Suffering: How do You Minister During the Suffering God Allows? Part 4

This is Part 4 of 4 parts answering the question, “How do You Minister During the Suffering God Allows?” in the larger question, “Why does a loving God allow suffering?”

Minister Through Compassion 

How can you compassionately minister to others while you are suffering yourself? The same way Jesus did – in the power of the Holy Spirit,

18 “The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed; 19 To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.” (Luke 4:18-19 NKJ)

Even the most virtuous human who is experiencing trials cannot, in his own strength, give aid to others who need it. That is only possible with the Divine empowerment of God’s Spirit to exercise mercy and help to others. This is the pattern the psalmists declared in the Old Testament! The Lord has always exercised mercy to those who cried out to Him,

6 This poor man cried out, and the LORD heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles. 7 The angel of the LORD encamps all around those who fear Him, and delivers them. (Ps. 34:6-7 NKJ)

God extends grace and abundance of mercy to His servants,

15 But You, O Lord, are a God full of compassion, and gracious, Longsuffering and abundant in mercy and truth. 16 Oh, turn to me, and have mercy on me! Give Your strength to Your servant, And save the son of Your maidservant. (Ps. 86:15-16 NKJ)

This mercy is amplified even more in the New Testament. Where there was sin, grace abounded much more,

20 Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, 21 so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Rom. 5:20-21 NKJ)

Our merciful, loving Father determined a plan to show His kindness in all things,

4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (Eph 2:4-7 NKJ)

And that kindness came because of the shed blood of Jesus Christ through His death on the cross, “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.” (Eph. 1:7 NKJ)

We see that this is how God wants us to minister, but is it easy, let alone possible? The answer is “not from the human perspective!” It can only be accomplished by Divine intervention and power – and that is exactly what God wants, because He alone will get the glory! He is a God of compassion that wants us to show that same compassion to others,

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,  4 who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. (2 Cor. 1:3-4 NKJ)

Does this apply only when your life is going great? Many are willing to show comfort when they are healthy and it is convenient. But this passage exhorts us to comfort regardless of our own situation! Also, the Beatitudes instruct us to show mercy, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” (Matt. 5:7 NKJ) Often sin interferes with compassion, like resentment, and forgiveness is the next step in obedience for showing compassion. One who understands the forgiveness he has in Christ will find this easy to obey,

33 `Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’ 34 “And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. 35 “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.” (Matt. 18:33-35 NKJ)

How can we truly comfort others? Only when we are empowered by the Holy Spirit. One of the best ways to reflect the glory of God’s mercy and comfort is through suffering. And His results will be clear. 

The Lord’s Results Will Be Clear in Eternity

Ministering to others by showing mercy may not reap great results immediately or even be observable to us on earth, but it does have eternal results in heaven. From the earthly perspective, Christianity was suppressed in China for decades by strong Buddhism and Confucianism influence. However, the arrival of Communism stripped the “religiosity” of those systems of belief by the force of a secular government, leaving a spiritual vacuum for underground Christianity to multiply. Patrick Johnstone in his book Operation World wrote, 

You’ll find that it is precisely in countries that have endured severe suffering that evangelical Christianity is growing at its greatest rates, while growth curves in the indulgent West are nearly flat… Communism actually prepared China for the reception of Christianity by stripping away Buddhist and Confucian presuppositions from the culture. One can imagine people wondering during the dark days of Mao why God allowed the weeds of Communism to grow and devastate the field. God had longer range purposes in view.1

Christians ministered to people, which revealed a love and mercy the secular government could not show and was a trait nonexistent in Chinese religious world views! Do Christians still do this in the United States or other free countries today? Yes, all the time! However, even when liberty exists, people are free to reject Christian ministry, because there is so much secular (human government) help that takes the place of Divine help.

Those of us who live in freedom may not experience the results of true ministry in the midst of suffering, until the Lord allows us to face a situation similar to China’s in our own country.

1Cited in http://www.reasonablefaith.org/why-does-god-permit-suffering-to-continue#ixzz2n6k8lVLr

Discussion Questions:

1) Can you think of modern day examples of people whom you have seen minister to others even while they were going through trials?

2) Can you think of Biblical examples of those who ministered while they suffered?

3) Can you think of further examples in Jesus’ life when He ministered to people, even through He was mistreated or suffered?

4) What do you think of when you hear that the Lord would want you to minister, even while you may be suffering?

5) What passages of Scripture would you use to disciple someone to help them understand the importance of continuing to minister to others even in a time of trial?

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