Learning from Affliction – Part 3

Over the past two weeks, I’ve expanded on Deuteronomy 8, showing that God actually let His people experience hunger so that they would trust Him to be their portion. This is another form of affliction, but it was always to an end. Not only that, but the end which God has in mind is superior to any other end we can think of. 

God-Ordained Affliction

People might ask, “why does God need to lead us to trust Him? Is this real trust?” The answer is that as humans, we will put our trust in something, but God is the only objective good; he is the only one who is safe. Because we tended to trust in the wrong thing, God will use affliction to get our eyes off that which is counterfeit and on to the truth.

Deuteronomy 8 shows us that God actually let His people experience hunger so that they would trust Him to be their portion. Click To Tweet

The term affliction is pronounced anah, and it means to humble. Let me ask a few questions. God rejects the proud, right? God gives grace to the humble, right? God wants that none should perish, right? So why would we believe that God would not humble each and every one of us? Why would He not afflict us? Why would He not discipline us? If He didn’t, it would be a sign that He didn’t actually love us and that we didn’t belong to Him. This is precisely what the writer of Hebrews teaches:

“You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin; and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, “MY SON, DO NOT REGARD LIGHTLY THE DISCIPLINE OF THE LORD, NOR FAINT WHEN YOU ARE REPROVED BY HIM; FOR THOSE WHOM THE LORD LOVES HE DISCIPLINES, AND HE SCOURGES EVERY SON WHOM HE RECEIVES.” It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.” – Hebrews‬ ‭12:4-11‬ ‭NASB‬‬

So affliction comes, sometimes at the hands of God and sometimes by the permission of God, but always for a purpose as God works all things together for our good. Here’s what verse 68 goes on to say,

“You are good and do good; Teach me Your statutes.” – Psalms‬ ‭119:68‬ ‭NASB‬

David understood that God had afflicted him. And it was because he had gone astray. Even still, David declared that God was good and that He did good. What kind of teacher do you want but one who is good and who does good? This is the higher standard to which a teacher must strive, and this is the higher standard to which we must be kept. 

  • In Psalm 86:5, David said, “For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, and abundant in lovingkindness to all who call upon You.” – Psalms‬ ‭86:5‬ ‭NASB‬‬
  • Deuteronomy 8:16 reads, “In the wilderness He fed you manna which your fathers did not know, that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do good for you in the end.”
Affliction comes, sometimes at the hands of God and sometimes by the permission of God, but always for a purpose as God works all things together for our good. Click To Tweet

God’s Affliction is Good

God is good, and He does good. Even a quick survey of Scripture bears this out. God was the one who wanted good for Nineveh, not Jonah… We really do need to reset our definition of good based on what we see here. Here’s where we start to put all the pieces together.

“The arrogant have forged a lie against me; With all my heart I will observe Your precepts. Their heart is covered with fat, But I delight in Your law. It is good for me that I was afflicted, That I may learn Your statutes.” – Psalms‬ ‭119:69-71‬ ‭NASB‬‬

David’s fidelity mattered to him. His reputation, as we understand it, was a man after God’s heart—even though he was still a sinner and a vile one at that. We see from this verse that there was a conspiracy going against him. Lies were being orchestrated and spread about him, and yet David’s defense was to declare once again that he obeyed God with his whole heart. [ref. Job 13:4 (KJV); Ps 109:2]

Jesus told us that if our brother comes to us seeking forgiveness, we are to grant him (or her) that forgiveness seven times in a day if needed. What do we do if the sin against us is a forged lie? Forging is a deliberate process. According to David, his enemies forged a lie. According to Jesus, David’s job was still to forgive. This is actually what we see in David. He forgives his enemy; he turns his attention and affection back to God and obeying his word.

Here’s another interesting thought; notice that those who forged the lie were described as arrogant. What does God do with the arrogant? He rejects them, right? But wasn’t David arrogant at some point? Sure. But he was led to repentance through the kind, loving discipline of the Lord. Maybe our forgiveness of those who’ve forged lies against us will be the catalyst that leads to their repentance. 

What does the Scripture tell us to do with arrogant/sinful people? In so far as it depends on us, we live at peace with them, we love them. We trust that if vengeance is required, it belongs to God. 

So what was David’s response? He observed God’s precepts. If we do things God’s way, it will always be the best way. 

David then offered a strange line; he said that those who conspired against him had hearts covered in fat. So heart disease? Not exactly. The ESV translates it differently and sheds some light for us, “their heart is unfeeling like fat.” This is the same idea as having a seared conscience. 

The contrast that David has painted for us is his heart (a heart that delights in God’s law) versus their evil hearts (hearts that had been seared and had lost all feeling). What can we learn from this? The antidote to a hardened heart is to delight in God’s law. The second we begin to ignore God’s way is the second we are straying. 

Next, David praised being afflicted, and I’m not sure we have a file folder for this. David is no masochist. He simply understood what the Apostle Paul later wrote—that we must not only have fellowship in the sufferings of Christ, but we also will grow through it. (ref. Psalm 119:75

David praised being afflicted, and I’m not sure we have a file folder for this. David is no masochist. He simply understood what the Apostle Paul was to later write. Click To Tweet

Unlike Christ, who suffered affliction for our sins, we suffer affliction for our holiness. This is how being afflicted helps us to learn God’s statutes. God’s statues are rightly understood through affliction. Affliction shows us what went wrong, and God’s statutes show us what is right.

“The law of Your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.” – Psalms‬ ‭119:72‬ ‭NASB‬‬

Why is the law better for David than riches? Because they contained far greater riches!

“The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the LORD are true; they are righteous altogether. They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them Your servant is warned; In keeping them there is great reward.” – ‭Psalms‬ ‭19:9-11‬ ‭NASB‬‬

“Take my instruction and not silver, And knowledge rather than choicest gold. For wisdom is better than jewels; And all desirable things cannot compare with her…. My fruit is better than gold, even pure gold, And my yield better than choicest silver.” – Proverbs‬ ‭8:10-11, 19‬ ‭NASB‬‬

Conclusion

All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.” – Hebrews‬ ‭12:11‬ ‭NASB‬‬

Unlike Christ, who suffered affliction for our sins, we suffer affliction for our holiness. Click To Tweet

In Galatians 5, we read about the fruit of the Spirit, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things, there is no law.” – Galatians‬ ‭5:22-23‬ ‭NASB‬‬

This is the same fruit that Solomon spoke of in Proverbs 8; this is the same fruit of Hebrews 12. But what I want you to see today is that bearing such fruit comes with affliction—sometimes great affliction. 

Let’s Talk

The Bible tells us that foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child. It also tells us that we are God’s children. The truth is that sin is real, and all its foolishness is bound up within us. But God as the good Father afflicts us in order to bring about His righteous end. What’s more, is that this is truly good! How has affliction led you back to God? Comment below or email me at nathan@nathanfranckhauser.com. 

 

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