Bottom Line Message:
The Fifth Benefit of Studying the
Bible: Knowing That Your Troubles Have a Good Purpose
In the first benefits article, we looked at the real purpose and value of Bible codes. The purpose of Bible codes is to serve as another witness to the authenticity of the Hebrew Bible as a text that was authored by God. Now if God is the author, then what He wrote must have great value and pertinence to everyone. So its content conveys usages that far exceed the vain hope of receiving a few reliable predictions via Bible codes. Given that, we continue our review of the benefits of studying the Bible. In this article, we look at the benefit of knowing that your troubles have a good purpose.
Each of us, when faced with serious troubles, can be overwhelmed with helplessness leading to discouragement, depression, and despair. Facing severe trials without God and the encouragement and wisdom of the Bible is a bleak proposition at best. By reading and meditating on the Word, we are able to:
Find comfort in the midst of trouble by
- Taking delight in God's Word
- Worshiping God
- Knowing God is our refuge
Maintain integrity by
- Putting God first
- Walking in obedience
Develop a new point of view by
- Acknowledging God's sovereignty
- Recognizing our place in the universe
Express compassion for others by
- Knowing that we all experience trouble
- Reflecting God's compassion for others
Find Comfort By
Taking Delight in God's Word
Psalm 119 is filled with meditations on the Word of God. David repeatedly finds comfort in God's Word. He extols the truth of the law and the righteousness of His statutes, and though he is in the midst of trouble, he finds delight in the Word.
Your righteousness is everlasting
and your law is true.
Trouble and distress have come upon me,
but your commands are my delight.
Your statutes are forever right;
give me understanding that I may live. (Psalm 119:142-144, NIV)
David is our example. When we are in the midst of trouble and we take delight in God's Word, we find comfort.
In Psalm 59, David sings of God's strength and His love. He describes Him as my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble.
But I will sing of your strength,
in the morning I will sing of your love;
for you are my fortress,
my refuge in times of trouble.
O my Strength, I sing praise to you;
you, O God, are my fortress, my loving God. (Psalm 59:16-17, NIV)
Singing in the midst of trouble? Who feels like singing when they are in trouble! Surprisingly, it is in that very act of worship, comfort is found. Extolling the goodness of God will flood our hearts with comfort.
Knowing God Is Our Refuge
David has explicit confidence in God's protection over his life. Meditate on Psalm 27 and revel in God's protection over you. In particular, note verse 5,
For in the day of trouble
he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle
and set me high upon a rock. (NIV)
In the midst of exhorting the Ninevites, the prophet Nahum describes God as a refuge:
The LORD is good,
a refuge in times of trouble.
He cares for those who trust in him. (Nahum 1:7, NIV)
What comfort is found in that brief scripture! The LORD is good. Just embracing that thought alone brings comfort in the midst of any trouble. A refuge in times of trouble. What is more secure than a refuge! He cares for those who trust in him. He CARES! We can trust that God will keep us and that he is our refuge in times of trouble.
Note: In Numbers 35, God permitted cities of refuge to be designated, so that if anyone killed a man accidentally, he could run to the city and be safe until he stood trial. We can certainly extrapolate from this that if we find our refuge in God, we are kept safe by Him.
Maintain Integrity By
When troubles come our way, we are faced with a choice. Will we act selfishly (sinfully), or will we maintain integrity?
The Book of Job deals with the role of suffering in the life of Job, and is an example of finding a higher purpose in troubles for all of us. God allows Satan to afflict Job with suffering (the loss of his family, the loss of his possessions, and the loss of his health), but Satan is not allowed to take Job's life. Job maintains his devotion to God in spite of these troubles and the tauntings of his wife and friends, and in the end, God blesses Job abundantly.
In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil. (Job 1:1, NIV)
In this brief scripture, we find two key elements of maintaining integrity: fear God (love and reverence God by putting God first in our lives) and shun evil (choose to walk in obedience).
Putting God First
In Job's grief and shock, he chooses to give honor to God by placing Him first in his life, whether he lives in abundance or is faced with devastating loss.
At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said:
"Naked I came from my mother's womb,
and naked I will depart.
