sermon: The Healing of a Man Born Blind (Part One)
Why Do We Suffer?
Martin G. Collins
Given 25-May-13; Sermon #1160; 70 minutes
Martin Collins, expounding on the miracle of the healing of the man born blind, suggests that the physical impairments, including blindness, have spiritual counterparts. Jesus Christ represents the coming of light into the world, a metaphorical representation of truth and righteousness, a light which was rejected by His own people, but welcomed by the Gentiles. Man cannot frustrate God; He accomplished His will in spite of the hatred from the misguided religious leaders. Jesus performed His ministry in absolute calm and self-control. If we make God's purposes our purposes, we too will not become frustrated. Ironically, the blind man who could not see physically eventually sees spiritually, but the Pharisees, who could see physically, could not see spiritually. The blind man could not seek or find the Savior; this describes the state of most of the world's inhabitants. Jesus must make the first move. We all suffer pain and eventually experience death. We have the responsibility to view our trials as for our good, as Job was able to eventually see God in his chastening. There are no pat answers for the problem of human suffering; it is not always the result of sin. Sometimes trials occur in order to lead to God's glorification. We should exercise caution that we do not judge a person undergoing a trial. Trials are sometimes designed for course correction and constructive, spiritual growth. Some suffering occurs for the purpose of bringing glory to God. The miracle of the healing of the man born blind also focuses on the necessity to do the work of God while we have the fleeting time and opportunity.
The gospels like elsewhere in the Bible frequently use the words blindness, deafness, eye and ear in a figurative sense conveying more than the activity of the bodies sense organs. God has made known through words and deeds that to see and hear God's revelation fully requires not only physical sensation but spiritual sensitivity. It requires a personal response of understanding and commitment, therefore biblically blindness and deafness can describe the inability to comprehend the spiritual truth inherent within material sights or words, this condition represents hardness of heart and maybe due to religious or moral impairment or due to God's intention and purpose.
The solution and hope of an end to affliction and suffering, to spiritual blindness is the true light, and we know that the true light is Jesus Christ.
John 1:4-12 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men, And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. [John the baptizer] This man came from a witness, to bear witness of the light, that all through him might believe. He was not that light, but was sent to bear witness of that light. That was the true light which gives light to every man who comes into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him [The verses in the opening chapter of John's gospel, provide an outline for the first twelve chapters of the book. These verses speak of the coming of the light into the world and say of that light]. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.
Verses 11 and 12, are two crucial verses having to do with the outline for the first 12 chapters of the book.
The coming of the light fitly describes the content of the first four chapters of John's gospel, that He came to His own describes the content of the next four chapters. Chapters 9-12 deal with as many as received Him, because in these chapters we see that the emphasis is on Jesus calling out of a people of His own. In the midst of and in spite of growing hostility from the authorities of Judaism.
Previous to chapter nine of the gospel of John, Christ was being rejected by His own people, while beginning in chapter 9, Christ is still being rejected by His people but begins to call out a new people. This is first exemplified by the story of Jesus healing and call of the man who had been born blind. That is what John 9, is about.
John 9:1-5 Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him. I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day. The night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
The contrast between these two sections, section two composed of chapter 5-8, and section three chapters 9-12… Maybe pointed out in another way also. In chapters 8-9, there is an “I Am” saying of Jesus that is repeated twice, once in each chapter. The saying is the same—“I am the light of the world.” The contexts are different; this is illustrative of the difference between the two sections. In John 8, Jesus is saying in the twelfth verse, just after He had dealt with the accusers of the women who had been taken in adultery.
It refers to the effect of His testimony upon these men; they had come to Jesus after having just trapped the poor woman.
John 8:5 “Now Moses, In the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say? “
They were not interested in the law whatsoever, but they were using it. They were only figuring that if Jesus consented to the requirement of the law and had the woman stoned, then they could ridicule Him as the one who invited sinners to come to Him, but then instead dealt harshly with them.
On the other hand, they reasoned that if He overlooked the law and gave a judgment of mercy, then they could say, “What kind of a prophet is this to advise us of laying aside the law of Moses?” Jesus dealt with these men by suggesting the one who is sinless should cast the first stone.
At this point as the light of His righteousness shown upon them, the accusers began to slip away, one by one. Beginning with the eldest, at last Jesus being left alone in the midst of the crowd with the woman spoke His saying. What did He mean on this occasion? He said, “I am the light of the world.” To answer this question, we need only to think of the effect of light on something that has been shielded from the light for a long time.
