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With Jesus in the School of Suffering

Notes & Transcripts

March 29, 2012

By: John Barnett

Read, print or listen to this resource on www.DiscoverTheBook.org

Please join me in Psalm 119 and look over God’s curriculum in “The School of Suffering”, where our Lord shares with us what He expects from each of us as we go through all the various painful forms of suffering, afflictions, trails, and troubles.

The longest chapter in the Bible is the summary of the entire Old Testament written by Ezra after he had copied all of the chapters of the Old Testament into what we would call Biblical Hebrew, In fact, the famous Dead Sea Scrolls would be copies of the scrolls that Ezra hand wrote as the founder of the Biblical Scribes.

When Ezra was inspired by God to write the 119th Psalm, God used him to give us the most complete explanation of how God uses suffering as a classroom to teach us lessons in His Great Faithfulness that can never be learned anywhere else.

As we open to Psalm 119:75 we see the middle of seven lessons God wants us to learn as we go through all the troubles, trials, afflictions and pains that life may bring.

Now please stand and listen to Christ's truth that gives perspective on every affliction we’ll ever face:

Psalm 119:75- "I know, O LORD, that Your judgments are right (You don’t ever change), and that in faithfulness You have afflicted me."

How God wants to use Affliction in our lives Today

Whether or not we ever face an Islamic Jihadist deadly stare, we will face cancer, heart disease, job loss, and social strife. So God wants us to use the same principles that will keep us then, to keep us NOW! In short, we need to get a grip on a Biblical Theology of Suffering. One place to find that theology of suffering is in the longest chapter of the Bible: Psalm 119.

The writer I believe God used for this longest Psalm was Ezra, and in seven verses he captures a complete set of principles God operates with when regulating the flow of hard times through our lives. If you turn there and jot these 7 down, it will help you prepare for hard times today and for all of your tomorrows, whatever may come.

First, look at the lesson plan for the entire course. In each of these seven verses is a lesson on how AFFLICTION is used by God, because it –

1. PUSHES US INTO GOD’S WORD: Psalm 119:50 This is my comfort in my affliction, For Your word has given me life.

2. PULLS US BACK ONTO THE PATH: Psalm 119:67 Before I was afflicted I went astray, But now I keep Your word.

3. CHISELS GOD’S PLAN INTO OUR LIFE: Psalm 119:71 It is good for me that I have been afflicted, That I may learn Your statutes

4. TEACHES US THAT GOD IS FAITHFUL: Psalm 119:75 I know, O LORD, that Your judgments are right, And that in faithfulness You have afflicted me.

5. KEEPS US FOCUSED ON OUR TEACHER: Psalm 119:92 Unless Your law had been my delight, I would then have perished in my affliction.

6. FORCES US TO TEST HIS PROMISES: Psalm 119:107 I am afflicted very much; Revive me, O LORD, according to Your word.

7. BRINGS GOD TO OUR DOORSTEP: Psalm 119:153 Consider my affliction and deliver me, For I do not forget Your law.

Here are the godly benefits of suffering and enduring persecution and affliction by God’s grace. Affliction can be used by God when it--

What Qualifies as An Affliction?

To get started in our lessons on affliction, we will first trace the word “affliction” through the 119th Psalm. The English word “affliction” is translated from two different Hebrew words:

• the first, onee (Strong’s #6040), portrays an emotional affliction of being in a state of misery;

• the second word, anah (Strong’s #6031), portrays a physical affliction of being bowed down or squashed beneath a physical load.

Distinguishing those differences makes the following seven verses sound more powerful: (Emphasis added in the verses below.)

1. Psalm 119:50: This is my comfort in my affliction [#6040—emotional], for Your word [#565—reading the divine Word to obtain the will of God] has given me life.

2. Psalm 119:67: Before I was afflicted [#6031—physical] I went astray, but now I keep Your word [#565—reading the divine Word to obtain the will of God].

3. Psalm 119:71: It is good for me that I have been afflicted [#6031—physical], that I may learn Your statutes [#2706—using the divine plans, or specifications, to build the ultimate life].

4. Psalm 119:75: I know, O LORD, that Your judgments [#4941—building life upon the divine decisions—judgments that are always true and vindicate] are right, and that in faithfulness You have afflicted [#6031—physical] me.

5. Psalm 119:92: Unless Your law [#8451—receiving the divine instructions from the Ultimate Teacher who gives perfect instructions that restore and transform] had been my delight, I would then have perished in my affliction [#6040—emotional].

6. Psalm 119:107: I am afflicted [#6031—physical] very much [all kinds of physical afflictions]; revive me, O LORD, according to Your word [#1697—hearing the Divine Voice walking us all the way through life].

