Thinking through Suffering (…a Dialogue) Pt. 4

Thinking Suffering

Sunday 07/12/20

Series: Do we REALLY believe?

MESSAGE: Thinking through Suffering …a Dialogue Pt. 4


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Thinking through Suffering …a Dialogue

This week we focused on questions 13 & 14 in our ‘Thoughts and Questions’ list which is downloadable by the link above. 

These questions address God’s purposes in tests and trials and how they work for our maturity and to prepare us as His abiding place forever.

Again, our goal and intention in doing this is to allow this dialogue format to help us think through these questions and so help solidify much of what we have been teaching since the beginning of the year.

Key passages we’ve covered which touch on these topics:

  • 2Cor. 4:6-11 – Suffering, Jesus formed in us
  • Ephesians 1:1-11 – holy, blameless, in Christ, Created for good works
  • Ephesians 1:19-22 – Temple, tabernacle, dwelling place
  • Phil. 3:7-14 – Knowing Him, faith, maturity in Christ
  • James 1:2-4 – Trials
  • James 1:12-18 – Temptations, life
  • James 2:18&20 – Faith, works
  • 1Peter 1:6-9 – Trials, soul salvation, faith
  • 1Peter 4:12-19 – Trials, glory, Christian suffering
  • Heb. 10:13 – Temptations
  • Heb. 10:35-39 – Need for faith, patience, life
  • Heb. 12:1-14 – sin, weights, maturity, chastening, righteousness, holiness 

One message which touched on MUCH of these things was ‘Suffering…who for the Joy’.

Thoughts & Questions:

13. What does all of this have to do with God’s intentions for us in eternity?

God desires to enjoy eternity with us. We are…you as an individual are His special creation. Every part of you was in His heart from eternity past. 

We can only contemplate in a fleeting and superficial way – the depth of His love and desire for us. He has loved us with an everlasting love and has drawn us near with cords that bind us to Him in eternal and mutual adoration. 

He literally finds His pleasure in you!

As such, eternal union with the Godhead is what we were designed for, and so it stands to reason that this is both His intentions for us (as He clearly tells us) and it is the apex of all that would bring lasting joy and satisfaction to our whole being!

This time of testing, trial, temptation & persecution are a proving ground. It tests our allegiance to Him. We are not yet perfected or fully mature, but there is only one kind of heart that even can be. There is a principle of loyal allegiance in the heart of Believers which must be tested and proved regularly. We’ve compared this process to testing the strength and purity of metal, but unlike metal or hearts do not remain unchanged from day to day. Peter tells us that this testing of our faith is a proving of its genuineness. 

This is pivotal – God does not want to play make believe with you. If you want Him for an eternity, you are going to illustrate that now in this life by the choices you make. 

Will you… Do you choose Him above and if necessary to the exclusion of all else? 

When we are inwardly frustrated over our own lack of commitment and follow through, in honoring Him… though we fail, our determination to continue on, pressing harder into Him, rearranging and even removing things from our life to facilitate honoring Him… these all display a genuineness to our love for Him… our devotion towards Him. We will not be perfect in this life, but if we are truly “passing these tests” we will be walking closer and more true to our confession as the days turn to weeks, months and years. 

God was serious when He said that without holiness no one would see Him. He will not settle for part of you. It’s either all or nothing. 

This time of testing and trial not only serve to prove where your heart is in this commitment, if your heart longs for true loyalty, these tests and trials actually help work you towards that goal. 

14. If you were going to have to explain the role suffering plays in forming Christ in you, to a Sunday School of 6th graders…how would you explain it?

Suffering is that part of life which creates needed change through adversity. One of the most effective physical training one can do is resistance training. One of the exercises in resistance training is to do a workout motion and at the peak of muscular strain hold your position for a while. It often requires two people to accomplish. Resistance builds strength. 

The processes of testing and trails are NOT entirely unlike physical growth. Growing bones and muscles can be painful. It is accompanied by great inner hunger, large amounts of exhaustion and an achiness that wears away at you. 

It makes you unsettled and agitated, clumsy and uncertain… but eventuates in your maturity. 

