By Fred O. Blakely
It is disgusting to hear breezy, but superficial, preachers proclaiming abundance of everything and freedom from all sickness and pain for all who have enough faith in God. Such a message has a compelling appeal to the flesh and the carnal mind, and today ensnares many. It represents, however, “a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Prov. 14:12). The expectation of utopian existence in the flesh produced by this kind of doctrine cannot but result in acute disappointment and frustration in the faith life, which can ensue in actually making shipwreck of the faith itself.
It is a gross fallacy to assert or imply that all suffering is caused by personal sin. It is true that in a given case, this may be so; but it would take a person endued with special revelation from God to identify that case. Lacking such enduement, we should refrain from assuming it. Actually, the exact opposite of the charge of sin has been demonstrated to be the true situation in renowned instances of affliction.
The experience of Job is the classic example of this. His calamitous miseries did not come upon him for anything wrong that he had done. In fact, he is presented to us be Scripture as “perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil” (Job 1:1). Yet it pleased the Lord to permit Satan to bruise him severely.
Because he was sinful? No! It was rather to demonstrate in the Patriarch the complete sufficiency of Divine grace, and so to glorify God. It was the same with the blind man whose sight Jesus restored, recorded in John 9:1-7. The inquisitive disciples asked the Lord, “Who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind” (v. 2). That was the dogma of affliction-because-of-sin raising its presumptuous head. Christ crushed it with His unequivocal answer: “Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him” (v. 3).
It must be recognized that suffering---in whatever way God may choose for us---is the normal, not the abnormal, lot of His saints. We are expressly told that we have been “called” and appointed thereunto (I Pet. 2:21; cf. Acts 14:22; I Th. 3:3; II Tim. 2:11-12). Our Lord Himself was made perfect by “the things which He suffered” (Heb. 5:8-10), and we are to be perfected in the same way. It is written, “He that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin” (I Pet. 4:1). In view of the good purpose served by our suffering “according to the will of God” (I Pet. 4:19), we should be able to say with Paul, “Most gladly will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (II Cor. 12:7-10).
“There is something about suffering of any kind that brings the world and the flesh into its proper perspective. Suffering makes us understand things as they really are. By suffering we see the worthlessness of all the passing vanities of earth, and by it we are weaned away from the vain deceits that concern a purely physical world. Suffering thus tends to cause us to be done with the transient affairs of this present age and inspires us to anchor all our hopes ‘within the veil, whither the Forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus . . .” (Heb. 6:19-20).”