Helping you grow closer to God
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About this series
This Christmas, how do you give your children what money can't buy? We all desire to give gifts of significant value, but what does that really look like? What “Priceless” gifts can we give? In this series, Chip unpacks 5 key areas that tend to make or break our children and gives solid biblical insight and practical steps for managing those 5 important life skills. As a parent, or grandparent, you want to give your child every advantage in life. A “Priceless” Christmas gives you the tools to help your child develop godly character and important life-skills. Your life, their lives, and the lives of generations to come will never be the same.More from this series
I’ve been analyzing why we give the gifts that we give. And I’ve come up with at least six different reasons, sort of, why we give different gifts. Now, I’m not saying these are all good reasons. I’m just saying this is what we do. And so maybe this will help you figure out what to give someone you care about.
So, are you ready? I put them on the front of your teaching handout. We give gifts, some gifts we give just to meet a basic need. Like, yeah, like underwear. When my kids were growing up and the grandparents would come from West Virginia and they usually came at least every other Christmas or you would get a package and especially my older boys, it would be, you would see the package. And, you know, they’re excited, they’re like, eight years old. “Wonder what it would…”
They open it up and, you know, BVDs, Fruit of the Loom. You know? They kind of look at you like, “Mom, Dad, are you kidding me?” So, I just want you to know, maybe that’s where you want to go.
Option two, some gifts thrill their heart. I can still remember, I probably was eight when I got, I came out, and there in front of the tree was a bicycle. And I can still remember painstakingly trying to put some bicycles together when my kids were small. But there are some gifts that you can give that, I mean, it just thrills their heart. It’s the thing that they really wanted.
Later on, I remember a musical instrument that we gave one of our kids for Christmas that, looking back now, was a very good investment.
Third, some gifts quiet the conflict. Again, I’ve said it, I’m not recommending these but aren’t there times where there’s this nagging, nagging, nagging, “Mom, Dad, Mom, Dad, I want this video game, or I want this cell phone, or I want this, or I want that.” And down deep in your soul you feel like, “I don’t think this is the right time and I don’t really want to give this to this person.” And sometimes don’t you just kind of cave and, you know, “Just forget it. I’m going to…” You can decide whether you want to go down that route or not. But that’s one of the reasons that we give gifts.
A fourth reason is some gifts make you the hero. A fifth reason that we give them is some gifts impress their friends. The final category is some gifts you give to your kids changes their life.
I’m going to talk about five specific gifts that you need to give your kids, that money can’t buy. And although Christmas, I mean, there’s no doubt about it. I mean, Christmas is for all of us, but we so think about what we want to get for our kids.
This series simply is not for kids but there’s a focus there because that’s where our hearts go. But if you’re a single person or you’ve got someone in a Bible study or, here’s what I can tell you, your heavenly Father, you’re one of His children, I will guarantee every single gift I’m going to talk about is a gift that He wants to give you.
And most of these gifts, interestingly enough, you can’t give them to your kids or to someone in your small group or to a close friend unless you possess it.
And so, gift number one may be quite different than you would ever expect. But gift number one is to teach them to suffer well. Now I want you to open your Bibles to one specific passage.
I want you to understand that suffering actually is a gift from God. What you know and what I know is that all your children, all your friends, all the people that you love, they’re going to go through difficult times, correct? I mean, it’s life.
And those difficult times, and whether it’s the loss of a job, the breakup with a boyfriend, a girlfriend, whether it’s cancer, whether it’s a car wreck, whether it’s not getting chosen for the team, whether it’s not getting in that school. How they respond to the suffering or the conflict or the difficulty will either make or break them.
And Philippians chapter 1, here’s what I want you to get, this is not from a theory. This isn’t lofty theological thinking that people ought to someday, someway apply. This is from a man who is suffering. He’s in prison.
In fact, he’s not just in prison, he’s facing execution. And the big issue in his heart and his life is, “I wonder if they’re going to kill me now or not?”
And so, he writes to a church and he talks about being chained to these guards and about how difficult it is. And he wants to give them perspective. And he says that these difficult circumstances have really turned out for the greater progress of God’s higher purposes.