This results in a “new you” that looks more like your mature parents than like a toddler. It is a process which is NECESSARY for your health, development and even your happiness and contentment.

God Bless!

I hope this message will bless you richly…not because I taught it, but because it reveals Christ. He alone is our blessing and if in any way – whether big or small, 100% accurate or even just partially so – I have revealed our great God and Savior to you in a relationally knowable way, then this was time well spent on both our parts.

We at Living Grace Fellowship encourage you to place your trust in Jesus Christ, deliberately choosing Him and bowing the knee to Him as your Master and Lord, so as to come to realize Him as your Savior.

You have a special place in God’s family & kingdom. The fact that you exist… that you are His creation, says you were in His heart, you are His delight!

If you do not know Him, please reach out to us. Give us a call at the number located on every page of this website or use our ‘Contact Us‘ page. We would be deeply honored, if you gave us the privilege of introducing you to the Lord. Neither money nor attendance at our church will EVER be mentioned.

If you HAVE been spiritually fed by this ministry and WANT to give, we truly appreciate that and you may do so here, but please understand that all the outreaches of this ministry are FREE for you and anyone to enjoy at no cost.


Hi my name is Mark and though I am opposed to titles, I am currently the only Pastor (shepherd/elder) serving our assembly right now.

I have been Pastoring in one capacity or another for nearly 30 years now, though never quite like I am today.

Early in 2009 the Lord revealed to me that the way we had structured our assembly (church) was not scriptural in that it was out of sync with what Paul modeled for us in the New Testament. In truth, I (like many pastors I am sure) never even gave this fundamental issue of church structure the first thought. I had always assumed that church structure was largely the same everywhere and had been so from the beginning. While I knew Paul had some very stringent things to say about the local assembly of believers, the point of our gatherings together and who may or may not lead, I never even considered studying these issues but assumed we were all pretty much doing it in numbers right?! Boy, I couldn't have been more wrong!

So needless to say, my discovery that we had been doing it wrong for nearly two decades was a bit of a shock to me! Now, this "revelation" that did not come about all at once but over the course of a few weeks. We were a traditional single pastor led congregation. It was a top-bottom model of ministry which is in part biblical, but not in the form of a monarchy.

The needed change did not come into focus until following 9 very intense months of study and discussions with those who were leaders in our church at the time.

We now understand and believe that the Bible teaches co-leadership with equal authority in each local assembly. Having multiple shepherds with God's heart and equal authority protects both Shepherds and sheep. Equal accountability keep authority and doctrine in check. Multiple shepherds also provides teaching with various styles and giftings with leadership skills which are both different and complementary.

For a while we had two co-pastors (elders) (myself and one other man) who led the church with equal authority, but different giftings. We both taught in our own ways and styles, and our leadership skills were quite different, but complimentary. We were in complete submission to each other and worked side-by-side in the labor of shepherding the flock.

Our other Pastor has since moved on to other ministry which has left us with just myself. While we currently only have one Pastor/Elder, it is our desire that God, in His faithfulness and timing, may bring us more as we grow in maturity and even in numbers.

As to my home, I have been married since 1995 to my wonderful wife Terissa Woodson who is my closest friend and most trusted ally.

As far as my education goes, I grew up in a Christian home, but questioned everything I was ever taught.

I graduated from Bible college in 1990 and continued to question everything I was ever taught (I do not mention my college in order to avoid being labeled).

Perhaps my greatest preparation for ministry has been life and ministry itself. To quote an author I have come to enjoy namely Fredrick Buechner in his writing entitled, Now and Then, "If God speaks to us at all other than through such official channels as the Bible and the church, then I think that He speaks to us largely through what happens to us...if we keep our hearts open as well as our ears, if we listen with patience and hope, if we remember at all deeply and honestly, then I think we come to recognize beyond all doubt, that, however faintly we may hear Him, He is indeed speaking to us, and that, however little we may understand of it, His word to each of us is both recoverable and precious beyond telling." ~ Fredrick Buechner

Well that is about all there is of interest to tell you about me.

I hope our ministry here is a blessing to you and your family. I also hope that it is only a supplement to a local church where you are committed to other believers in a community of grace.

~God Bless!