We will use an example that we are all familiar with or at least can picture. Imagine a board out in a field, turn it over and immediately all the bugs and other slimy things begin to slither away into the dark areas. This is what happened when Jesus spoke to theses leaders. Jesus turned over a board and away went those Pharisees. They could not stand before the light, and they hated Jesus for it. It is not surprising, therefore, that the chapter ends with an attempt to stone Jesus.
On the other hand, light also has another and entirely different effect upon some things that are exposed to it. Take the ground that was covered over by the board. When the board is first turned over, the bugs run for cover, but leave the board off that patch of ground for a while and soon the same sun that made the bugs run for cover, will begin to make the seeds in the ground grow.
In a short time that patch of earth will be covered with grass, flowers, or weeds; and just like the growth of the field that surrounds it, this latter effect gives us the meaning of Christ’s second, “I am the light of the world.”
In chapter 8, the light made the creatures of darkness run and in chapter 9, the light begins to call forth light and produce growth; and those whom God has planted faith, in this sense, John 9, is the story of the sovereign and electing grace of God and salvation.
Notice the difference between chapters 8 and 9 and also between sections two and three in this matter. In John 8, we behold Christ as the light exposing the darkness, but in John 9, He communicates sight. In John 8, the light is despised and rejected, in John 9, He is received and worshiped. In John 8, the Jews are seen stooping over to pick up stones, In John 9, Christ is seen stooping down to make anointing clay.
In John 8, Christ hides Himself from the Jews, In John 9, He reveals Himself to the blind beggar. In John 8:37, we see a group in whom the word has no place. In John 9:7, we see one man who responds promptly to the word. And in John 8:48, Christ, inside the temple, is called the demoniac and believed to be evil. In John 9:36, outside the temple, He is called Lord and believed worthy of worship.
We see the contrasts that is being shown here, between those two chapters; they are direct opposites, but both are related to Christ being the light of the world.
The central truth in John 8 is the light testing human responsibility. In John 9, the central truth is God acting in sovereign grace after human responsibility has failed. The Jews certainly failed as being the first to have the truth being preached to them.
This contrast between these two chapters shows that the first lesson to be learned from chapter 9 about the miracle of the healing of the man born blind is that man cannot frustrate God; man's hatred cannot frustrate, man's sin cannot frustrate Him; rather, God accomplishes His purposes sovereignly, saving by grace those whom He chooses to call to Himself.
The fact that man's hatred cannot frustrate God is seen clearly from the story in particularly, from the fact that Jesus was not disturbed by the action of the religious leaders. In their attempt to stone Him, it did not faze Him. The stoning attempt was a serious incident to say the least, and it would have created great turmoil in the temple precincts had it been carried out.
Nevertheless, a moment later, after Jesus had removed Himself probably a little more than a good stone throws away, we find Him stopping to fix His eyes on the blind beggar who had been sitting near the temple gate.
Most of us in a similar situation would scarcely have looked at the beggar; we would probably be looking over our shoulder to see if we were being pursued, and we would be trying to put an even greater distance between ourselves and our enemies. But not Jesus. No doubt He felt the contradiction of sinners against Him even wept over Jerusalem at one point in His ministry, but it did not disturb Him where His work was concerned, so we find Him calm, having self-control, and acting with a profound disregard of His enemies and their hatred.
Jesus was not deterred from His work either, which we might well have been had we been in His place. He was the light of the world, nevertheless He had just been rejected. Jesus had God's point of view and did the will of His Father, still it was God who was acting and therefore Christ simply persevered in His work and began to elect some people to salvation.
The apostle Paul tell us in Romans 9:15 (speaking of Jesus Christ):
Romans 9:15 For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.”
This verse tells us about the God whom we serve, and we should know that nothing discourages Him. Our God sees the end from the beginning and is not frustrated, therefore nothing defeats or will ever defeat His purpose. Jesus said, “I will build My church.” And this is His purpose in this age, and He is building it. Therefore, all who are given to Jesus Christ by the Father will come to Him.
We can draw an important conclusion at this point, and it is this: If God purpose cannot be frustrated—and it cannot be—then if we make God purposes our purposes; we will not be frustrated or discouraged either. Yet we are at times, so it is obviously an area of neglect in our lives.
Do you find life frustrating? Does it get you down? Every one of us can say that it does at times. If so, make God's purposes your own and you will find that frustration will disappear and life will have purpose. If you are working for God, then you will bear good fruit and the Father and Son will be glorified.
We have seen the hatred of men cannot frustrate God, and we also need to see that the state of the lost cannot frustrate God.
