By Norman Grubb – Transcribed from an audio tape:
What is suffering? Suffering is what I don’t like. That’s all. It may be spirit suffering, soul-emotional suffering or body suffering. I don’t like it because it presses me to find the remedy. That’s the secret! It presses me to find the remedy.
Do we square with what the Bible says on suffering? Unless I get it from my Bible, I’m not safe in the end. The Bible’s got to be interpreted by the Spirit; but I’ve got to have it in my Bible first, to have it in my spirit. The Bible says suffering is a necessary quality, and that you can’t have glory without it. So we’d better understand suffering if we’d have glory. The Scriptures are full of it.
In Romans, Corinthians and Timothy
The great Romans 8 victory chapter is full of suffering. The moment Paul speaks about our inheritance in verse 17, he says: “…if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him.” Oh? On condition that we suffer with him, “that we may be… glorified …” The two are bound together: heirs and joint-heirs, if so be that you suffer. Then glory.
The whole of this chapter (we call it the victory chapter, but it isn’t) is full of groans. It says that the whole creation groans in pain, “and not only they, but ourselves also.” So we’re co-groaners. The Bible says so here in verses 22 and 23. This is not the approaching chapter, but the arriving chapter. So, we’ve arrived in groaning here on earth.
And then Paul says that the Spirit groans with us, too, “with groanings which cannot be uttered.” That’s interesting. Isn’t this the victory chapter with no separation, and all of that? Yet, the chapter closes with: “As it is written, for thy sake we are killed all the day long.” Not, “alive all the day long.” No! “Killed all the day long.” Read it! We’d better be Bible readers and see what it says for ourselves. “We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” That’s not trotting about in earthly marble palaces, is it? “… Accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” Oh! That’s Romans.
Look at Corinthians, where this mighty Paul does his sharing and confessing. Second Corinthians is quite a confessing letter. He says he is comforted in all his tribulation, “but we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God …” (1:9). So he went through something. He, mighty Paul, was trusting “himself.” That’s a little bit of Satan, isn’t it?
What was Paul’s sentence of death? It involved, “here now, don’t stop; don’t stay there; don’t stop at that suffering stuff.” His answer was that “we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead: who delivered us from … death, and doth deliver …” In chapter 4, he says it is a continual dying, not only a dying two thousand years ago. “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us” (4:7).
“We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed” (4:8). Troubled means you feel it. In the Bible there’s a difference between troubled and distressed. You’re perplexed. Oh, we get mixed up a bit, then? This is Paul: perplexed, but not in despair. There is a separation between perplexity and despair, but there is perplexity.
So there is trouble, there is perplexity, there is persecution. We know a bit about that. We’re cast down, not out: “cast down, but not destroyed” (4:9). This is the mighty Paul. If you do better than him, you do pretty well.
“Always bearing about… dying of the Lord Jesus…” (8:10). Not His death, but His present dying. That’s in me. I’m bearing about the “dying of the Lord Jesus.” There’s something in me which is dying always, always, always. That’s a strong word, isn’t it? Continual dying, continual glory. There is continual dying, continual suffering, because life only comes out of death, “that the life … might be manifested in our body.”
A Body Death
But the life is only manifested because of the dying. It says that my body shows it. Find it in your Bible: “Bearing about in the body, the dying … that the life of the Lord Jesus … might be made manifest in our body” (8:10). So it’s physically operated and it shines out of us. Yet, the basis has been the dying, if there’s a rising. “For we which live are always delivered unto death…” (8:11). We’re stuck into death by God: “always delivered unto death… that the life… of Jesus might be made manifest.”
In II Corinthians 4:17 Paul calls that death “our light affliction.” Some lightness! “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment [some moment!], worketh for us a far more exceeding…” Worketh: one builds the other up, doesn’t it? They’re connected. The suffering works unto glory: “Our light affliction… worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” So we call it light. It doesn’t feel light down here at the start. But the outcome is a “weight of glory.”
The whole of II Corinthians chapter 6 is tough: stripes, imprisonments, “in all things approving ourselves as the ministers” of the Cross. But how? “By much patience, afflictions, necessities, distresses, stripes, imprisonments, tumults, labours, searchings, fastings” (verse 4-5). Wow! That’s mounting glory.
And then in II Timothy, in his last letter before he was executed, Paul told Timothy, “It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him: if we suffer, we shall also reign…” (2:11-12). There it is again! If you want glory, you have suffering. If you are reigning, you are suffering. If you don’t suffer with him, you won’t have glory. If we suffer with Him, we shall also reign with Him.
And then we come to the pattern. It becomes God that we are perfected in suffering, not perfected in glory. And it becomes the One “for whom are all things, and by whom are all things… to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings” (Hebrews 2:10). This number one person — the captain, the leader — is made like unto us.
Beginning in 2:9, “We see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels… that he… should taste death for every man. For it became him [God]…” It becomes and suits Him; it’s right and fitting. What is fitting? “In bringing many sons unto glory, to make the leader of their salvation perfect through sufferings.” What sufferings, then?
Temptation is called suffering in Hebrews 2:18, “For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted…” The word for both temptation and trial is the same in the Bible. In some sense temptation is an inner pull, while the trial is outer impact. But they are really the same thing, as it’s the same word in the original. “He suffered being tempted.” So there’s suffering in being tried.