7. Psalm 119:153: Consider my affliction [#6040—emotional] and deliver me, for I do not forget Your law [#8451—receiving the divine instructions from the Ultimate Teacher who gives perfect instructions that restore and transform].

Have you ever asked yourself: What qualifies in God’s eyes as an affliction? Do you know how to find an answer to such questions? Simply trace a topic as it unfolds in the Scriptures from its first occurrence onward.

For example, to find where “affliction” occurs in the Scriptures, you can look the word up in a Bible study tool such as Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible and then read each reference in your Bible, along with any surrounding verses that affect its context.

When I did this with the word “affliction,” I found thirty-seven occurrences in the Old Testament, and takes at least seven forms, as follows. (Emphasis added to the verses below.)

• In Genesis 16 God says, ill treatment by others qualifies as an affliction.

• In Genesis 29 God says a lack of love qualifies as an affliction.

• In Genesis 31 God says, lost wages and broken promises qualify as an affliction.

• In Genesis 41 God says, hatred, jealousy, and betrayal qualify as an affliction.

• In Exodus 3 God says, underpayment and overwork qualifies as an affliction.

• In I Samuel 1 God says, the inability to have children qualifies as an affliction.

• In II Samuel 16 God says, unkind words, slander, accusations, and insults qualify as an affliction.

If you are struggling emotionally or physically right now, stop and reflect upon the lives of these Old Testament saints and what they faced: hatred, jealousy, and betrayal; a bad job situation; family disharmony; infertility; and verbal insults, accusations, and unkind words.

Now look with me at each of these situations God gives us as lessons, and by His grace, let’s learn a lesson from each.

1. Ill treatment by others qualifies as an affliction: … The Angel of the LORD said to [Hagar]: “Behold, you are with child, and you shall bear a son. You shall call his name Ishmael, because the LORD has heard your affliction” (Genesis 16:11).

In God’s sight, being ill treated by jealous and vengeful bosses is an affliction. Hagar’s boss—her mistress, Abram’s wife Sarai—was jealous when Hagar became with child by Abram, and Sarai held Hagar in contempt. But God said, “I am the God who sees your affliction, Hagar, and it is not right for Sarai to mistreat you this way, so I will bless you.”

If you are mistreated by someone who has authority over you and it is making life hard at home, at work, or at school, God says, “I want you to learn from Me in that situation; I know about it and will work good for you through it.” (See Romans 8:28.)

2. Lack of love qualifies as an affliction: … Leah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Reuben; for she said, “The LORD has surely looked on my affliction. Now therefore, my husband will love me” (Genesis 29:32).

God considered Jacob’s lack of love for Leah to be her affliction. After Jacob labored for seven years to earn Laban’s permission to marry Rachel, the pretty and well-favored daughter, he was tricked by Laban who gave him Leah instead—the older and less-favored daughter. Jacob never wanted Leah as his wife, so when he had to work another seven years to marry the one whom he really loved, that carried over into the marriage.

Just as it wasn’t right for Hagar to be mistreated by her mistress, it wasn’t right for Leah to be unloved by her husband. God said, “I see your affliction, Leah. Your husband should love and cleave to you, and I want you to know I care about your suffering.” Can you relate to that? Do you have a lack of love in some relationship? Are you experiencing an undeserved lack of love simply because of not being liked? That’s an affliction, and God wants to teach you some great things through suffering.

3. Lost wages and broken promises qualify as an affliction: … Jacob was angry and rebuked Laban, and Jacob answered and said to Laban: “What is my trespass? What is my sin, that you have so hotly pursued me? … Thus I have been in your house twenty years; I served you fourteen years for your two daughters, and six years for your flock, and you have changed my wages ten times. Unless the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, had been with me, surely now you would have sent me away empty-handed. God has seen my affliction and the labor of my hands, and rebuked you last night” (Genesis 31:36, 41-42).

God viewed Jacob’s lost wages and Laban’s broken promises to him as an affliction. A modern-day example of such a trial is the plight of many American workers who suffer because of the downsizing of the large companies to which they’d given the best years of their lives. In an effort to save money, the oldest employees are let go first so the companies don’t have to pay retirement benefits.

God says to those enduring such a hardship, “I know about your lost wages and the company’s broken promises, and I intend to work out My perfect plan for your life through that affliction.” Your job situation is part of the afflictions God promises to use for your good—no matter how it may look at the time.

4. Hatred, jealousy, and betrayal qualify as an affliction: … The name of the second he called Ephraim: “For God has caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction” (Genesis 41:52).

