During lockdown we held regular Bible studies via Zoom. We held two studies on the important subject of suffering - see below for details, to listen to the recordings and to read the ensuing discussion notes.
Our previous study topics were prayer and 'What really happened at the Fall in the Garden?' Click here for details and the recordings of the studies. Earlier Bible studies have been recorded - click here for recordings of our studies from April - July 2020 and here to go to details of our studies on 'The foundational principles of church' and Romans 14, which were held from October 2020 - January 2021.
Wednesday 26th May - Suffering (part 2)
Read: Daniel 3 (especially vs. 17-18); 2 Corinthians 4:1-18; Psalm 16:5-11.
Points to Ponder 1. How would you answer someone who challenged you as a Christian, to explain why there is so much suffering in the world? 2. Have you had any experience of bringing God’s comfort into a tragic situation or of providing a helpful answer to someone who is struggling with the problem of suffering and evil in the world? If so, and if you think it would be helpful to others would you like to share it with us? If you let me know beforehand, I can make sure you do not get missed. 3. What are your thoughts on why God heals some people and not others? 4. What role do you think faith and prayer play in this issue of healing? What principles would you share with someone who was trying to get their head around whether they should be praying more, have more faith, perhaps find someone with a ‘healing ministry? 5. Why do you think we do not always see the dynamic power of the Holy Spirit resulting in remarkable miracles as frequently as in the book of Acts?
Read: Isaiah 25:8; 55:8; Matthew 10:7–8; 12:28; 13:58; 17:19-20; 22:15-16; John 12:31; Romans 8:18-30; Revelation chapters 4-6; 21:3-5; 1 John 5:19.
We addressed the question that had been sent in: ‘How can we accept the fact that even though God loves us more than anything, he allows us and other people to suffer?’ A related question was also sent in: ‘How can we explain (what God is doing) to a non-Christian or a new Christian or simply a Christian who has just lost their spouse in a car accident, leaving them with 3 children to look after (for example)?’ We also looked at the related subjects of faith and prayer in this context.
Points to Ponder 1. What are your thoughts on why there is suffering in the world? 2. Do we have any answers to that question in the Bible? If so, what are they? 3. What are your thoughts on why God heals some people and not others? 4. What role do you think faith and prayer plays in this issue of healing? For example, if somebody does not get healed, is it always because they did not have enough faith, or did not pray enough? 5. Why do you think we do not always see the dynamic power of the Holy Spirit resulting in remarkable miracles as frequently as in the book of Acts?
Following the study several comments were sent in:
On 12/05/2021 Jenny wrote: 'A thought I had after tonight’s study is that it is often in suffering that we see the greatest relational interactions occurring. During times of crisis where there is great suffering we witness families and communities pulling together to help each other. It is often during these times that we see the goodness in people and the virtuous side of human nature. Suffering can serve the purpose of unifying people. Western society has today become very fragmented, times of national suffering such as the recent covid crisis can serve the purpose of bringing unity where there is none. So although God doesn’t cause the suffering He can use it to bring unity in an otherwise divided World. People show acts of kindness to strangers and friends and families come together to support each other in a crisis situation. Although these people may not ‘know’ the Lord the heart of the Lord shines through these acts of love and His nature is made known even though people may not recognise it. One could argue that it is only in times of crisis and suffering that society unites. When all is going well people remain segregated and disconnected from each other. This doesn’t make suffering any less painful but knowing that there are people with you in your pain and suffering makes it easier to bear. Coping with suffering on one’s own, in isolation, is the worst pain imaginable. God made us relational beings so we could share both sickness (suffering) and health (good times) together.
On 12/05/2021 Pearl wrote: 'I had these two thoughts during today's study. Firstly, the concept of harm and hurt. If we see suffering as God trying to harm us, then we will be afraid and that removes the element of relationship. Everything that happens in life will be out of fear that He wants to destroy us. God will, however, allow us to go through hurt or things that cause pain. He says that His plans are never to harm us. Also, sometimes, if we misunderstand what suffering is and what the glory of God is we can become disappointed. Jesus went through the suffering of the cross to being glory to God by paying for our sins. To be like Christ sometimes might involve going through painful situations.'
On 13/05/2021 Cathy wrote: 'Thank you for the bible study, we are so blessed to have such timely teaching – I think that is a miracle in itself. I want to respond to Question 5, about miracles and why we don’t see the dynamic activity of the Holy Spirit in the way the church did in Acts. We DO see the activity of the Holy Spirit all the time, don’t we? I can think of many situations in the church where the Holy Spirit has impacted lives and relationships in a dynamic way. I’m sure John, Merle, Tim and others experience lives being changed, perhaps every day or every week. I should imagine those involved would put the change in terms of the miraculous. The society in Acts was very different to ours today. There was a lot of spiritual activity, sorcery etc, the question was not whether to believe in God or not, but which god to believe in. So the signs and wonders convinced listeners that the God Paul was talking about was real, ready to respond in love to those reaching out to him. Today we’re such a broken society aren’t we, broken families, broken identities, we need the Holy Spirit’s healing and putting back together. I’ve often thought that the ministry in the church was doing that. I wouldn’t like to think we won’t ever see dynamic miracles, but speaking for myself I know what the Lord has done in changing my feelings from negative to positive and loving, through understanding myself, is to me the most beautiful and loving miracle, that gives me constant excitement and delight.'
On 14th May Julie wrote: 'I have also had a couple of thoughts I would like to share following on from the Bible study. Firstly, I agree with Cathy that miracles aren't limited to physical healing. Rather the spiritual, emotional and relational healing that can take place in response to prayer for healing when someone is suffering can have deeper and longer lasting effects than simply physical healing. If we view life from an eternal perspective then such change and healing has eternal significance. It might not be what we want or what we initially pray for, but God's ways are not ours! Secondly, though related, a thought about faith - I wonder if it can take more faith to accept that someone we love will not be healed, rather to seek what God is doing in the situation and pray in accordance with his will and seek to walk with him through the challenges we face.'
On 16th May Phil wrote: 'Quick thoughts regarding the Bible study and question 5 on why we don’t always see the dynamic power of the Holy Spirit as in the book of Acts. I think it comes down to two things – firstly, what God is wanting to do and secondly, how closely we are walking with him. 1. What God wants to do - as John said, miracles have often coincided with a movement of God’s Spirit. Even the early church examples mentioned involving Peter, this was very much a movement, the starting of the early church. To get this going, it made sense to have a display of the Spirit’s power. So, there is the factor of God choosing to do something powerful through the Holy Spirit – God’s will. I think this really is the overwhelming factor here. 2. Being close to God – the other factor is walking close to God, knowing what he’s doing, saying, and wanting to do or say at any given time. The reason I’d put this second is the amount of times I can think of where a strong display of the Spirit’s power has happened despite people’s walk with God. I think of the way Nicky Gumbel talked about what happened at Holy Trinity Brompton following the Toronto blessings and how a whole series of very strong Spirit happenings went on at the church after several people from the church had come back from Toronto. This happened just before / at the same time as Alpha really began to grow at HTB. Nicky said that, on one of those times, he just walked into church during a prayer meeting and was asked to pray. He did and woosh, it all kicked off - people fell to the floor, speaking in tongues, the whole thing. Similarly, an occasion when someone came to a house where several people were gathered and started talking about what had happened in Toronto and everyone in the room was filled with the Holy Spirit and started speaking in tongues. There was a whole series of similar happenings in the church for several weeks. These aren’t examples of seeing what God was doing and walking with him; rather these things just happened! These people had small mustard seeds of faith.'