Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Way to Life - Part Nine - The God Who Wounds

Joseph Herrin (10-06-2011)

Note: I am writing this from the hospital. Following a doctor’s appointment Monday, the doctor brought me back into the hospital due to infection around the site of the compound fracture I recently sustained. He needed to cleanse the area and cut away all of the dead skin. Wednesday I was taken back to the operating room and the procedure was repeated again.

The doctor told me that such actions are common for people who have sustained this type of injury. He sounded confident that the area would heal up well, but that infection would have to be guarded against. He mentioned that there is a possibility that a skin graft will be needed at the site of the wound if it does not close up by itself. I appreciate your prayers regarding this matter.

I would also share a note that I received from a brother in Christ who had read the article that mentioned the apostle Paul being shipwrecked three times. This brother accurately pointed out to me that when Paul wrote to the Corinthians about having been shipwrecked three times, he was on his third missionary journey and was residing in Philippi. This was prior to Paul being taken captive as a prisoner and shipped off to Rome. Therefore, Paul actually experienced shipwreck a total of four times in his life.

The God Who Wounds

Hosea 6:1-2
“Come, let us return to Yahweh. For He has torn us, but He will heal us; He has wounded us, but He will bandage us. He will revive us after two days; He will raise us up on the third day that we may live before Him.”

I write these words from a hospital bed. My left leg is wrapped from the knee down to the toes. It is propped up on two pillows in the bed that has become my narrow sphere of activity. I have an IV line in one arm, and my crutches are leaning against the end of the bed should I need to get up. My left leg now bears numerous external scars, and internally has titanium plates and screws attached to the bones.

The question arises, “Was it the Father who wounded me? Was it the Shepherd of my soul that led me to this experience of suffering?” It is hard for many Christians to confess that the Father would inflict experiences of suffering upon anyone, much less His own children. I often hear Christians speak of some injury inflicted upon themselves, or others, with expressions such as “God allowed this to happen,” or “God did not cause this suffering, but He permitted it.”

Why do we have such reticence in stating frankly that God is the One who inflicts injury, or subjects a person, to suffering? The answer, I believe, has much to do with mankind viewing suffering as evil. Logic leads the natural mind to conclude that only an evil being would inflict suffering on another person. It has been my goal in this series of writings to set forth a different view of suffering. Suffering, rather than being evil, is necessary for the development of God’s sons and daughters. The role of suffering in bringing mankind to spiritual maturity is revealed in a number of Scriptures that speak of the suffering of Christ.

Hebrews 2:10
For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings.

Hebrews 5:7-9
In the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him...

The Greek word translated as “perfect” and “perfected” in these verses is “teleios.” It means “To bring to maturity. To make whole, entire, and lacking in nothing.” It is the will of God the Father that He have many sons (both male and female) who will attain to spiritual maturity. Christ was the forerunner. He was perfected through suffering, and this is the manner in which all sons must be brought to that full maturity Yahweh desires for His saints.

Ephesians 4:13
Until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fulness of Christ.

From the time of the fall of man in the Garden of Eden, Yahweh revealed that suffering would play a key role in bringing forth sons in the image and likeness of God. In Yahweh’s words to the woman we find a profound parable revealing suffering’s role in producing sons that are pleasing to God.

Genesis 3:16
To the woman He said, "I will greatly multiply your pain in childbirth. In pain you shall bring forth children; Yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you."

Much has been written and taught about this passage, but few have understood the spiritual parable contained in it. Adam is a type and shadow of the Last Adam, who is Christ.

I Corinthians 15:45-47
So also it is written, "The first man, Adam, became a living soul." The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual.

Eve is also given as a type and shadow of Christ’s bride, the church.

Ephesians 5:31-32
For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.

When God spoke to Eve in the Garden, He was revealing spiritual truth relating to the church. It is Yahweh’s desire that He have many sons in His image. Through the natural experience of the woman He has revealed that these sons can only be produced through experiences of pain. Yahweh, in His infinite wisdom and love, has determined this. Notice that He declared to Eve, “I will greatly multiply your pain in childbirth.” It is Yahweh who is the initiator of this pain.

Despite the suffering and pain associated with natural childbirth, billions of women have survived it and have brought forth offspring. Similarly, the church can only bring forth mature sons through experiences of pain and suffering. The church must accept this suffering as the will of Christ. This is what is indicated in the words:

“Yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”

Christ is the husband to the church. He is Lord, and rightfully must rule over the individual members of the church. In His role as Lord, Yahshua has revealed to all who would follow after Him that they must experience suffering. He has invited men and women to “take up your cross and follow Me.” Despite the fact that Christ would lead men and women into experiences of suffering, there are those whose “desire” is for Christ, and they willingly submit to Him ruling over them.

