In the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon makes an observation between a righteous person and a wicked person. Many have been known to misinterpret this verse to mean that the wicked prosper but the righteous suffer. The following verse informs us that Solomon perceives that this is because of self-righteousness, whereupon a person becomes too righteous for his or her own good. For he goes on to suggest that a righteous man does not exist. This is what is what Solomon wrote:
In my vain life I have seen everything; there is a righteous man who perishes in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man who prolongs his life in his evil-doing. Be not righteous overmuch, and do not make yourself over-wise; why should you destroy yourself?...Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins.(Ecclesiastes 7:15-16,20)The most famous example of a man suffering from the Old Testament is that of Job. He was a man that is often viewed as righteous. But his righteousness is self-righteousness. For at the end of the book of Job, we see Job having to repent. Now the righteous do not have to repent, for they have no sin to turn away from. They are righteous.
I had heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees thee;Job lost all his material wealth because of his self-righteousness. In this respect, those who appear to be righteous suffer. The reason why they suffer is they are self-righteous and not righteous at all (Jesus of Nazareth is the exception). However, we are told in the Bible that:
therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:5-6)
In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation which addresses you as sons?— “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor lose courage when you are punished by him. For the Lord disciplines him whom he loves,and chastises every son whom he receives.”Really there is no difference in the underlying reason why Christians may suffer and why Job suffered. The aim is to bring about the fruit of righteousness, so each believer can enjoy the benefits of holiness and glorify God. Job had twice as much as he possessed before his ordeal.
It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers to discipline us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time at their pleasure, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant; later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:5-11)
And the Lord restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends; and the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before. (Job 42:10)Apart from being disciplined by the Lord, Christians encounter persecution. Once more we learn that this is to bring glory to God. For we read:
Behold, we call those happy who were steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness [patience] of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful. James 5:11
But even if you do suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled. (1 Peter 3:14)
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal which comes upon you to prove you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice in so far as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed If you are reproached for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or a thief, or a wrongdoer, or a mischief-maker; yet if one suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but under that name let him glorify God. (1 Peter 4:12-16)Rather interestingly, when it comes to those who claim they are persecuted for being part of a particular grouping or religious denomination, the Bible says that only if we suffer as a Christian need we not be ashamed. This is because for anyone to suffer as a Christian, that one suffers because that one bears the name of Lord Jesus Christ—our Lord and Savior. One can suffer for being a Roman Catholic, Protestant, Jehovah Witness, Mormon, Pentecostal, Charismatic, Evangelical, Orthodox or whatever; but to suffer as such is to suffer in vain.
If we suffer as Christians, we are suffering because we identify with Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore we ourselves boast of you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions which you are enduring. This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be made worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering— since indeed God deems it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you. (2 Thessalonians 1:4-6)In the book of Ezekiel, we read that each one will receive just reward or recompense according to each one's own actions.
The soul that sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son; the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.(Ezekiel 18:20)One of the reasons those who are righteous before God do not suffer the same fate as those who are wicked has to do with wantonness.
The righteous has enough to satisfy his appetite, but the belly of the wicked suffers want. Proverbs 13:25Yet we find in the Bible people complaining that God favors the wicked. David was envious of the prosperity of the wicked at one stage. Jeremiah lodged a complaint. The view of the Jews, at times, was the wicked prospered and that to serve God was a vain activity. Of course, we know that they were looking in the wrong places and they were being wanton at the time, rather than resting in the reality of salvation.
For I was envious of the arrogant, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. (Psalm 73:3)
Righteous art thou, O Lord, when I complain to thee; yet I would plead my case before thee. Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all who are treacherous thrive? Thou plantest them, and they take root; they grow and bring forth fruit; thou art near in their mouth and far from their heart. (Jeremiah 12:1-2)
“Your words have been stout against me, says the Lord. Yet you say, ‘How have we spoken against thee?’ You have said, ‘It is vain to serve God. What is the good of our keeping his charge or of walking as in mourning before the Lord of hosts Henceforth we deem the arrogant blessed; evildoers not only prosper but when they put God to the test they escape.’” (Malachi 3:13-15)Solomon went as far as to ask his listeners (readers) to consider that life seemed to be meaningless if the righteous are to suffer and the wicked are to prosper.
There is something else meaningless that occurs on earth: the righteous who get what the wicked deserve, and the wicked who get what the righteous deserve. This too, I say, is meaningless. (Ecclesiastes 8:14)As we have seen already, that those who call upon the name of the Lord and suffer, do so, because God is disciplining them so they might have eternal rewards. When people call upon the name of the Lord and then look elsewhere, rather than seeking God to see what they can achieve and learn from Him, it just so happens that they begin to suffer. While it may seem that the wicked are collecting all the money and can have as many sexual partners as they like, so that they make a person envious, this only applies to those who are not looking to God. Even though persons appear to be righteous, and say they look to God for their salvation, they suffer because they are not doing what they claim. This is because the things that really matter have nothing to do with this world, even though what we do in this world affects us greatly. Something King David discovered after his heart went wandering and followed his eyes to commit adultery and devise wicked plans (read 2 Samuel 11:2-4 and 2 Samuel 12:1-15). Maybe it was after declaring that He would kill a certain wicked man, but finding reprieve himself, ungodly King David eventually understood that the pleasures of satisfaction were to be found in the presence of God (Psalm 16:11).
Today, we do well if we heed what the Apostle Paul states:
For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit; he who thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by menThe Bible does not claim the righteous suffer and the wicked prosper. What the Bible claims is the wicked will suffer and those who desire to be righteous but keep looking at the wicked will also suffer. Those who spend time in the presence of the Lord will know pleasures for evermore. Indeed, those who thus serve God in accordance to His omniscience, will bear the fruit of righteousness and know the joy and the peace of the Holy Spirit, having learned obedience through suffering.
There Is A Way To Success That Seems To Work But Reality It Is The Way To Death