Suffering as a Believer for the Cause of Christ (Hebrews 2:18)
"Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted" (Hebrews 2:18)
Part 6 of 6
It is easy to wrap temptation and suffering together into a nice little package because we experience both in this world, but they are very different. Temptation is the enticement to sin and suffering is a painful or distressing experience. Just as it is important to understand that God does not tempt us, God does not cause our suffering either. God is a good God; He loves us and sent Jesus to save us. So it is incompatible with His nature to imply that God allows or causes our suffering. But it still exists and as believers many times we suffer solely because we are Christians.
Believers are subjected to persecution and hatred because we bear the name of Christ. This should come as no surprise. Jesus told His disciples, "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you" (John 15:18-19). We are different, set apart and not of this world. So it is no surprise that Jesus told us that we would have trouble in this lifetime.
The good news in all of this is that good things can result trouble and persecution. Peter told us to rejoice in these circumstances (I Peter 1:6-7) and James told us to consider them pure joy (James 1:2-4). This is because they knew that God was able to bring these things around for our benefit. This is not to say that He causes them to happen in our lives, but when trouble and persecution comes our way, we can cling to the promise he made to Paul in such a circumstance, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness" (II Corinthians 12:9). We can trust in the goodness and grace of God to get us through these incidents just as we can rely on Him to bring good out of them.
"In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed" (I Peter 1:6-7). The trials of this life work as a refining fire to burn away dross. Not only will we come out on the other side unscathed but we will come out with a genuine and proven faith. This is worth very much in the sight of God and results in His praise, glory and honor.
James tells us that God is able to perfect us through suffering. "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything" (James 1:2-4). The King James Bible says that we will be 'perfect and entire'. I cannot stress enough that God does not cause our suffering, but He is able to bring good from it. Our faith is developed, the character of perseverance is perfected and we are mature and not easily taken off course by the struggles and hardships of this life.
Through both temptation and testing in life we learn to learn to trust and rely on Jesus "Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted" (Hebrews 2:18). He had the full human experience so He can sympathize with us in every circumstance. What a marvelous attribute in the High Priest who lives to make intercession for us. "Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need" (Hebrews 4:14-16).
Tomorrow we look at Hebrews 3:1: Fixing Our Eyes on Jesus