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Put a Little Groan With That Smile
Scripture: Romans 8:22-23; 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, 8-9...
Track 7 of 15 in the Paul: Grace & Strength Mixed Together series
Running time: 1 hour, 09 minutes, 57 seconds.
A well known pastor and theologian, Helmut Thielicke (a German theologian and rector of the University of Hamburg), after an extended visit to the United States was asked what he felt was the greatest defect among American Christians. His answer: They have an inadequate view of suffering. Have you ever told someone to smile who seemed to be down or struggling with some inner turmoil Why should they smile Is it wrong to express pain, or disappointment or unhappiness It is interesting what Paul wrote about this.

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Mike Nobis Speaker: Mike Nobis
Sunday School Teacher, Former Elder at Madison Park Christian Church. Mike is President of JK Creative Printers & Mailing in Quincy, IL. He is married to Pam and has three children, Tom, Tyler and Jennifer. Mike has three grandchildren: Ryne, Ivy and Alicia.

View all sermons by this speaker.

Put a Little Groan With That Smile

True or False: Pain and suffering is from the devil. Since God wants His servants well and free of pain, healing and happiness are of the Lord?

The problem with this statement is it in neither true nor Biblical. The devil is not always the one responsible for the pain and suffering in our lives. You may be surprised to learn that there are times when pain comes as a part of Godís sovereign plan to prepare us as useful servants. He knows what is best for us in light of what he is doing in us.

What is your perspective on pain and suffering when it comes to God? Is it fair when God allows tragedy to happen and people suffer? What does this say about God?

Did you ever think our perspective concerning suffering might be way different than Godís? How much of our perspective is affected by our American culture and our addiction to creature comforts?

A well known pastor and theologian, Helmut Thielicke (a German theologian and rector of the University of Hamburg), after an extended visit to the United States was asked what he felt was the greatest defect among American Christians. His answer: ďThey have an inadequate view of suffering.Ē

What do you think? Is Thielicke right? If so, what does this mean?

Romans 8:22-23 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

In light of we just read from Thielicke, what is Paul saying to the Romans in this passage?

Paul teaches us that there is a reality about sin in the world, especially in us; because we live in a world that is fallen due to sin, the natural order of things is off until Jesus restores everything again back to the way it was intended. Until then nature and even us groan for that transition to happen. We suffer and feel pain, there are days we feel down and donít feel like smiling, we all grow old and feel the affects of old age or sickness all because of sin and how it affects creation. This is our reality until Jesus returns.

The theologian John Stott wrote about this passage in Romans: Our groans express both present pain and future longing. Some Christians however, grin too much (they seem to have no place in their theology for pain) and groan too little.

True or False: If you groan and allow your countenance to reflect any measure of inner turmoil, people frown at you as to suggest youíre not walking in the Spirit.

Have you ever told someone to smile who seemed to be down or struggling with some inner turmoil? Why should they smile? Is it wrong to express pain, disappointment or unhappiness?
When things are not going well and you feel like a dump inside, paste on your face a fake smile or grin? Why do you do that?

All of this brings us back to Saul of Tarsus. A day rarely passed in his Christian life when he didnít face intense pain, suffering and/or pressure due to his faith in Jesus. Thankfully he didnít keep those experiences to himself. He bares his soul and lets us understand the unedited truth. Can you imagine how the Psalms would be different today had David keep his inner pain, suffering, guilt and disappointment silent and to himself? There is great benefit in groaning and sharing that with others. The problem is, many Christians today donít really care how you feel nor do they even want to get involved. They would rather paste a grin on their face and fake being happy and helpful.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.

True or False: Specific pain enables us to comfort others specifically.

Are you open to pain and suffering? When it comes do you blame God for what is happening or do you praise God for teaching you how to help others experiencing the same trials?

2 Corinthians 1:8 We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life.

Does this sound like a man who kept his sufferings, disappointments and despair to himself? What does Paul tell us when he wrote, ďso that we despaired even in lifeĒ? What kept Paul going?

