A thought just came to me. I posted another Rev Piper link on FB and a friend questioned it..."what purpose does suffering serve the church.?" I thought about that. And once more my thoughts went to the Biblegateway.com devotional provided by Open Doors, a ministry to the persecuted church...because of the danger it may bring to some individuals, I cannot give you the link. But today's devotional spoke of several men who were imprisoned and tortured for I think 3 years. When they returned to their churches they found that there were tens of thousands of new converts and church members.
I thought about that.
Why does God choose suffering to win believers?
It is because there is no pretense in suffering. No hypocrite or casual believer who comes to church because he likes the coffee, is going to remain true to his beliefs in the face of such pain and suffering. BUT those of us who suffer (and really everyone has some measure of suffering in their lives....have you considered to use it in your witness?) and remain true to our love and fidelity to the Lord Jesus,--this speaks oceans to those who are watching. And it speaks of the power of God's love to his people as he provides them the encouragement, strength and yes, even food....to remain alive and to remain a witness to the Lord's love.
If you can have unbelievable pain and still say, "The Lord Gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord" like Job did in the face of horrible bereavement...that gets the attention of those who watch. People everywhere are looking for "The Real Thing" and they are finding out it's not Pepsi. But if they see this. There is no sham in pain...true pain. There is no pretense. There is no fidelity to a make believe God for whom you suffer....NO. When people refuse to renege on their faith when doing so is guaranteeing for them a hell of suffering and possible death....people pay attention. What God is so good that men will die for him?
This is how God works.
This is how he builds his church
And he looks forward with joy when the day of Justice arrives and those who are evil get repaid for how they treated His children. He looks forward to lavishing the martyrs in white robes and honoring their sacrifice for his sake. These believers are heading to the kingdom bearing their reward after them....those who came to faith because of their pain and bravery and trust in Jesus to get them through.
And in the very same way: we, in our various pains, griefs and struggles...if we refuse to "curse God and die" like Job's wife told him...if we remain faithful in our prayers and worship, that speaks to people. Believers ought to handle suffering differently from the others in the world. And that is how God has chosen to grow his church.