August 4, 2014

The First Fruit of Suffering

Our spiritual priorities tell us that we are to give the first fruits of our joy and blessing to God since it is Him that the blessing and joy should be coming from. We must admit that many times we do not do this and it shows in God’s silence towards us sometimes. What I have found from grinding through months of endurance and waiting for things to turn around in my family’s life (most of the issues are of my own making) is that the above statement is only half correct. We are not obligated to give only of our joy and blessings. Believe it or not we are to give God the first-fruits of our suffering too. 

All things spiritual either come from God or are allowed by God. We also know that suffering is to teach us obedience and to sharpen our faith in the long-run. These are good things…we should be sharing them as first-fruits to the Lord. Yet this is overlooked. Why? My guess is because suffering doesn't look even remotely like blessing but blessing often comes through perseverance in the unpleasant. To begin with, I need to give my pain to God firstly so that when it comes time for joy and blessing, pain will have paved the way for giving Godly behavior when blessing does come my way.

Is first fruits of suffering biblical? Yes, very much so. Am I saying that God's suffering was not enough for us to gain salvation? Good grief no, that's more along the lines of the Catholic idea of redemptive suffering which is in reality a work that is unnecessary. I am merely stating that a way to help us cope with our trials and pain and still give glory to God is to first go to God to give him first of our pain...just as we would with any other thing that comes from God.

At some point if we truly understand, live out and accept the principles of Scripture we might be able to see or find the joy in suffering that Paul did in Philippians. If we somehow manage to recognize the joy in the suffering we can then see what the suffering points us to. If suffering at some point can be considered joy it could then also be considered a blessing. If it could be considered a blessing it is therefore a by-product of that blessing. It therefore stands to reason that we should offer the first fruit of our suffering including the suffering itself up to God. That is because of the good end to which our suffering will take us.

Romans 5:3-5 ~ More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

As a matter of fact James tells us that trials should all be counted joy (therefore blessing) because of the steadfastness and completeness I produces in a believer.

James 1:2-4 ~ Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

It warrants that we offer up pain and discomfort up to God as the blessing it is. Even Job whose suffering is second only to Christ’s on the cross had something profound to say about this concept.

Job 2:10 "... if we have received good things at the hand of God, why should we not receive evil?"

Each day we should never fail to thank God for the things He has done and will do for us that bless us. We should be sure to offer up the first fruits of our suffering. It is in actuality an exchange. By giving God our pain, we allow for God to heal us and refill our tanks so that we can pursue His will further. It is just like when we give God our sins…we receive sanctification in its place. This exchange also requires our dependency on God and forces us to reassert that dependency and relationship. If done properly it is done multiple times a day. Offering up our suffering and sin in return for comfort and glimpses of the Kingdom of God. 

What happens when we don’t offer up the first fruits of our pain? There is a good chance we’ll hold on to the pain instead of divesting ourselves of it like we were made to do. God wants us to come to Him to take the load off. In its place we put Christ.

Matthew 11:29 ~ “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

Our suffering has been allowed by God. It does not follow that God is maliciously doing it. Pain and suffering is the spiritual classroom of hard learning (school of hard knocks). The lessons we learn in suffering are hard earned and not soon forgotten. It would make sense that God would be glad to help us out in our suffering as He has told us to go to Him in our suffering. He has specifically told us we would be comforted in our afflictions (2 Corinthians 1:4). He knows what we suffer…He can certainly handle your pain if you hand it over to Him. He already died for you on a cross. If we can trust him with our eternal well-being, we can trust Him with our pain and broken hearts.

Even in offering our pain and suffering to God we bring glory to Him, not shame. How? Because it shows others that even in the depths of torment and suffering, we trust God to do the right thing for us, just as Job did….just as Jesus did. Suffering therefore is not the end of hope but the facilitator and builder of hope. 

Sometimes...even when you have nothing to offer up to should offer exactly that...nothing or what appears to be nothing. Our pain offered up to God certainly looks like less than nothing to us but to God and others watching it shows the Lord is first in our lives...even when we are at our lowest or at our worst.

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