And then you get to the very end, I want you to look at verse 29. It says, “For to you,” after he has given them perspective, “for to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake not only to believe in Him but also to suffer for His sake.”
And that little word, “For to you it has been granted,” that word “granted,” same root word as, it’s a grace gift. The apostle Paul, speaking from prison, is saying to a group of people that there is a grace gift that God has given to you.
The first half is, it’s to believe in Him. You get to believe in Him and trust Him and get all the rewards and all the forgiveness and the adoption and the inheritance. “But in like manner, He has also gifted you to suffer for His sake, experiencing the same conflict, which you saw in me and now hear to be in me.”
So, here’s what I want you to know. We live in such a consumeristic, narcissistic culture, we unconsciously, as parents or people in our small group or with people we love, we always want to protect them. We don’t want them to get hurt and we want to keep them from disappointment. So, we often do all kind of things that they never learn to suffer well, and then when it happens later, they can’t handle it and they literally leave the faith or are crushed or devastated.
And so, we’re going to learn how to give the gift of teaching someone how to suffer well. And so, to do that you start with truth and the word “theology,” the study of God, is I want to give you a theology of suffering and then we’ll talk about how to actually put it into practice.
A theology of suffering starts with this truth: Life is hard, but God is good. Will you underline the word “hard” and underneath it write, “John 16:33.” Unlike much of what you hear in Christian radio and TV, following Jesus, loving God will not make everything wonderful, prosperous, healthy, wise, and you’ll never have a problem.
When Jesus sent His disciples off on the very last night on the earth, in John 16 He said, “In the world you’re going to have trouble, or tribulation.” He set the expectations. “When you love Me, when you follow Me, when you walk with Me, it’s going to be hard.” But then He gives them the hope, “But be of good cheer. Don’t get discouraged. I have overcome the world. The resources you need to go through it are with you.”
Psalm 84:11 is kind of my perspective-giver. You know, it’s one thing that life is hard, but I need to remember that God is good. Psalm 84:11 says, “The Lord God is a sun and a shield; the Lord God gives grace and glory.” And then I love the last line. “No good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly.”
God is good. He doesn’t want to withhold any good thing from you or your kids or the people that you love. But He is going to give those good things, often in ways that aren’t as pleasant as we would like.
And if our expectations aren’t that life is going to be hard, there are people that will betray you, there are people that are going to talk about you, there are people that are going to lie about you, people that really love God get cancer. People that really love God get laid off. People that really, really love God have kids that do things unmentionable to them, or have parents that they wonder, “How could a loving God give me this mom or this dad, who did this or that to me?”
And so, one of the greatest gifts we can ever give is the gift of teaching them to suffer well.
The second aspect is that life is unjust, but God is sovereign. And if you’d put a little line under the word “unjust,” and then just jot down Luke 13. You can read it later for yourself. But your kids, and the people in your small group are absolutely set up for failure if they think that life is going to be fair.
In Luke 13 there was a tower and over time, apparently, whether it was rust or we don’t figure out what happened. But a tower falls, and it kills some people and people come to Jesus and say, “Hey, were these people worse sinners than others? Or why did that happen?”
And His response was, “They were no worse sinners. They didn’t do anything. There’s no cause and effect here. It’s a fallen world. Life isn’t fair.” Life is not going to be fair for the people that you love. But you know what? If you pound that, “Life has got to be fair!” When difficult, painful, unfair things happen, you can get stuck in a hurry.
But what God says is that, “I am in control.” Romans 8:28 is that passage, you know, “God does work all things together for those who love Him.” For your good. God is all-wise. The sovereign, all-knowing God, even in the midst of a fallen world where people make bad choices and do even purposeful, harmful things toward you and those you love, He says, “Nothing will enter your life that I either haven’t allowed or decreed.” And He’s all-wise. And He’s just.
And everything doesn’t work out necessarily in the short-term, but He says, “I guarantee that I will bring about the best possible ends, by the best possible means, for the most possible people, for the longest possible time. That’s a definition of God’s wisdom.