We previously looked at a Scripture passage where Christ compared the sufferings of His disciples to a woman in the pains of childbirth. This is an apt analogy. Yahweh does everything with great design and purpose. The suffering of the woman in childbirth was given to reveal a profound kingdom truth. Mature (perfected) sons can only be produced through suffering.

I Peter 5:10
And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.

It is appointed to you and I to “suffer for a little while.” Our sufferings may seem terrible and unending, but in God’s sight they are but a moment. Soon they will be forgotten. Christ will wipe away every tear from the eyes of His holy ones, and sorrow and suffering will be no more. The apostle Paul saw these present experiences of suffering from God’s perspective. Paul freely admitted that if this present life were all there is that Christ’s disciples would be among all men the most to be pitied. At the same time, Paul saw beyond these present experiences. Yahweh had given Paul visions of things to come. With the future ages in view Paul wrote:

Romans 8:18-23
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.

Paul continued the analogy of childbirth. He acknowledged the role of pain and suffering in this process. Paul begins this passage by speaking of the “sufferings of this present time,” and he ends by speaking of groaning and suffering.

Quite often when thinking about the “sufferings of Christ” we think only about persecution. I have already touched on this aspect of the sufferings of Christ. In the passage above Paul reveals that the sufferings Yahweh subjects His sons to includes suffering that is common to the entire creation. Sickness and injury are forms of suffering we find everywhere throughout the earth. Yahweh will use these also to bring His people to perfection.

The apostle Paul was given to the body of Christ as an example of a man who was brought to spiritual maturity through suffering. I have previously cited Scriptures where Paul spoke of being stoned, beaten, whipped, chained and imprisoned. Paul also suffered the experience of being shipwrecked. Storms are a natural part of the suffering the creation has been subjected unto. God does not spare His sons and daughters from passing through storms, but He has promised to walk with us through them. Yahweh sustained Paul through repeated shipwrecks.

Paul also experienced another type of natural suffering: sickness. Paul had a severe affliction of his eyes that left him nearly blind. This affliction was evidently something that marred his appearance, for Paul described it as a trial to those who observed him in this state.

Galatians 4:13-15
But you know that it was because of a bodily illness that I preached the gospel to you the first time; and that which was a trial to you in my bodily condition you did not despise or loathe, but you received me as an angel of God, as Christ Yahshua Himself. Where then is that sense of blessing you had? For I bear you witness, that if possible, you would have plucked out your eyes and given them to me.

Did Paul have some loathsome condition, something difficult to look at? I believe it is very possible, for that affliction God sent to Paul was intended to keep him humble. That which keeps us humble is humiliating. Paul had been used of God to heal myriads of people, but he could not heal himself. Three times Paul requested that Yahweh remove this affliction from him, but God would not do so.

II Corinthians 12:7-10
And because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet me - to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I entreated the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

A thorn in the flesh is another way of saying “a bodily affliction.” Yahweh afflicts the bodies of His sons and daughters in many ways. I was born with Osteogenesis Imperfecta, commonly called “Brittle Bone Disease.” I am laid up in a hospital bed at this moment with multiple fractures to my left leg. I experienced my first fracture at the age of seven when I broke my thumb. Soon thereafter I broke my right leg twice, my left leg once, my right elbow twice and my left elbow once, and fractured ribs. All of this occurred by the time I turned 15. In my adult years I broke my right ankle while in my thirties, experiencing a partial tear to the anterior cruciate ligament in the right knee at the same time. I have dislocated my shoulders numerous times, and now I have sustained several fractures to my lower left leg.

Even as a child I understood that it was ultimately God who determined my afflictions. When I was around ten or twelve years old and had just experienced another fracture, I remember asking my Dad why God chose for me to suffer these things. I have learned much about the purpose of suffering in the years since then. I still perceive the hand of God in the things I suffer. I do not merely say that He permits me to suffer. I confess that He causes me to suffer. Yet, I also understand that a God of love will only afflict His children with good intent. There is no evil judgment, or censure of God, when I say that He causes me to suffer.

Some Christians attribute all suffering to Satan. Paul himself spoke of his affliction as being “a messenger of Satan.” The Scriptures reveal that Satan’s access to the Christian is restricted. He can only do that which God grants him permission to do. In the Gospels Christ tells Peter that Satan had demanded permission to sift Peter as wheat (Luke 22:31). Had Christ not granted permission to Satan, he could not have come against Peter. We see the same truth revealed in the book of Job. Satan could only touch Job’s life insofar as Yahweh permitted.