The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away;
may the name of the LORD be praised." (Job 1:20-21, NIV)
Paul writes to the church in Corinth about another facet of putting God first. He describes the despair that comes from troubles, and encourages them to see that affliction is permitted that we might learn to rely on God instead of on ourselves:
We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us. (2 Corinthians 1:8-10, NIV)
Walking in Obedience
There are two types of troubles that can be prevented. When we sin, we bring trouble on ourselves as a result of our own actions, and then we are often surprised at the cost of that sin. When we walk in obedience, we can avoid this type of trouble. But sometimes, our troubles are the result of someone else's sin. We don't have any control over that. Only the other person can control their decisions and actions. However, in Job we find an example of someone who did not bring trouble upon himself. His troubles were not the result of personal sin (his or anyone else's). Even in the face of tremendous loss and grief, Job chooses to walk in obedience.
But he knows the way that I take;
when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.
My feet have closely followed his steps;
I have kept to his way without turning aside.
I have not departed from the commands of his lips;
I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread. (Job 23:10-12, NIV)
Regardless of the cause of Job's troubles, he chooses to place God first in his life and to walk obediently. Job's integrity is an amazing example for all of us.
Develop a New Point of View By
Acknowledging God's Sovereignty
The source of Job's troubles was Satan himself. After receiving God's permission to afflict Job, Satan smites him with illness. Job, rather than receiving comfort or encouragement from his wife, finds her trying to undermine his integrity:
The LORD said to Satan, "Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life."
So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head. Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes.
His wife said to him, "Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die!"
He replied, "You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?"
In all this, Job did not sin in what he said. (Job 2: 6-10, NIV)
Job certainly has a different point of view about his ills. "Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?" It is only through believing that God, whether he chooses to bestow good or trouble, will do so in a manner consistent with His character.
I know, O LORD, that your laws are righteous, and in faithfulness you have afflicted me. (Psalm 119:75, NIV)
The mystery of accepting good and trouble in life equally is solved when we acknowledge God's sovereignty. Then, whatever comes our way, whether good or bad, it is accepted as allowed by God for a good purpose. And in God, we find the strength to deal with it.
The fear of the LORD leads to life:
Then one rests content, untouched by trouble. (Proverbs 19:23, NIV)
I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:11-13, NIV)
Recognizing Our Place in the Universe
In Job 38 through 41, The LORD speaks to Job and reminds him just who He is: The Creator, The God of the Universe.
"Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation?
Tell me, if you understand.
Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
Who stretched a measuring line across it?" (Job 38:4-5, NIV)
When Job is faced with the reality of God's omnipotence, he begins to grasp his place in the universe, and he is humbled.
Then Job replied to the LORD:
"I know that you can do all things;
no plan of yours can be thwarted . . .
Therefore I despise myself
and repent in dust and ashes." (Job 42:1-2,6, NIV)
The natural result of acknowledging God's sovereignty is humility, and in humility, we will begin to have a new point of view about our lives and troubles.
Express Compassion for Others By
Knowing That We All Experience Trouble
When we suffer, it is natural to become self-absorbed. If we can, in the midst of our own troubles, be aware of the fact that we all experience trouble, that no one is exempt from the sorrows of this life, we can become more compassionate people. This requires that we abandon tunnel vision and become aware of the people around us. Just becoming aware of others can bring a new perspective to our troubles and new opportunities to have compassion for others.
The length of our days is seventy years—
or eighty, if we have the strength;
yet their span is but trouble and sorrow,
for they quickly pass, and we fly away. (Psalm 90:10, NIV)
Man born of woman
is of few days and full of trouble.
He springs up like a flower and withers away;
like a fleeting shadow, he does not endure. (Job 14:1-2, NIV)
Reflecting God's Compassion for Others
Repeatedly throughout Scripture, God is described as gracious and compassionate.
The LORD is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and rich in love. (Psalm 145:8, NIV)
When we experience God's grace and compassion, shall we not strive to be a reflection of that to others?
Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. (Colossians 3:12, NIV)
Part of knowing that our troubles have a good purpose is knowing who God is. As we study God's Word, our understanding of who God is, His character, and the way he feels about each one of us develops and grows. The better our understanding of God, the more intrinsic our faith in Him becomes, so that when we endure troubles, we know that His purposes are good and that He is our refuge and deliverer.
The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;
my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge.
He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. (Psalm 18:2, NIV)
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28, NIV)
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.
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