And your kids, your kids need to know early and often, from the time you’re reading them stories, to the first time someone makes fun of them at school, to the first breakup they have, to when they have practiced and worked, and a young man I just talked to recently. He’s a Division I basketball player and worked and worked and worked and worked and got right to the AAU tournament and, bam, you know, rotator cuff. Had a terrible game and his standing went from a major Division I school to a very low-level division school and he’s just looking at me like, “Hey, I love God. What’s the deal?”
The root of this theology is in Genesis chapter 37 through 50. It’s the story of Joseph. It’s interesting, there’s only fifty chapters, it’s the first book, and almost every major concept in the Bible gets introduced in Genesis, this book of beginnings.
Twenty-five percent of it is about one man. And the stories about one man who experiences betrayal, he’s sold by his brothers, he’s falsely accused of rape, he ends up in prison, he helps people in prison, he’s forgotten in prison, and there’s about a ten or thirteen-year period where this young man walks with God and the only thing you get in these thirteen years are, “The Lord was with him, the Lord was with him, the Lord was with him.”
But you know what? I would look at his circumstances and I think Joseph, if he thought life was fair would say, “Where is God? He gave me this dream, He said He was going to do these things in my life. Where is God? Where was God when my brothers betrayed me? Where was God when that lady lies about me? I mean, I’ve been serving her husband, she came on to me, I get accused of rape, and I’m thrown in jail? Where is the baker when, you know, I told him about the dream and I helped him out. He forgets me!”
And I think that twenty-five percent of that book is placed in the very first book of the Bible because every one of us and especially those that you love, and especially those that are young physically or those that are young spiritually, one of the hardest things you’ll ever, ever experience is the difficulty and the pain and the suffering and the injustice in life and how do you make sense of it?
And what you see is that God did something in Joseph that could have never been done without that suffering and pain that developed his character, so he’d have the wherewithal and the humility to become the second most powerful person in all the earth.
God sovereignly placed him where He placed him and if all those difficulties would not have happened, he would have not been there.
And you might jot in you notes there the Genesis 50:20 principle. Because this is the part of the gift, there’s some gifts we don’t want to unwrap, alright? And suffering is one of them.
We’d do almost anything not to suffer. In fact, I don’t know about you, but we are so against suffering in any way, I’m, like, bombarded by all these commercials about, there’s a pill that takes care of everything now, right? And I love the commercials, in fact, I, you know, I’m weird. I understand this. But a little analytical.
So, if you take this pill, it solves this and this. And then the next twenty-seven seconds are, “And may cause abdominal pain, dizziness, death in certain situations…”
I mean, the whole rest of the commercial is all the bad stuff it does to you. But you won’t feel any pain, maybe. We are inundated with absolute passionate ways to try and figure out how to avoid all suffering, all pain, all disappointment. And God says, “In a fallen world there is a good God who is sovereign, who is all-wise. And you need to learn to receive the gift of suffering.”
And receive it in such a way where it does in you what He wants to do in you, and He then positions you where He wants you so that He can use you in the way that will bring Him the most pleasure and glory, and you the greatest good.
And yet we’ve developed a theology and practice of basically trying to protect our children and give them the best and inundate people with everything that eliminates all pain, all suffering, and all disappointment. And I think if you look at the results, they’re not real good.
The second example is not just Joseph, but Jesus. Peter writes, giving us the example, we put it in your notes, it’s 1 Peter 2:18 to 21. And he’s speaking now, it’s Rome. Christians are persecuted. Eighty percent of the Church are slaves. They love God with all their heart.
And he’s setting their expectations about, how do you live in a fallen world when your master, and you are a slave, is not a nice guy? And so, he talks about the gift of suffering and he basically says that Jesus set an example for you and for me and we’re actually called to follow this example.
And so, he says, “Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those that are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable.” That’s a very mild translation. Literally, the word is “perverse.”
Why? “For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly.” And then he kind of gives the axiom. “For what credit is there, if when you sin and you’re harshly treated, you endure with patience?” In other words, you’re getting what you deserve.
