Wednesday, January 14, 2009

PAIN Word-Study Devotional


My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience. Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord—that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful. –James 5:10-11

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. –Romans 8:18

Pain, in Greek is, pathos (S#3806). From it, we get our English words: pathology, passion, paschal [lamb] (pascha, S#3807 = Passover), & path (a narrow trail; idea of pressure, to crowd). There are additional words that may be synonymous to this as well (e.g. affliction, anguish, disease, illness, infirmity, malady, sickness, sin, suffering, et al.).

In the Bible, you will discover that God uses pain for the purpose of His will: “And the LORD will take away from you all sickness, and will afflict you with none of the terrible diseases of Egypt which you have known, but will lay them on all those who hate you” (Deut. 5:17). In Egypt, the Hebrews knew and experienced the pain of disease. Pliny described Egypt as “the mother of worst diseases.” In O.T. typology, Egypt was sometimes used as a symbol of bondage, of flesh, of sickness, and of sin. God brought affliction on those who lived in disobedience to Him; sometimes, even on His chosen: “For You, O God, have tested us; You have refined us as silver is refined. You brought us into the net; You laid affliction on our backs. You have caused men to ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water; but You brought us out to rich fulfillment” (Ps.66:10-12; cf. Heb.12:1-11). “For the Lord will not cast off forever. Though He causes grief, yet He will show compassion according to the multitude of His mercies. For He does not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men” (Lam. 3:31-33). Here, amidst the grief, you discover the longsuffering and mercy of God. “He does not afflict willingly,” meaning, there is purpose behind the afflictions of God. In the context of His people, God uses pain for the purpose of discipline and/or training. Pain develops endurance and it occurs in harmony to the ministry and mission of God’s people here on earth, including Jesus: “Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me” (John 15:20-21).

Many times a Christian’s pain is emotional, from the heart. Paul spoke numerous times of his travailing pain over the burden of the churches he planted (2 Cor.11:28; Acts 20:17-23; Gal.4:19; 1 Cor.4:14-15). Some notable Christians of history past seem to have died prematurely due to their ministry (e.g. David Brainard, Oswald Chambers, etc.). For others, pain was allowed in order for the glory of God to be manifested (Job & Lazarus (Jn.11:4)). And, yes, Paul even hints at the removal of some among us as a result of sin: “For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world” (1 Cor.11:30-32; cf. Acts 5:1-11).

It is difficult to see encouragement in a study of pain, especially as I try to associate it with the permissive will of God. But I’ve only scratched the surface of numerous scriptures that reveal Christians involvement with pain. I have personally been in much pain the past one and a half years (2007-08), during what I considered the prime of my ministry. I have been patient and impatient, rational and irrational, sensing the presence of God and of demons. Though my spirit remains willing, my flesh cries out for relief. Not always understanding it in the present, looking back, I can see the hand of God in my pain and its purpose. There is uncommon fellowship (koinonia) with Christ in sufferings (Phil.3:10; 1 Pet.3:17; 4:12-17). There is a renewed hope and faith in my calling. Therefore, I press forward—not looking back—to obtain recognition in the call of God for my life (Phil.3:13-15). When pain grips your flesh and your spirit groans in agony, join in the sweet fellowship with Christ and press forward in the call of God for your life. Seek Him for a fresh and renewed understanding of His will for you. (Gal.2:20) “For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for life; weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” (Ps.30:5; cf. 126:5-6)

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