No doubt many people over the centuries and throughout the world have rejected belief in the one true God on the grounds that they have witnessed or experienced great pain and suffering. Perhaps the loss of a loved one, or some other tragedy in their life, made them resentful and bitter toward God and life. By blaming God, somehow the pain seemed more bearable. But the Bible speaks definitively on this matter. And only the Bible can give us an accurate explanation for the existence of pain and suffering on the Earth.
Many great men and women in Bible history have preceded us in their attempts to live faithfully for God in the face of great hardship. Being human beings just like us, they faced the daily struggle to overcome self, sin, and Satan. They, too, had to cope with the stress and strain of life. They, too, had to endure hurt. We can learn from their behavior (Romans 15:4). If we will consider their lives and their reaction to the difficulties of life, we can receive from their example the necessary strength to endure. When we observe how they were mistreated and persecuted, and how they coped with their hurt, we can draw from them the needed encouragement to endure and achieve the victory.
For example, in his efforts to live the Christian life, Stephen found himself standing before the highest legislative body of the Jewish nation—the 71 members of the Sanhedrin that included the High Priest as president. He was on trial for his life. Instead of offering a legal defense, he preached a sermon. He surveyed Israelite history, spotlighting their behavioral propensity for apostasy, and then he drove his sermon home with this grand conclusion:
You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers, who have received the law by the direction of angels and have not kept it (Acts 7:51-53).
Here was this great man of God, on trial for his life, and yet no speech could ever be less calculated to gain one’s acquittal. Instead of defending himself to achieve his release, Stephen’s sermon placed his accusers on trial before the bar of God!….
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