“But if when you do what is right and suffer for it and you patiently endure it,” notice this, “this finds favor with God.” Why? “For you have been called for this purpose,” what’s the purpose? When is the last time one of your kids or someone in your Bible study or a close friend, you’ve ever told them in the midst of something that is bad and hard and disappointing – “You know what? Maybe you’re called to this right now. Maybe this, in God’s sovereign plan, this is a gift. Maybe He wants to do something in you that’s so deep and so good and so long-lasting that this little window of pain is the only way He could do it in you and through you and maybe He wants you to lean into it and trust Him in ways like never before.”
“For you were called to this purpose,” notice what it says, “since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you,” what? “an example that you should follow in His steps.” This is not at all theory, at least in my life and I tried to make Joseph one of the big heroes when we told Bible stories. Man, I told the Joseph story a lot because I knew my kids were going to experience a lot of that.
Had young man in our church named John an extraordinarily gifted musician. And John, we always made fun of him, you know, at my house, I mean, there was always drum sets and bands and the garage was full of stuff and John was over all the time and he ate all the time and it was kind of fun, actually.
But John, you know, we would tease John, like, John would turn sideways and you couldn’t see him, he was so thin. And, but it wasn’t really funny when we found out a few years later the reason: he had a very rare form of cancer.
And we went through about an eighteen-month journey with John and his parents and then when he was twenty-five, John died of cancer. And I’ll never forget, it was about two days before he died, and he got weaker and weaker and weaker and he was literally completely emaciated after about eighteen months.
And they put a hospital bed, as they knew he had very little time to live, downstairs in their home and the worship leader of our church came with a guitar and myself and my son and his parents and a couple other worship leaders. And we sat around his bed and we sang worship songs for an hour or two.
And John would kind of be with us and then he would kind of not be. And we worshipped and we cried and we prayed and we quoted the promises and the reality of heaven and, it’s just like it was yesterday, I still remember going out of that house, Jason gets in the car, I get in the car, we shut the car door, we both don’t know what to say, and my son turns to me and he said, “Dad, how could a good and loving God do that to my best friend, John?”
And parents, if you’ve spent the first eighteen or twenty years trying to make your life a wonderful, happy, smooth, never disappointing experience for your kid, and then they have one of those, I will tell you what, you are not in good shape nor is your child.
And we kind of went back over the Joseph story together. And I said, “Son, I don’t have any simple, easy answers.” I said, “I can tell you I’m glad there’s a heaven, I’m glad there’s more than this life, I know in the character of God and all that He is in control. This doesn’t make any sense, I feel angry inside and it’s okay to be angry and I’ve talked to Him about it, and we prayed, and we fasted, we anoint him with oil, and I guess God wants John! Precious in the sight of God is the death of His godly ones. And I don’t get it.”
And we just sat there in the car and we cried together, and we grieved together. And we leaned into an impossibly painful, disappointing season of suffering. But I’m glad that my son, over the first twenty-some years of his life had a theology of suffering that he could bank on. Did he still have to process? Did he still get depressed? Did we still have ups and downs? Of course.
But there was a bedrock, there was a truth. Your kids this Christmas need a gift that money can’t buy. Your small group, your closest friends, those who spiritually look to you as someone that’s farther down the road need the gift, this year, of you teaching them how to suffer well. You teaching them and reframing for them disappointment and hurt and cancer and betrayal.
So, the question I have is, “How do you respond to suffering?” How do you respond to the pain that still comes around with your ex-mate or the health issue that you have or the betrayal of someone who hurt you in the past?
My experience is there’s about three or four basic responses of which are not helpful. One is just to blame other people or blame God, right? We all know people that this happened in their life; where was God? And they’ve been angry at God for twenty years. Or they blame someone else.
The most common response is denial, right? We just shove it down. This really hurt too bad. I don’t want to think about it. I don’t want to face it. And so, when I get these feelings that I can’t put my fingers on, I either go to the refrigerator or I punch in and watch some television. Or I realize that one glass of wine makes me feel better and three makes me feel a lot better.
