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January 11, 2012 / joelmalm

The Second Most Controversial Thing I’ve Ever Said

I said the statement below on a TV program and a guy hunted me down on Facebook and wrote a diatribe about my heresy for the entire world to see.  Actually every time I say it I take some heat.  No matter – I still believe it, because I’m convinced the Bible backs it up and so does personal experience.

Here it is:  I believe God’s most effective tool for sanctifying us (making us who we need to be) is suffering.

Exhibits A,B and C:
We must go through many hardships to enter the
kingdom of God. (Acts 14:22)

Although [Jesus] was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. (Hebrews 5:8)

… because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. (1 Peter 2:20)

Jesus learned obedience through suffering. Why would we be exempt?

Now for the personal experience: If I’m honest with myself I have to admit that the times I’ve grown the most spiritually have been through times of intense personal suffering.  I’m not going to venture into whether God caused that suffering or not, but I’m certain he allowed it.

I’m not encouraging you to go out looking for suffering like a self-flagellating monk, but I am saying that if you are in the middle of suffering (even if you caused it) you can rejoice because God is at work sanctifying you.  Philippians 2:11-13 (below) is alive and well in your life.

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation [sanctification] with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. 



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  1. Jonathan Russell / Jan 11 2012 9:49 am

    “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world…No doubt Pain as God’s megaphone is a terrible instrument; it may lead to final and unrepented rebellion. But it gives the only opportunity the bad man can have for amendment. It removes the veil; it plants the flag of truth within the fortress of a rebel soul…God, who made these deserving people (regarding the suffering of ‘good’ people), may really be right when He thinks that their modest prosperity and the happiness of their children are not enough to make them blessed: that all this must fall from them in the end, and that if they have not learned to know him they will be wretched. And therefore He troubles them, warning them in advance of an insufficiency that one day they will have to discover. The life to themselves and their families stands between them and the recognition of their need; He makes that life less sweet to them…Those who would like the God of Scripture to be more purely ethical, do not know what they ask. If God were a Kantian, who would not have us till we came to Him form the purest and best motives, who could be saved? And this illusion of self-sufficiency may be at it’s strongest in some very honest, kindly, and temperate people, and on such people, therefore, misfortune must fall.”

    The Problem of Pain – CS Lewis

    Sorry for the long quote haha but this is definitely something very important to understand yet very much overlooked.

  2. Alison / Jan 11 2012 10:08 am

    I agree 100% Joel 🙂 1 Peter 4:19 and Hebrews 12 are comfort in times of suffering/trials because they are real. Thanks for sharing! Now you can blog about the FIRST most controversial thing you’ve ever said!

    • joelmalm / Jan 11 2012 9:55 pm

      I don’t actually know what the first most controversial thing I’ve ever said is, but I know that I have to have said something more controversial than this. 🙂

  3. worship2012 / Jan 11 2012 10:25 am

    Very True Joel! Adversity & Suffering is what makes one Stronger! Grt Faith in God… & Believing, is what pulls us through…. Thnks 4 sharing Bro!!!! Ive Learned that People who do not Believe… will hve an opinion on God Issues… However, I know the Truth…. Be Blsd!

  4. Duane Rod / Jan 11 2012 11:58 am

    Agree. It’s easy to get complacent when things go too good for too long. Don’t get me wrong, I do praise Him for the good times, but I also trust Him to put me back on track when I begin to stray due to the “pleasant” road I may be on.

    • joelmalm / Jan 11 2012 9:54 pm

      Very true!

  5. Raquel / Jan 11 2012 12:58 pm

    It’s hard to believe that you’d be labeled a heretic by anyone for saying this!
    I know that it’s truth. It is perfectly scriptural & I also have personal experience that compounds for me, the truth of this word.

    His power and faithfulness are most obvious by contrast!

    Ie: His STRENGTH is made perfect in our WEAKNESS… (2Cor12:9)

    He uses LOWLY things to confound the WISE…(1Cor1:27)

    He is LIGHT in Him is no DARKNESS…(1John1:5)

    It is when we are weak, when we suffer that His power & love at work is most apparent and whenever HE is at work we are most definitely changed! We grow IN Him.

    A few years ago I lost a nephew; my sis-n-law lost a son two weeks before his 2nd birthday. Talk about weakness, suffering & darkness…that was one of the most trying times in my life. And everyone in our family was shaken to the core.

    BUT there is something that we all remember about those days and the subsequent weeks: God was so real. His tangible Presence literally flooded the home we were in. Even those who did not know the Lord commented on the Presence in the home.

    It was in the hallway of this home that the father of the deceased, at the time an Atheist to the core, cried out, asking my husband how he could have what we had…how he could ‘get’ Jesus.
    He cried out in the depths of his pain, suffering, grief and opened his heart to receive our Savior. He had the most radical transformation of anyone I have ever seen. He was immediately operating in the gifts of the Spirit (without ever having been told about these things) and after he accepted the Lord, he ran to his wife and pleaded with her to do the same. We all sat in a bedroom and prayed together and my Sis accepted the Lord into her heart. It was then that His Holy Presence began to saturate the home. The atmosphere changed from one of intense, heavy grief and mourning to a saturating, all encompassing Peace. There are no words.

    On that day and in the most profound type of suffering I can imagine, the ultimate change was made for two people. Jesus’ resurrection life and power was manifested and they were Transformed, born again and Spirit-filled.

    So often my husband and I look back on that time and the same thoughts always surface…
    Would our loved ones have EVER given their lives to Jesus if it were not for this tremendous suffering?

    We think perhaps, not. I learned long ago that it is futile to question the motives or the thoughts of God, and learned even better than to blame Him for anything.

    His thoughts are not our thoughts, His ways are not our ways…(Isaiah55:8-9)

    Even though we may still not understand why it happened and why that fateful day could not be avoided…one thing is certain: God used the events of that day to do something miraculous. That suffering produced so much more than we even know.

    We know that Jesus endured the ultimate suffering and it took His DEATH to produce the most incomprehensible, miraculous change in Himself and in us!

    He suffered and died so that Resurrection Life would come! It was manifested in his own body and the fullness of it will also one day happen in ours… (1 Corinthians 15:53-57)

    I have one final thought for anyone that would contend that suffering were not necessary…

    Matthew 10:37-39

    37 “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.

    What does Jesus mean here: “Whoever does not TAKE UP THEIR CROSS…is not worthy of me…”?

    What cross did HE carry…for us? And what did that cross produce?

    Blessings & Thanks for sharing Joel.
    Hope you don’t mind the long response.

    • joelmalm / Jan 11 2012 9:04 pm

      Wow! Thanks for your input on this!

  6. tERRI MCCOMB / Jan 11 2012 8:39 pm

    Agreed. Concentration camps are the super-highways to holiness.

    • joelmalm / Jan 11 2012 9:04 pm

      That’s quite a way to state it!

  7. Roland Gomez / Jan 11 2012 8:53 pm

    Mark Riggers, the head usher at Faith Temple, once told me, “If my life starts getting easier, then that means I’m not doing something right, because Satan does not see me as a threat.” Point being, he saw adversity as an indicator that the enemy saw him as a threat, and his overcoming that adversity by putting it in God’s hands was his testimony to His faith that God provides through what others would see as “suffering” in his life.

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