Job 1:12
Then Yahweh said to Satan, "Behold, all that he has is in your power, only do not put forth your hand on him."

Job 2:6
So Yahweh said to Satan, "Behold, he is in your power, only spare his life."

There is a magnificent promise found in the New Testament whereby God assures Christians that their trials and tests will always be measured to them with great care. Yahweh has promised that no child of His will ever face a trial, or temptation greater than their ability to walk victoriously through it. I have often found great consolation in this verse that I memorized in my youth.

I Corinthians 10:13
For no temptation (no trial regarded as enticing to sin), [no matter how it comes or where it leads] has overtaken you and laid hold on you that is not common to man [that is, no temptation or trial has come to you that is beyond human resistance and that is not adjusted and adapted and belonging to human experience, and such as man can bear]. But God is faithful [to His Word and to His compassionate nature], and He [can be trusted] not to let you be tempted and tried and assayed beyond your ability and strength of resistance and power to endure, but with the temptation He will [always] also provide the way out (the means of escape to a landing place), that you may be capable and strong and powerful to bear up under it patiently.
[Amplified Bible]

There are times when it certainly feels like we are being tested beyond our ability to bear. It is at such times that Yahweh stretches us, inducing us to force our roots deeper into the life of Christ, to find a greater place of abiding in Him. We must be pressed to our limits at times that we might grow stronger spiritually. Our Father will never permit us to face any temptation, or experience of suffering, that is greater than our ability to patiently bear it if we will avail ourselves of the grace made freely available to us. When Paul entreated Yahweh to deliver him from the affliction he was suffering, the Father’s answer was “My grace is sufficient for you.” Yahweh’s grace is always sufficient. Nothing can separate us from His love.

There have been times recently when my soul was weary of dealing with bodily affliction. At such times we are tempted to voice some complaint to God. We need to resist the temptation to grumble, murmur, or find fault with what Yahweh chooses for us. Grace is always present to enable us to rest in God and to trust Him in the time of suffering.

I have found it helpful to not allow my mind to dwell on the entirety of the experience before me. It may be months before my body is healed from my present injury. The thought of enduring week after week of bodily affliction can be overwhelming. At such times, the words of Christ prove to be of great value.

Matthew 6:34
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

It is enough to live one day at a time. Yahweh’s grace is sufficient for each day, being perfectly matched to those experiences of suffering He chooses for the perfecting of His sons and daughters.

Before I end this post, a word needs to be shared concerning discerning the various reasons for suffering. There are certainly times when Yahweh will remove an affliction if we ask Him to. There are times when Yahweh would have us to stand against a demonic attack. Additionally, some sickness comes in order to demonstrate the glory of God as He brings supernatural healing. The people of God should always seek to know the Father’s mind concerning those experiences they are passing through. It was well that Paul sought God concerning his affliction. It was also good that Paul accepted the Father’s will when Yahweh revealed the reason for the thorn in his flesh.

It is beyond the scope of this writing to discuss all the reasons afflictions come into the life of a Christian, and to know when the suffering is to be resisted as an attack of the adversary and when it is to be accepted as the will of God. Suffice it to say that the saint should always seek to know the mind and will of the Father. Yahweh has given His Spirit to indwell us that we might know His thoughts, and gain an understanding of His will.

A great deal of suffering comes into the life of the Christian due to their own disobedience. I have suffered much in my life because of sin. I have been slow to subdue the appetites of my flesh. In my body I have suffered ill health due to being overweight and eating things that were not health promoting. The saint should always seek to discern whether his/her experiences of suffering are due to some disobedience in their life. Only by identifying the disobedience can repentance and healing come.

Some have gone too far down this path and have suggested that all sickness and injury is the result of disobedience. Others respond to all sickness and injury as if it were an attack of Satan and they immediately begin rebuking the devil. There are also those who are too complacent in accepting all injury and suffering as being the will of God. In all things we need the mind of Christ. We are called to walk by the Spirit. Let us press in to know His mind regarding the experiences of our lives. We have a loving Father, and He will not leave us without direction.

What the Scriptures do reveal is that Yahweh does afflict His people. He wounds, and He heals. He tears us, and He bandages us. There is an afflicted path that leads to life. Yahweh’s Spirit will guide all faithfully down that path who will yield their lives to follow in the steps of Christ.

II Corinthians 4:17
For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison...

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Joseph Herrin
P.O. Box 804
Montezuma, GA 31063

1 comment:

dc said...

So, that's why you're in the hospital. Healing and Protection to you Joseph.
Thanks for this writing. Suffering builds character. But Love is the greatest! And Love is the "mind of Christ."