Calvary Road Baptist Church

“MORAL CLARITY -

THERE IS SOME GOOD IN AFFLICTION, BUT NONE IN SIN”[1]

 This message will be painted with a very broad brush, in an attempt to bring moral clarity, in an attempt to sharpen your focus when making decisions, and in an attempt to lay groundwork for future messages from God’s Word.

Life is full of choices. Decisions have to be made. Frequently, there is a moral dimension to the dilemma you face, and there is a rightness or wrongness to the options available to you. Your boss offers you a promotion and a raise in pay. Think there is no moral or ethical dimension to the decision to accept the promotion? What if the promotion is coupled with a transfer to a different part of the country, so that you would be forced to leave your church in order to make the larger salary? In many cases, the considerations you are faced with, the problem that is to be solved by the decision you are required to make, will result in you either committing a sin or enduring an affliction. What a choice it is to face affliction as the only alternative to not committing a sin. If you leave your church for money, you commit sin, though by staying faithful in your ministry you may struggle with the affliction of inadequate finances.

To keep things simple, let us be clear about what sin is and about what affliction is. According to the Apostle John, “sin is the transgression of the law.”[2] Thus, to do what God says you should not do, or not to do what God says you should do, is sin. Therefore, sin is a straightforward concept. Affliction, on the other hand, is slightly more complicated. The word is found in about sixty verses in the Old Testament; with the vast majority of those verses containing the Hebrew words commonly translated affliction, and simply referring to misery. You are afflicted when you are experiencing some level of pain, suffering, or discomfort for whatever reason. In the New Testament, affliction is found in thirteen verses, with the word qliyiV referring to some type of trouble that inflicts distress.[3] Thus, the Old and New Testament concepts of affliction are virtually the same, misery versus distress, distress versus misery.

Consider the way people typically feel about sins versus afflictions. When you commit the sin of stealing an orange from someone’s tree and eating it, you may very well feel a twinge of guilty conscience. However, if you do not steal the orange and eat it, you may experience a pang of hunger because you do not have the money to buy food. So, what is the dilemma? Do you commit sin (and perhaps feel somewhat guilty, if your conscience is not seared) or do you suffer the affliction of hunger?

I once brought a message from God’s Word showing that the greatest affliction was preferable to the least sin, because the greatest evil is that which deprives you of the greatest good. The greatest good is God, and God is lost to you by sin but not by affliction.[4] Eve took one bite of fruit and became an enemy of God. Adam took a bite with the same result. It would have been better for both of them to suffer terrible affliction than to commit that one sin. Several months later, I brought a message in which I reviewed the great afflictions that saints of old suffered rather than commit sins. Joseph, Rahab, Daniel, those mentioned in Hebrews chapter 11, the apostles, and the Christian martyrs down through the centuries, suffered terribly rather than alleviate their suffering by committing sin.[5] They realized that it were better for them to suffer affliction than to commit a single sin.

In an effort to bring moral clarity to your decision-making, I propose to contrast affliction with sin in six ways, briefly showing that affliction can be associated with good, while sin (any sin) can never be associated with good. My recommendation is that you avoid stalling on a single instance or example that I present, but that you purpose to receive everything I present in order to draw a conclusion based overall of the truth I present.

Six main points for your consideration:

 First, AFFLICTION CAN HAVE GOOD IN IT - NOT SO SIN

 Since affliction always involves some degree of suffering, discomfort, or inconvenience, many have never given thought to the good that affliction can have in it.

Consider the experience of King David with respect to affliction, in Psalm 119.71: “It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes.” Here David acknowledges that lessons from God’s Word can be learned through afflictions. Thus, one can gain godly wisdom through afflictions, or perhaps be strengthened in his faith through afflictions. Thus, afflictions can have good in them.

On the other hand, consider the experience of the Apostle Paul with respect to sin, according to Romans 7.18: “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.” The context in which the Apostle Paul’s comment is placed shows he is dealing with moral issues, and sinful versus spiritual conduct. Thus, both the context of Romans chapter 7, as well as Paul’s specific statement that I have just read, shows that there is no good associated with sinful behavior, and that sinful behavior provides no help whatsoever in the performance of that which is good.