2 Corinthians 1:9 Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.

All throughout the 2nd letter to the Corinthian church we can hear Paul groaning. He tells us that he developed his theology of pain in the awful circumstances of suffering. He knew first hand what it meant to be misunderstood, mistreated, forsaken, forgotten, abused, maligned, shipwrecked, attacked, imprisoned, and left for dead. Paul knew what inner groaning was all about and didnít play the ďgrin gameĒ and hide what he experienced. Paul did not boast of what he endured for Christ, he didnít solicit pity from the churches, his only boast was that he was weak and it was only through the love and strength of Jesus that he was able to carry on.

Last week we read from 2 Corinthians about Paul seeing the third heaven and paradise. He wasnít sure if it was in sprit or physically but he was sure of one thing, God gave him a thorn in his side to keep him from boasting about the experience. To you and me today that means God caused Paul to suffer something that particularly hurt. Something that would not go away no matter how many times Paul prayed about it. Paul called it a ďmessenger of SatanĒ. The enemy hoped to use it to cause the apostle to defect or give up. God used it to keep the gifted servant on his knees.

Why do you think Paul shared that intimate detail between he and God with us? How does that help us understand pain and suffering? Are you by nature someone when a person shares with you a personal struggle or suffering, says to yourself, I really donít want to hear this or are you by nature a person who wants to get involved and help no matter what it takes or costs?

True or False: It is always Godís will that you be healed.
True or False: It is Godís plan to relieve the pressure.
True or False: Our happiness is not Godís chief aim.

ďMy grace is sufficient for you.Ē

How many of you when you go to God in earnest prayer hope to receive the message Paul received? How many of you would be satisfied with that answer?

We have to come to a different understanding and perspective concerning Godís theology on pain and suffering, Godís answer is based on His long-range plan, not our immediate relief. Thankfully in the midst of all that we go through, he gentle whispers to us everyday, My grace is sufficient for you.Ē

Would you like to know why? Because power is perfected in weakness.

2 Corinthians 12:7-10 To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ďMy grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.Ē Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christís power may rest on me. That is why, for Christís sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

What is the normal reaction to suffering, unfairness, mistreatment, failure? For many people they want to blame someone or some reason for why things turned out bad in their perspective.

Principle: Suffering is not about identifying the cause; it is about focusing on the response.

It is all about accepting Godís plan, no matter what the circumstances are. It is about contentment in Godís grace, regardless.

Does this mean we are to give up fighting against the pain and sufferings we receive in life and just give up all together? Is it wrong to fight cancer, an illness, or injustice?

There are a couple things we need to remember when it comes to pain and suffering:

1. Suffering is not new. Job 5:7 Yet man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward.
The Bible never teaches that as long as we are faithful to God, life will be great and without trouble. That is so false. It is not the cause that matters, it is the response.

2. Suffering plays a beneficial role. When we truly realize this we will no longer look to place blame for our situation. Donít ask why is this happening to me, rather ask how should I respond.

3. Get rid of the idea that contentment involves comfort. Contentment is much like Joy; we receive the gift of joy from the Holy Spirit regardless of the circumstances. The same is true with contentment. True contentment if best realized during tremendous pain, suffering and pressure. It is only then when we can feel the power of God in us and using us though our weaknesses.

The Prayer of An Unknown Confederate Soldier

I asked God for strength, that I might achieve.
I was made weak, that I might learn humbly to obey.

I asked for health, that I might do greater things.
I was given infirmity, that I might do better things.

I asked for riches, that I might be happy.
I was given poverty, that I might be wise.

I asked for power that I might have the praise of men.
I was given weakness, that I might feel the need of God.

I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life.
I was give life, that I might enjoy all things.

I got nothing that I asked foróbut got everything I had hoped for.
Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.
I am, among all people, most richly blessed.