occur in our day as well. A light appeared at my conversion as a miraculous sign. But miracles should not be seen as evidence that God's goal in your life, in the present age (before Paradise) is the removal of your suffering. I am not saying that God doesn't heal out of mercy, love and grace. But miracles are signs.

Jesus turned water into wine (John 2:11), fed thousands with five loaves and two fish (John 6:26), healed the blind (John 9:1-16), etc., these were all done as signs and perceived as signs. The parting of the Red Sea was a sign (Acts 7:36). Apostles performed signs (2 Corinthians 12:12).

Other references to miracles as signs: John 2:23, 3:2, 4:48, 6:2, 7:31, 11:47, 12:37; Acts 2:19,22-23, 4:29-30, 5:12, 6:8, 8:6,14, 14:3, 15:12; Romans 15:18-19; 1 Corinthians 1:22; Hebrews 2:4.


Suffering as persecution from Satan:

  • "Don't be afraid of the things which you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested; and you will have oppression for ten days. Be faithful to death, and I will give you the crown of life" (Revelation 2:10).


Prayerful Observations:
Yes dying for Christ may be God's will. The crown of life is granted to those who are faithful to death. This is not a granting of eternal life to those who die for Christ. It is a crown. A crown indicates authority as a ruler. Perhaps it is called a crown of life because it is authority granted in the eternal state because of the life that was relinquished for Christ. Perhaps it refers to a crown that will be worn through all of the life to come... eternally. 

James 1:12 mentions the "crown of life" being granted to those who show love for God through endurance. In the parable of the ten menas, Luke 19:11-27, authority over more cities was granted to the one through whom God's gift was more multiplied  (verses 17 and 19). Chapter 6 in this book reveals that all slaves of Christ will reign over the earth in the eternal state (all saints will reign). But evidently, some will reign at a higher level than others.



Tragedy as Pressure from Satan to renounce God:

  • "Then Satan answered Yahweh, and said, "Does Job fear God for nothing? 10 Haven't you made a hedge around him, and around his house, and around all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land. 11 But stretch out your hand now, and touch all that he has, and he will renounce you to your face." 12 Yahweh said to Satan, "Behold, all that he has is in your power. Only on himself don't stretch out your hand" (Job 1:9-12). (Satan took all of Job's property and children.)



Illness as persecution from Satan to renounce God:

  • "Satan answered Yahweh, and said, "Skin for skin. Yes, all that a man has he will give for his life. 5 But stretch out your hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will renounce you to your face."
  • 6 Yahweh said to Satan, "Behold, he is in your hand. Only spare his life."7 So Satan went out from the presence of Yahweh, and struck Job with painful sores from the sole of his foot to his head" (Job 2:4-7).


Prayerful Observations:
If Job had renounced God, it would have proved that Satan was right. The test would have proved that Job worshiped God because of God's gifts... that Job was for sale to the highest bidder... conditional worship, bribery. Satan was proved wrong by the test:


Perseverance in Extreme Suffering is Possible

  • "Behold, we call them blessed who endured. You have heard of the perseverance of Job, and have seen the Lord in the outcome, and how the Lord is full of compassion and mercy" (James 5:11).


Prayerful Observations:
Have you considered the possibility that suffering in our day could be similar to Job's suffering? He suffered through tragedy in his family, business and health, not because of sin, but because he was loyal to God. Could you or someone you know be suffering in the same way? God may not reveal to us the cause of our suffering. Job didn't know why he was suffering. But God will reveal the response required to "please him in all respects" (Colossians 1:9-10). The prayers we pray should include Endorsed Prayers. We Turn, Turn, Turn and Behold the Lord, as in the Sixth Path. We spend a lot of time in His presence in fellowship with him.



Suffering was planned for Paul by God:

  • "But the Lord said to him, "Go your way, for he is my chosen vessel to bear my name before the nations and kings, and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how many things he must suffer for my name's sake"' (Acts 9:15-16).



Paul suffered the loss of all things, that he may know Christ and the fellowship of His sufferings:

  • "8 Yes most certainly, and I count all things to be a loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus, my Lord, for whom I suffered the loss of all things, and count them nothing but refuse, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own, that which is of the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith, 10 that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, becoming conformed to his death, 11 if by any means I may attain to the resurrection from the dead" (Philippians 3:8-11).


Prayerful Observations:
There is nothing in the world that has the value of Christ. So, Paul let go of all things of the world to gain Christ (V 8). In suffering, Paul had fellowship with Christ (V 10)



Suffering comes from spreading the Good News (the Gospel):

  • "endure hardship for the Good News according to the power of God" (2 Timothy 1:8).
  • "Summoning the apostles, they beat them and commanded them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. 41 They therefore departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for Jesus' name" (Acts 5:40-41).


Prayerful Observations:

Suffering that comes after we begin to serve God, may be persecution from man or Satan. Above we saw that Job suffered because he was good. As in Job's case, even illness may be suffering for being good, possibly for serving God. If you are a disciple maker, expect suffering to follow. Praise God in it. Let the suffering perfect you! How do we do this? See "We are to cooperate with God patiently, as suffering perfects us", James 1:2-4 in subchapter 5.1.



God changes the boundaries of the nations to cause men to seek him.

  • "He made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the surface of the earth, having determined appointed seasons, and the boundaries of their dwellings, 27 that they should seek the Lord, if perhaps they might reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us" (Acts 17:26-27).



