Three Reasons God's People Suffer
In Deuteronomy chapter 8, Moses prepares the children of Israel to enter the promised land. He tells them to remember the suffering that they went through these 40 years in the wilderness and tells us 3 reasons why they suffered:
1. To humble us to prove us to know what is in our heart whether we would keep His commandments or not (Deut 8:2).
The Lord gives us suffering to humble us (2Cor 12:7). It is easy to think I am following the Lord absolutely when I am successful. We think that if people no longer have reason to admire us, then that will be bad for the Lord's testimony. This humbling proves us. The real testimony is how we handle suffering. Do we then stop following the Lord until He gives us what we want? If we are able by the Lord's grace to be genuinely joyful yet honest, that is a testimony of the Lord.
In Ps 17:3, David says that the Lord proves our hearts. "You have examined me and find nothing" does not mean that there is nothing wrong with me. According to the verse, David still had evil thoughts, but he did not agree with them to speak them or much less act on them.
We need to keep the Lord's New Testament commandments (1Jn2:3-5). Some Christians wrongly think that we only need to keep commandments if the Spirit tells us to, or that only the commandments which are emphasized by an apostle are important for us to keep (Matt 4:4; James 2:10) . Commandments are not optional. We need to be restricted by the Lord's commandments in His word and we also need to please Him in all things (Deut 7:18).
Proving is a test. Just as the older generation of the Israelites failed the test, so Christians can also fail the test (1Cor 10:5-6; 1Peter 1:6-7).
2. To teach us new things in the word. (Deut 8:3)
God humbles us and causes us to suffer lack and marvelously meets our needs in order to teach us divine truths. In order to receive revelation from the Lord we must be in a humble state and remain humble after receiving revelation (2Cor12:7). With man this is not possible, but it is with God. The revelation must be based upon and agree with every word out of the mouth of God. If we think we see something from the Lord, we need to see if the Word really says that. If it is in the Word, we need to see if there are any contradicting verses.
The things that the Lord teaches us may be something that we or others have never seen before. We are taught new truths experientially in order to comfort others (2Cor1:4) and build up the church, His body (Col 1:24). The Lord teaches us to know Him and His resurrection power while we fellowship with Him in His sufferings (Philip 3:10).
Here, the specific truth God taught the Israelites by their suffering was that we do not live by bread alone but by every thing that proceeds out of God's mouth. We should not spend a day without reading the word. Reading the word as a part of reading commentaries is good, but does not meet this requirement because we need every word of God.
The happiest times in my life are not when there is an abundance of bread, but when there is God's speaking. Every word of God is trustworthy. You can depend on it to stand on its truth.
In the midst of long suffering and being humbled, the Lord's care is still there (v4). There is no record that the children of Israel even recognized the miracle that their clothes did not wear out nor their feet swell during 40 years of desert travel. We should have our eyes open for such miracles.
We all commit sins and make mistakes (James 3:2). The Lord chastens us for our good (Deut 8:16; Heb 12:5-11; Rev 3:19). I need to question whether what I am doing for the Lord is really His will. Is it really what the Bible says? Are there verses that contradict? Am I forgetting about or excusing myself of other verses? (Matt 6:23)
-copyright Steve Miller 2014