Matthew 18:11 For the Son of man has come to save that which was lost.
Once again this is made clear by the healing of the man born blind. Think for a moment of this poor blind man and think of all that he symbolizes. He symbolizes a state of the loss apart from creative and transforming power of Jesus Christ.
On the one hand we have rulers of the people, the Pharisees, who can see physically but are spiritually blind. On the other hand there is the blind man; he cannot see physically, but Christ makes him see both physically and spiritually, and by the end of the story we find him worshiping Jesus as the Son of God and the Lord.
So what is the condition of this man? First he cannot see. This means that he cannot see Jesus; this represents the spiritual state of the lost today. Jesus preached, but they cannot see Him. The gospel is explained, but they cannot understand it.
I Corinthians 2:14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God. For they are foolishness to him. Nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
Second, because the man who had been born blind was unable to see, it was also true that he could not seek Jesus. Usually it is not easy for a blind man to seek after anything; in spiritual terms this means that a spiritually blind man is unable to seek God as the apostle Paul explains.
Speaking of the world, the unconverted and the lost:
Romans 3:11 There is none who understands, there is none who seeks after God.
Third, if the blind man was unable to seek Jesus, it is also true that he was unable to find Him. Also since he was a beggar, it is obvious that he was unable to hire someone else to seek Christ and find Him. What a disadvantage condition: unable to see, seek, or find the Savior, and unable to procure help to finding Him. So it is a sad state, but because of the
massive number of people in this lost condition, it is extra sad in that it describes the spiritually lost condition of all unbelievers, billions of people in this world today.
Have you ever noticed that all the miracles of healing in John's gospel illustrate the truths of this story? Each one shows man to be spiritually helpless, but each also shows the grace of God triumphantly.
The first miracle that John speaks of is the healing of the impotent man recorded in John 5. John included this healing to make the point that the man was unable to make the first move toward Jesus, neither could we before our calling. In order for us to be saved, Jesus must make the first move toward us and even give us strength to respond to Him.
The story of the man born blind is saying the same thing in other ways, making the point that sinful people cannot see God's truth, but again Jesus makes the first step by restoring spiritual sight.
Finally, a few chapters further on we come upon the case of Lazarus who had been dead four days before Christ came to him. He was utterly lost, and Lazarus could not even call out to Jesus to say, “Master, help me.” He was dead. But Jesus called him, “Lazarus, come forth,” and the call of the Lord of life gave life to Lazarus. Jesus Christ, the light, brought Lazarus out of darkness.
This is the truth of God concerning the hopeless condition of the lost and the power of God to save people as He wills to save. God's purpose is not frustrated by either the hatred of men or the sin of the lost. He has a specific purpose and time line plan that is being worked out.
Think of what Christ did for the blind man; the story tells us that he saw him, He took notice of him. The blind man could not see Jesus, but Jesus saw the blind man and that was the important thing to begin with.
When He saw him, He saw him as a man who needed His help. Jesus alone saw him in this way. The disciples looked at the man and saw him as a sinner, and they asked “who sinned, this man or his parents?” The passer by looked at him as a beggar. “Is he not the man who sat and begged?” The Pharisees saw him as a tool because they wanted to maneuver him to trap Jesus. Jesus saw him as a man who needed help, and he saved him or began the process in saving him.
In addition, Jesus just took him in when all others had cast him out and his family had cast him out. His neighbors had no use for him; even the religious leaders rejected him. Eventually, because of the excommunication, the nation had no room for him either. No family, no friends, no Rabbi, no nation. Who was left? Only Jesus Christ.
It was Jesus who sought him out and received him when no one else would receive him, and even rejoiced in his healing. Why do we suffer? Remember what John 9:2-3 said,
John 9:2-3 And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.”
At some time or another every human being must experience suffering, affliction, or something of that sort. A baby causes pain by being born, many live because of the pain of others, and we all suffer pain and eventually experience death. It is a fact of life; it is designed into it purposely.
Believers who are alive when Christ returns to this earth will be transformed in a moment, but with this exception, the lot of all is to suffer and die because of sin because all have sinned. Eliphaz had spoken truthfully to Job when he told the suffering patriarch that we are born to trouble.
Job 5:6-7 For affliction does not come from the dust, nor does trouble spring from the ground, yet man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward.
Barnes Notes has an interesting comment on verse 7, he writes, “it is that is as sparks ascend or as birds fly upward following the laws of their being, so is trouble the lot of man. It certainly comes under the direction of a being who has fixed the laws of the inferior creation; it would be wise for man therefore to resign himself to God in the times when those troubles come. He should not sit down and complain at the condition of things, but should submit to it as the law of his being, and should have sufficient confidence in God to believe that He orders it aright.”