Thus, I have established the possibility of affliction having some good in it (according to inspired David), while such is not the case with sin (according to inspired Paul). Thus, there can be good in suffering, discomfort, persecution, and such things as that, while there is no good in any sinning.

 Next, AFFLICTION CAN PRODUCE GOOD FROM IT - NOT SO SIN

 Keep in mind that affliction has to do with discomfort, inconvenience, and perhaps even great pain. Sin, on the other hand, has to do with violating God’s will even when it is pleasurable.[6]

Remember that Joseph’s afflictions produced good in his life and in the lives of many others. Joseph’s afflictions were many, including his betrayal by his brothers, his slavery to Potiphar, the false accusation against him by Potiphar’s wife, and his imprisonment.[7] However, there can be no question that despite his years of affliction, much good was the result of Joseph’s difficult life. Through him, God was greatly glorified by his faithfulness and steadfastness. Also through him, God saved countless lives through seven years of terrible famine, and provided a safe place for Israel to safely grow from a clan to a nation over four centuries. Joseph’s affliction produced good.

As well, would you agree that a Christian’s chastisement by God’s hand is an affliction? In varying degrees, there certainly can be physical and emotional pain, as well as various kinds of anguish and distress; all brought on by God, according to Hebrews 12.10-11:

 10     For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.

11     Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.

Contrasting God’s chastening with the spankings of your dad, there is no doubt that God’s corrective measures, described as grievous, and is rightly seen to be affliction. However, notice the result of such affliction. It produces the peaceable fruit of righteousness, verse 11. That is a good thing.

Not so sin. There is no example of sin ever producing good, once you understand that immediate gratification is by no rational definition what is meant by good. By good is meant constructive, helpful, beneficial, edifying, and not morally wrong.

 Third, AFFLICTION CAN RESULT FROM GOOD - NOT SO SIN

 This bears restating. Good being done to you can result in you being afflicted. However, sin does not result from good, since sin is the direct opposite of good.

When you read Job chapters one and two, ask yourself why God suggested to Satan that he afflict Job: “Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?”[8] Was it not because Job “was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil?”[9] While God suggested Job as the target of Satan’s merciless attacks, the reason why Satan was eager to heap affliction on Job was his goodness. Though what Job suffered certainly was affliction, it did not come upon him for wrongdoing. Therefore, Job’s affliction resulted from good.

Let me mention Joseph once more to provide another illustration showing affliction resulting from good. Joseph was a good lad, with no record of his personal sins found anywhere in the Bible. This is not to say that Joseph was not a sinner, since none is righteous and all have sinned, Romans 3.10 and 23. The question is what brought on Joseph’s afflictions at the hands of his brothers? His goodness. His brothers hated him with a hatred born of envy. So you see, affliction does result from good.

Then, I remind you once again of God’s love for His own that produces the chastisement that brings affliction. God is good, is He not? He is the Author of affliction in the lives of His children when they are corrected, is He not? Thus, affliction can result from goodness.

Not so sin. In what way can goodness produce sin, when goodness and sin are moral opposites, poles apart in the spiritual universe? Goodness never produces sin.

 Fourth, AFFLICTION CAN HAVE GOOD ATTACHED - NOT SO SIN

 Is anything remotely good a fellow traveler with sin? No. Never. However, we do find that good is sometimes a fellow traveler with affliction.

First, it needs to be pointed out that sometimes afflictions have the good of promise. Turn to Psalm 119.75, where we read, “I know, O LORD, that thy judgments are right, and that thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me.” Here David praises God for His faithfulness to His promises, which he acknowledges produces affliction. Then there is Isaiah 27.9, where the LORD declares through the prophet what the affliction produced by His judgment will produce: “By this therefore shall the iniquity of Jacob be purged.” Then, for the Christian, we have Romans 8.28: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” For reasons I will explain at another time, this is a blanket statement that covers all afflictions, but does not apply to sins a believer commits. Thus, good is attached to affliction, but not to sin.

