Knowing God through Suffering - John J. Murray

Yesterday in our worship services I read this excerpt from John J. Murray on suffering. Many preachers today teach a false gospel of prosperity and lack of suffering when in reality the Christian life is a call to suffering (1 Peter 2:20-21). That should not discourage us, but rather encourage knowing that through suffering we are made more like Christ! In our suffering, the Holy Spirit works to show God's love for us.

"Sufferings teach us lessons that we cannot learn in college. We may have been to college or seminary and have a string of letters after our name; we may have read all the great classics in theology and be able to argue on the finer points of divinity; and yet our knowledge be largely theoretical. It is one thing to know about God; it is another thing to know God. The essence of eternal life is "that they may know thee the one true God" (John 17:3). Paul's ambition was "that I may know him" (Philippians 3:10).

Many Christians can testify that they have learned more about God in the furnace of affliction than in all their previous experiences. Job is a classic example. The Lord said of him, "There is none like him on earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil" (Job1:8), so God put on display one of the trophies of his grace. Satan is given leave to afflict Job. The real question is: What kind of a person is Job? Does he fear God for nothing? (Job 1:9). Is his religion only one of self-interest? Ignorant of the battle going on in the heavenly realms, Job has many questions to ask. The interesting thing is that he does not get specific answers. What he gets is a revelation of God which at length brings him to confess, "I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear but now my eyes sees thee. Therefore I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes" (Job 42:5-6)

There are areas of the Word of God that we cannot comprehend until we have experienced suffering. For thirty years of my Christian life I neither understood nor was particularly drawn to the book of Job. Along with a particular time of suffering came the help to understanding it. Martin Luther had a similar testimony: "Affliction is the Christians' theologian;" "I never knew the meaning of God's Word until I came into affliction;" "My temptations have been my masters in divinity;" No man, without trials and temptations, can attain a true understanding of the Holy Scriptures."

Murray, John J. Behind a Frowning Providence, (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 1990, reprinted 2005), 17-18

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