We have a responsibility to look at our trials whether they be health or work or whatever they may be, not as something to complain about, but to realize that they are for our good, being in God's church. And that we are to endure them, and we are to endure them realizing that joy will come of it, and we should rejoice in them.
Although everyone, Christians as well as non-Christians, suffer at certain times in life, it is not at all true that all suffer alike. Seeing from the outside, a Christian and a non-Christian suffering the same incurable disease may appear to undergo the same experiences. But the two are not equal; the non-Christian is suffering without purpose or perhaps he is suffering at the whim of Satan who is merely doing it as he pleases with a member of his own kingdom.
Granted, occasionally God does intervene in the lives of the unconverted according to His will, but it is not the same thing as His intervention for us. We are a special people, called out by God Himself.
In the case of the Christians an all wise heavenly Father is permitting suffering in a carefully controlled situation to accomplish a desirable spiritual purpose which the book of Job vividly teaches.
Job admits that he was mentally blind until through suffering he learned how God works.
Job 42:5 I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear. But now my eye sees You,
He was spiritually healed from his blindness, so that he could see God for who He is and what He accomplishes and what His purpose is. As much as he knew, as righteous as the man was, that is what it took for God to be glorified and for Job to see in that way.
God is a Father who disciplines his children, as you well know.
Hebrews 12:5-8 And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons. My son do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him. For whom the Lord loves he chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives. If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons. For what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons.
So actually that makes us want to have trials to be improved, but we always should ask for God's mercy in the process. The Greek word translated “despise” in verse 5 is unique; it does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament. The intention here in Greek is to not regard it as a small matter or as a trivial thing—that is speaking of the chastening of the Lord.
The Greek word rendered chastening, in verse 5-8, is the equivalent of the English words correct and correction, or discipline and disciplining. They do not refer to affliction in general, but the kind of affliction in which is designed to correct us for our fault or which is of the nature of discipline. The verb relates to the training up of a child, including instruction and council, and discipline and correction, and especially discipline or correction for faults.
The principle here is not that God will afflict us in general but if we wander away, He will correct our direction. And He will bring tragedy upon us as a punishment for our offenses in order to bring us back to Him. The discipline of a believer is very specific, individually designed for us.
The point is to show that afflictions were designed by God to produce some joyous effects in the lives of His people, and we should therefore bear them patiently. I think that we are all in need of patience because human nature tends to be lacking in that aspect.
James 1:2-8 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing [so what is the purpose of Christian suffering? To learn from it. We are to ask what we are to learn if we are going to benefit from it.]. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord. He is a double minded man, unstable in all his ways.
The answer to this question is suggested to us by some of Christ’s words spoken when healing the man born blind. We are told by the apostle John that as Jesus passed by the gate of the temple (having placed Himself out of reach of those leaders of a nation for attempting to kill Him), He saw a man blind from birth. This man had begged at the temple for many years, and he was apparently known to the disciples. They would have walked on but when Jesus stopped to look at this man they stopped to and began to ask him a philosophical question, which is recorded in John 9:2.
John 9:2 “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?
The question they asked was the age old question of the problem with pain; the question we have been asking ourselves in our lives. But in their mouth it took a form that immediately revealed two basic and erroneous assumptions.
In the first place the question revealed the pagan assumptions that suffering in this life is always retribution for sin committed in some previous life, conceived in the belief and system of reincarnation. Such views were common in the first century and even in Judaism. Many religions and cults in our own days still hold to them as well, but the scriptures do not support this false belief, of course.
Instead they teach that the issues of eternity are settled for each individual according to what he thinks, says, and does during his own life time. Suffering is not always retribution; humans are free will agents; nevertheless, we need guidance to go in the right direction, so God makes sure we are guided, directed, and encouraged to live His way of life if we submit.
The second erroneous assumption made by the disciples was that the suffering of the blind man was caused by the sin of his parents. This of course was possible; sins of parents can be visited upon their children. Blindness can result from unseen weaknesses in the genes due to poor lifestyle, sexually transmitted disease, or other things passed on from the parents. The eternal makes it clear that the effects of sin but not the guilt of sin can be passed down through several generations.
Exodus 34:6-7 And the Lord passed before him and proclaimed The Lord the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the Children's children to the third and the fourth generations.
In this case in John 9, however, Jesus replied that the man had been born blind neither
because of his own sin nor the sin of his parents, but rather that the glory of God might be revealed in him as we read earlier in John 9:3 where Jesus answered.
