Written and preached by David P. Nolte

ROMANS 8:28,29

A man loved his wife's chocolate cake. It was not Betty Crocker either - it was made from scratch! One day he went into the kitchen while she was baking one of those scrumptious culinary delights. He saw her sift some flour - this didn't appeal to him at all, for it was dry and unappetizing. Next she added a cup of sour milk. Now the batter looked very distasteful. Then, she added a raw egg; and to make matters worse, she put in unsweetened chocolate. By this time he was not too sure whether he liked chocolate cake or not. She added a few other ingredients and he left just as she was popping it into the oven. Much to his delight, that evening her masterpiece was as delicious as any she had ever baked! The spiritual lesson we can  learn is this: Often in life we encounter 'dry stretches' which are tasteless and uninviting like the flour. We also meet with 'sour' experiences like the milk, a few 'raw deals' like the egg and bitter sorrow like the unsweetened chocolate. But after we have gone through the oven of affliction, it will all become a sweet and flavorful blessing! That's what Paul meant when he wrote: "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." Romans 8:28 (NASB). Life has many ingredients; some of them painful and grievous; some frightening and horrendous; some which we consider negative experiences. But God has the capability of blending all those ingredients, pain, sorrow, grief, loss, and injustice and bringing about a positive outcome. Consider today the positive outcome of negative experiences.
    1. We read, "Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father?" Hebrews 12:7 (NIV). Now, hold on a minute! Discipline is more than just punishment! Discipline is more than just being whopped on:
      1. Discipline is education, training, and instruction so we can know what is right and wrong and what is expected.
      2. Discipline is guidance, correction, and counsel when the one disciplined goes astray so proper conduct is restored.
      3. Discipline is provided in chastening when that is necessary, and in compliment when that is proper, or just simple instruction when that suffices. But real discipline is always to steer us from self-destruction, evil, and the wrong path, and to steer us aright!
    2. There are always lessons to learn in times of suffering. If we learn them, we are disciplined.
      1. When we become too enamored with this temporal world, and ensnared in its godless ways, suffering can show us the error and temporality of this system. That's discipline.
      2. When we become puffed up in arrogance, egocentricity and pride, suffering has a way of bringing us down to earth, abasing and humbling us. Many don't want to be humbled, but that's good for us. That's a form of discipline.
      3. When we forget God and shove Him aside, suffering can make us realize our dependency on and need of Him. That's a discipline.
    3. The basis of God's discipline, even through suffering, is love. It is not vindictive, vituperative or vengeful. It is not, "Aha! I caught you! Now I get to sock it to you! ZAP!"  His desire is to bring about repentance, humility, trust, and conformity to His will - and sometimes it takes suffering to accomplish that discipline.
    4. Two climbers nearly perished on an icy mountain. With bleeding fingers they dug themselves out of the snow cave in which they had been sheltered. They staggered through the snow and made only two miles in three hours. One said, "I'm sleepy! I'm done! I can go no further!" and he buckled and fell in the snow. His companion thought, "There is only one thing I can do!" and he slapped the man vigorously in the face three or four times. The blows aroused the man and the two staggered on and were finally rescued. Sometimes God has to send, or allow, a sharp blow - pain, suffering, sorrow - to wake us up, to turn us around, to discipline us. That's one positive outcome of suffering.
    1. James wrote: "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 (NIV). Our faith is tested by trials, and that develops and matures us.
    2. So in what areas will suffering develop and mature us? Where will we be deeper and better?  What kind of personal development can take place in suffering?
      1. Understanding and sympathy of others in suffering. Before I hurt my back, I wrongly imagined that all those who complained of back pain were just malingerers.  Suffering taught me more understanding.  Paul wrote that God "comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God."   2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NIV). Comforted so that we can comfort!
      2. Endurance, patience and strength. You know how exercises develop muscle and you grow stronger. Paul wrote, "If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer." 2 Corinthians 1:6 (NIV).
      3. Readiness for greater and greater tasks. God asks, "If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in safe country, how will you manage in the thickets by the Jordan?" Jeremiah 12:5 (NIV). Suffering enables us to "compete with horses," and to "manage in the thickets by the Jordan."
      4. Wisdom and insight. The greatest lessons I have ever learned in life came through some painful experience. Solomon said, "The rod of correction imparts wisdom, but a child left to himself disgraces his mother." Proverbs 29:15 (NIV).
    3. We often think that life should be just a bowl of pitted cherries, a peach with all the fuzz removed, a peaceful stroll in the park and a rosebush with no thorns!  NOT!
    4. A young boy watched a butterfly emerging from a cocoon. The process was too slow, and the boy thought the butterfly was having too difficult a time, so he pulled the remainder of the cocoon off to release the butterfly. That butterfly never flew! Its wings were weak, shriveled and useless. The struggle to emerge from the cocoon is essential to moving vital fluids through the veins in the wings for their development. The well meaning boy had prevented a necessary part of the butterfly's development. Shortcut the suffering, eliminate the development!
    1. There is some sort of kinship that grows between fellow-sufferers. That is no less true between Jesus and His disciples.
      1. Paul reminds us, "For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for Him," Philippians 1:29 (NIV).
      2. Paul said, "I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death," Philippians 3:10 (NIV). That's not masochism; that's not a death-wish. That's seeking to fellowship with Jesus even in suffering.
      3. Peter wrote: "Dear 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." 1 Peter 4:12-13 (NIV).  Participation in the sufferings of Christ is fellowship with Him.
    2. Listen:
      1. You are in fellowship with those with whom you share common experiences. When we suffer for doing right; when we suffer unjustly; when we suffer without murmuring and complaining; when we suffer humbly and patiently, we are in rank with Jesus Christ Who also so suffered. That's being in fellowship with Him.
      2. When in your suffering you turn in faith and trust to Jesus for help and mercy, and your heart is knit to Him, that's fellowship.
      3. Jesus suffered agony in Gethsemane and it brought Him to submit to God's will. When we find our own Gethsemane in our sufferings, when we submit to God's will, we are in step with and we are in fellowship with Jesus Christ.
    3. So what's the benefit of being in fellowship with Jesus in suffering?
      1. It links us to Him, intimately and creates a close kinship.
      2. We can walk with Him, arm in arm, side by side, aligned with Him.
      3. We can draw from Him strength, mercy, and peace.
    4. Two ladies became friends in a nursing home. Both had been pianists. Strokes had left them partially paralyzed. One had use of the right arm, the other had use of the left arm. A kinship grew between them. And you should have heard them play the piano - one using the right arm, the other using the left - kinship in suffering brought about a sweet fellowship and beautiful music, too.

