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After conversion we need bruising so that reeds may know themselves to be reeds, and not oaks. Even reeds need bruising, by reason of the remainder or pride in our nature, and to let us see that we live by mercy…
Hence we learn that we must not pass too harsh judgement upon ourselves or others when God exercises us with bruising upon bruising. There must be a conformity to our head, Christ, who ‘was bruised for us’ (Isa. 53:5) that we may know how much we are bound unto him.
Richard Sibbes, The Bruised Reed (Carlisle, PA: The Banner Of Truth Trust, 1998), 5.
He chooses for his people better than they could choose for themselves. If they are in heaviness, there is a need-be for it, and he withholds nothing from them but what, upon the whole, it is better they should be without.
-John Newton, Works, vol. 1, p. 249 (Letter XVI, “On the Inefficacy of Our Knowledge)
HT: Justin Taylor
“Who among you fears the LORD and obeys the voice of his servant? Let him who walks in darkness and has no light trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God.” (Isaiah 50:10)
“Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.'” (John 8:12)
Jesus said, “I am the light of the world, Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” How is that consistent with Isaiah 50:10? The “darkness” in Isaiah 50:10 is not the same “darkness” in John 8:12. The darkness of Isaiah 50:10 is the courageous, hard path of obedience to the Lord, while the darkness of John 8:12 is abandonment by God, his face turned away, eternal death.
…setting Isaiah 50:10 and John 8:12 side by side is helpful. It suggests that walking through a dark season in this life, faithful to Christ, has more light to it than walking in the shining brilliance of our own brainstorms. It suggests that the darkness of obedience is better than the light of disobedience. God did not promise that we would never be confused and distraught; he did promise that he would never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). Even when we can’t see him, he does surround us and guard us and lead us forward. We can expect moments in this pilgrimage when the only way into “the light of life” of John 8:12 is the “walking in darkness” of Isaiah 50:10. And which would we rather have — the “darkness” of faithful obedience leading to our vindication, or the “light” of self-will leading to endless miseries? That is the question of our existence.
-Ray Ortlund, Isaiah: God Saves Sinners, Preaching the Word, ed. R. Kent Hughes (Wheaton, Il: Crossway Books, 2005), 337-338.
God; who is a breadth, beyond all breadths; a length, beyond all lengths; a depth, beyond all depths; and a height, beyond all heights, and that in all his attributes: He is an eternal being, an everlasting being, and in that respect he is beyond all measures, whether they be of breadth, or length, or depth, or height. In all his attributes he is beyond all measure: whether you measure by words, by thoughts, or by the most enlarged and exquisite apprehension; His greatness is unsearchable…
The greatness of God, of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, is that, if rightly considered, which will support the spirits of those of his people that are frighted with the greatness of their adversaries. For there is a greatness against a greatness. Pharaoh was great, but God more great, more great in power, more great in wisdom, more great every way for the help of his people; wherein they dealt proudly, he was above them. These words therefore take in for this people, the great God who in his immensity and infinite greatness is beyond all beings.
-John Bunyan, All Loves Excelling: The Saints’ Knowledge of Christ’s Love (Carlisle, Pa: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1998), 4-5.
This video, however, is a testimony from another athlete who’s end was not as successful. But I don’t think that it is wrong to say that this one makes God look more glorious than the other stories. This is a video of Colt McCoy being interviewed by his pastor Matt Carter reflecting on the 2009 National Football Championship Game which McCoy aimed to win.
So often the initial reaction to painful suffering is Why me? Why this? Why now? Why? . . .
[God] comes for you, in the flesh, in Christ, into suffering, on your behalf. He does not offer advice and perspective from afar; he steps into your significant suffering. He will see you through, and work with you the whole way. He will carry you even in extremis. This reality changes the questions that rise up from your heart. That inward-turning “why me?” quiets down, lifts its eyes, and begins to look around.You turn outward and new, wonderful questions form.
Why would you enter this world of evils?
Why would you go through loss, weakness, hardship, sorrow, and death?
Why would you do this for me, of all people?
But you did.
You did this for the joy set before you.
You did this for love.
You did this showing the glory of God in the face of Christ.
As that deeper question sinks home, you become joyously sane. The universe is no longer supremely about you. Yet you are not irrelevant. God’s story makes you just the right size. Everything counts, but the scale changes to something that makes much more sense. You face hard things. But you have already received something better which can never be taken away. And that better something will continue to work out the whole journey long.
