“In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.”
It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?”
We all have certain temptations and struggles that come to us again and again and again, and just never seem to go away. They could be anything – sexual temptation, the temptation to get angry, the temptation to drink, the temptation to be lazy, or anything else.
At least, I do – in particular there is one kind of temptation I struggle with constantly. It just never goes away. I just never grow out of this weakness. No matter what line of thought I subscribe to, how much I read the Bible or pray, where I hang out, what I do and say — nothing seems to take away this temptation. It’s a weakness I’ve got that I have to struggle with almost every day. I have to overcome it almost every day. I have to prepare myself to face it the next day, almost every day.
This constant struggle is a great suffering. I’m sure that many reading this – or all – have something similar. I imagine Paul’s ‘thorn in his side’ (2 Cor 12:7-10) might have been some sort of temptation that God would never take away from him. He had to endure it, for God’s grace was sufficient to endure it, and God’s joy is far more abundant when we endure it and overcome it.
I’m sure Jesus was tempted when he was in the Garden of Gethsemane (pictured above), praying that perhaps the cup of His suffering would pass from Him. Then, of course, He prays that God’s will be done and not His own will (Luke 22:42), and by doing so He goes to the cross willingly.
What is being shown to us here? It appears God will not always take away temptation and suffering. He may let it stay – for the rest of our lives even – and we may have to bear this cross, this suffering, for the rest of our lives.
Is that encouraging? Well, the Lord is treating us as sons. He is disciplining us, He is creating the fruit of self-control within us. Secondly, He promises all over the Scriptures that there will be great reward. (Self-control is also a reward, and I believe there are other rewards too.) See the promises given to those who overcome in Revelation 2 and 3. God is not unjust – he will pour out His joy and rewards now and later to those who overcome. But we must overcome.
This turns overcoming into an opportunity as much as a suffering. And, of course, His grace is sufficient and we have the Holy Spirit who enables us to overcome. As hard as the suffering under the temptation is, the rewards for overcoming far outweigh whatever the actual sin may be and the brief period of suffering we endure.
“We live in a unique culture….We are the first culture to be surprised by suffering.” -Tim Keller. (Thanks to AntRist for that quote.)