– Harry Emerson Fosdick
Keeps Us Humble
Paul suffered like no one else in the Bible with the exception of Jesus, Who suffered more than any person in human history. But God allowed a “messenger of Satan” to harass Paul. Why? “To keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.” (2 Cor. 12:7), or to keep Paul humble. Suffering will do that to a person. Can’t you find it hard to imagine someone being puffed up when they are living with suffering?
Leads Some to Repentance
Paul wrote that “godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death” (2 Cor. 12:7). Paul told the church at Corinth that he rejoiced but “not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us” (2 Cor. 12:9). I have had a few experiences where a person was dying, and in their last few days, they feared not knowing where they would end up, which left the door wide open for me to share the Gospel. Sometimes I pray for the lost, that “God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim. 2:25). At other times I have known people who were in such big trouble that they were desperate and came to faith because their suffering brought them to an end of themselves. I try not to solve all the problems of the unsaved because I don’t want to get between the rock and the Hammer (God and His working on them).
Tested by Fire
Peter knew a lot about suffering, which might be why he wrote in his first letter that “if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1:6-7). The suffering by fire that we go through in our being tested makes our faith more precious than gold, and when Jesus appears, it might hopefully be found to be a cause of “praise and glory and honor” and reveals our true character at Christ’s return.
Preparation for Glory
Finally, Paul says, “Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day…this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Cor. 4:16-18), which means that even though our bodies are decaying, it’s but for a moment compared to eternity, and this affliction is preparing us for “an eternal weight of glory beyond comparison,” which is what Paul also says in Romans 8:18, that “the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”
Our character is tested to make sure we remain humble; to lead us to repentance; to be refined by fire, making us like gold in the fire–more precious; and to prepare us for an amazing eternity that cannot even be compared to what we are going through today.