The question generates a heartfelt response:
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and do not forget any of his benefits, who pardons all your iniquities and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion, who satisfies your years with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle.
Thank you, my Father. You are able to give true voice to a thank you amid all that is truly wrong, both the sins and the sufferings that now have come under lovingkindness.
Finally, you are prepared to pose—and to mean—almost unimaginable questions:
Why not me?
Why not this?
Why not now?
If in some way, my faith might serve as a three-watt night-light in a very dark world, why not me?
If my suffering shows forth the Savior of the world, why not me?
If I have the privilege of filling up the sufferings of Christ?
If he sanctifies to me my deepest distress?
If I fear no evil?
If he bears me in his arms?
If my weakness demonstrates the power of God to save us from all that is wrong?
If my honest struggle shows other strugglers how to land on their feet?
If my life becomes a source of hope for others?
Why not me?
Of course, you don’t want to suffer, but you’ve become willing: “If it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not as I will, but as you will.”
Like him, your loud cries and tears will in fact be heard by the one who saves from death.
Like him, you will learn obedience through what you suffer.
Like him, you will sympathize with the weaknesses of others.
Like him, you will deal gently with the ignorant and wayward.
Like him, you will display faith to a faithless world, hope to a hopeless world, love to a loveless world, life to a dying world.
If all that God promises only comes true, then why not me?
—David Powlison, “God’s Grace and Your Sufferings,” in Suffering and the Sovereignty of God (pp. 172-173).
HT: Justin Taylor
He was despised and rejected by men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; (Isa. 53:3)
What untold grief and pain Christ experienced when the most perfect relationship was sundered when he hung lacerated on the cross absorbing all the wrath of the Father. Yet, he did not do it so he could stand over us as our superior. But instead, he comes to us, being able to meet us in the most deepest and wounded areas of our lives with complete sympathy and understanding to minister grace and comfort exactly how we need it.
I love such stories and lessons past on by Brian Croft. It lets me peer into the difficulty and richness of unspectacular, faithful ministry. Faithfulness is not found in the glitter of having a name on a book (though some are called to be faithful in having that). Christ exalting ministry is in the sacrificial service to God’s children where we point them to Christ by word and deed. And this kind of service will mainly go unseen by the watching world. But it is ministry of service which God loves to see.
In this story Brian relates lessons from comforting a 90 year member before he becomes a widower.
This is why, dear brothers and fellow pastors, these moments are what we as pastors live for. Not to preach to large crowds or make a name for ourselves, but to look for and seize these precious moments to care for our people in their greatest times of need.
You can read it here.
God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. 2 Timothy 1:7
“We must think of suffering in a new way, we must face everything in a new way. And the way in which we face it all is by reminding ourselves that the Holy Spirit is in us. There is the future, there is the high calling, there is the persecution, there is the opposition, there is the enemy. I see it all. I must admit also that I am weak, that I lack the necessary powers and propensities. But instead of stopping there . . . I say, ‘But the Spirit of God is in me. God has given me his Holy Spirit.’ . . . What matters . . . is not what is true of us but what is true of Him.”
-D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression (Grand Rapids, 1965), page 100.
HT: Ray Ortlund
Life in this world for a believer can sometimes seem to be anything but victory. Looking around we can see governmental systems continuing to become more and more debased. The treasures of our faith are becoming viewed as scum by the world around us. Justice never seems to be done for innocent people murdered for the selfish pleasures of others. And that is only the outside world. One can look into themselves and sees sins that are persistent in their lives. The constant failings and struggles. If this was not enough the pain that flows into their lives adds even more weight. Unborn babies of relatives (and even their own) loosing their lives out of health conditions. Teenagers having their lives taken from them. Constant health issues racking the body with pain. Heartaches and broken hearts. How can this be victory? The life we live around us seems to communicate the clear message that life is meaningless and defeat is sure.
But God has given the believers a gift, a ray of light to pierce through the dark clouds.
Every Sunday the believers are called to gather. They are called to meet on a specific day, the Lord’s day. The day that their Lord made that ultimate pronouncement about this world: He has won! Sin and death lay dead before His feet as He arose on that Sunday.
And now believers meet to remind themselves about the truth: we have won in Him! “not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:25). Every time that the local church gathers it is a reminder about the fact that we are victorious, no matter what our sight may suggest. We get to meet together to encourage each other that Christ did win and a day is coming when His victory will be finalized. But even now the fact stands true, the war is over; the victory has been won. Each Sunday is the believer’s Victory Day.