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신앙안의 고통에 대하여. 박성일 목사 (영어)

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작성자 박성일 작성일13-05-16 03:47 조회3,216회 댓글0건

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Relationship between Suffering and Spiritual Maturity

Over the course of their lives, people suffer. Surely people want to escape from suffering. Even after suffering, people have hard times due to hurt from suffering. Thus, some people become corrupted under the pressure of suffering, or some people live their lives in terror caused by suffering. Nevertheless, Christians should have a different understanding with regard to suffering, especially sufferings due to faith. Many Korean Christians think that the church is a place of blessing. Therefore, they expect to eliminate their suffering when they come to church; church should have no suffering. Furthermore, if Korean Christians come to meet suffering because of their faith in the church, many of them will be disappointed and leave church (Rhee 77).

For this reason, suffering should be reinterpreted in the church. In the Old Testament, suffering was regarded as God’s punishment because of human sins (Hauser 84-85). Even now, many people still think that suffering is a kind of punishment. Thus, they become disappointed easily. This misunderstanding should be revised. Suffering is a natural part of human life. Even Christians will not be exempt from suffering. Nevertheless, suffering offers the opportunity to express God’s work (Yancey 84-85).

Only when Christians experience such a tremendous suffering such as Jesus has been through can they appreciate Jesus and understand other Christians, too (Israel 14). Thus, ancestors of faith in the fourth century thought much of suffering. Some of them were even afraid of losing suffering. The new situation of the church after Constantine’s peace was not equally received by all. Although someone such as Eusebius of Caesarea saw the new events as the fulfillment of God’s purpose, others saw that situation as the low level to which Christian life had descended. The narrow gate that Jesus introduced became so wide that countless multitudes were rushing to it. Some people were merely seeking privilege and position without delving deeply into the meaning of Christian baptism and life under the cross. <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

The church being a place of security became another danger of church because people forgot the essence of Christianity. They followed social demands and were satisfied with secular lives though they carried the Christian name. In the era of peace, people who thirsted after real faith had to find a way to keep their faith; thus, they considered desert as a place where they could make a distance from the secular culture. One of the characteristics from desert fathers was ascetics. Though Gnosticism was rejected by church, their concept about asceticism influenced monasticism (Gonzalez 186). Eventually, Christians who really wanted to be sincere followers of Christ voluntarily suffered for the faith.

Of course, now people do not want to experience suffering voluntarily because they want to avoid pain. Nevertheless, the paradox of Christian faith is that when Christians suffer, they also experience the power of God. They come to learn that the Holy Spirit gives them the power to endure such suffering situation (Hauser 155).

Such being the case, according to James 1:2, even in the situation of suffering, Christians should be glad that they have a chance to check their spiritual status. Moreover, James 4:4 says that a good relationship with God naturally brings about conflict with the world (Muwanza 35). Actually, even now suffering for the faith remains in this world. Although the US is safe from religious persecution comparatively, in North Africa, North Korea, China, and even in Moslem countries, religious persecution still exists.

With regard to this persecution, Pukutan N. Muwanza asserts that persecution is suffering for the righteousness, and Satan is working with persecutors to make Christians disappointed. While giving pain and hurt, persecutors expect Christians to abandon their faith (36). Just as Daniel and his friends were persecuted, even today Christians can be persecuted for their faith by their family, relatives and employers. Notwithstanding, even this persecution is accepted as a way to God’s righteousness; thus, they can go through such suffering. As a matter of fact, persecution is not a good way to oppress Christian faith. According to Acts 8:1-4, when the church was persecuted, it grew rapidly. Actually, faith does not eliminate suffering itself. Rather, Christians can confront suffering because of faith. Moreover, suffering for faith can be a good opportunity to make Christians stronger spiritually and become closer to God. Thus, when suffering for faith comes, sincere Christians have the perspective that it brings with a chance for growth (Jo I. 122).

Jesus suffered for God’s kingdom. Although Christians do not need to suffer intentionally, they should try to build up God’s kingdom and follow God’s way (Morris 13-14). The hurt of Jesus does not mean that the suffering is pleasant, but some suffering for faith is worthwhile to experience (Muwanza 19).

