Here are my sermon notes from a message that I recently preached in a rural village here in Nicaragua. I preached this at an Assemblies of God church where they often have the misguided belief that Christians should not suffer illness and that we have the authority to declare our healing in the name of Jesus and that those who are not healed simply lack faith. So, this message confronted such false beliefs. This is why we need to focus our attention on preaching and teaching and making disciples here in Nicaragua rather than focusing on other things. I pray that this message also speaks truth to your own heart.
The sovereignty of God in suffering
Biggest question that the unbeliever struggles with – if there is a God, why suffering?
Biggest question the believer struggles with – why do I suffer even though I love God?
Without understanding God’s sovereignty, we will never understand suffering nor will we ever learn how to suffer well for the glory of God.
First – God is sovereign…which means He is in control of everything. Nothing escapes Him. There is nothing too great that He cannot have control over.
Isaiah 40:21-26 (READ)
God is in control. He is sovereign over rulers, over governments, over natural disasters, over sickness, disease, and even death. He is in control.
But so often, we complain when we are going through a difficult time…when we are in pain…when the storms of life are overtaking us…and what is the first thing that we usually cry out?
“God…where are you?” We think that because we are suffering that somehow that means that He has abandoned us.
Look at the next verse of Isaiah 40:27. (READ)
“Why do you say to me O Israel, my way is hidden from the Lord…my cause is disregarded by my God.”
In other words…”Where are you?” We do the very same thing.
Let’s admit…its hard to see God at work when we are suffering terribly, right?
But He is still there…He has promised never to leave us.
And in order to trust Him in our pain and suffering, we must first understand that He is sovereign over it. Meaning that He has complete control over it.
We are not the only ones who have a difficult time understanding the purpose of suffering.
Talk about story of Job….He was demanding to know why he was suffering…and God answers him with more questions. God never answered Job’s questions. He rebukes his questions.
But first He gives him a strong rebuke in Job 38:1. “Who is this who darkens my counsel with words without knowledge?”
“Now, I will ask you and you shall answer me….where were you when….(the earth was created, the stars were put in place, the seas were given its boundaries)” In other words, God was showing Job that God is completely sovereign and should not be questioned.
Job’s response – “I have been so foolish to contend with the Almighty. I will shut my mouth and speak no more.
And we often do the same thing in our moments of suffering….we darken the counsel of God by giving words without knowledge.
But we have a much greater advantage than Job….We have the counsel of God…the Word of God. In it we learn who God is…His goodness, His love, and His sovereignty.
Isaiah 40:28-31 (READ)
Let this remind us…let us say over and over to our very own souls the same thing…”Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the creator of Heaven and earth.
O how we need to remind ourselves of this in the midst of our trial. We must remember that God is good and that He is in control of everything that we are going through.
Often, we want to fight against this. We often don’t truly believe it in our hearts and so what do we try to do? We try to do everything we can to escape from our suffering. We somehow think that God could not possibly be part of such pain that we are experiencing, so we try to run away from our pain as far as possible.
Some people run to things to distract them from their pain (television, relationships, work, etc). Some people run completely away from God because the pain is too great. And sadly, there are some in the church who have taught that any kind of suffering is not from the Lord, therefore it must be rebuked in the name of Jesus.
Somebody comes with a broken leg and is in much pain, yet the church has taught that in Christ we should be perfectly healed….yet here is a man that comes who is not healed. O he loves the Lord. He gives his very life to serve Christ and tell others about His love. What do you do? What do you say to that man?
Do you say, ” Hey brother, we just need to declare right now in the name of Jesus that this leg really is not broken. Its an apparition. It just looks broken. But we declare right now in the name of Jesus that this leg is not broken.”
But unless God performs a miracle, which He certainly can, but we cannot command Him to do so, this man walks back to his house still with a broken leg.
And there are some in the church who say, “Well, God did not heal him simply because he did not have enough faith. Because if He really loved God, he would not be suffering in this way.
But this response is not Biblical. The fact is that God allows suffering. Even to those who love Him and have all the faith in the world. The Bible is filled from beginning to end with people who loved God, yet suffered.
He is in control over our suffering. He uses our suffering to accomplish His will in our lives. He uses our suffering to sanctify us and make us more dependent upon Him.