Boy, we don’t deal with it. And from semi-healthy to very unhealthy responses to suffering and difficulty and pain in the past, there are people that are, there are still people that are going to go out this year and shop and buy all kind of things for Christmas for people that they’re still trying to relieve some level of, “I don’t want them to go through what I went through.”
So, we blame or we go into denial or, for some, you’re just, you’re angry. You’re bitter. You’re resentful.
And for others, and this is one that is so, it’s so hard because it’s so illogical but you, when you suffer you feel guilty. You figure out how it must be your fault. Must be my fault. This happened to me and God is down on me and He must not love me and this happened, you know, I’m a bad person and…
Do you understand that those are the ways that your kids are going to experience the difficulty and the pain and the disappointment of life unless you teach them? You teach them with intentionality how to suffer well.
Well how do you do that? I mean, how would you go about teaching your kids or the people in your small group how to suffer well?
Let’s get very, very practical. Start the process The priceless gift that you can give those you love this Christmas, is this: Help them to learn to grow through their suffering.
You can’t put a price tag on that. It’ll be worth whatever gift, you could fill that box with fresh one hundred dollar bills and stack it tightly and I’ll guarantee that at the end of the day that will have far less impact, long-term, on the people you love the most, than if you could give them the gift of teaching them to suffer well.
And so, with that, number one, here’s how to do it. Teach them to identify what they’re concerned about. When we suffer, some of us, we just, I mean, denial, avoidance, repression, those defense mechanisms, it’s the number one way we all respond to suffering and difficulty. It’s hard to face it.
So, you want to help them learn to think about it, you want to help them learn to talk about it, you want to get them literally to write it down. I never kept a journal and early in my Christian life, I was probably two years in as a Christian and my dad and mom were going through horrendous times. My dad’s alcoholism came to a point in time that, you know, I still remember my mother saying, “It’s this bottle or me and the kids.”
Now, my spiritual leader who was a real important person in my life, he moved. We had a basketball coaching change, I had a scholarship with the old coach and the new coach came in and said, “I’m going to do tryouts.”
I mean, everything in my life went to, “What’s going on?” The girlfriend that I thought that I would marry, I mean, all four of these things. Boom, boom, boom, boom, they’re gone.
And what I realized is I was angry and I was bitter and I was resentful and I was mad at God, I was mad at the coach, I was mad at my parents. And I couldn’t get it clear. I remember getting one of those little spiral notebooks and I’m just going to start writing down at least how I feel. And that started about a thirty-some-year journey.
If you write it down, you have to get clear. And if you can’t identify what bothers you, you can’t deal with it. You can’t respond to it. And so, with your kids or with people in your small group, the way to help them identify is ask good questions.
And for some of you, don’t try and fix it so quickly. Don’t try and avoid the pain for them. Don’t step in front and make sure that this never happens to them again.
Ask them questions like, “What are you feeling right now? What do you wish you could change?” Or if it’s relational and you can just tell something is wrong, “Who is your best friend? What do you like about them?”
Because all you want to do is you want to start them thinking and talking about relationships. “Who hurt you?” You begin to ask questions and then you listen. You want to help them identify what’s going on because here’s what I can tell you happens in your homes. I mean, Theresa and I, I think we went to a year of counseling to start to get this.
When there was a problem with me, I would shove it down, she would shove it down. And so many of you, in your homes, it goes like this. One of you is kind of funky. You know, you withdraw a little bit. You’re sitting on the chair watching a little TV, paper goes up. Or you’re cold with your affection.
And your mate says something like this, “Honey, what’s wrong?” And the response that they get is, “Hrmph. Nothing.” “No, no, no, tell me, honey, I can tell. Well, what’s wrong?” “Nothing.” And then you go to bed and one rolls this way and the other rolls this way.
And then this journey starts, you know why? Because when you were a kid, no one taught you to suffer well! And to suffer well, you have to identify what’s going on and because it’s so painful and because you blame people and we bolt to anger – it’s a secondary emotion.
