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Good answer by Dr. Bryan Chapell
Christ’s obedience and sufferings, not your sanctification, must be your justification before God.
~Thomas Wilcox, Honey Out of the Rock
“strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:22.)
When it comes to suffering in one’s life the mindset which seems to pervade some Christians is that they should live with as little suffering as possible. What one basically crafts with this mindset is an unbiblical view of suffering. Suffering becomes an unplanned part of the over all story of one’s journey in following God. Or, it even moves to becoming the guide post in how one determines if they are following God.
Here is how it all this plays out. I have a decision to which job I should take in a different state. I could accept a job offer in Kansas or in Ohio. For wise reason suggested to me at the time I chose Kansas. Everything went fine with packing up the house: enough boxes, fitted everything in the truck, sad/sweet good byes and away I went. I get there, find a house that suits me perfectly from what I and the house inspection could see. I start the new job that following Thursday exactly as planned. I must have made a choice that was in God’s will (as the thinking goes).
That Monday, however, I come into the office only to see my manager standing outside my cubical. He informs me that due to oversight in the budget the company does not have the money to sustain my job position anymore and I am laid off. Bewildered and confused I drive back to my house. I drive up to it only to find a government truck in the drive way with land surveyors on the lawn. I pull in, get out and ask what the issue is. Come to find out the house’s foundation rests on what will be a massive sinkhole in about a year. Thus, the county has to condemn the house as being unsafe to live in. In one week I go from having all my ducks in a row to having all them roasted for dinner.
Now, this is where one could concoct a theological interpretation of the story. From what I hear from some Christians they would say that I had indeed NOT followed God’s will for my life. If I had done _________ (put in what ever individualistic method of determining God’s will here) I would have clearly seen that I should have taken the job in Ohio. And what would cause them to make the conclusion that I had not made a choice in step with God’s will? The fact that I suffered.
See what happens? Because the choice I made produced suffering people will immediate think that I made a wrong decision. If I had made the right decision though, I would making a steady paycheck with a well financed house.
Here is the mind set of some Christians it seems, “If I follow God’s will for my life it will take me to the most happiest, easiest, most comfortable place in this world.” It is the idea that ease and comfort should immediately follow one’s decision to walk after God in any area of obedience. Now, no one would say it that way. But the idea is there. God’s will for my life is a marriage with little to no problems. A career which gives me a big paycheck and amazing health insurance. A school which is perfect for my intellectual (or not so intellectual) pursuits. And the list would go on. In whatever situation or decision the thought of, “the most happiest and comfortable of places” either lurks in the corner or saturates the mind when it comes to God’s Will for one’s life. Thus, the thought is, “God’s destination for me in being obedient to Him is a land of happiness.”
However, what did following the will of God give to Paul?
- A feeling that He was sentence to death (2 Cor. 1:9),
- afflicted in every way, but not crushed;
- perplexed, but not driven to despair;
- persecuted, but not forsaken;
- struck down, but not destroyed;
- always carrying in the body the death of Jesus (4:8-10a),
- being given over to death for Jesus’ sake (4:11),
- having an outer self which was wasting away (4:16),
- commended by
- great endurance,
- in afflictions,
- sleepless nights,
- hunger (6:4),
- he was
- in far more imprisonments,
- with countless beatings,
- and often near death.
- Five times received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one.
- Three times he was beaten with rods.
- Once he was stoned.
- Three times he was shipwrecked;
- a night and a day he was adrift at sea;
- on frequent journeys,
- in danger from rivers,
- danger from robbers,
- danger from his own people,
- danger from Gentiles,
- danger in the city,
- danger in the wilderness,
- danger at sea,
- danger from false brothers;
- in toil and hardship,
- through many a sleepless night,
- in hunger and thirst,
- often without food,
- in cold and exposure.
- And, apart from other things, there was the daily pressure on him of his anxiety for all the churches. (11:23-28),
- lived with a throne in the flesh which God would not take away (12:7).
- Thus, Paul was content weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities (12:10).
And yes, He was in the will of God during all this.