The hatred, jealousy, and betrayal Joseph suffered at the hands of his family and employers, plus the neglect and broken promises of his friends, was seen by God as “affliction” (Psalm 105:17-19). Yet, his trials were not removed for a long time; instead, the Lord worked behind the scenes to make Joseph fruitful in the midst of it all. After Joseph’s character had been thoroughly proven, so he had unshakable confidence in the Lord, He took him from rags to riches by making him second in command in all of Egypt. Then God used him to save His people, Israel!

What is the lesson from Joseph’s life? If you are experiencing any suffering, God says to you, “I am aware of every situation, but you need to go through the furnace of affliction to become more fruitful for Me. Do you remember when Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego were thrown into the fiery furnace because they refused to worship King Nebuchadnezzar’s golden image? (See Daniel 3) The fire was so strong it burned up the soldiers who threw them in!

But the only thing God allowed to burn on the three Hebrews was the ropes binding their hands and feet. Then they were set free to walk with God in that fiery furnace! And He will walk with you through your own afflictions.

5. Underpayment and overwork qualifies as an affliction: … The LORD said: “I have surely seen the oppression [affliction] of My people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows” (Exodus 3:7).

The word “oppression” means “affliction.” The underpayment and overwork of the Hebrews by unkind and evil masters was an affliction, and happens all the time to American workers. Many are underpaid and practically kill themselves overworking just to make ends meet.

But God says, “I see that affliction of yours, but instead of fighting, I want to strengthen and teach you some valuable lessons as you go through it.”

6. The inability to have children qualifies as an affliction: … [Hannah] was in bitterness of soul, and prayed to the LORD and wept in anguish [affliction] (1 Samuel 1:10).

Anguish is “affliction”—a squashing—which is the depth of emotion Hannah displayed as she wept. Her inability to have children caused her great suffering, but the cruelty of her “fellow wife” and the insensitivity to Hannah’s pain compounded the problem.

Are there things you are unable to do and have no control over it? Perhaps you have limitations or inabilities for which people afflict you and give you pain. God says to you, “I know all about your struggles; I am not blind to them, and through your furnace of affliction I am going to teach you something valuable you can never learn any other way.” That is always the lesson of affliction.

7. Unkind words, slander, accusations, and insults qualify as an affliction: “It may be that the LORD will look on my affliction, and that the LORD will repay me with good for his cursing this day” (2 Samuel 16:12).

This was a real low point in David’s life. His adversary, Shimei, hurled unkind words, slander, accusations, and insults at him when David’s son, Absalom, won the heart of the people and ran his father out of town. On top of that, Shimei, a descendant of King Saul, screamed venomous words and cursed David, and threw dirt and kicked rocks at him.

But David responded well in spite of his heartache, “Maybe You, oh Lord, will repay me with good for the cursings I’ve endured today. I want to walk with You through this fiery furnace of affliction so You can burn away anything from my life keeping me from serving You more fully.” This is the attitude God wants to see in us as well.

Learning Personal Lessons in Christ's School of Afflictions

What do you sense is the most important lesson the Ultimate Teacher wants you to personally learn from these seven beautiful portraits of affliction?

If you are struggling emotionally or physically right now, stop and reflect upon the lives of these Old Testament saints and what they faced: hatred, jealousy, and betrayal; a bad job situation; family disharmony; infertility; and verbal insults, accusations, and unkind words.

How did they survive such afflictions? They turned to God and His Word and found comfort, strength, and deliverance in His perfect timing.

So instead of opting to escape afflictions through distractions, or getting even with those who are mistreating you, pray:

• “Oh Lord, my Divine Teacher, what do You want me to learn in this situation?

• Is there anything keeping me from walking more closely with You?

If so, reveal what it is and then remove it. As I go through this furnace of affliction, teach me to find comfort through Your Word and to follow Your will for my life.”

Now we need to stop and choose the personal application of these truths for our lives.

Remember Jeremiah’s hard life, and the conclusion he came to that gave him fresh, daily hope and a new start in every low point of life? It is in Lamentation 3:22-24.

Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed,

Because His compassions fail not.

23 They are new every morning;

Great is Your faithfulness.

24 “ The LORD is my portion,” says my soul,

“ Therefore I hope in Him!”

In our darkest hour, deepest pain, hardest times, most hopeless situations—Someone is CLOSER at those moments than any other time.

Let’s use our hymnbooks to see this lesson.

In 1917 a 51 year old pastor had to leave the ministry for health reasons. Life was hard, jobs were so scarce he supported his family selling door-to-door in Kentucky. But he did so humming these words as his plan for facing physical and emotional afflictions (#372 Living for Jesus).

And what was the result just 6 years later? Thomas Chisholm wrote out his findings in the way of a song: #43 Great is Thy Faithfulness.

Why not sing that song with me tonight and sing it in your heart each time emotional and physical adversities come your way?

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