And so, we bolt to anger, we bolt to blame, we bolt to resentment and it causes all kind of stuff inside of you, addictions get born out of that. And so, you want to help people early on to just identify, “I feel hurt, I feel betrayed, I feel used, I feel like God isn’t fair, I feel sad.” That’s where you start. And when you do, it’s one of the greatest gifts you’ll give.
The second thing is to pray honestly about it together. I would encourage you to read the book of Job or read through the Psalms. See, here’s what happens. Our kids go through something and someone makes fun of them at school or something bad happens like they didn’t make the team, or they have a big breakup or especially when they’re small we tell them really crazy things like, “Oh, that’s okay. It doesn’t really matter. It’ll be okay. Everything is going to be okay.” Says who? Maybe everything is not going to be okay.
See, what you want to do is you want to help them identify, “I’m sad, I’m angry, I’m hurt, they said this about me, I was betrayed. Daddy, he said that he loved me, and I found out he went out with this other girl and then I found out he slept with her. He said he was a Christian. You know, I can’t understand it.” “You know, I got laid off and there’s three people there that came after me and I had seniority but…”
That needs to get on the table and then you need to take that to God. And you need to have honest prayers. Honest prayers go something like this. Job: “What in the heck is going on? I’m righteous, I’ve walked with You, it doesn’t make sense, I’m angry, I’m hurt, I was faithful. Now, my kids have been killed, my riches are gone, my house caved in, my friends are turning against me, what is going on?”
Your kids need to learn to pray. God can take that. You read some of those lament Psalms and, I mean, David just lays it out there. Jot down this: Psalm 145:18. “The Lord is near to those who call upon Him, to those who call upon Him in truth.”
See, you need to have times with your little boys and your little girls and your young adults where you get it on the table, “This is what is going on,” and then you say, “Let’s talk to God about this.” And then don’t pray one of those little Sunday school prayers, “O dear Jesus, we thank Thee that Thou is in control of all that goeth and all that cometh. Help us to feeleth better about all these things and make it better soon. Amen.”
It’s interesting how many times in Scripture that when God sees tears, and hearts that are broken, He’s near to the brokenhearted and those that are crushed in spirit.
And your kid needs to hear you say, “God, I don’t get this and my heart is broken and I couldn’t be more angry and I know You’re in control but I don’t see it right now and we need You to show up.” Because what you want is you want the Spirit of God and the living God to come take up residence in the midst of the pain and the difficulty and the hurt and He wants to move into that and He wants you to know that there really wasn’t any person or anything that could ever satisfy. He’ll be there with you.
Jesus’ promise was not to the disciples, “It’s going to be great.” His promise is, “I will be with you always, even to the end of the age.” We have so skewed our theology in this day. Jesus is not the self-help genie to make your life or your kids’ lives work.
He is the solemn, sovereign Creator of the universe that has a purpose, who has invited us to join Him, who is all-wise, absolutely holy, absolutely just, holy and pure. And He says, “I will be with you. And in the midst of your difficulty and pain in a fallen world, I will take these things and I’ll mold these things and I’ll shape these things in such a way that you know Me like never before and that you’re transformed from the inside out.”
And like a grain of wheat falling to the earth, it dies and then it brings forth much fruit. He modeled that for us. He was rejected. He was spit upon. And yet that’s why, when you come, Jesus understands.
Third, help them share where they are suffering with someone they trust. Sometimes as a parent or maybe sometimes it’s in a small group, it’s an older man, an older woman, someone who has been around the block.
There is no substitute for talking with someone that’s been where you have been through, and they have suffered well through it. And other times it’s a peer. You know, it’s just, you know, you need to help them get with people or you need to get with people that they’re just on a same page and they can share honestly what’s going on and process it.
And then there are other times where, you know what? It’s a professional counselor or a pastor because you’re stuck.
I sat with a good friend that I was going to meet with and my goal of our meeting was to share some things with him that, he always gives me really great perspective.
And I just asked him sort of in passing as I got my coffee and sat down, “So, hey, tell me a little bit about: how’s it going?” And the next seventy percent of our time, I got to enter into a very special, painful journey as he just marked the anniversary of the death of his son that’s been just a year.