    1. Believe it or not, suffering provides a wonderful platform from which to bring God glory:
      1. Peter wrote, "By no means let any of you suffer as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; but if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not feel ashamed, but in that name let him glorify God." 1 Peter 4:15-16 (NASB).
      2. Paul adds, "My confident hope is that I will in no way be ashamed but that with complete boldness, even now as always, Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or death." Philippians 1:20 (NET).
    2. How can that happen? By showing a spirit of courage, trust, hope, patience and endurance in the face of pain and by crediting God for His mercy and grace in time of suffering. Anybody can sing when the sun shines; but God is glorified when we exalt Him in the rain.  But mark this: No grumbler, griper, complainer or self-pitier ever gives God glory.
    3. What is the benefit of this?
      1. It makes us think positively, not negatively.
      2. It opens our heart and lives to His continued blessing.
      3. It causes others to put their hope in Him when they, too, suffer.
    4. I received a letter from a member of my former congregation: "It seemed like the past week had been quite difficult as our little granddaughter, not quite 2, has cancer. Then a close friend is going through a series of tests, and the doctors as yet have not given their diagnosis and a 3 year old cousin has cystic fibrosis. All of us believe in God, and we know that without Him we would not have been able to go on. He gives us strength, peace of mind and causes the restless murmurings to cease." 

Suffering will come. It is always unpleasant. We hate it, and would avoid it if possible. But it comes. So we ought to let suffering complete its work in discipline, in developing us, in drawing us near to Christ and in glory to God. Listen to James, "As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job's perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy." James 5:11 (NIV).  Endure patiently; wait to see what the Lord will bring about. Anticipate, in faith, the positive outcome of negative experiences. God is full of compassion and mercy and He will carry you through! Whatever is happening to you now will be turned to good in God's way and time - if you trust.

Illustrations from NavPress AutoIllustrator and Walter Knight Illustrations

Return To Sermons On Suffering

Return To Archive

Return To Home Page