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Christian Suffering: A Sign of God's Punishment?

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It is so vitally important to learn to rightly divide the word of God to avoid fabricating erroneous doctrines that have and continue to very negatively impact the perception that many people have of believers, even other Christians, when it comes to the subject of Christian suffering. One example of failing to rightly divide God's word involves the belief and teaching that troubled times in one's life, especially if it endures, is a sure sign of God's punishment on that individual. The scripture of Psalm 16:4 is one of numerous biblical passages that speaks about the multiplication of sorrows for those who hasten after idol gods. However, rightly dividing God's word refrains from reaching hasty conclusions based only on what the natural eyes see.

Although it certainly is scriptural that Christian suffering and troubled times may strike a person's life as God's punishment, discipline or warning from the Lord, this is not always the case. Christians, particularly those in a position of leadership must exercise caution when passing judgment to assure that the judgment they reach is in agreement with scripture. Any supernatural revelations that God chooses to give also will always agree with his word on Christian suffering and any other topic or question.

The apostle Peter touches on some of the reasons for Christian suffering in the world, making it plain that suffering can be invited by bad decisions or simply by one's choice to live righteously. Peter wrote, "But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men's matters" (KJV, 1 Peter 4:15). The mercy and amazing grace of God provide the opportunity of salvation even for those who've committed murder, theft, and evil deeds. Nevertheless, all men reap what they've sown (Galatians 6:7) and even the redeemed will not escape the consequences of their actions. This is one type of suffering. This is only one of the various reasons for Christian suffering and for the suffering of non-Christians.

The same apostle also wrote of another type of Christian suffering--tribulation for one's faith in God. The persecuted church found in numerous nations where the gospel is restricted are all very well acquainted with this reason for troubled times. Peter taught, "Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you. But, rejoice inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached (strongly criticized) for the name of Christ, happy are ye, for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you. On their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified" (1 Peter 4:12-14).

This passage is one of many that remind the reader that God's punishment is not always behind Christian suffering. Quite the opposite might be taking place according this teaching of Peter.

It should be frightening to think of making the mistake of accusing servants of God on whom the spirit of glory and of God rests, of being the recipients of God's punishment because of their Christian suffering. This is the mistake that Job's "friends" made and found themselves in much trouble with God.


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