Next, it needs to be pointed out that afflictions can have the good of evidence. Turn to Philippians 1.28: “And in nothing terrified by your adversaries: which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God.” Here the Apostle Paul points out that persecution brought on by a Christian’s adversaries, which is affliction by another name, is evidence of your salvation. Thus, though sin is never evidence of salvation, affliction is sometimes the evidence of salvation.

Third, it needs to be pointed out that afflictions have the good of blessing. What did Jesus say, in Matthew 5.4? “Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.” Excuse me, but mourning is one facet of affliction. However, notice that it is accompanied by comfort, and those who mourn are blessed. Let me briefly mention five things the afflicted can do that sin does not produce: First, those afflicted can cry to God with liberty of spirit. When you are afflicted you can cry out in prayer, and you can complain to God for relief. Sin, however, is accompanied by guilt and sears the conscience, producing no such liberty of spirit to approach God in prayer. Second, those afflicted can kiss the rod of affliction. Notice the Apostle Paul’s reaction after praying three times for his affliction to be removed and then being told by God that his plea had been denied: “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”[10] Lest you think such responses are limited to apostles, let me read to you from Richard Wurmbrand’s Tortured For Christ:

 One of our workers in the Underground Church was a young girl. The Communist police discovered that she secretly spread Gospels and taught children about Christ. They decided to arrest her. But to make the arrest as agonizing and painful as they could, they decided to delay her arrest a few weeks, until the day she was to be married. On her wedding day, the girl was dressed as a bride - the most wonderful, joyous day in a girl’s life! Suddenly, the door burst open and the secret police rushed in.

 

When the bride saw the secret police, she held out her arms toward them to be handcuffed. They roughly put the manacles on her wrists. She looked toward her beloved, then kissed the chains and said, “I thank my heavenly Bridegroom for this jewel He has presented to me on my marriage day. I thank Him that I am worthy to suffer for Him.” She was dragged off, with weeping Christians and a weeping bridegroom left behind. They knew what happens to young Christian girls in the hands of communist guards. Her bridegroom faithfully waited for her. After five years she was released - a destroyed, broken woman, looking thirty years older. She said it was the least she could do for her Christ. Such beautiful Christians are in the Underground Church.[11]

Third, those afflicted may rejoice and have comfort in their affliction, knowing the end to which God has designed it for you. I read James 1.2-4:

 2      My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;

3      Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.

4      But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.

Fourth, those afflicted may bless God for their affliction, Acts 5.40-41. No one would challenge my assertion that a thorough beating was an affliction, would they?

 40     . . . and when they had called the apostles, and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.

41     And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.

Finally, those afflicted may desire that God does not remove the affliction until it is sanctified. Do we not detect this attitude in Paul’s glorying in his infirmities? Once you recognize what God is doing through your affliction, and see the promise of benefit from it according to Romans 8.28, then there is oftentimes the attitude that since you have come this far in your affliction by God’s grace, why stop now? Let us do this thing right until it is finished.

Not so sin. Since produces no such reactions, because God’s grace accompanies afflictions and God’s grace does not follow along with sinning.

 Fifth, AFFLICTION IS CAPABLE OF GOOD - NOT SO SIN

 Let me contrast the capability of afflictions with the capability of sin:

Affliction can humble a man, which is good. Any number of us knows and love friends and family members who are proud and haughty, resistant to the gospel and presently immune to the pleadings of the Holy Spirit, because they are blind to their condition and sense no need for deliverance. Though we do not want harm to come to our loved ones, who here does not pray for and secretly wish for that loved one to be humbled? Why so? “God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble,” James 4.6. “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up,” James 4.10. Our experience has shown us, however, that few ever humble themselves. This is because pride and the arrogance that arises from accomplishment is intoxicating. Therefore, so our loved ones will come to the place of humility, which is the only place God dispenses grace; we know that they very likely must experience some type of affliction to bring them low. In fact, Paul informs his readers that it was to prevent him being lifted up with pride that God sent him such affliction, Second Corinthians 12.7: “And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.”