John 9:3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.
This means that God had allowed the man to be born blind so that at this particular moment in his earthly life, Jesus could heal him and as the result God could receive glory. Having said that, Jesus then performed a miracle to restore the man's sight. Here is an important lesson from the story: there are no pad answers to the question of human suffering. There are answers of course, and we will see some of them. But there are no answers that satisfy every case of suffering in the same way.
Consequently, we can say, as some do, that it is the right of every believer to be healthy, and this is nonsense. Neither can we can say suffering is always a direct result of personal sin. Sometimes suffering is corrective; it is given in order to get us back on the path that God has chosen for us.
In other cases, it is constructive; it is given to build good character, and still other cases, it is given solely so God can receive glory. We must not make the mistake of some people who imagine that if someone suffers some great natural catastrophe it is absolutely because God has struck him or her down for some sin. Such people imagine God to be a stern merciless judge who spends His time watching over people in order to catch them sinning.
Do not even imagine that this is God's way, because if you do you immediately make yourself into a negative and unrighteous judge trying to find out what another Christian has done instead of recognizing that in God's providence all things come to God' s people. In many cases God simply sends trials so that He can be glorified. In these cases, suffering is a great honor, and we should be humbled by it.
Here is some wisdom for all of us who tend to judge others; we should acknowledge that in one form or another suffering does come from sin. If there had never been sin, there would be no suffering; but when we go on from that statement to begin to link a particular suffering in some person with a particular sin, we generally err in one or all of three ways.
First error is lies in hypocrisy. Since everyone is a bitter sensor of others, few apply the same criticism to themselves as they should. In considering punishments, everyone should begin with himself and spare no less than himself. If we want to be fair judges in this matter, we must learn to be more discerning in our own sins than in those of others.
Second error lies in excessively severe interpretation. No sooner is the person touched by the hand of God then we interpret it as a deadly hatred and make crimes out of faults. On the other hand, we diminish the seriousness of our own sins and are hardly conscience of our own faults; we have committed very serious offenses ourselves.
Third error lies in that we are wrong to harshly judge everyone who is suffering without exception because it may be God who is afflicting a person in order to fine-tune a person’s character or provide an opportunity for the Father and the Son to be glorified, as in this healing of the man born blind.
Our distresses derive directly or indirectly from sin, but God afflicts His people for various reasons just as there are some whose crimes He does not avenge immediately, but whose punishment He delays for a future time. Nevertheless, He often treats His faithful more severely not because we have sinned more but to eradicate our flaws in order to perfect us.
The parable of the faithful servant and the evil servant illustrates our greater responsibility as a servant who knew his masters will. This is very important and essential for us to understand.
Luke 12:47-48 And that servant who knew his master's will and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he who did not know yet committed things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few, For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required, and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.
Sometimes God is focusing on testing our obedience or training us to be patient, as we see in the story of Job. He was not tormented Job because of his sins. God's purpose was quite different; it was so his righteousness might be more fully tested in adversity and that God may be glorified.
Generally, people who are often false interpreters, who attribute all afflictions without distinction to sins, as if the measure of punishment were equal, or as if God regarded nothing else in punishing people than what everyone deserves. Thankfully we have a very merciful God, who takes many different aspects and things into consideration.
There are many false views of suffering and we certainly should avoid them. With that said, we still need to know the correct views. We especially want to know why Christians suffer, and to make it very personal, we want to know why God allows us to suffer in any specific instance. In answer to why only the word of God gives guidance.
I know probably all the ministers receive letters from people on why they are going through this trial and what can be done about it, and why God will not heal them or solve it for them. Only God's word has the answer; it is frustrating for ministers because they want to find the answer of encouragement to answer back.
II Timothy 3:16-17 All scriptures is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
We will take a look at corrective suffering. First we are told that some sufferings are corrective. God sends some pain in order to get us back on the path that He has set before us. Corporal punishment is an illustration here. If a child has done wrong and he needs a carefully applied spanking on his bottom, and if he has a truly loving father and mother he will receive one.
Why is that? It is not necessary to spank a child in every case, of course, but in the more serious cases, I ask why? Because the father and mother like to inflict pain? Of course not. Or they do not love the child and therefore do not care about them? Not at all. In fact the opposite is the case. If they do not love him, they do not spank him when he really needs it, and if they do love him, discipline follows when he has done something really wrong.
Proverbs 22:15 Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of correction will drive it far from him.
We can insert any number of words in there for the rod of correction, the rod of discipline, and so forth.
