It is Good for Me That I Was Afflicted

Psalm 119:65-72

If God’s purpose is to bring “many sons to glory” (Heb. 2:10), is helpful to have basic idea of how God intends to do that. Paul gives an idea of the steps:

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.” (Rom. 8:28-30)

This morning, considered the place of suffering in God’s plan, with particular emphasis on “the captain of our salvation” and connection with justification. This evening, the place of suffering in our life from perspective of daily experience.

So what are some of the specifics from our perspective of that section between being justified and being glorified? How can psalmist honestly and confidently say “It is good for me that I have been afflicted”? Down in the trenches, what are things we should keep in mind to deal with affliction / suffering well and to good and godly profit? Focus more on doctrine this morning, now on practice.

Is important to remember: we don’t have full enough understanding to look at any event/circumstance when it is happening and say with certainty “this is what God is doing”. God has given principles in his word, not play-by-play description of our lives. It is ours to know God’s specific purpose in particular circumstances to the extent we seek his help and he enlightens us. Sometimes God gives us a little more detailed view in rear-view mirror, when we look back on time of affliction from months or years later.

Foundation of these eight verses and psalmist’s perspective is v.68a – “You are good, and do good“. Means we must start with definition of “good”; then, how can this paradox make sense. Paradox: “a statement or sentiment that is seemingly contradictory or opposed to common sense and yet perhaps true in fact.” Accepted wisdom is that suffering/affliction rarely if ever is good; psalmist has the opposite view, how can that be? We saw this morning the good end God has in view for us, but is there good in suffering now?

A. definition of good v.68a

“Evil is serious unjustified harm inflicted on sentient beings.” “‘Good’ is the most general term of positive evaluation, used to recommend or express approval in a wide range of contexts.” Routledge, Ency. of Philosophy “…on the one hand there are questions about what it means to be good, on the other there are questions about which specific things actually are good.”

“The nature of good is by definition theocentric, for the triune God defines what is good.” Mounce, Expository Dictionary

Matt. 19:17 ” So He said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.”

only one who is good in the absolute sense – in his essence, infinitely and immutably good; all else that is good derives its goodness from the Source, God; to try to define good without starting with God is incomplete attempt, ends up as opinion

because God is good, all he does is good

that’s the principle, don’t always recognize/believe it in practice – too easily we question why God is doing something, at least in part doubting his motives or actions

Ex. 33:19 & 34:6-7 “Show me your glory” … “I will make all my goodness pass before you” … “The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness,keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”

because God is God and God is good, all he does is for a good purpose

we do lots to try and achieve a good end – good things, good motives, no control over outcome because of finite abilities

God has end (as in outcome) in view in all he does; has the power and authority to bring about his good and intended end

B. affliction and relationship with God v.65-67

recognition of God’s good-doing (65) – hindsight is 20-20 and you won’t have to wait 5 years to get it!

if, with God’s help, we maintain proper attitude toward both God and affliction, he will help us see at least some of the good

what is most important: recognizing the good God is doing in us as he keeps his promises – e.g., how do you respond differently now to same sort of affliction

don’t be impatient: we can’t see the baby steps we’re making, can recognize mile markers when we reach them

desire for understanding (66)

if God is doing good for us, to us, with us – to get the most out of it (greatest growth and blessing), need to learn all the things God is teaching us

good judgment – proper discernment and understanding need to be at top of request list; should be seeking greater understanding of God’s Word foremost, then our circumstances

should not, like Job, be seeking answers to “why” questions; rather the what questions: what should I learn about God, his Word; what do I need to change; what am I supposed to do with this experience

renewed commitment to obedience (67)

especially during times of affliction we gain understanding of how important obedience is – “the way of the unfaithful is hard” (Prov. 13:15)

sometimes affliction is God’s reminder we are displeasing him; his correction is always less than we deserve – encourages renewed and stronger determination to please God, avoid consequences

afflictive correction followed by blessed obedience are clear indicators of God’s faithfulness – to his word and to his goal/purpose of bringing us to glory

bottom line: not only can trust God, should trust God to be doing good in all our circumstances; when we trust him, can thank him for whatever he is doing – can have absolute confidence that God is perfectly orchestrating our circumstances and experience for his glory and our good; that should really crank up our love for God and desire to please him