So, instead of running away from the broken leg…instead of declaring that the leg is not really broken…instead of reasoning that the leg is not healed simply because we lack the faith….instead we should be saying,
“Lord, I know that you are good. Your Word tells me of your goodness. I know that you are sovereign and in control of everything. I know that you can heal me this very second from my broken leg if you so chose. But since you have not done that, I ask you now to show me how I may bring glory to your name through this pain that I am suffering. Teach me through my pain to trust you more. Teach me to look towards eternity more where one day I will be with you forever. “
Let me ask you a question? Which do you think takes more faith to continually glorify God? To be healed instantly of a broken leg? Or to not be healed and remain in pain for the rest of your life? Which takes more faith to praise and glorify God?
Don’t you think it would be easier to glorify God when the miracle happens in an instant? Don’t you think it would take more faith however to lift up your hands in praise and adoration to God while sitting in pain in a wheel chair for the rest of your life?
It takes a lot of faith in God’s goodness and sovereignty to go through the valley of suffering. That is why it is so important to know the character and nature of God.
Mat 10:29 (READ). His Word tells us that of the two sparrows that are sold for a penny that not one of them will fall to the ground apart from it being the will of the Father.
But that tells us something…sparrows do fall…it just tells us that God is in complete control of the falling sparrow. We don’t need to rebuke the falling sparrow…we need to embrace it and glorify God.
So, what is your falling sparrow? What is your greatest suffering? Physical illness, relationship difficulties, lack of resources. Don’t run away from these things. Don’t declare over and over in the name of Jesus that they don’t really exist….because they do! They are real. Instead, realize that God is good…that He is in control…that He has a purpose for everything…and glorify Him with your falling sparrow.
I had a fallen sparrow. (Susana)
But I had read in 1 Peter earlier that year and God taught me about suffering and His purposes before my daughter was ever sick. So, when she got sick…and even when she died, I knew and still know that God is altogether good…that He did not fail me…that it wasn’t because of a lack of faith that she wasn’t healed. He could have healed her…and I certainly prayed like crazy every day that He would. But He chose instead to call her home.
Sometimes sparrows fall.
But God is still on the throne.
He has a purpose for all that He does. He is glorified greatly when we trust Him and praise Him in the midst of our greatest sufferings.
First Peter is all about suffering…and glory. It was written during a time where the early Christians were being tortured and killed by the wicked Roman emperor. What does Peter tell them to do? You would think that Peter would write a letter to them giving them a specific plan of escape. You would think he would be saying, “Get out of there as fast as you can. Run!”
But no….He does not do anything like that.
Let’s look at 1Pet 1:3-9. (READ)
How does Peter begin this letter to a group of Christians who are being killed?
He reminds them of how awesome God is and what great promises He has given to us who trust in Him. That is why we need to really know who God is so that we can worship Him even in our sufferings.
Then he talks about their suffering. Does he attribute their suffering to the wicked Roman leaders? Does he say, “you guys are suffering because these Roman people have wicked hearts. I wish God could somehow intervene and stop the Romans, but I guess they are just too strong for Him to do anything.”
No, he reminds the believers that God is in control of their suffering…to embrace their suffering because God was allowing it so that their faith would be proved genuine and be refined as pure gold in the fire….for what end result? So that praise, glory, and honor would be given to Jesus Christ at the very end.
Talk about relationship between suffering and glory (1 Pet, 2 Cor 4, Rom 8)
God allows suffering so that we may learn to trust Him and glorify Him and testify to the world who is watching that He is worth it all
I still don’t fully understand why He allowed my little girl to suffer and die from cancer. The only thing I do know is that we live in a fallen world because of sin…and as a result death and sickness, accidents, tragedies, poverty are part of this cursed world.
But the story does not end there. Christ came to redeem us. He has overcome the grave, therefore we who trust in Him will also rise to life…eternal life. My daughter is more alive right now than any of us here.
Christ has given us hope…but our ultimate hope and redemption is not promised here on this earth….
There will come a day when sickness, disease, tragedies, cancer, sin, and death will be completely done away with. But while we are still here on this earth…we will sometimes suffer. But God is with us. God uses our suffering. And God is glorified when we trust Him in the midst of it.
And let that be our greatest goal in life – to glorify God. Because He is worthy of all glory!