A loving parent who carries out corporal punishment, always in a self-controlled manner, he does not beat his child senseless; he does not hit his child in a place that can cause permanent damage; and he does not humiliate a child in front of others. Also they apply the correction that fits the crime. Discipline is a necessary part of a child's training, because he must learn that an individual is not free to do whatever he wishes to do irrespective of the wishes or sometimes the commands of others.
He must learn through obeying the parents to obey God; and in the same way, some suffering is given to teach Christians that sin is wrong and to teach us obedience.
Proverbs 3:11-12 My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor detest His correction. For whom the Lord loves He corrects, just as a father the son in whom he delights.
It is along this line that the well-known verses from Hebrew 12 were written.
Hebrew 12:5-11 And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons. “My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him. For whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.” If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit that we may be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but grievous, nevertheless afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Therefore, strengthen the hands which hang down and the feeble knees.
The first thing we should do when we are confronted with suffering is to ask God whether or not it is intended for our correction; if it is then we need to confess our sin and contrariness and return to having the mind of God working within us.
Second, God sends the believers some sufferings that are constructive. It is by means of these sufferings that God is able to whittle away at the unpleasant things in our lives and form the character of Jesus Christ in us. In David’s Psalms about the importance of knowing the word of God, the great king tells us that before he was afflicted he went astray and that after his affliction he obeyed the word of God.
Psalm 119:67 Before I was afflicted I went astray but now I keep your word.
Psalm 119:71 It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes.
Psalm 119:75 I know, O Lord, that Your judgments are right, and that in faithfulness You have afflicted me.
Psalm 119:107 I am afflicted very much. Revive me, O Lord, according to Your word.
Those are four very encouraging scriptures that we should have marked down somewhere so that we can look back at them whenever we run into affliction, suffering, pain, out of work, or whatever the trial maybe.
Affliction is a major factor in David's spiritual growth, so it is in the lives of all God's children, and if you think about the patriarchs every one of them went through some major trial in order to perfect them to the point where they could be used by God in a great way.
Third, as in the case of the man who had been born blind, some suffering is merely so the grace of God might be revealed in the life of the Christian. Job was such a person. Lazarus was another. Beyond any doubt both of these men were sinners and both suffered corrective and constructive sufferings at different times in their lives.
Nevertheless, in the recorded cases of their sufferings—in the book of Job and in John 11—neither constructive nor corrective suffering are in view. But rather the kind of suffering that brings glory to God. I guess it is arguable in the story of Job that there was some correction in there, but in Lazarus there certainly was not.
In Job's case, glory was given and the demonstration observed by Satan and all the angels
that Job did not love the Lord for what he could get out of Him. But because the Lord was worthy to be loved and obeyed. This was true regardless of what happened to Job personally; ultimately, Job was vindicated and received the physical reward, and now he awaits his eternal gift of salvation and spiritual reward.
Would God almighty permit a man to be stripped of his family and all his possessions to be struck with such illness that he would find himself sitting in ashes, moaning that he had ever been born just so God Himself might be vindicated or glorified? Would God permit a man to be struck with total blindness throughout his life so that in God's own time He might become the object of a miracle performed by Jesus Christ? Would God permit a child of His to die bringing suffering not only upon Himself but also upon His sisters who mourned for Him just so God could be glorified?
In light of the word of God we answer not only that God would do such things, but that He has done them, and certainly continues to do them so that He might bring victory for all believers in that great and invisible war between the powers of good and evil.
Those who know God well know this and in part understand it; they know that God is both perfect and loving and that He does all things well and good and with excellence.
Psalm 73:1 Truly God is good to Israel, to such as are pure in heart.
With regard to this subject it would serve you well to read and study the whole chapter here in Psalms 73.
Therefore, when suffering comes we must check out these three possibilities. In a quick summary: One, is it corrective, sent by God to return us to the proper path? Two, is it constructive? If so, we should ask Him to use it in making us more like Jesus Christ. Three, is it for His glory? So that many more may be brought to Christ at the designated time.
Continuing the healing of the man born blind.
John 9:4 I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day, the night is coming when no one can work.
That is a curious statement to put there, having to do with this miracle. At this point, I want to look at Christian work in light of this verse. The example for that work is none other than that great worker Jesus Christ Himself. In this verse Christ speaks about His work and gives direction to our work; every one of us in God's church have a responsibility and a work to do for Jesus Christ and the Father.
