1. The second phase of crucifixion is suffering on behalf of others. What are the strong called to do, and what should their attitude be? (Romans 15:1)
2. How are we supposed to help our brethren that are going through trials? (2 Cor.1:3-5)
3. What are the strong to do with their weaker brothers? (Gal.6:1-2)
4. Jeremiah, a prophet of God, suffered greatly for the sins of the people. What was his experience? (Lamentations 3:48-49)
5. Jesus too lamented greatly over His people. What was His experience? (Matt.23:27; Luke 19:41)
6. How did the apostle Paul suffer because of his concern for unbelieving Jews? (Rom.9:1-3)
7. How did Paul serve the Lord when facing opposition in bringing the gospel to those living in the province of Asia? (Acts 20:18-21)
If you continue in the pathway of the cross, you too will know this suffering and brokenness of heart for people who reject and you too will mourn over their sin.
A. Edward Judson said: "Success and suffering are vitally and organically linked. If you succeed without suffering, it is because someone suffered for you; if you suffer without succeeding, it is in order that someone else may succeed after you." How true do you think this statement is in light of the scriptural keys you have obtained in this study? What experiences have you had in your gospel walk that validates -- or seems to validate -- this statement? How important is this principle for the upbuilding of Zion?
B. Plutarch said: "Whoever tries for great objects must suffer something." Your participation in this course is part of your preparation for rulership in Zion. But Zion must first be created with the stuff of humanity. That requires suffering for Zion -- and especially its members. Are you willing to do this? Does Zion mean enough to you to suffer for its aspiring members?
C. Thomas à Kempis, the great Catholic writer, wrote: "It is good for man to suffer the adversity of this earthly life: for it brings him back to the sacred retirement of the heart, where only he finds he is an exile from his native home, and ought not to place his trust in any worldly enjoyment." How does suffering bring a person "back to the sacred retirement of his heart"? What does this actually mean? How can our suffering have a positive effect on those we suffer for?
D. Augustine said: "God had one Son on earth without sin, but never one without suffering." Do you think this statement is true? If so, what is the great pitfall of the modern pseudo-Christian teaching that suffering is a sign that the sufferer has in some way displeased God and is being punished?
E. Joni Eareckson, who accidentally broken her neck when she was 17 and was paralyzed from the neck downwards, wrote: "While (suffering) is God's choicest tool to mold our character, it also has the tendency to breed self-centredness. I've wasted hours pitying myself and getting all wrapped up in imagining that my broken neck was God's way of getting even with me for my sins, when in reality He was far from being "out to get me." In fact, though at the time it did not occur to me, the whole ordeal of my paralysis was inspired by His love. And not only love for me, but love for those around me, for one of God's goals in our trials is to help us not only feel with one another, but actually build each other up". How can our suffering build up fellow Christians?
F. Joni Eareckson has also written: "Strange as it may seem, it appears God often not only allows, but actually insures that His children undergo and endure long periods of real difficulty. Not only that, but He seems to be hurting His own cause by letting this take place within plain view of unbelievers who scoff at Christianity. Not one embarrassing detail escapes the eyes of these scorners as they jeer, 'Look at how this so-called loving God treats His devoted followers!'
"But wait. As we continue observing, we notice something unusual. These Christians, on whom God has sent trial after trial, refuse to complain. Rather than shake rebellious fists at heaven, and rather than curse the One who allows them such misery, they respond with praise to their Creator.
"At first the world mocks. 'It's only a phase', they assure themselves. 'Just wait.' But as the trials continue and the Christians refuse to 'curse God and die', the watching world is forced to swallow its own words and eventually drop its jaw in amazed disbelief.
"Thus, God has shown one of the most effective ways in which suffering can bring glory to Himself -- it demonstrates His ability to maintain the loyalty of His people even when they face difficult trials. If being a Christian brought us nothing but ease and comfort, the world wouldn't learn anything very impressive about our God. 'Big deal,' men would say. 'Anyone can get a following by waiting on people hand and foot.' But when a Christian shows faith and love for his Maker in spite of the fact that, on the surface, it looks as if he's been forgotten, it does say something impressive. It shows the scoffers that our God is worth serving even when the going gets tough. It lets a sceptical world know that what a Christian has is real."
Many Christians nowadays say that the only sign of God's favour amongst His people is dramatic miracles of healing, tongue-speaking, and the like, and that this is what will convert unbelievers. Do you believe this is true? In what way is the "ministry of suffering" superior?
G. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote: "If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each man's life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostilities." How can suffering reconcile us to our enemies through the love of Christ?
H. Mrs. Hemans has written: "Strength is born in the deep silence of long-suffering hearts; not amid joy." Why is this true? Is paradise possible on this earth? Does God want paradise on earth? What would happen if the Millennium started "before its time"? Is it right to pray for the Millennium in order to avoid the sufferings of this life? What are we in fact doing when we pray not to suffer?
I. Mencius wrote: "When Heaven is about to confer a great office on any man, it first exercises his mind with suffering, and his sinews and bones with toil." What implications does this truth have for those who desire to build Zion?
J. A great Greek general said: "Wisdom comes through suffering." Why?
K. The Chinese philosopher Confucius, who lived two Millennia before Christ, said: "One who is by nature daring and is suffering from poverty will not long be lawful. Indeed, any man, save those that are truly Good, if their sufferings are very great, will be likely to rebel." What is the relationship between suffering and a rebellious nature? What is the difference between those who are in Christ and those who are not when it comes to suffering?
8. To whom does our body belong? (1 Cor.6:19-20)
God has the right to do with our bodies what He pleases. If causing us to suffer will work for ours, and others', salvation, then that is the Lord's prerogative.
L. However, we also have our free agency. How are God's sovereignty and our free agency reconciled when it comes to suffering imposed upon us without our apparent agreement? How does a doctrine of pre-existence help in reconciling apparent contradictions? Can the contradictions be reconciled without a doctrine of pre-existence?