God causes suffering

There is a mistaken belief that suffering is bad and that God is not active in causing suffering. But scripture states that suffering is good (subchapter 5.1). Scripture also states that God causes suffering. If we know that suffering comes from God for our benefit, we will look to God when we suffer. We will look to Him to see what response He wants from us. 


God is almighty (Exodus 6:3), all loving (John 3:16) and works all things for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28). His ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). Just as the two year old can't understand the actions of a parent, so we can't understand the actions of God.


God brings good times and bad times. He chooses the leaders of our nations, both good and bad. God decides whether we will be blind or see. He decides whether nations will conquer or be conquered. Here are the scriptures which reveal these truths:


God determines Good and Bad times

  • "20 Daniel answered, "Blessed be the name of God forever and ever; for wisdom and might are his. 21 He changes the times and the seasons" (Daniel 2:20-21).
  • When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider this: God has made the one as well as the other. Therefore, no one can discover anything about their future" (Ecclesiastes 7:14).


God Chooses Leaders of Nations

  • "He (God) removes kings and sets up kings" (Daniel 2:21).
  • 30 The king (Nebuchadnezzar) spoke and said, "Is not this great Babylon, which I have built for the royal dwelling place, by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty?" 31 While the word was in the king's mouth, a voice came from the sky, saying, "O king Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: 'The kingdom has departed from you. 32 You shall be driven from men; and your dwelling shall be with the animals of the field. You shall be made to eat grass as oxen. Seven times shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever he will" (Daniel 4:30-32).


God Causes Disasters

  • "Does the trumpet alarm sound in a city, without the people being afraid? Does evil happen to a city, and Yahweh hasn't done it?" (Amos 3:6). (Yahweh is the personal name of God. This is explained in subchapter A4, in the appendix, under the title "Yahweh".)


God Determines Physical Characteristics of Individuals

  • "11 Yahweh said to him, "Who made man's mouth? Or who makes one mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Isn't it I, Yahweh?" (Exodus 4:11) 


God Determines the Boundaries and Duration of Nations

  • "26 He made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the surface of the earth, having determined appointed seasons, and the boundaries of their dwellings, 27 that they should seek the Lord, if perhaps they might reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us" (Acts 17:26-27).



God is Good

I will repeat what I have already said:

God is almighty (Exodus 6:3), all loving (John 3:16) and works all things for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28). His ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). Just as the two year old can't understand the actions of a parent, so we can't understand the actions of God.



The Role of the Holy Spirit:

The Holy Spirit provides what we need to persevere in suffering:

  • Power to Hope: "Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope, in the power of the Holy Spirit" (Romans 15:13).
  • Power to Comprehend: "...I bow my knees to the... that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, that you may be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner person, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, to the end that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be strengthened to comprehend with all the saints what is the width" (Ephesians 3:14-19).
  • Power to Witness: "you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you. You will be witnesses to me" (Acts 1:8).
  • Joy: " You became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit" (1 Thessalonians 1:6). 
  • Peace: "for God's Kingdom is not eating and drinking, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit" (Romans 14:17).



Summary:

The causes or purpose of suffering may be: sin, discipline, testing, God's plan, to provide a sign, persecution as a Christian or pressure to renounce God. In the previous subchapter we saw that the Endorsed Prayers were our response to suffering. In those prayers we have joy in His presence as we pray for faith, comprehension, power and etc. Then the Holy Spirit provides hope, understanding, power, joy and peace. Notice that these blessings which come from the Holy Spirit closely match the topics of Endorsed Prayers which I selected. We make requests of the Father and He grants our requests through the Holy Spirit.


So, Endorsed Prayer and the Holy Spirit are integral parts of our interactions with suffering. Psalm 16:11 states, "In your presence is fullness of joy." The scriptures above show that we are to have joy in our suffering. So, our dealing with suffering should be a very interactive process with God who is within us. That intimate interaction with God is the subject of this book as its name reveals: "Fellowship with God in the Sixth Path". 



Fellowship with God in the Sixth Path:

In the Sixth Path we walk with God in this world full of trouble. In our spirit we turn to His presence within. We Turn, Turn, Turn and Behold the Lord. I know of no other way to enter into the Sixth Path, than to PRAY scripture (the Fifth Path). After we PRAY scripture for a very long time and we pass through the awkward stage and into the real experience of scriptural prayer, then the Sixth Path is the next inevitable step. 



A Billion Years From Now...

When I was a boy, sometimes I would complain. My grandfather was irritated by this. He would say "A thousand years from now, you won't know the difference." As a ten year old, I thought that was the dumbest statement that I had ever heard. I didn't care about one thousand years from now. I cared about now.


When I was much older I began to understand. He was saying that after a thousand years, it really won't matter in the whole scheme of things. He was calling attention to proportion and perspective.


Ecstasy in our eternal state in Paradise will last a long time. My grandfather was an unbeliever when he made that statement. So, I have adapted his words to reflect a scriptural perspective.


A Billion years from now, you will know that your suffering was worth the cost.


A scriptural view of our eternal state in Paradise is helpful as we suffer in this world. We need to set our eyes on the prize. That is what the next two subchapters are about.


"Summoning the apostles, they beat them and commanded them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. They therefore departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for Jesus' name"
Acts 5:40-41

Have a question or want to share how this book has impacted your life?