To understand the force of this text we must take it in the context of the chapter, because it follows upon a speculative question that had been asked of Jesus by the disciples. The group had come upon a man who had been blind from birth and the disciples had asked, “Rabbi, who sinned this man or his parents?” In other words, the disciples who had not yet learned to look at people as Christ looked at them, as people to be loved, saw the man as a philosophical problem, and they were instantly ready to debate it.
Suffering is related to sin they reasoned. The man is suffering, therefore sin is involved, so whose sin is it? This is the line of their thinking, and it is often ours as well. To Jesus however, the man was, above all, a human being and more than that one on whom He had compassion. So instead of entering deeply into their question which He could have written a book about, He answered them very briefly, while at the same time He started the process of healing the man born blind.
It is in this connection that He spoke of His work, stressing that He must accomplish it. He added that the night is coming when nobody could work. We are to learn from this that Christ has a greater respect for work than He has for speculation. Questions are good but not to be obsessed over, and there are answers to such questions but this may not be the time chosen for the revelation.
I Peter 1:3-9 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice though now you for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith the salvation of your souls.
So Jesus gives the answers only when it fits God's will. Nevertheless, there is an eternity to ask and answer questions and what counts now is to work in faith, because the working time is limited and the workers are few. God has sent Jesus to work, and Christ was determined to do that work; and if you are converted, God has also given you work to do as well. The conclusion is that you should attempt to do that work with the same determination.
There are just questions in this life that we cannot answer. God is not ready to reveal to us specifically why we are suffering, or afflicted, or whatever the case may be.
Verse 4 brings to mind the necessity of working. This first lesson is indicated by the first phrase in which Jesus said, “I must work the works.” When applied to us, we must do the work. The necessity of working is something that is found throughout Christ’s ministry and it is related to the will of God for Him. In John Ritenbaugh's series on Ecclesiastes, we heard about this very thing and how important it is to God that we work.
The earliest recorded statement of Jesus making this point was when His parents had taken Him to Jerusalem for the Passover when He was twelve years old. When they left and returned to Nazareth, Jesus stayed behind and in the temple. Joseph and Mary thought He was with the others in their company, and when they discovered He was missing they went all the way back to Jerusalem and, after a lot of searching, found Him. He was discussing doctrine with the leaders of the people.
Luke 2:48-49 So when they saw Him, they were amazed, and His mother said to Him, “ Son, why have You done this to us? Your father and I have sought You anxiously.” And He said to them, “Why is it that you sought Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father's business?”
So it is a business; it is God's business and we are a part of it. We are not just servants, we are employees in a sense, and we are also slaves in another sense in that we do not have a choice being in God's church whether we are going to work for God or not. I do not mean being employed by church of God that does God's work. I mean doing God's work and all the many things that in our individual lives we do; everything from prayer to overcoming, to supporting the work and so on.
From His earliest educated years on, Jesus felt a tremendous responsibility to work for His heavenly Father, and from the beginning of His ministry to the end, Jesus felt a necessity of obedience to the will of God resting upon Him.
There is another reason why Jesus felt compelled to work. The first source was obedience to the will of God. The second source is also very important. It is the need of mankind. If Jesus would have let His own human nature rule Him, He would have been thinking primarily about His own needs and problems. But He was not, because as soon as He is outside the temple area by the gate of the temple, He spots a blind beggar and immediately is taken up with the man's need and problem.
The heart of Jesus Christ went out to the man and nevertheless it was always this way with Jesus. Whenever He looked, there were sheep to be gathered and minds to open, so He worked.
A third source of the necessity that Jesus felt to work was undoubtedly the love for others that filled Him. Jesus loved others, therefore He had to go out of His way to work on their behalf.
There is an illustration of what must be done in Christ’s story of a loving father and the prodigal son. The son had taken his share of the father's inheritance and had gone off to another country where he foolishly wasted it, as you are well aware. When it was gone, he returned home and found his father waiting.
Luke 15:21-24 And the son said to him, “ Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.” [what did the father say? Or to make it more personal, what might we have said, had we been the father? It is not true that we would have been ready first of all to give lectures and to ask questions, “Where have you been?” we might ask. “What have you been doing? What happened to your good clothes? Or where is your money? Do you not know that you have wasted it all and that was half of my estate? You have not been a good steward of the money even less a faithful loving son, what are we to do with you?” But the father rather threw his arms around his son’s neck and kissed him.] But the father said to his servants, “Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry. For this my son was dead and is alive again, he was lost and is found.” and they began to be merry.
