Why Does God Allow Suffering?

Lesson 4, Part 3

4/11

The Importance of Godly Character

If God can do all things, why didn't He just create us with perfect character?

Many people have wondered: Why didn’t God in the beginning simply create humans as spirit beings without human nature? Why did He first make us physical—from the dust of the earth—then offer us eternal life only if we vigorously resist the weaknesses of our flesh?

If God can do all things, why didn’t He just create us with perfect character? In other words, what is the purpose of this difficult and trying physical life? Couldn’t our heartache and suffering have been avoided?

Of course God could have done all of that—if He had been willing to create us without the personal character we need for making personal choices. It all gets back to our free will, our freedom of choice. God Himself had a choice about how man would be created. He could have made us automatons, functioning like programmed robots whose only course of action is to carry out the instructions of their maker. But He chose to create us like Him, capable of making choices that are limited only by our knowledge and character. This requires that we learn right from wrong and that our character develop gradually by our decisions under God’s guidance and assistance.

Is God actively creating character in human beings?

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).

“. . . Be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and . . . put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Ephesians 4:22-24), King James Version).

God is not finished with us. We are still His workmanship. He is creating in us “righteousness and true holiness”—His character.

As long as we are human, our character is not firm; it is not permanent. We can change our minds and behavior. We can make mistakes and learn from them. We can learn from the fruits of our right and wrong choices.

Since we can change our minds—and repent of our errors—God can change us even more and create in us the will and the capacity to steadfastly choose what is right over what is wrong. “For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).

Of course, God requires that we first recognize and willingly reverse our wrong behavior by allowing His Spirit to empower us to make those changes. Then we can become a new person “created in righteousness and true holiness.”

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God does not prevent people from overindulging in alcohol. Nor does He prevent them from suffering the consequences of their choices.

What aspect of our character is most important to God?

“For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

The Bible uses the word heart to describe our innermost thoughts, motives and attitudes. God knows what goes on inside our minds. He evaluates our intents and motivations (Hebrews 4:12-13). The internal aspects of our character count the most with Him. He considers our behavior in light of what is in our hearts (compare (Jeremiah 17:10); (Deuteronomy 10:12).

Can God change our hearts?

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them” (Ezekiel 36:26-27).

If we yield our will to God, He will empower us through the Holy Spirit to live by the principles of righteousness as He defines them in His laws. Each of us must be “a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). It is through studying the Scriptures that we “may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). God writes what we learn in our hearts by His Spirit (Hebrews 8:10; Corinthians 3:3 ) making it a permanent part of our thinking and nature.

How can God be sure what is really in someone’s heart?

“What is man, that You should exalt him, that You should set Your heart on him, that You should visit him every morning, and test him every moment?” (Job 7:17-18).

We face trials and difficulties so God can know how committed we are to His way of life. He has to find out if our character will endure hardship and suffering. Only then can He trust us with the powers that come with eternal life. This life is not only for building character; it is for testing that character.

Why did God test ancient Israel?

“And you shall remember that the LORD your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not” (Deuteronomy 8:2, compare Deuteronomy 8:15-16 ).

Does God test the faithfulness of even the righteous?

“In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:6-7).

Even the righteous are tested to see how faithful they remain in their commitment to God (Psalms 11:5). When we face difficult choices, God can see how committed to Him we are. Only when we obey Him under duress is the depth of our character fully evident. Paul tells us we should “glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Romans 5:3-4, compare Revelation 2:10).

Will God allow us to be tested beyond what we can endure?

“No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13, New Revised Standard Version).

Watch Video 'A Crisis of Character'

Glossary

A brief summary of definitions for words used in this lesson.

Anoint: To place oil on the head of a person to request healing of an illness (James 5:14-16). The oil symbolizes God’s Spirit, which is the power of God.

Character: The discernment, willingness and determination to make and carry out proper moral, ethical and spiritual choices regardless of the circumstances, pressures and tendency to do otherwise.

Endurance: The ability to withstand prolonged hardship or adversity. The act of staying the course.

Free will, free choice or free moral agency: The freedom to decide without undue pressure whether to embrace or reject a particular course of action; the characteristic of not being governed by prior causes (such as instinct) or divine intervention but able to decide for oneself.

Fruit: The result of a decision or course of action. The fruit of the Spirit is the consequence of the Holy Spirit at work in a person’s life.

Human nature: The characteristics, tendencies and behavior of a human being. It is fundamentally neutral, although over time self-gratification tends to predominate. As creatures of choice, we are enjoined and expected to resist the pulls of base self-motivation and respond to the leading of the Holy Spirit.

Persecution: Affliction, abuse, harassment or attacks on our person or character. Persecution for obedience to God allows us to suffer for righteousness’ sake. Such abuse may include personal, political, religious and psychological persecution.

Reconciliation: Restoration; the opposite of alienation. We are reconciled to a relationship with God the Father through repentance of sin and acceptance of the sacrifice of Christ. Alienation from God results from sin Isaiah 59:1-2).

Repentance: A reversal of direction in attitude and actions. We repent when we realize we are headed the wrong way, then stop, turn around and begin moving in the right direction. Spiritually, it involves genuine sorrow for sins and a resolve to do what is right.

Reward: Something God gives to those who please Him. In the broadest sense, a reward is whatever we receive for our actions, good or bad. We cannot earn our salvation, which is a gift from God (Romans 6:23), yet Christ shows through the parable of the talents that some will receive greater rewards than others in the Kingdom of God because of their service to their Creator (Matthew 25:14-30). The righteous reap their ultimate reward at the time of the resurrection of the just.

Sovereignty (of God): The unchallenged rule, power and autonomy of God. The Creator is sovereign in that no one can successfully challenge His supremacy.

Suffering: Pain caused by physical, mental or psychological factors or any combination of the three.

Trial: A test of faith, patience or stamina through being subjected to suffering or temptation. We are tried through the difficulties of life. Such tests work patience and build and reveal our character. “If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small,” wrote Solomon Proverbs 24:10). Successfully endured trials build holy, righteous character and trust in God.

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