C. affliction and relationship with others v.69-70

if affliction has purpose (at least in part) of drawing us closer to God, encouraging greater dependence on him, then…

closer to real deal we get, more obvious fakes become – the world, sin and Satan promise everything God actually supplies

God’s genuine goodness unmasks all pretenders; the Christ-follower who has growing knowledge of Christ more easily sees the real condition of enemies of God

they are…

proud – this one at the root of all the rest:

presumes self-adequacy, no need for outside help; can be good enough, successful to win at game of life… and death

assumes adequate knowledge, understanding – know and comprehend enough about enough to decide what is best

maintains this position in spite of both internal and external evidence to the contrary – willfully persists in rebellion

resentful – often present when their pride is shown to be misplaced: plans don’t work out, repeated attempts result in no progress; meanwhile… the Christian has much different attitude and experience

affliction increases frustration, resentment, anger on part of the evildoer – by God’s design; also by his design affliction should have much different effect on Christian

deceitful – deceive themselves about themselves, gladly buy into Satan’s lies; have to put a spin on all sorts of things just to cope, make others look bad so they look better

sated (fed beyond capacity or desire) – “how much is enough?” “just a little bit more”; have (or are determined to get) all the stuff, the things that are supposed to provide pleasure and satisfaction but…are driven to acquire more

insensitive – fat doesn’t have nerve endings: the fatter they get, the less responsive to God’s truth; get to point of “whatever”

but I am…

devoted – no divided loyalties here, commitment to whole-hearted obedience, observing God’s precepts as given in Word

commitment to devotion reinforced by observation: comparison of lifestyles and results, God’s way obviously produces way better outcomes, especially in times of difficulty

delighting – obedience to God not without its practical benefits, for believer goes far beyond outcome-based compliance

is fueled by genuine delight in God and his word; side note, delight in God is strangest thing – is always satisfied but it isn’t

can (and should) be truly satisfied in God yet never having enough; always wanting more, never sated – and all of that happening in midst of affliction, not apart from it

D. affliction and relationship with God’s Word v.71-72

sends us back to the Word

affliction / suffering teaches us what is important, what has value – especially what has eternal significance

weathering affliction well requires a firm anchor – when circumstances are in turmoil, when there is uncertainty, need something that is predictable and dependable

God’s word is sure and certain guide, source of help and comfort – should be our default resource all the time, especially during times of affliction

God and Satan have competing interests in our affliction (remember Job) – Satan intends to drive wedge, God intends to draw us closer

the more we read, meditate on, study God’s word, the more effective God’s training will be and Satan loses out

inflames and enhances our desire for the Word

God and his word are a refuge – place of safety and comfort where we can go and get resupplied

testimony of previous saints who have endured and prevailed encourages us; declarations of God’s promises to his people give us hope; principles give us good direction

most important: God’s word is where God is revealed – we find God there, we meet with God there by his Spirit; feeding on God and his word increases our desire for more…not just of his Word, more of God himself

Story told from India: “A silkworm was struggling out of the cocoon, and an ignorant man saw it battling as if in pain, so he went and helped it to get free, but very soon after it fluttered and died. The other silk worms that struggled out without help suffered, but they came out into full life and beauty with wings made strong for flight by their battle for fresh existence.”

Can take world’s perspective, resent hardship and affliction, try to get out of it whenever possible. Or…can take psalmist’s view. Now, not a glutton for punishment – didn’t go looking for trouble, making life harder for himself than necessary. But…was able to see God’s good hand in his affliction, recognize (to extent God allowed) how it was for his good. If we do same, we will not miss out on priceless opportunities God is giving us to grow stronger, closer to him, more like Jesus. Don’t forget – is a process, one that like the silkworm’s emergence from the cocoon intended to strengthen us. More significant, though: is a process God has individually designed to bring us to glory!

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