Lights in the Darkness to Understand Suffering (Part 4)

You can go to part one here

and part two here

part three

3) It takes a world with trouble in it to train us for our high calling as children of God.

It’s hard to see a child grieve a broken toy but we know it’s the first step towards a more mature life.  We have to learn to deal with loss.

Jesus “learned obedience from what he suffered.” Hebrew 5:8

Here lies the clue to this–that the problem of evil is raised far more often by the spectators of life than by the actual combatants. You will hardly find that the great sufferers are the great skeptics. The fact is that it is the world’s greatest sufferers who have produced the most shining examples of unconquerable faith.

They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— 38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.  -Hebrews 11:37-38

How can this be? Suffering initiates the soul into secrets which the more onlooker can never know. Do not think trials and troubles are meaningless: one day you are going to look up into the face of God and thank Him for every sorrow.

 

Lights in the Darkness to Understand Suffering (Part 3)

You can go to part one here

and part two here

There is a fifth beam, perhaps the greatest, namely the power of sorrow and trouble to chisel the spirit and deepen the whole tone of life must temporarily wait.

First we admit that these beams of light can’t brighten the day of someone in the midst of suffering. For what people want most in the hour of trouble is not an answer to a problem, but a power to carry them through.  Even if a satisfying solution to the problem of evil were presented that would not alter the fact that the actual suffering must still be endured.

There is a deeper question than “why?”  It’s not “why has this happened to me?” but “How, seeing it has happened, am I to face it?” The New Testament is not concerned with “why?” but is desperately and magnificently concerned about “how?” It does not offer a theory and explanation: it offers you a power and a victory.

Suffering has a positive and creative function to fulfill.

#5 The gift which suffering brings to character, the molding and shaping and beautifying of the soul.

1) It takes a world with trouble in it to make possible some of the finest qualities of life. If there were no risk and danger in life, where would fortitude and chivalry be? If there were no suffering, would there be compassion? If there were no hardship, would we ever learn patience and endurance? A universe with no troubles banishes some of the finest qualities of character and life.

2) It takes a world with trouble in it to satisfy man’s demand for a dangerous universe. The human heart has an instinct for adventure. We know that a hazardous universe is better than any land of flabby and monotonous ease.

Lights in the Darkness to Understand Suffering (part 2)

Read part one here

#3 Wisdom of divine impartiality.

We think it’s cruel that the cruel sting of evil falls indiscriminately on sinner and saint alike. It’s indifferent to those who deserve/don’t deserve. This appalling impartiality baffles us! What are we to say of a world which enthrones a Herod, and crucified a Christ?

At first sight the gospel has very little comfort to give. It does not suggest that if two parents follow Christ that death will never rob them of a child. There is no promise of supernatural intervention. We wonder, would not the world be far more just and divine if evil got its desserts and goodness went immune?

Would it? On second thought it would be decidedly less divine. The laws of the universe would have to be suspended often and would lead to chaos. For if a Christian escaped the troubles that visit other folk, if religion got you out of all troubles, faith would become just a gigantic insurance policy, a quid pro quo–and that would be the ruin of faith and character forever.

Righteousness is and should be its own motive.

#4 The awakening of the conscience of humanity.

The reality of suffering stabs the human conscience wide awake and sends us out crusading for a better and happier tomorrow and a world nearer the will of God.

If poverty, unemployment and war were the will of God, then, of course, we should simply have to accept them without trying to improve them (i.e. karma in Hinduism). But if these things are not the will of God at all but simply the product of selfishness and sin then clearly we are not meant to lie down under them and accept them with resignation.

What do we expect to happen? God expects his hands and feet in the world to touch it and try to make it right.  That is OUR responsibility.

There is a fifth beam that is perhaps the greatest…

Lights in the Darkness to Understand Suffering (Part 1)

Seventy-five years ago, Pastor James Stewart outlined some “lights in the darkness” as it pertained to the mystery of suffering and sorrow in our world.  He admitted that it was nearly impossible to solve the mystery in  way that compelled everyone BUT if asked, “Do you see any places where it’s not as dark, where there might be beams of light to illuminate the mystery?” he said yes.

#1 The beneficence of inexorable law.

A good deal of tragedy is due to the working of certain uniform principles which govern the universe. Gravitation, for instance. An airplane whose engine fails may crash. But the point to notice is that the same laws which are responsible for human suffering are also the indispensable sources of most of the things that make like worth living.

If we lived in a universe without these laws our predicament would be infinitely worse.

Gravitation may mean a crash of a plane but remember that without gravitation you could not walk along the street, not travel by car, not launch a ship.  Life would become unlivable.

Think about the properties of fire that give out heat. Some days those properties mean that 100 people, trapped in a blazing building, are burnt to death. Do you wish that fire would not behave like that? Then it would cease to be fire and all its well-being would be lost.

You cannot love all the assets of life and refuse their liabilities.

Stewart then illustrates his point with a football game where the goal line was movable. The whole game depends on the goal lines being fixed to one consistent spot even though there are times we prefer it to be closer or farther away.

#2 Our membership of one another.

Much of innocent suffering is due to the fact that we are mixed up together. If a man plays the fool, others are ruined. If one country breaks faith, others are plunged into war.

Would we be better off an island to ourselves with no human interaction? Think of what we owe to human fellowship. The bread we eat, the clothes we wear, the car we drive, the books you read, the medical help we need are all available because of others’ labors.

 

What the Scriptures are

Romans 15:4,

Everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

  1. The Scriptures are entirely applicable to today. “The past was written to teach us….”
  2. The Scriptures are centered in Christ. Paul’s ability to quote Psalm 69 and apply it to Christ reminds us that basically all of Scripture is ultimately about Jesus. See Luke 24:27.
  3. If used properly, the Scriptures will increase “hope” in us. This happens through endurance (hard work and discipline) and encouragement (incredible and precious promises).

8 Wishes on My 47th Birthday

People ask, “What do you want for your birthday?”  So here’s a few things that I’ve come up with…

  1. I really want to know Christ better, to hear His voice clearer than I’ve EVER heard it before. To KNOW what it is like to be completely filled with and consumed with the Holy Spirit and follow Him with abandon!
  2. That I will be the best husband on the planet, that I will pursue Jennifer for the rest of my life, that I will do all that I can to make her feel beautiful and special, that I will honor the vows I took on June 27, 1992 and NEVER allow the church or anything else to replace her as the love of my life.
  3. That I will be an amazing father to Reagan, Micah, and Aidan…the kind of dad that after they move away and have families of their own, that they’ll WANT to come back and spend time with me.  I want to model for them what it means to follow Jesus.
  4. To continue to lead FCC where more people are giving their lives to Christ. I want to see what can happen in a church when people are COMPLETELY sold out to Him, refuse to play it safe and do ANYTHING SHORT OF SIN to reach people for Christ. I can do my job but I need the WHOLE church AND ultimately the Holy Spirit. So may God grant me the gifts and wisdom to do my best.
  5. To be a friend that loves, trusts, forgives, and believes the best about people, even people I disagree with and for some reason “don’t like.” I don’t want to be a complainer.
  6. To be a great leader worth following–one that refuses to use people, be manipulated by fear and/or throw my integrity away because I want anything more than honoring Christ.
  7. To write a book. Oh…this is the one that haunts me the second most on here.  I’ve got part of it written with ideas galore but how do I do it and not sacrifice anything above?  Pray that I would “find more time.”
  8. To obey God’s voice and live for His praise rather than giving in to the voices of mere humans who want something different than God. I want to please God, not man.