Thus, it is safe to say that God’s will takes one right through the valley of suffering, many times! And it not as if one is not living the Christian life to the fullest. On the contrary, it is there in suffering where our walk with God grows all the more deeper. For it is in our weakness, finding that we are completely incapable to sustain ourselves, as the weight of the trials bears down on our backs, when we hear the words, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9). So, “count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4). Suffering is not a weird part of the Christian life. It is according to the will of God that you suffer. “Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good” (1 Peter 4:19).
Thus, don’t take suffering as a guide post to whether or not you made the right decision. Yes, there is the truth that foolish decisions will bring suffering. Righteous decisions, however, can bring suffering as well. For God will take His children through affliction many times to remove the dross from their life so that His Son’s image made be made to shine all the brighter through them. So, don’t let the prospect of suffering make you think that God’s does not want you to go wherever. Seek Christ and His kingdom, let Christ’s word’s dwell in you richly, and follow Christ wherever He made lead you. Entrust your soul to His care as he leads you along His will for your life which will include suffering.
Bless God for shaking you off false foundations, and [for] any dispensation where by He keeps the soul awakened and looking after Christ.
~Thomas Wilcox, Honey Out of the Rock
Have you ever heard of anyone in history being imprisoned or executed for distributing copies of Grimm’s fairy tales? What would you say if you’d heard that copies of The Iliadand The Odyssey had been banned in Saudi Arabia and North Korea? Imagine people trying to smuggle copies of Hans Christian Andersen’s works into China? Such ideas are comical, but the Bible, which has been called a mere collection of myths and fairy tales, has suffered all of these fates. Throughout history and even today, copies of the Bible are banned and burned, and those possessing it are persecuted and imprisoned. There’s something about this ancient book that threatens and frightens those in power, especially those who use power to oppress people weaker than themselves. And they have every reason to be frightened.
-Eric Metaxas, Everything You Always Wanted to Know about God (Colorado Springs, 2005), page 155.
HT: Ray Ortlund
This email struck me about the beauty of pastoring and ministering at a church for a long time. It was sent to Brian Croft, pastor of Auburndale Baptist Church here in Louisville, KY.
It was great to run across your blog. The posts that I read show a true shepherd’s heart. Curtis Thomas not only showed us the way of eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord, he discipled us. He held me the day I was born. He was with me when I killed my first deer. He pronounced my wife and I to be married in the sight of the Lord. He was with me when my (6) children were born. He stood alongside me as my father died, and we both preached the Gospel at his funeral. And I had the privilege of teaching and evangelizing with him in south-east Asia. All this to say; be a shepherd like him. The impact on three generations of my family is absolutely the most profound influence we have received aside from God’s Word and the Holy Spirit. Truly making disciples means a lifelong commitment, and I am just one example. So I encourage you, as you pastor, to imitate this type of disciple making with your people.
HT: Brian Croft
There is a beauty in longevity. Plodding along in faithful ministry for years and years. And in those years there are times of great encouragement with constant valleys of discouragement. How many times did Curtis Thomas think that his ministry was fruitless? That his flock would never get out of a dry period? That all his work was going unnoticed? If he was like anyone else in the ministry it is safe to say that thoughts like those were frequent visitors. Yet, faithfulness pays off, even when the payment goes unnoticed by the one being faithful. And when those who have lived under the dispensation of someone’s faithful works for a long time they will testify to the beauty of it.
Note: I was just alerted to Brian Crofts blog not to long ago. It looks to be a blog that anyone in pastoral or future pastor ministry should visit frequently. He blogs about diferent aspects of pastoral ministry and gives very wise advise about them.
So yeah, I am excited! The newest Southern Baptist Journal of Theology is coming out soon and topic will be on eschatology.
But the article I am most excited about is Peter J. Gentry‘s article, “Daniel’s Seventy Weeks and the New Exodus,”SBJT 14.1 (2010): 26–45. SBJT has graciously allowed the article to go up on the internet. Thanks to Dr. Hamilton for alerting everyone to this.
