Tree of Life Church, London

Suffering: A Mixed Bag

Different Kinds of Suffering

One of the questions that people ask when they realize that you have seen the sick healed, and seen relationships restored and seen people supernaturally get out of debt is this: must Christians suffer?  If you preach victory all the time, then are you implying that Christians never have to suffer?  People then point to passages of Scripture that say that Christians do have to suffer and so say that you should not preach healing and deliverance and victory and blessing because the Bible says you have to suffer for following Jesus.

What people have failed to do though is realize that there are different kinds of suffering.  Some people suffer because they have sinned: they have sown a bad seed and are now reaping a bad consequence.  Other people suffer because of ignorance.  Some people suffer because the devil is attacking them.  These kinds of sufferings can be avoided.  With accurate Biblical teaching and the support of good strong Christian friends, it can mean that these sufferings can be completely avoided.

Sometimes there is suffering though simply because of spiritual discipline.  For example, the suffering of not having a cheeseburger for a couple of days because you are fasting.  The suffering of missing the football game because you are spending time worshiping and praying.  Some people might give up a well paying job to go and serve the Lord by faith.  I hesitate to call this kind of thing suffering because the rewards are always greater than the cost.  However, let’s be honest – any of us who have given up things to serve the Lord have felt the pain of it at certain times, and it has been a form of suffering.

Finally there is suffering that comes because of persecution because we are following Jesus.  You cannot get away from that.  Most, if not all, of the New Testament references to suffering are referring to this kind of suffering.  Remember the New Testament was written to people who were being very badly treated due to their Christianity.

General Principles When Suffering

Firstly, you must remember God is not to blame.  God is a good God.  He does not put sickness on people; He does not go around causing pain.  If He has asked you to do something difficult, it is due to His love for you.  If people are picking on you for following Christ, you should rejoice that God, through the person of Jesus, knows exactly what you are going through.  If you are suffering because of your ignorance or sin, don’t blame God.  Take responsibility because then you can deal with the suffering and stop it from happening.

Secondly, accept that there is no deep lesson to be learned from your suffering.  There may be a simple lesson (if you are suffering from indigestion, maybe you should have eaten less!), but there is not some deep lesson.  You are not sick because God is teaching you character – He teaches you through his Word.  God did not make you sick and God wants you well.

Thirdly, expect wonderful things to happen.  God is a good God.  Expect a miracle; expect your life to be different.  Tears come for the night, but joy comes in the morning.

Suffering for Sin

Some people are suffering because they have sinned.  This is not a popular thing to say... people prefer to blame God.  But Galatians 6 says that if we sow the wind, we will reap the whirlwind.  However, this is good news!  How can that be?  Because if God caused your suffering, there would be nothing you can do about it.  However, if you caused it you can repent and ask for forgiveness and walk in love and be cleansed.  Then the suffering will end. 

It’s really that simple.  If you are in pain because you have sinned, you can confess the sin and ask the Lord to heal your pain.  I know a man who injured his back while stealing a video player from someone’s house illegally.  God healed Him - He didn't hold his sin against him.  God is great at restoring people.

Some people are in financial difficulty because they make greedy, foolish decisions with money.  They borrowed foolishly because they wanted to live above their means.  Say sorry to God and He will provide your needs according to His riches in glory.

Some people are in bad marriages because they have treated their partner badly.  Confess it to God, be cleansed, walk in the light and watch God work a miracle in your marriage.

Suffering for Ignorance

Ignorance can cause as much, if not more, trouble than straightforward selfish sin.  If a baby drinks a bottle of poison, that baby will suffer.  Not due to sin, but due to lack of knowledge.  People years ago smoked cigarettes totally ignorantly of their effects, but they still got sick.  Ignorance is not bliss - it is a serious problem!

When it comes to God’s principles in the Word, it is the same.  If you do not know that tithing opens the windows of heaven, you will never tithe and you will spend a long time trying to walk in prosperity that would otherwise come easily.  If you do not realize that faith must have actions attached (James 2.24) then you might not act healed when you don’t feel healed, and may never have the manifestation.  If you don’t realize the power of your words, you will condemn yourself and set yourself back more than any devil ever could. 

So spend your time learning about the Word and the principles of success in God’s kingdom.  Remember God does not want you to suffer, so humbly ask Him to show you areas of ignorance in your life and ask Him to teach you truth and life.

Spiritual Attack

There is a devil – joining Christianity is boarding a war ship not signing up to a pleasure cruise.  Ephesians 6.10 tells us to put on the full armour of God.  There are times when we suffer because a demon makes us suffer.  In these circumstances, we must realize that we have authority over all the works of darkness, and boldly tell the devil to leave us alone in Jesus’ name.

James 4.2-3 gives us the best tactics in dealing with the devil:

1.       Submit to God.  Obey the Word – make sure you are walking in love and faith

2.       Resist the devil.  Do not let him determine your thoughts, emotions or actions

3.       He will flee from you.  Expect your deliverance!


Sometimes suffering is due to a curse.  A curse is a spiritual force which affects people for evil.  You can break the power of a curse through the name of Jesus.  Jesus has redeemed us from every curse - Galatians 3.13.  A Christian never has to suffer a curse if they know the name of Jesus and know how to use this name in prayer.

Suffering Due to Spiritual Discipline

Some suffering is due to spiritual discipline.  There is suffering in praying, fasting, reading the Word – when all your flesh wants to do is sit down, eat chocolate and watch rubbish on the TV!  The Bible doesn’t really talk about this kind of suffering much – it simply takes it for granted that you will obey God and discipline yourself and follow Jesus.  Just remember do not quit doing good – because it will produce a harvest of good in your life (Galatians 6.9)


This is the kind of suffering the New Testament talks about.  You are not to suffer sickness or poverty as a Christian, you are not however immune from suffering due to persecution.  There is nowhere where the Bible states we are redeemed from persecution, unlike the verses which clearly say we are redeemed from sickness, sin and poverty.

What do you do when people persecute you because you follow Jesus?  The main thing is to bless them (Matthew 5.11-12).  Make sure you bless those who persecute you, that you show love to them, talk good about them and pray for them.  You must keep your heart pure and forgive anyone who is hurtful to you or spitefully uses you.

The other thing the Bible says to do is to rejoice (James 1.2, Acts 4.41) – the devil is clearly scared of the power of the Word of God inside you.  So get happy that you are growing in the Word and developing as a Christian.

Finally, don’t let suffering as a Christian cause you to quit.  Look up 1 Pet. 4.12-16, 2 Cor. 11.21-29 and see how Christianity always involves conflict from the world.

Scripture References on Suffering For Following Christ

Hebrews 5.8-9

1 Peter 2.9-23

Hebrews 4.16

Acts 5.41

Acts 9.10-16

2 Cor. 6.4-6

2 Cor. 11.23-31

Romans 8.17-18

2 Cor. 1.3-11

2 Cor. 4.8-9

1 Pet. 3.12-14

1 Pet. 4.12-16

Mark 10.28-30


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