Many times when Christians suffer, they do not know the exact reason for suffering. However, what is important is not the reason for suffering but what God expects of them through suffering. God occupying more space within them through suffering is the most important fruit of suffering (Outcalt 56). Furthermore, faith is based on the understanding of God’s characteristics and promises. Faith is merely trusting that God’s words are appropriate even in the situation of suffering. When Christians are participating in suffering, they may expect divine miracles, but faith itself does not save them from the suffering. Stephen was a man of faith, and he proclaimed God’s words courageously, but he was not saved miraculously. Surely many of God’s people in the Old Testament were murdered. Hebrews 11:32-40 describes many heroes of the faith in the Old Testament, but many of them were not saved. Nevertheless, they boldly confronted death with the faith of resurrection. In suffering, whether Christians experience a miracle or not, their faith only should be based on the written words in the Bible and God’s goodness (Graeser 141).

Although God permits Christians to suffer, at the same time he gives them the hope of salvation that makes them endure such suffering. Suffering Christians also can help others who are likewise suffering (Graeser 199-200). In addition, the period of suffering is not wasted but gives them the opportunity to express their faithfulness to God and to speak justice into the world where justice is not prevalent (Tambasco 13).

Through suffering, Christians can be stronger in the life of faith. Surely everyone expects peace, but the peace that Christ promised does not mean peace of no tension. This peace makes Christians overcome even in suffering (Muto and van Kaam, Divine Guidance 64). Moreover, when people suffered, then the fruit of faith can grow through the generations (Israel 192). Furthermore, through the process of suffering, Christians can have new points of view; through the suffering, Christians come to see beyond this visible world (93). Their gaze is changed as they come to imitate Christ’s mind. Victory through suffering gives them the power of sustaining peaceful status with God, and then their minds, which are related to pain, punishment, and rewards, become empty. Suffering accompanies self-sacrifice (135).

Of course, the cross can be also regarded as the symbol of suffering. Jesus himself carried the cross and then was crucified on it. His suffering was owed to his faith for the salvation. Jesus is the ultimate model of suffering. Maturity through suffering can be accomplished when Christians are obedient to God with humble faith like Jesus. While approaching Jesus, Christians may participate in the suffering, but only through that process, they are able to know the meaning of the cross and join in the fellowship with him (Elliot 91). With human reason and logic, Christians cannot endure the cross as suffering for faith, but the cross includes the promise of their transformation (Hauser 159). Surely when Christians carry the cross, they feel pain and anger, but such a status is part of process in their spiritual maturity. The suffering reforms their lives and redefines their knowledge (Smith 25). Christians should not regard the suffering as punishment from God. When they misunderstand suffering as punishment, they cannot overcome the hardships and then fail (28).

As a matter of fact, even after suffering, the situation can be still bad or unchanged, but even such a status includes God’s plan. Thus, Christians do not have to be worried too much or disappointed. When they suffered, they should accept the situation with faith. Then they come to choose their response while acting and loving (Smith 43). Although suffering visits Christians dramatically, the choice of how they respond in their routine lives of faith is definitely up to them (Morris 9). Furthermore, suffering forges Christians. As iron becomes pure through the process of forging, Christians become purified through the process of suffering (Muwanza 17).

In Christians’ physical minds, they do not want to obey God who allowed such suffering. They just want to follow their instincts. Hence, following God means they have to fight their bodies. Thus, the reason why they should fight against suffering is rooted in their obedience to God. Without faithful obedience, a courageous activity in the face of suffering is meaningless. Therefore, overcoming suffering is also the result of their obedience to God. In addition, after this suffering, they become more obedient than before because they come to learn how God works in people who are faithfully obedient to God even in situations of suffering. God does not answer them concerning their questions about suffering for faith in a concrete form. God just answers them with their lives and his work (Wiersbe 125). Thus, Christians waste their time asking and wondering unnecessarily about suffering. When confronted with suffering, believers need not judge why this suffering came to them. One thing they should do is give their trust to God, expecting the maturity of their spirituality (Chae  J. 43).

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