All the afflictions
of God's people
(John Fawcett, "Christ Precious")
"We also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope." Romans 5:3-4
The chastisements of Christ are precious to those who believe. The believer's love to Jesus Christ, not only continues under the rod of correction—but is quickened and increased by it! Thus it is distinguished from that pretended love, which exists only in times of prosperity. The afflicted Christian is enabled to consider—that whom the Lord loves—He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives; and that He only afflicts us for our profit—to make us partakers of His holiness.
The Lord can so manifest Himself to His afflicted people—that the season of affliction shall be to them a season of great consolation. He is to them—a fountain of life, of strength, of grace and comfort in the afflictive hour—and of His fullness they receive, as their necessities require. The Lord Jesus Christ is a sun to enlighten and cheer His afflicted followers, and a shield to defend them. He is a hiding-place from the storm, a covert from the tempest, and as the shadow of a great rock in a dry and weary land.
All the afflictions of God's people are designed, under His gracious management—to test, to make manifest, and to exercise, those graces and virtues which He has implanted in them. Though afflictions in themselves are not joyous but grievous, nevertheless they yield the peaceable fruits of righteousness in those who are exercised thereby. Afflictions serve to quicken the spirit of devotion in us; and to rouse us from that formality and indifference which frequently attend a long course of ease and prosperity. We are constrained to seek God with sincerity and fervor, when His chastening hand is upon us, since we then feel our absolute need of that help and deliverance, which He alone can give us.
When the loss of any temporal enjoyment casts us into excessive despondency and dejection—it is evident that what we have lost, was the object of our inordinate love. The most innocent attachments cease to be innocent, when they press too strongly upon us! To cleave to any created object, and to look for happiness from it—is to make an idol of it—and set it up in God's place. Should this object be a friend, a brother, a wife, or a child—the idolatry is still odious in the eyes of that God, to whom we owe our chief affection. Our warmest passions, our most fervent love, desires, hopes, and confidences—should always have God for their object. It is His desire that our happiness should not center in any of the good things of this life.
Losses and disappointments—are the trials of our faith, our patience, and our obedience. When we are in the midst of prosperity, it is difficult to know whether we have a love for the Benefactor—or only for His benefits. It is in the midst of adversity—that our piety is put to the trial.
Afflictions serve most effectually—to convince us of the vanity of all that this world can afford—to remind us that this is not our rest—and to stir up desires and hopes for our everlasting home. They produce in us a spirit of sympathy towards our companions in tribulation. They give occasion for the exercise of patience, meekness, submission, and resignation. Were it not for the wholesome and necessary discipline of affliction—these excellent virtues would lie dormant. Afflictions serve to convince us more deeply of our own weakness and insufficiency, and to endear the person, the grace, the promises, and the salvation of our Redeemer, more and more to our hearts. Thus we are taught to esteem His very chastisements as precious—on account of the benefits we derive from them.
Afflictions are not to punish—but to purify the believing soul. They are not in wrath—but in mercy. Amidst the distresses and miseries of life—it is a felicity to belong to Christ, without whose permission and appointment, no evil can befall us! He always sends afflictions for our good; and knows by experience, what it is to suffer them. His kind hand will speedily put an end to all the pains we feel—when we have derived from them all the good which He intends to do for us, by them.
How many, how suitable, how sovereign are the supports our heavenly Father affords to His afflicted children! They make the affliction, which in itself would seem heavy and tedious—appear to be light, and but for a moment. It is happier to be in the furnace of affliction with these supports—than to be in the highest prosperity without them! Blessed with the hopes and comforts of Christ—the true Christian would prefer the lot of Lazarus, with all the poverty and distress which he endured—to the lot of the rich man, who, amidst all the splendor and affluence which this world could afford—lived a life of alienation from God, and destitute of the sovereign supports which can only be enjoyed, by those who love and fear Him.