Then in 5:7 we discover an amazing description of the perfect pioneer of our salvation: “Who, in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears [this is Jesus] unto him that was able to save him from death… was heard in that he feared.” He wasn’t saved from having death; he was saved from the product of death and went through death to resurrection.
Jesus wasn’t saved from outer death, but through the outer death came the resurrection. No death, no resurrection. So the salvation didn’t take place to get Jesus saved from the Cross, because if there hadn’t been the Cross there wouldn’t have been the resurrection. Resurrection comes after the death, as after the suffering comes the glory. The Bible says so.
It goes on to say in verse 8, that “though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered.” Do you see? You learn a thing and get it, as do those becoming doctors or taking on any other occupation. You become a “be-er,” a “God-er”. You learn obedience.
Obedience is a product of believing. The only obedience we have is not doing, but believing. You see, we believe that He is the doer, so all the doing we do, and will ever do, is believing; and then when we’re doing, it’s really He. That’s the learning obedience.
So Jesus “was perfected through suffering” (2:10), being made perfect… by the things which he suffered” (5:8). And he was settled in something. So sufferings settle you in something. What does it mean to settle you in something “Being made perfect, he [then] became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him,” who go the same way, the obedient way. Always remember that obeying is just believing. We are so keyed into thinking that obeying is working. But this is the obedience of faith.
The great Kierkegaard says, “Life is inside you.” Subjectivity is truth. Objectivity is outside you. You always escape by saying, “Oh, it’s out there, somewhere.” But life’s real answer is inside. His great word “existentialism” means that you live in existence: existence inside you.
How do I make that suffering operative? You live from inside you. You don’t say, “Oh, I’ll get over it somehow. It’ll go away tomorrow. It’ll leave off me eventually.” Life is not objective. Objective is operating by: “Oh, we’ll handle our problems out here.” Subjectivity is: “What does that mean to me? Why is that like that? I must find my answer inside me.”
That’s dialectic. That’s opposite. I don’t like it. Aha! I’ve got to find that one thing I don’t like inside me. “Oh, I’ll find that tomorrow,” is not the answer. It’s to find the daylight in the storm. That’s subjective. Objective is, “Oh, it’ll be found tomorrow.” Subjective says, “It’s a fine day today.” But it isn’t a fine day; it’s a bad day. Find out how it’s a fine day. Find out how a nasty day’s a nice day. That’s inside you: subjective, existential living.
How do I honestly handle that? Suffering forces me, if I’m real, to find my answer inside. And then it comes out through my body. The Scripture says that if you bear the dying inside you and find out how to die and rise inside you, then you show it. It’s spontaneous.
We know how Paul explained that glory comes out of suffering. And the writer of Hebrews showed how the perfect Person was made perfect in suffering, having learned obedience. So then, I’m not made perfect through victory or through glory, but through suffering. The Bible says so. Number One Person, Jesus, was perfected through sufferings. And when he knew how to handle and turn the sufferings, the glory came out.
How is that done? Sufferings force me to be what I don’t like and face it that I don’t like it. Suffering is, “I don’t like it.” Someone was saying, “I hated me. I couldn’t stand me.” Hopefully, we all have said that. But I don’t find the solution on the outside by pretending something. How can I turn nasty me into nice me? I’ve got to get my answer.
Kierkegaard, the great teacher, says that subjectivity means the subject is inside of me. Objective is on the outside of me. I must find my answer within, and it starts with conflict. I don’t find the answer, and I don’t like it. How can I turn a don’t like into a do like? Inside me.
A Leap of Faith
The secret of the Cross is that you handle your sins by a leap of faith inside of you that seeks a new way. It sounds absurd. Where’s God and this resurrection stuff? You’ve leapt by the absurdity of faith. You say, “I believe He did it. I believe in the resurrection. I believe in the Holy Spirit to forgive me. So I dissolve my sin problem by my Jesus inside me. He took them away!” Salvation! New birth! You’ve had the inside solution. You couldn’t be saved unless you were miserable inside.
The whole world tries to escape their sins. That’s objectivity. They call adultery a mistake. Our papers are full of stories about girlfriends, which leads to fornication and adultery. We never say so. Only the Bible says so. Or we might call it a mistake. It isn’t a mistake. It’s sin. Have you been in adultery? You could say, “Well, I’m sorry I have, but God’s had mercy.” And we’d believe you. You say we shouldn’t ask that. Don’t say, “Shouldn’t ask that.” Say, “I have done that, and I’m sorry.” That’s honesty. It isn’t a mistake; it’s a sin. Our subjectivity is truth. We must face it and find the honest answer.
How can I find the answer inside me when I’m a nasty person? I’d best find I’m a nice person by a leap of faith. I discovered the nasty person was Satan in me, and Jesus Christ put him out. The nice person is Jesus in me? So find I’m a nice person inside. Now my body shows the inner harmony. Once I was a Satan person; but Jesus put him out, and now I’m a Jesus person. I believe that! It’s leap of faith.
You can’t prove any of it. You can’t approve you’re saved. You’ve only got a book. Who says the book’s true, anyhow? You can’t prove anything. The leap’s inside you. Of course, you get the inside Person, but you can’t prove Him. The Holy Spirit says, “Oh yes, that’s so.” But you can’t prove that.
You’re a fool of faith. It’s the foolishness of faith — the wisdom of God which is wiser than men — and the weakness of God. You can’t prove it, but somehow you know it. And the world won’t talk about it. But you have found the inner secret which resolves suffering.