The Unbelievable Truth About Affliction

I know a woman who has had a pretty rough life most of the time I’ve known her. She admits to starting out life making some really bad choices. That led to bad consequences later on. She had an abusive husband, who she finally got rid of, and since then, has been unable to find a good man. She’s journeyed from one bad relationship to another. While her kids are now all grown and moved on, their lives reflect the same pattern of rough living that hers does. She has been unable to keep a job for many years now. It’s not that she’s been fired for bad behaviour. She either gets laid off, or the company dissolves and lets everyone go, or circumstances seem to conspire against her.

She loves God, goes to church, but always asks the question, “When is God going to ride in and be my champion? When am I going to get a good job? When am I going to get a good man?”

Some of you have experienced times like this friend of mine. Some of you have tasted the bitterness of a bad job, a bad boss, a bad spouse, a bad life. In the midst of all that, some of you have likely asked the same question: where’s my champion? Why can’t I get a break?

I want to explore with you a side of God that isn’t popular. It’s a side of God that won’t make good posters to hang on the wall or won’t be the inspirational words you’ll find printed on cards of hope and encouragement. But, as we look at this unpopular attribute of God, we’ll begin to see what He wants for you and me. We’ll begin to understand why He allows and sometimes creates pain and suffering in our lives.

Nahum is a prophet of Judah, and his name means “comforter” in Hebrew. You’re about to see how ironic that is. Consider Nahum 1:9-13:

9 Whatever you devise against the Lord,

He will make a complete end of it.

Distress will not rise up twice.

10 Like tangled thorns,

And like those who are drunken with their drink,

They are consumed

As stubble completely withered.

11 From you has gone forth

One who plotted evil against the LORD,

A wicked counselor.

Nahum is writing to the Ninevites, telling them that destruction is coming.

Verse 11 in particular refers to their king, Sennacherib.

12 Thus says the LORD,

The verse starts with a phrase meant to tell us that the speaker, Nahum, is about to step back, and God’s about to take the mic.

“Though they are at full strength and likewise many,

Even so, they will be cut off and pass away.

Though I have afflicted you,

I will afflict you no longer.

13 “So now, I will break his yoke bar from upon you,

And I will tear off your shackles.”

The curious part here––and is quite common in prophetic literature, is that while Nahum was speaking to Nineveh, God is speaking to Judah. Verses 12 and 13, as such are words of exhortation, encouragement, and hope.

Note who gets credit for Judah’s affliction: God. Not Babylon. Not Assyria. Not Sennacherib. God. He is doing the afflicting. He’s not passively standing by and watching Sennacherib persecute Judah; He’s actually responsible for it!

Remember, Judah itself had turned its back on God and cycled through this, rebellion leads to retribution, which leads to repentance, which leads to restoration.

God afflicted them. This affliction is not justice. If Judah got justice for their rebellion, they’d all be dead. The wages of sin is death. This affliction is discipline––correction.

How did He correct them? By giving them over constantly to other evil nations. Why? To lead them to repentance so He could restore them.

1) God’s affliction is severe.

2) God’s affliction is correction.

Turn to Romans 1:21-25.

For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.

Therefore, God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

The sin of those who knew God. They turned their back on the God they knew and exchanged His truth for a lie…and THEN He gave them over to their sin. They became enslaved to it.

Why? God’s affliction is severe, and God’s affliction is correction. Remember, true justice in this case should result in death.

When God deals harshly with you, it is not in the interest of justice He does it, but in the interest of restoration.

3) God’s affliction seeks restoration.

1 Corinthians 5:1-5.

It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has his father’s wife. You have become arrogant and have not mourned instead, so that the one who had done this deed would be removed from your midst.

For I, on my part, though absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged him who has so committed this, as though I were present. In the name of our Lord Jesus, when you are assembled, and I with you in spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus, I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh…

Sounds ominous, doesn’t it? This is a NT church we’re talking about. Saved by grace, right? His mercies are new every morning and His grace is everlasting. So, sin here leads to being handed over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh? What does that mean? On first read, it sounds like hell. Eternal punishment. Apparently, you can lose your salvation through immoral behavior, right? Well, hold on: but we have to finish the verse. It’s vital:

so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.

Being handed over to Satan for the destruction of your flesh in this context is about the saving of souls in the end! Whatever’s going on here, the end goal of God is not eternal punishment but everlasting life. That’s why habitual sin is so hard to break in this world. Because immorality leads to being handed over to Satan. And a seemingly endless string of bad consequences occurs because immorality leads to severe affliction. But it’s not punishment; it’s correction. It’s about attitude and behavior modification. It’s about restoration.

God’s affliction is severe. It’s correction. It seeks restoration. It saves.

Not all bad things are the result of God’s affliction. Some bad things occur, not because of something we did, but as a consequence of living in a fallen world. Some bad things occur explicitly because we did something dumb, and we are reaping the harvest.

But, it’s worth remembering that sometimes, we have fallen on hard times because God has afflicted us. He has done so, not in the interest of exacting justice, but in the interest of enticing repentance, which leads to restoration. Furthermore, we know that all hardship has the capability to grow us, mature us, and develop us into stronger people than we were before.

So, do NOT think ill of a God who afflicts, because when He does so, He absolutely has your best interests in mind. Let’s pray.

Pastor Scott