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Brian Cole: 'Hope In Suffering?' - Part Three

"God’s wise and loving plans to bring you into extended periods of suffering are not only good for other people, but also for you."

Brian Cole: 'Hope In Suffering?' - Part Three

Editor's Note: Every Sunday, publishes a submitted article in a weekly series from Pastor Brian Cole. If you would have a question for Brian or would like to learn more about him, visit his website or his official Facebook page.

Gen. 40:1-23 - Hope In Suffering? - Part 3

Last week we concluded the chapter and left off with a question which we started the chapter with - Why would God allow this “stuff” in our lives? Why? God’s timing is absolutely perfect!

Maybe you are where Joseph is right now. You have been waiting, hoping, praying, and enduring for a long time. You are tired of waiting for God to bring to fruition His plans and purposes in your life. You feel that God has placed you in a pit and forgotten you. Perhaps you’ve had to endure the pain of a series of false hope, moments when it seemed your hopes would finally come true and God would deliver you, only to have those hopes dashed again. Maybe you need to be reminded that God’s timing is always perfect. There are no accidents with God. You may not understand why you still need to be in the pit. It may make no sense to you right now. Yet what counts is the fact that it makes sense to God, whose wisdom, love, and care are infinitely higher and more profound than yours.

God’s wise and loving plans to bring you into extended periods of suffering are not only good for other people, but also for you. Rom. 5:3-5 - “We rejoice in our suffering, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

Paul was certainly no stranger to suffering, and as a result, he also knew the harvest of good fruit that suffering could bring. For Paul, suffering not only DOESN’T extinguish hope, but actually produces hope by training us in endurance.

We can’t learn to ski 36 miles in the Birkie by reading a book, the only way to live through that is long months and years of training in which you endure painful stress, gradually building up to greater and greater levels of discomfort!

And we can’t get character from a book either. Character comes from enduring those difficult times, walking with God - and maybe even sometimes trying to run away from God, only to discover that He can run after you faster than you can run away!! The one who has promised to be with you forever will NOT let you go.

As Ps. 23:6 reminds us, the Lord’s goodness will hunt us down all the days of our lives. The character that comes from enduring suffering produces hope, because we begin to develop enough understanding of our past and present painful experiences to believe that God’s faithfulness will take us through whatever suffering our future holds. God never forgets His people or fails to show us steadfast love. He is the Good Shepherd, who has promised that He will hold us safely in His hand. He will never leave us nor forsake us.

Where can we find assurance of God’s love and care as we struggle to get through today’s trials? How can we know that God’s loving arms are extended towards us, and that He has not forgotten us, especially when He seems to be leaving us in the same pit year after year?

Paul tells us in Rom. 5:5 that it’s the work of the Holy Spirit to do this. If we cry out to Jesus, using the words of the thief on the cross: “Jesus, remember me” (Luke 23:42), The Holy Spirit takes those cries and presents them before the throne of grace.

When we feel like orphans, the Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirits that we are indeed the children of God, and if children, then heirs - heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, PROVIDED we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him {#21} (Rom. 8:16-17).

This assurance enables us to say along with Paul: The sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” (Rom. 8:18).

We can’t do anything to merit such remembrance. We all deserve to share in the fate of the baker, not the cupbearer. We have all sinned against God, and the wages of sin is death. And yet, in the ultimate twist of providence, the one to whom we appeal for such remembrance was not merely sold, abused, and wrongly imprisoned: His body was hung on a cross, under a curse, even though He had committed no crime.

Why should our Lord be so cruelly treated, when He did nothing but showed perfect love towards those around him and enduring faith and hope in God? Why did He have to endure such undeserved sufferings? It was OUR sin that nailed Him there! It was OUR debt that had to be paid! All the times when we drew resentfully into ourselves and ignored the needs of others had to be atoned for. All of the times when we reviled God’s goodness and power and wallowed in unbelief and self-pity had to be judged. The one to whom we cry out, “Remember me!” is the very one we ourselves pierced.

Yet this Jesus not only promises to remember us and lift up our heads when He comes in His kingdom, but also to be with us every step of our earthly pilgrimage until we receive our glorious inheritance. What mind blowing grace that is! But not only do we ask Jesus to remember us: He also asks us to remember Him.

At the institution of the Lord’s Supper, Jesus said: Do this in remembrance of me” (1 Cor. 11:24-25). Jesus tells us to do this because He knows that it is precisely as we remember Him, and especially as we remember the suffering and His glory, (remembering His death until He comes) that we find help to wait in hope with full assurance of His love and care for us.

Suffering, even ongoing suffering, doesn’t automatically produce endurance, character and hope. There are plenty of people who suffer and are soured by it, becoming bitter and cynical. But as the Holy Spirit works in our hearts, reminding us of the amazing love of God that has been given to us in christ; the same experience that would otherwise make us sour and bitter, gradually makes us sweet and tender instead. We slowly become more compassionate toward others in their weakness, joyful in the midst of our pain and disappointment, and filled with hope that God’s good purposes will bear gracious fruit in and through us.

God ultimately enabled Joseph to recognize that the sins that other people committed against him were under God’s sovereign control and would work for his good, as well as for God’s purpose. May the Spirit instill that confidence in God’s sovereign love and gracious faithfulness in each of our hearts too!

Join us next week as we continue with Joseph’s story in chapter 41 of the book of Genesis.

Blessings to you all.

Last Update: Oct 25, 2021 8:21 am CDT

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