The Suffering Doctrine - Part 1
by Tim Greenwood
To read Part Two, Click here
To read Part Three, Click here

For nearly 1700 years, the devil has put sickness and disease on members of the Body of Christ. He has burdened them with poverty. He has oppressed them at every turn. And they haven't even fought back - because they thought they were suffering for Jesus. 

Over the years, this unscriptural doctrine of suffering for God by submitting to such works of the devil as sickness, lack and oppression has become the sacred cow of sacred cows when it comes to religious tradition. 

But it's time that we knocked this sacred cow in the head. It's time it was slaughtered, cut up and eaten for dinner so that the Body of Christ can rise up - more than conquerors and put this "doctrine of devils" - under our feet, where it belongs. 

Some people become really defensive when it comes to this particular doctrine. They're protective of it because they learned it from their dear, old grandmother, or from the Sunday school teacher who taught them their first Bible stories. 

But these saints came by the suffering doctrine honestly. It's been passed down from one generation of Christians to the next since about 300 A.D. 

How it Started
Let's look back at history, and see how it all started.

At the time, the Body of Christ was suffering persecution in far greater scope than Christians today have ever known. Roman emperors, in an attempt to gain political popularity, began striving to out-do one another by slaughtering Christians in increasingly horrible ways. 

One emperor fed a group of them to the lions. Another tried to put on a more spectacular show by burning them at the stake...and so it went. 

You can imagine what happened at the meetings the believers were having at that time. Their sermons, their prayers and their discussions all began to focus on one topic - suffering and persecution. 

Unaware, for the most part, of God's power to protect them, those early Christians didn't know how to believe Him for deliverance. Instead, they simply trusted God to get them through the suffering, to give them strength to endure the pain without denying Jesus. They took some of the things different ones had written and armed themselves with the Word of God - and they got good at it! 

Their faith eventually grew so strong in this area that many looked forward to the opportunity to prove His power in the face of lions, fire, or at the edge of a sword. 

One of the most famous stories that came down from that day was about a believer who had been sentenced to burn at the stake. He promised the other believers - who would be watching his execution - that if the power of God were enough, he would hold up one finger for them to see. 

When the day of his death came and the flames engulfed him, his fellow believers looked intently to see what his report would be. Sure enough, through the smoke, they saw him lift his hand and hold up not just one, but two fingers. He wanted them to know that the grace of God was more than enough!

For those early Christians, honoring God in the midst of persecution and suffering became the primary focus of their faith. It became the center point of their Christian walk. Then, suddenly, the persecution ceased. A new emperor took power and put a stop to it. And suddenly, those believers didn't have anything to talk about or pray about. 

Often after fighting a monumental battle for their lives - and after winning that battle - people have difficulty refocusing on what to pray about! And it was at this point in history - when the persecution stopped - that this doctrine of "glorifying God" through suffering, sickness and poverty began. 

It quickly grew into a major religious dogma. The problem was [and is now] that it wasn't based on the Bible. It was born out of the misdirected fervor of those early Christians, who had so focused on glorifying God through persecution, that they didn't know what to do when the persecution stopped. 

So they replaced the lions and the burning stakes with all kinds of trouble and pain - mostly sickness and disease.

Their intentions were good. They loved God. But the fact is - that there is no comparison between suffering from burning at the stake because you refuse to deny the Name of Jesus, and suffering from sickness or poverty. Those two kinds of suffering are just not the same thing. 

Let's Look at What the "Suffering Doctrine" is About
The "Suffering Doctrine" of religious tradition is a destructive counterfeit of the true Bible teaching on the suffering that the believer must be prepared to go through. 

The suffering doctrine has these basic suppositions: Since suffering happens and since God runs and controls everything - then suffering is either authored by God or allowed by God. If God authors or allows suffering it must be: 

  • as the punishment (loving correction, discipline) of His children, 
  • so that He can have opportunities to demonstrate His faithfulness to us in hard times, 
  • so we in turn can demonstrate our trust in Him in spite of adverse circumstances or
  • to test our free will and make a way for us to grow spiritually.
If God is NOT the author of the suffering then He still allows it as a natural result of our tenure in "the devil's world" where he is its author. Therefore, if we suffer, it must be God's will that we suffer and: 
  • We should be content with the assurance that God (through His GRACE) will help us get through it. 
  • We should be content with the assurance that God will NEVER ask us to bear any burden which we are unable to bear (even if it KILLS us). 
  • We should be content with the assurance that our suffering WILL end when we DIE. (As opposed to the unbeliever whose suffering will never end.)
This doctrine - as doctrines go - sounds very religious, lofty, perhaps even pious. But I contend that it falls into a unique category of doctrines - "the doctrine of demons." 

The Subtle Danger of This Doctrine is Twofold
1) It places the believer in a state of non-resistance to the Devil and his darkness, and
2) It places the blame (whether called that or not) directly or indirectly on God.

The fruits of this teaching have been - among others:

  • premature death
  • unnecessary suffering
  • the belief that God has left, abandoned, or forsaken us
  • loss of faith
  • living in hypocrisy, (i.e., believing a sickness is God's will, yet seeking to be rid of it medically)

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    The primary error of the teaching is in the primary supposition itself! The supposition that God is running, controlling everything - which is simply not true.

    God the Father is on His throne in Heaven, Jesus is seated there at His right hand, and the Holy Spirit is here with us on earth. The functions of the Holy Spirit are, among others, that of comforter, counselor, teacher, reminder, spokesman, provider of power and giver of divine gifts. 

    The Father and Jesus have ALREADY done all they are going to do until Jesus returns and gathers His saints. The Father sent His only begotten Son to redeem us from the curse of the law. And, the Father sowed His singular seed (Jesus) into the earth for the express purpose of producing and harvesting an abundant crop of sons of God! Sons that look like, act like, and talk like Jesus! 

    Jesus came here, lived a sinless life, destroyed the works of the Devil wherever he found them and produced good works in their place. He taught and trained students to teach others to be just like Him. He voluntarily and systematically took upon His own body the full curse of every sin, sickness, disease, dysfunction, perversion and pain, paying the full and final penalty for us.

    He did this by taking it upon his body and carrying it all to the cross of Calvary where He became the Atonement for us, by shedding His own blood and dying for us, and thereby redeeming us from the curse of the law. 

    Then according to plan, he was buried. Three days later - having defeated the Devil - the Father resurrected Him from the dead. After this He gave His followers last minute instructions. 

    First, to go and wait for the pouring out of the Holy Spirit. Secondly, He told them that once they received the Holy Spirit and power, to go into all nations - teaching, preaching, healing, and baptizing those that believe. 

    Then he told them that those that did believe, and were baptized, would speak in tongues, not be hurt by deadly things, cast out demons in Jesus' name, and heal by the laying on of their hands - just as the other followers of Jesus did. 

    Jesus set up an ongoing system to train and equip believers - to continue to: act as Jesus did, say what Jesus said and do what Jesus did. The Father sent the Holy Spirit with the same power and the same gifts that He had provided for Jesus in the earth. 

    Jesus, after His resurrection, proclaimed - "All authority has been given to me!" And then turned around and said that we were to have the same dominion and authority - by the power of attorney - of His Name! The Name of Jesus! 

    What I am saying is that God the Father delegated running of things here on earth to Jesus! And that Jesus delegated the management of this earth to us! So, who is supposed to be running things here on Earth? 

    We are!

    To read Part Two, Click here
    To read Part Three, Click here

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