And I just sat with tears flowing down my face and thought: you know, I don’t think about the loss that people experience during the holidays. I don’t, I’m not attuned to what it’s like that it was this time last year that your mom or your dad or your brother or your sister got cancer or you lost your job or you lost your company and that this holiday season, yeah it’s the bright, we hear all the nice songs and there’s a whole group of people that this is the most difficult time of the year.
And he said, “You know, I’ve read a lot about grief,” and we go way back so we can be absolutely honest. You talk about raw. And he goes, “I remember one quote that was so helpful,” he says, “I read recently that a grief shared is divided in half.”
And all I want you to hear is an awful lot of teaching people to suffer well is to do life with them and listen and be there or get them to someone they feel comfortable to really talk to that’s mature.
The final way, and maybe the most important after the first three, are help them align specific Scripture with their specific situation. And here I want to press you just a little bit because we’re living in a day where the Bible, even in Bible churches, has become sort of like, “Oh, yeah, this is kind of good and there are notes here and there’s power point on the screen and I go to a Bible study here and I get a booklet and then in the booklet a lot of the passages are there.”
There is a need for you to be able to sit with your child or someone in your small group when they are suffering, what you need to do is you need to be able to open this book and take them to, “This is the issue you’re facing. This is the truth,” because truth sets them free.
It’s not just listening and counseling and identifying and sharing. They need the truth. It’s the power. The Spirit of God takes the Word of God and He makes it living and He does something in them when they can base it on truth.
So, to suffer well you need to understand, these are the reasons that people suffer. And here’s the promise that you need to take them to. The first one, I gave these to you, and I did this not to overwhelm you, but your kids are going to go through these. And these are passages that you need to know well.
The first one is when they suffer because of external, negative circumstances: James 1:2 to 4. I mean, when tough stuff happens, they say, “What am I going to do? I mean, it was a brand-new car! The tree fell! It ruined my car! I don’t have transportation!” And you’re going to open the Bible, after you have listened and gone through it all and say, “Consider it all joy when you encounter various trials, knowing the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect,” or, “maturing result, that you might be perfect, lacking in nothing.”
And you can say, “You know, this stuff is going to happen, but our attitude, our choice, we consider it, God is in control and if you need wisdom, He’s going to show you what to do in this. He’s going to show you, honey, how you can make it through this.”
And they’re going to have to learn at some point in time or they’ll blame someone or go into denial.
The second is persecution: 2 Timothy 3:12. You know, some of your kids, they’re bold, they don’t know better and they’re going to identify with Jesus in third or fourth grade and they’re going to get ridiculed! And what you don’t want to do is put your arms, “Oh, they’re all wrong, honey.” Or, “You know what? I’m going to go talk to the principal, I’m going to talk to the teacher. ‘What are you doing to my son?’”
How about this? “What if you open the Bible and you said to them, “All those who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” That’s that passage. And then maybe go back to the Sermon on the Mount and you say, “You know, sweetheart? I know that’s really hard when people do that to you but here’s what Jesus said, ‘Blessed are you when you’re persecuted for My sake.’”
And you begin to teach them that it’s not about being protected, that there’s a cost and there’s a price, and He’ll be with you. You’re teaching them to suffer well.
The third is bad choices. There are times where our kids, like us, they do sinful things. Galatians chapter 6 verses 7 and 8. It says, “God will not be mocked. We’re going to reap what we sow. When we sow to the flesh, we reap corruption, when we sow to the Spirit, life and peace.”
You know, there’s times where you say, “Well, here’s the deal, you got in that car with those people, and one of them was drinking, and you got in the wreck, and you knew you weren’t supposed to, and here’s the implications, and that’s what happened.”
And you take them to that passage and you say, “You know, we’re always going to reap what we sow,” and you read it and you let them own it. And you don’t yell and you don’t scream, and, “Why were you doing that?” Has that worked for you before?
And then you take them to 1 John 1:9 and you say, “You know what? We can get back on the right track right now. God promises if we confess our sins, He is faithful, He’s just. He’ll forgive and He’ll cleanse. Right now.”