I just finished Paul Helm‘s most recent article in the WTS journal, B. B. WARFIELD’S PATH TO INERRANCY: AN ATTEMPT TO CORRECT SOME SERIOUS MISUNDERSTANDINGS. I found it very helpful and insightful when it comes to modern objections to inerrancy as it relates to B. B. Warfields articulation of the doctrine.
Dr. Helm uses Professor A. T. B. McGowan as the representative of these objections due to McGowan’s book, The Divine Authenticity of Scripture: Retrieving an Evangelical Heritage, where he communicates the main objections to inerrancy in modern times. Paul Helm responds to these objections and then explains B.B. Warfield’s system of inerrancy.
Let me highlight one thing (out of the many) I found helpful and thought provoking.
Propositional truth is not cold and boring. I have heard this charge before and it comes up again and again. Supposedly, whenever someone makes propositional truth their foundation they have entered the domain of blandness. What we need to do, according to the “post” people, is emphasize the narrative with its different genres and also how truth works in community. Doing so will move us out of black and white of modernity into the world of Postmodern Technicolor.
Inerrancy is supposedly the doctrine of the propositionalists. Thus, it is the doctrine of blandness. Because inerrancy is all about what is true and what is not. Its purpose is to confirm to us that every thing the bible claims to be true is true and everything it claims as false is indeed false. Thus, it is all about propositions. And thus, as McGrowan puts it, inerrancy makes the Bible “flattened and reduced to a set of propositions” (Divine Authenticity, 117). other words, blandness!
Dr. Helm rightly calls this charge out by asking, “how!?” How does believing multiple things as being absolutely true flattened them? One could guess, “As a botanist, using the language of his science, may classify flowers and so may ‘‘miss’’ their beauty and fragrance, so a systematic theologian of the Princeton school misses those features of Scripture that are intended to move the emotions and energize the will, and so misses features that are crucial to the proper appreciation of these documents” (Helm, 28). This could possibly be the case. But does belief in inerrancy necessitate that we become Vulcans when reading the Bible? short answer, no! Helm gives an example of this fact by giving a list:
(4) (It is true that) the Word became flesh. ( John 1:14)(5) (It is true that) Jesus wept. ( John 12:35)(6) (It is true that) Jesus asserted, ‘‘One of you will betray me.’’ ( John 13:21)
By putting the phrase “it is true that” in from of the phrases it in no way “flatten each of them, nor makes them cold and clinical…It is simply a linguistic device for enabling us to assert (4)-(6) as facts.” For, ” if they are all facts, if they are true, they most certainly do not each express the same fact, nor are they truths of equal importance. Who seriously can think that an assertions of Jesus to the effect that one of his disciples will betray him comes to be on the same level as the assertion of a particular reactive state of Jesus, his weeping at the tomb of Lazarus, or as the deeply mysterious assertion that the Word became flesh?” (Helm, 29). So there so no cold flattening when we see every part of Scripture as true. The charge is one with no basis in how we actually react to things we read.
Because one holds to propositions as foundational does not mean he or she is cold and boring. I know for a fact that it will take an hour for the washing machine to wash my clothes, and I know that all the ways of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness. Does this necessitate that I react to them the same. I could! I could get equally excited about both. But I don’t have to. I can have a proper gratitude about the washing machine (I don’t have to wash them by hand) that is much less than the soul sustaining truth that all the ways of the Lord are steadfast love and mercy. The washing machine does not sustain my soul, the Lord does. So even though both are true no matter what language you speak, what culture you live in, and what your childhood was like I can react them in dynamic ways.
Inerrancy, therefore, is not a the doctrine of boringness. It is the understanding that whatever one is reading in the biblical text is true. Then one can have proper emotional reactions to what they are reading and read according to the genre. Inerrancy is not opposed to interpreting in narratives or any other genre. It is the understanding that what is claimed as being true through the narrative and what sustains the truthfulness of the narrative (if the history of a the gospels are incorrect doesn’t hurt the truthfulness of it?) is indeed true. That is all. It is not the battle between the Vulcan and the artist. It is using both in an attempt to see God in all His glory through the written pages of Scripture.