Acts 25:9 (NKJV) But Festus, wanting to do the Jews a favor, answered Paul and said, “Are you willing to go up to Jerusalem and there be judged before me concerning these things?”
A father was telling his son that he should be more like his playmate who consistently received high grades at school. The father said, “You should be more like John. He’s doing well at school and his grades are always high.” The son answered, “But Dad, that’s not fair. John’s father is smart.” There are three words that are quick to the lips of many people in this age which are, “That’s not fair!” We might hear those words at the playground from children. We also hear those three words from adults … a lot. America is a land of so much opportunity, yet (1) when the handout doesn’t come, (2) when something has to be earned, (3) when there is work involved, how quick and easy do we find those words come to our mouths. Even among mature Christians, we often hear complaints about unfairness. I imagine God hears Christians complain about how unfair life is many thousands of times every day.
Throughout Paul’s ministry, he had been persecuted by unscrupulous men, of which prior to Jesus he was one himself. After his conversion, he was zealous for the gospel, and his missionary journeys were characterized by his being persecuted. He was falsely accused, hunted down, imprisoned, put in chains … and there were even assassination attempts against him. Yet, we don’t find Paul surprised by this … we never hear of him whining or complaining. Paul knew that life was not fair. He also knew that God was good and always faithful, and that God had a purpose for Christian suffering. So, Paul stayed committed to Christ and content in serving God through unjust trials and unfair situations. This is a lesson that American Christians need to know today. Christian declarations of maltreatment are often in the timbre of children crying, “That’s not fair” rather than contented submission to the will of God through every circumstance.
Leonard Ravenhill said, “Why do we expect to be better treated in this world than Jesus was? ”
The Greek word commonly used in the New Testament for “suffer” is “pascho”, or “to feel”, meaning “to feel negative emotion or pain”. And Pascho is not exclusive of physical pain, but includes both emotional and physical pain. It is conveniently overlooked in the pulpits of America that Christian suffering is according to God’s will. Paul says in 1 Thess 3:3-4 that the Apostles were appointed to suffer. In 1 Pet 2:19-21, we are called to suffer as suffering in doing good is commendable before God. 1 Pet 3:14-17 speaks of “our suffering by the will of God” and how it is blessed to suffer for doing good. In James 5:8-11, we are told to follow the prophets example in suffering and those who endure suffering are counted as blessed. In 1 Pet 4:12-19, Peter says not to be surprised when this fiery trial comes upon you by the will of God. In Rom 8:17-18, Paul says all Christians suffer, AND that it’s worth it. In 2 Tim 3:12, Paul says “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” God’s Word teaches that ALL suffering in the Christian life is by God’s will, purpose and design, and either caused by or allowed by Him, for our immediate or ultimate good.
Of course, in the expanse of Christian teaching, where blessing has been dissected away from suffering (and that contrary to the Word of God) one might only expect that suffering would bring about cries of unfairness, and griping and whining about rights. Job, a man who suffered the loss of everything through the instrument of Satan, who acted against Job with the permission of God, said, “The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21). This we need to remember … (1) even though life is not fair and (2) suffering comes freely to even the most undeserving, Jesus is faithful! If we persevere through suffering, we will find that unfair situations eventually prove to be a blessing! If anyone ever had a right to declare things to be unfair, and to complain to God about suffering, to throw in the towel out of sheer frustration, it was Paul. He did his best in every way and in every situation to serve God, glorify Jesus and preach the gospel. However, in every city and seemingly around every turn, he was met with unfair – sometimes even insane circumstances. Paul could have just resigned himself to failure and quit in the face of all the hurdles he came across. But, if he had, he would not have gone to where God wanted him to go. One thing all men of faith who were used by God to do incredible things have in common is saying, “According to Your will, Lord, not mine.” Jesus told Peter, “Satan desires to sift you like wheat.” Jesus said of Paul, “I will show him how many things he must suffer for my Name.” All who will ever desire the will of God over their own will, endure suffering and unfairness, and yet call it a blessing.
Jesus said in Matthew 7 that “the gate is small and the way is difficult” (Matthew 7:14). If the way was broad, the world would take that path, but it is the broad way that leads to death and the confined way that leads to life. We so easily become discontent which is one reason why we have trouble rising above the hardships. I’ve seen it in me and I’ve seen it in others. If there are hurdles, then we quickly turn to “It’s not fair” instead of “Lord, let your will be done.” Contentment is about desiring God’s will, God’s way over the way that seems easy, right or fair. Paul wrote in Philippians, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” What was that secret? Paul said it was that, “Christ gives me strength.” Paul was a man who claimed every moment for the Lord, whether suffering or comfortable and God used him in remarkable ways. Paul wrote the first piece of the New Testament, the letter to the Galatians. His friend, Mark wrote the first Gospel. His biographer and traveling companion, Luke, wrote the third Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles. Paul took on false teachers, keeping the Gospel from being corrupted by legalism. He planted scores of churches, taught a school of discipleship, equipped pastors and leaders and wrote over half the books of the New Testament. And, if you look carefully, you will find that not one of them contained the words, “It’s not fair. ”