Affliction can also teach a man, which is good. What can a Christian learn from affliction? He can learn that God’s grace is sufficient, as Paul did.[12] He can learn patience, as we learned from James 1.2-3. He can also learn hope from afflictions, Romans 5.3-4:

 3      And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience;

4      And patience, experience; and experience, hope.

 He can also learn that in his affliction he is being prepared by God for greater service and ministry to others, Second Corinthians 1.3-7:

 3      Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort;

4      Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.

5      For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.

6      And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation.

7      And our hope of you is stedfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation.

 We have learned that affliction can humble a man (which is good), and affliction can instruct a man (which is also good). Not so sin. Sin does nothing but harm, and can only be forgiven and cleansed.

 Psalm 32.5: “I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin.”

 Psalm 51.1-2:  1      Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.

2      Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.

 Isaiah 6.6-7:    6      Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar:

7      And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.

Isaiah 53.10, 12:    10     Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.

 12     Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

 Finally, AFFLICTION CAN BE COMPARATIVELY GOOD - NOT SO SIN

 One affliction can be better than another affliction, since one affliction can do more good than another affliction. By one affliction, a great lesson can be learned, while by another affliction a small lesson can be learned, showing that one affliction can be better than another affliction. Therefore, there are comparative degrees of goodness in afflictions. Some are very good, while others are less good. However, any affliction is better than any sin, and so is always comparatively good in comparison to any sin. This is because the greatest evil is always that which produces the greatest harm, and while affliction never estranges a person from God, the smallest of sins (so called) can alienate a soul from God, as did one bite of fruit in the Garden of Eden.

Not so sin. There is no such thing as one sin being comparatively more good than another sin, because there is nothing good in any sin. To be sure, some sins bring less damage than other sins, with the theft of a piece of candy being less destructive than taking another person’s life. However, it is not proper to describe one sin as being any better than another sin because, though not as destructive perhaps, it is of the same rebellious and vile nature as are more destructive sins. Thus, the sinner who claims, “Well, at least I don’t . . . ,” as a way of excusing his sin in comparison to another’s sin, is off the mark. No sin is comparatively good with respect to another sin, since all sin is rebellion, all sin is corruption, and all sin is heinous, even if different sins result in differing levels of destruction.

 In conclusion, I remind you that sin is an offense, while affliction is not an offense. Sin is rebellion, while affliction is not rebellion. Sin is never good, while affliction has varieties of good associated with it as I have shown you. Sin is always against God, while affliction is never against God. God never brings sin, while God sometimes brings affliction. Affliction can sometimes be extremely beneficial, while sin is never beneficial. Affliction sometimes produces remedies to various problems encountered in life, while sin is never the proper solution to anything, and can only be remedied by divine intervention; the forgiveness of God based upon the shed blood of God’s precious Son, Jesus Christ.



[1] This sermon closely follows the third chapter of “The Evil of Evils” by Jeremiah Burroughs, Soli Deo Gloria Publications, Morgan, PA, 1992 reprint of the 1654 original edition.

[2] 1 John 3.4

[3] Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), page 457.

[4]  See sermon titled “The Greatest Evil”  http://www.calvaryroadbaptist.org/sermon.php?sermonDate=20101227b

[5]  See sermon titled “They Preferred Afflictions To Sins”  http://www.calvaryroadbaptist.org/sermon.php?sermonDate=20110206b

[6] Hebrews 11.25

[7] Genesis 37, 39-50

[8] Job 1.8

[9] Job 1.1

[10] 2 Corinthians 12.9

[11] Richard Wurmbrand, Tortured For Christ, (Bartlesville, OK: Living sacrifice Book Company, 1998), pages 37-38.

[12] 2 Corinthians 12.9



Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org