Do you understand? If you are going to teach your kids to suffer well, they need to begin to see His truth and His Word as the bedrock in a fallen world where life is unfair and disappointing, and betrayal happens.
Because the Jesus who walked on the earth was treated very unfairly and was betrayed at every turn and it’s the Father and the Spirit and Him living as fully human and yet fully divine, blazing a trail saying, “Follow Me. And as you do, I’ll do things in you and through you.” But it’s rooted in truth.
The fourth is spiritual warfare. Ephesians 6:10 to 12. You know, there are times where your kids or someone in your small group, they are just, I mean, they are taking great steps and, literally, all hell breaks loose.
And immediately, “What have I done wrong?” Or, “What’s with God?” And you need to let them know, “You’re in a battle. I mean, you started a Bible study at school. I mean, you’ve gone public with your faith. You’ve decided to get in God’s Word on a regular basis. You’ve taken a step of real faith with your resources and your finances.
Guess what? When you begin to break out of the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light, there’s a battle going on! This is normal.” And so, you teach them about and how to do spiritual warfare.
The last one here is character development. There are times where, just like good, earthly fathers, your heavenly Father sees things in your life and my life and the heart of your kids, right? Envy; arrogance; selfishness; little narcissistic, consumerism mindset. Well, in God’s kindness and love, He actually is bringing some circumstances like the velvet vise of love to build their character to make them like His Son.
And so, Hebrews 12:11 says, “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; but afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.”
You know what the life message here is? I mean, here’s the gift. You say, “Okay, Chip, you know, you’ve said a lot of different things and a theology of suffering and you said we need to help them identify it and then we need to pray honestly and, you know, okay, I’m kind of getting that and…”
If I could say learning to suffer well, here’s the gift. Your kids, the people in your small group, they grow up with this: Suffering is normal. That is the absolute antithesis of what most of your children or young Christians and often not-so-young Christians believe.
We are absolutely shocked when things go wrong! “What did I do? God, what’s the deal?” If you don’t think suffering is normal, you set your child up or you set yourself up to be devastated. How many people have you heard say something like this, “Well, if God loves me, why did He let this happen?”
Anybody heard that? “If God really loves me, why did He let this happen? And if He let this happen, what kind of God is that?” Or, “How could God let this happen? I mean, isn’t He all-powerful? How could He let this happen to me?”
Or, “How can I ever trust a God that I prayed and I asked Him and I didn’t get in that school. I didn’t make the team. I didn’t get the girl. I didn’t get the job. He didn’t heal the cancer.”
I want you to know there are masses of young people out of our homes and often many of their parents and those that are new in the faith that because they don’t know suffering is normal, they believe that God didn’t come through, God doesn’t love them, God isn’t in control. And because what they’ve really learned and picked up is that if you’re a nice little boy or girl, Jesus is your self-help genie. And if you just do the formula right on the big vending machine of life – A2, B4, C7 – that your life is just up, up, up, wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. And the fact of the matter is, nothing could be farther from the truth. Teach your children to suffer well.
Can I put one verse as the bow on this? You can just jot it down, I’ll quote it for you. It’s Hebrews chapter 5, verse 7 and 8. It says, “In the days of His flesh,” this isn’t the cross, “In the days of His flesh,” Jesus walking upon the earth, “He made loud cries with tears and supplication to His heavenly Father.” Did you think of that side of Jesus?
The side of Jesus that, you know, He had feelings. He was fully human. He went to His hometown, He’s rejected. How do you think He felt? People didn’t believe, how do you think He felt? He did a miracle and they don’t respond. How do you think He felt? They’re trying to kill Him, how do you think He felt? He pours out His life to Judas and he sells him out. How do you think He felt? Jesus went alone, many times, and in tears, cried out to His heavenly Father, as He suffered. His great suffering wasn’t just on the cross. And then verse 8, “Although He was a Son, He learned obedience through the things that He suffered.”
Your kids need to learn to obey and trust God and this is an undesired gift. But the undesired gift of learning to suffer well may be one of the five most precious things you ever give your kids.