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Christian suffering and spiritual maturity

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Question:   Hi Bob, I still need your prayers that the Lord will end this misery. The Lord did show me Psalms 69:13 and Psalm 116:10. One other  question: when a saint dies what happens to the Holy Spirit. Does He go with us or what? Thank you in advance.

Response:  Good to hear from you, even though the news is not yet what we would hope. I am indeed continuing to pray for you and will do so until we can lift up our banners and thank the Lord for your victorious deliverance (Ps.20:5). I am waiting for a deliverance of my own, one which has been a long time coming, but I am confident in the Lord, and will continue to praise and thank Him for that coming deliverance of which I am sure. I have been considering a couple of passages on this entire issue: 2Cor.12:9-10 (and cf. 2Cor. chapter 4 in which Paul quotes one of your verses, Ps.116:10) and Heb.5:7-10 (cf. Heb.2:9-10). I have long known and accepted the principle that testing is a necessary ingredient in spiritual growth - like physical exercise in a healthy bodily regime.

But both of these passages and the themes they represent in their respective books have given me a deeper perspective on this issue: without pain, physical or emotional or a combination of the two, there is apparently no "perfecting". That is to say, it is not just the question of the test that is important and needs to be considered, rather it is also important to take into account that for a period of time, often a long period of time, the grief and anguish and pressure and physical pain that we may be called upon to endure as those who wish to follow in the footsteps of our Lord may indeed be severe. So it was for our Lord; so it was for Paul; and these passages suggest to me that this is a normal feature of significant spiritual advance. If, in our observation, it does not seem to be the rule, I would be forced to conclude that significant spiritual advance is even more rare in the present earthly Body of Christ than even I had previously imagined.

This is an important perspective to have for two reasons, first and most obviously because from Job onward the adversary always likes to introduce a suspicion into the heart of the believer being tested (and into the hearts of all of his/her associates) that the reason for the "problem" is personal sin (rather than the refining that comes to those who are advancing in the spiritual life); secondly, it is important for the believer who finds him/herself under such exceptional testing, the "sharing of the sufferings of Christ", to understand the situation so as not to lose heart, but rather to take encouragement as Paul did and to follow in the footsteps of our Lord. Needless to say, this point is easily lost on those who have not attained a rather high level of spiritual maturity, but then such individuals would not be receiving this intense "complimentary" form of testing in the first place. For even with diligent and dedicated devotion to the Lord and to the Word, it takes time to even approach the point of "delighting in weaknesses and suffering" (2Cor.12:9; Jas.1:2), or considering oneself "strong when weak and suffering" (2Cor.12:10). It really does require getting to the point of considering oneself entirely expendable at the Lord's good pleasure and having complete contempt for everything in this world apart from Him and His Word (even our own lives).

One thing to remember about Job, Paul, our Lord (and any great believer of the Bible you can name) - God in every case brought deliverance, victory, the accomplishment of the purpose for the lives of them all, and through their trials and suffering wrought an eternal weight of glory for them and for Himself that is not worthy to be compared to the (by comparison) momentary light afflictions they knew in this life (Rom.8:18). He stands ready to the same for us, if only we are but willing to follow Him wherever He leads.

As to your question about the Holy Spirit, in my view His special ministry to us is made necessary by the fact of our present earthy and earthly composition. Once we are out of these limited mortal bodies, we shall "know even as we are known" (1Cor.13:12). God will be "all in all" and the fellowship we shall have with all three members of the Trinity will be perfect and complete forevermore (1Cor.15:28). Even now, Father, Son and Spirit are "in us" (Jn.14:23; 14:17). This will surely be the case in eternity as well, but without the earthly limitations under which we now labor.

Please also see the following links which may be of some help:

Encouragement in Christian Sufferings.

Fighting the Good Fight of Faith.

Faith and Encouragement in the midst of Fiery Trials.

Encouragement, Isaiah 6:11-13, and the Hope of Repentance.

Waiting on God's timing

In need of encouragement.

Stand fast in the Lord. He will never leave you or forsake you.

Bob L.

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