Robert R. McLaughlin Bible Ministries
The TREE OF LIFE weekly teaching summary from the week ending March 15, 1998
Tree of Life 03/15/98
The Doctrine of Suffering and Solutions.
Tree of Life for 03-15-98
This week our study of Suffering and Solutions has led us to the topic of undeserved suffering. Unlike punitive suffering, undeserved suffering has nothing to do with our own decisions. Therefore, it is completely undeserved and serves solely for the purpose of accelerating our spiritual growth. Though suffering based on our own negative decisions can be turned into blessing and serve as a limited source of spiritual growth, the benefits of undeserved suffering stretch far beyond the benefits of punitive suffering.
God will not bring suffering for blessing in our lives until we are in spiritual adulthood. When we are in spiritual childhood the suffering we encounter is basically due to our own decision making, i.e., the law of volitional responsibility. But once the believer has taken that giant step into spiritual self-esteem (SSE) he now has the ability to handle some undeserved suffering. What an incentive to grow spiritually.
Paul gives us the pattern of the adult believer's spiritual progress in 2Corinthians 12:7- 10. The giant step into SSE makes your personal love for God (motivational virtue) a reality in your life, Mark 11:28-30. At this stage the believer is confident in his relationship with God. This first stage is what Galatians 4:19 notes as "Christ formed in you"(i.e., in your system of thinking). Once in SSE, God ushers in the undeserved suffering known as providential preventative suffering to prevent the believer from becoming arrogant which, if passed, advances the believer into the next stage of spiritual growth, spiritual autonomy (SA). Providential preventative suffering is for the purpose of thwarting the believer from becoming arrogant in his new knowledge of God's word and his new found confidence in his relationship with God. Once the believer has gone through enough providential preventative suffering to tame his actual or would be arrogance, the second stage of spiritual growth is in view.
Spiritual autonomy is characterized not only by an even stronger personal love for God, but also impersonal love for all, which is the believer's functional virtue. Ephesians 3:16-17 notes the believer's SA as "Christ at home in your heart (system of thinking)". Once in SA the believer is rewarded with more undeserved suffering! This is for the purpose of spiritual momentum and is termed momentum testing. When this testing has served its purpose in strengthening the believer to the point of the third and final stage of spiritual growth, spiritual maturity (SM), the high ground, is attained. Philippians 1:20-21 notes SM as "Christ glorified in your body". This is living for Christ! Once the believer's SM is strengthened the believer is then ready for evidence testing, the ultimate in undeserved suffering used to glorify God in the appeal trial of Satan in the angelic conflict! We find a perfect illustration of evidence testing in Job!
SSE = confidence with your relationship with God
SA = confidence in your relationship with others
SM = confidence with your relationship toward Satan in the angelic conflict.
Now then, what exactly advances the believer through these three stages of spiritual growth? The answer is being placed in positions which reveal one's human weakness thereby causing the believer to rely on God's power and grace. Our weaknesses or helplessness reveal to us that we have nothing to do with God's plan, it all depends on God's grace! And, the suffering itself does not advance the believer, it's the utilization of God's power in suffering which advances the believer's spiritual growth! It is the word of God which is alive and powerful, Hebrews 4:12, and it is through the power of God the Holy Spirit that the word of God is made understandable, Acts 1:8. God must be worshiped in Spirit and in Truth, John 4:24. As you become weaker as a member of the human race, you grow stronger as a member of the royal family. Again, it's not what you go through that makes you strong but what you apply in that situation. Divine power plus human weakness equals spiritual advance. It is only when the believer succeeds in passing each stage of testing that he achieves the power of the next stage of spiritual growth. And 1CO 10:13 insures us that God gives the believer the exact and perfect sequence and amount of suffering required at each stage. He never gives the believer more than he can handle! Before God administers suffering for blessing the believer must have the inner strength necessary to endure and profit from the test. So, if you are going through something that you feel is unbearable, it is because you are relying on human power to see you through rather than recognizing your weakness and relying on God's power and grace!
Suffering is inevitable so you might as well handle it and pass it in God's plan. Apart from God's plan there is no reality. A person's attitude toward self affects his entire outlook on life and how he handles undeserved suffering. There will be no spiritual growth for the believer who does not offer himself grace and view himself as God does, perfectly righteous due to his union with Christ! 1Corinthians 5:10 informs us that God has made you who you are and you should love who you are. We should never view ourselves nor others in the flesh, 2Corinthians 5:16, since the flesh, i.e., the things we do from our old sin nature, is spiritually dead according to Ephesians 2:1. Do you actually expect something from that which is dead? No, of course not! Therefore it is your new spiritual nature, the newness of our spiritual life which you are to walk in, Romans 6:4; Ephesians 2:10; 4:24. SSE is having confidence in who God has made you to be and who you are IN CHRIST! In Christ you are a new spiritual species, 2Corinthians 5:17, and that is how God views you. God never sees you in our (dead) flesh! The new spiritual species (NSS) is designed to utilize total availability of the omnipotence of all three members of the Trinity. God the Father who created our portfolio of invisible assets which includes predestination, Ephesians 1:3. God the Son who hold the universe together and perpetuates human history, Hebrews 1:3. And God the Holy Spirit, in whose power we function to execute predestination, Acts 1:8.
