"THE PROBLEM OF SUFFERING" How Can We Prepare For It? INTRODUCTION 1. In our study of the problem of suffering thus far... a. We have looked at why God allows it to exist b. Also, we have examined some of the possible causes of suffering 2. Even so, I still admit there is much we may not understand a. But perhaps we are closer to being able to use suffering in our lives for good... b. To use suffering to the glory of God, and for the betterment of ourselves! 3. In this final lesson, I wish to suggest some ways we can prepare ourselves for suffering that might come our way [There are several things that we can develop in our lives which will help us to deal with the problem of suffering. The first is...] I. DEVELOP TRUST IN GOD THROUGH AN ACTIVE "BIBLE LIFE" A. SCRIPTURES ABOUND WITH PROMISES THAT GOD IS WITH HIS CHILDREN IN THEIR TROUBLES... 1. In the Old Testament, cf. Ps 46:1-3 ; 55:22 2. In the New Testament, cf. Ro 8:35-39 ; 1 Pe 5:6-7 B. TO RECEIVE THIS WONDERFUL HELP OF GOD IN TIMES OF TROUBLE... 1. We must TRUST in Him! 2. As the prophet Nahum implied in Nah 1:7 3. As promised in the song written by Isaiah in Isa 26:3-4 C. HOW DO WE DEVELOP SUCH TRUST? 1. Faith (a synonym for trust) comes through the Word of God! - Ro 10:17 2. Those who read and meditate upon the Word develop that sort of TRUST which sustains them in all things - cf. Ps 119:165 3. This is just another reason why we need to be diligent in our daily reading of the Bible! 4. Then we can be like that "blessed" man described in the first three verses of the Psalms - Psa 1:1-3 [At the same time, we need to...] II. DEVELOP COMMUNION WITH GOD THROUGH AN ACTIVE "PRAYER LIFE" A. THE BIBLE TEACHES US TO PRAY IN TIMES OF SUFFERING - Ja 5:13 1. Jesus certainly did during His greatest trials a. In the garden of Gethsemane - Mt 26:36-44 b. While on the cross at Calvary - Lk 23:34 ,46 2. We find the early church fervent in prayer when their leaders were being persecuted - Ac 12:1-5 ,12 B. THIS IS BECAUSE IN PRAYER... 1. We receive the inner peace necessary to sustain us in our trials - Ph 4:6-7 2. But the TIME to develop our "prayer life" is NOW! a. BEFORE suffering comes - cf. Jer 12:5 1) If our strength is small when dealing with the MINOR frustrations of life... 2) ...then how will we be able to be strong when faced with MAJOR difficulties that suffering often brings? b. So God will already be a FRIEND with Whom we are close, and not a stranger! [We also need to...] III. DEVELOP CHRISTIAN FRIENDSHIPS THROUGH AN ACTIVE "CHURCH LIFE" A. THE "PREACHER" IN ECCLESIASTES WROTE OF THE VALUE OF HAVING FRIENDS - Ecc 4:9-12 1. They can help each other in their troubles 2. But "woe" to those who must face suffering alone! B. GOD INTENDED FOR THE CHURCH TO PROVIDE THIS KIND OF MUTUAL ENCOURAGEMENT... 1. As members together in the body of Christ, we are to have the same care for one another - 1 Co 12:24-27 2. Those who are strong are exhorted to help those who are weak - 1 Th 5:14 C. THE BEST WAY TO DEVELOP SUCH HELPFUL RELATIONSHIPS... 1. TAKE AN ACTIVE PART in the "family life" of the local church a. Become involved b. Make your presence felt 1) By frequent and consistent assembling with the church 2) By voluntary participation in the work of the church c. Visit the sick, help the needy, encourage the weak, assimilate the new members 1) Helping others in their time of suffering can "soften" the shock of suffering in your own life 2) E.g., visiting the sick in hospitals, or the bereaved at funerals will make it easier for you when it comes your turn d. So become more than just a "pew-warmer"! 2. Those who such things WILL NEVER LACK SUPPORT in THEIR time of trouble! a. I.e., if you are not diligent to visit others in their time of need... b. ...don't be surprised if others are not quick to come to YOUR side when the need is there (not that they shouldn't, but it be can difficult to effectively assist those who chosen to remain aloof in their relationship with others) CONCLUSION 1. By developing... a. Trust in God through an active "Bible life" b. Communion with God through an active "prayer life" c. And Christian friendships through an active "church life" ...we can go a long way in preparing ourselves to deal with adversity 2. Burdens can either shatter or strengthen our faith... a. Which it will be for us depends upon how well we have prepared ourselves b. Jesus taught us that the key to overcoming the "storms" of life lies in laying the proper foundation, one created by both HEARING and DOING His Word - Mt 7:24-27 Are we preparing ourselves for the days of suffering that most of us will likely face...? To every [thing there is] a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; A time to plant, and a time to pluck up [that which is] planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; A time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; A time to mourn, and a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; A time to get, and a time to lose; A time to keep, and a time to cast away; A time to rend, and a time to sew; A time to keep silence, and a time to speak; A time to love, and a time to hate; A time of war, and a time of peace. (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 ) Though this may be true, let's remember the encouraging words of the writer to the Hebrews: Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast [our] profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as [we are, yet] without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16 ) May we all find that wonderful "MERCY" and "GRACE" in our times of need!