The story is given to show the love of God the Father and Jesus Christ for sinners, and it should be our pattern. Christ loves him anyway even to the point of having died in his place;
this love should move us. The love of God and Christ should compel us to work to the glory of God. This is the second lesson that comes from Christ’s words about work. It is the specialized nature of the work which Jesus indicates by the next phrase in the sentence in John 9:4.
John 9:4 “I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day, the night is coming when no one can work.”
It was the work of God and only this that Jesus felt compelled to do while it was yet day. There are many people who can take the first part of this verse and say with honesty and enthusiasm, “I must work,” but there are a few who can say, “I must do the work of Him who sent me.” Those few are actually all that are in God's church. Hard work is good for a person; we would never want to encourage any active man to be idle, and yet this is the point. Jesus came into the world not to get ahead in business or to get rich, but rather to do the work of Him who sent Him.
Notice that Jesus was not selective in the works. He felt compelled to accomplish. He did not pick and choose, rather He said, “We must do the work of Him who sent Me,” and there were works of preaching, praying, admonishing, suffering and finally even of dying. But whatever they were and whether they were personally appealing or unappealing, we remember that in the garden of Gethsemane sweat became like drops of blood as His mind shrank in horror from the physical and mental anguish of what was to come at His Crucifixion. Jesus was determined to follow through with all of it, because it would fulfill His Father's works.
The third lesson is that Christ’s words about work also teach us about limitations of the time allotted to work, therefore also about time’s shortness. Jesus indicated this by saying:
John 9:4. “I must work the work of Him who sent Me while it is day.”
These words are profound in the mouth of Christ much more so than if we had spoken them, or if they had been spoken by any mere man or woman. Christ is the timeless God, and He lived an eternity past and lives throughout eternity future. If anyone could postpone work, certainly it was Jesus Christ, yet we see Him concerned for the moment and aware that the moment is passing. If that is true for Jesus, how much more is it true for us for entirely creatures of time and for whom time is quickly passing?
Unless it is God’s will, there is not an ounce of assurance that we will be alive tomorrow. Death may come or at the very least sickness, health problems, or injury may be upon us. The opportunity for service that we have to do today may be over tomorrow. Prayer is a great ongoing responsibility that we can carry on.
Are you a mother or a father? Now is the time to train your child; you must begin while they are young and pliable to your teaching. Are you leading them to have faith in God? Have you the parental responsibility to teach them God's way of life and help them develop Godly character? That is part of God's works for you. Parenting is part of God's work.
Time is short; governments of the world are trying on a daily basis to take away that God-given responsibility. God will not hold you guiltless if you fail to do this. Our reward in heaven will be in great part based upon how well we have led and ruled our own homes and families. In this as in other areas, night is coming when no one can work.
The fourth and final lesson is seen as a result of this last phrase:
John 9:4 The night is coming when no one can work.
We must consider the end of things historically. True there is an end of life for each of us, but it also true that the night comes in history so that opportunities for work that any particular age offers can end. Today there are still some good opportunities; how long will they last?
We are already seeing a rapid decline of quantity and quality of jobs. But there is still work to be done physically, as well as spiritually, because the wickedness of men is great on the earth. It is a morally darkened age and is getting darker. We are the light of the world as Christ's representatives.
Matthew 5:14-16 You are the light of the world, A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put It under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.
Man's history tends to repeat itself. As in the days of Noah, the wickedness of man is great on the earth and every intent of the thoughts of his heart then was only evil continually. Dark times will continue to come. In science, through the misuse of new discoveries, they are coming in communications as men discover ways to manipulate public opinion for bad ends. They are coming in the religious realm as Christianity increasingly gives way to a cult. The night is coming. This is not the final word because Jesus Christ as King of kings and Lord of lords is coming in glory.
Revelation 17:14 These will make war with the lamb, and the lamb will overcome them. For He is the Lord of lords and King of kings and those who are with Him are called, chosen and faithful.
The work of God for each member of God's church is to be faithful even till death if necessary.
Isaiah 9:6-7 For unto us Child is born, Unto us a Son is given. And the government will be upon His shoulder. His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The Zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.
Zeal, in verse 7, is a passion, it is an enthusiasm and eagerness, dedication. In this context the Lord of hosts has an intense desire to accomplish the establishment of God's Kingdom on earth. It is also implied here that non else than the zeal of God could do it. So the wicked do not have the future to themselves, not at all. Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is returning to judge the barbarism and receive His own. One day we must stand before Him; that is our hope and in that hope we rejoice, so God grant us the wisdom and faith that we need every day to be spiritual lights in this dark world, to understand God's purposes and our trials and sufferings and work works of God. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this if we work with Him.