SSE claims that though I am flesh I can still be great in God's plan through that which God has provided. Hence, God needs to reveal to us what we are like in our flesh in order to offer to us what we can be in our new nature. Through undeserved suffering God challenges us to rise above our flesh to greatness in the spiritual realm via reliance on God's grace. Human self esteem has a fatal flaw in that man is born spiritually dead, Ephesians 2:1. In spiritual death man is utterly isolated from God and helpless to do anything about it. Most people deceive themselves with intellectual rationalizations or psychological delusions concerning their own importance. The very self man desires to esteem is evil before God and though man may be fooled by one's outward appearance, God is never fooled. Human self esteem is a frail substitute for the confidence which man really needs. The confidence of SSE is based on who and what God is not who and what man is. The believer achieves SSE by faithfully learning and applying Bible doctrine and by advancing step by step within God's plan until he reaches personal love for God. God's objective is to lavish upon us the riches of His grace, Ephesians 1:7-8, but He cannot do so until we give up reliance on self and trust in Him to come through in all areas of our life.
You are not "somebody" because of anything you can do! You are "somebody" because of what God has provided which is based on HIS GRACE. The day you realize this and then live in what God has provided in His grace you arrive at SSE. The basis for SSE is total dependance on God's grace. Your personal love for God precedes SSE and becomes the source of the initial stage of spiritual adulthood. The ultimate pattern for SSE was demonstrated by our Lord's humanity via perfect love directed toward God the Father's perfect righteousness. The believer who truly loves God is willing to go forward in His plan in spite of what suffering it entails. And, it will entail plenty of undeserved suffering. So, not only is complete trust and reliance on God in view, but also patience and endurance. That is where many fall by the wayside, they will only wait so long for God's plan to take effect, if they wait at all.
SSE qualifies the believer for the first stage of undeserved suffering. How do you know when you are at SSE? Well, here are some helpful principles to guide your self evaluation.
14 Characteristics of SSE:
1) SSE is the beginning of the believer's contentment, 2CO 12:10; 1TI 16:6-8; HEB 13:5. And, this contentment is in one's present circumstances no matter how unfavorable!
2) SSE is characterized by mental stability, PHI 4:12-13, which comes from the correct application of B.D.
3) Composure marked by self assurance, JAM 1:22-25, this is when the believer witnesses the efficacy of doctrine applied thereby strengthening his faith.
4) The believer in SSE is grace oriented to life, ROM 6:1. In such, the believer appreciates the extension of God's grace to himself and also extends that grace to others, ROM 12:10.
5) The believer is doctrinally oriented to reality, ROM 12:3; PHI 2:3-4, giving him humility and a relaxed mental attitude.
6) Good decisions are made from a position of strength, EPH 6:10; PHI 2:2; COL 1:11. That strength being, residence in the pre-designed plan of God.
7) SSE is marked by the beginning of personal control of one's life, COL 2:7; HEB 12:2-3. This is accomplished by the believer's focus on God rather than people.
8) The use of SSE as a problem solving device is also in view, 2TI 1:7. In such, the believer allows the PSD to effectively work against disturbances and problems of personal destiny and uncertainty of one's niche in life. Here the believer views difficulties as opportunities to apply doctrine, 2TI 2:3-4.
9) SSE is the beginning of a personal sense of destiny.
10) It is the believer's perception, metabolization, and application increased, ROM 12:2.
11) The believer has command of self, PRO 19:11; 1CO 14:33; 2TI 2:10, thereby fulfilling the responsibilities he has as a person and a believer, always edifying with one's mouth, never tearing down, EPH 4:28-29.
12) In SSE the believer has a new attitude toward life, JOH 15:10-17. This is a dynamic viewpoint from personal love for God and living for Christ!
13) Hence, the believer is qualified for providential preventative suffering, 1PE 4:12-16.
14) SSE is the attainment of the first phase of the unique spiritual life, ROM 8:10. And of course there are two parts this unique spiritual life, that which is experiential, 2Co 12 (including undeserved suffering), and that which is non-experiential and therefore requires faith on our part, e.g., the indwelling of the Trinity in our bodies.
The experiential part of the Christian life is the glorification of Christ in the body of the believer at SM, Ephesians 5:1; 1CO 6:20. Note that though Christ lives in the body of every believer not every believer brings glory to God. A distinction must therefore be made between the permanent, unchanging, unfelt indwelling of Christ as the Shekinah glory and the Christian experience of Christ being glorified in one's body at SM, Philippians 1:20-21. A distinction must also be made between the permanent (unfelt) indwelling of God the Holy Spirit and His invisible, behind-the-scenes function in predestination through which He glorifies Christ in our bodies, John 16:13-14. The believer in SSE understands enough doctrine to think independently of others. He has the courage to apply doctrine rather than allowing himself to be erroneously led by others.
Our decisions in life will either be led by our doctrinal convictions or by the influence of others upon our emotions. In SSE the believer does not feel threatened by others and so refuses to be manipulated by guilt, fear, or emotion. In SSE the believer does not crave the approval of people nor overreact to their indifference, disapprovals, nor rejections. In SSE the believer can begin to enjoy happiness and tranquility of mind even when suffering for blessing knowing he belongs to the winning plan! In such a stage of spiritual growth God is now able to bring in some interesting undeserved suffering to prevent you from becoming arrogant and thereby accelerate your spiritual growth. And again, undeserved suffering has nothing to do with your decisions, but is completely undeserved. It will involve a situation where you are unjustly wronged yet you handle it magnificently, not becoming bitter, keeping your mouth shut, and leaving it in God's hands. Otherwise you fail and will only have to go through some form of undeserved suffering again.
For more information on undeserved suffering get this week's tapes:0190-221 through 226.
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