Category Archives: Suffering

Extending Grace: God Comforting Through Us

God comforts His people, by the power of His Spirit, through His people.

2 Corinthians 1:3-11

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort. For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.

 

God’s Preparation of Hudson Taylor

“Years afterwards, when responsible himself for the guidance of many missionaries, it was easy to see that the trials of those early days were all needed. He was pioneering a way in China, little as he or anyone else could imagine it, for hundreds who were to follow. Every burden must be his, every testing real as only experience can make it. As iron is tempered to steel, his heart must be stronger and more patient than others, through having loved and suffered more. He who was to encourage thousands in a life of childlike trust, must himself learn yet deeper lessons of a Father’s loving care. So difficulties were permitted to gather about him, especially at the first when impressions are deep and lasting, difficulties attended by many a deliverance which made them a lifelong blessing.”[1]

 Adolphe Monod:

“It is through the anguish of temptation that you will learn, like your Savior, to some day sympathize with the weaknesses of others and to help those who are tempted [Hebrews 4:14-5:3].”[1]

May the Spirit of Christ, the Great Comforter, fulfill His ministry to others through us as willing channels of His healing, comforting, and edifying grace. May He strengthen their hearts and sustain their faith through our example and loving presence. And, may He continue giving us grace so that we might perpetually extend His grace to others and be a source of comfort to them.

________

[1] Howard Taylor, Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2009), 50.

[2] Adolphe Monod, Jesus Tempted in the Wilderness: Sharing Christ’s Victory, trans. Canstance Walker (Vestavia Hills: Solid Ground Christian Books, 2010), 38.

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Filed under Biblical Counseling, Holy Spirit, Pastoral Ministry, Suffering

Sacrificing for God’s Glory among the Nations

David Platt, “Divine Sovereignty: The Fuel of Death Defying Missions” (Together for the Gospel 2012)

This message is one of the best (and most inspiring) sermons on mission that I have ever heard (Rev. 5). It is a “must-listen” (not exaggerating) and worth making time to hear. It provoked me to much awe and heart-searching before God, and confirmed many burdens that the Lord has been laying upon my heart. I trust that it will do the same for you, regardless of your role in this most holy endeavor. Grace and peace… Warning: It may ruin your life in the most soul-stirring way possible, and result in radical desires for God-glorifying life and service. (Audio)

Here’s a similar message that John Piper preached several years ago: “Doing Missions When Dying Is Gain”.

 

 

Ligon Duncan, “The Underestimated God: God’s Ruthless, Compassionate Grace in the Pursuit of His Own Glory and His Minister’s Joy,” (Together for the Gospel 2012)

This message struck me, as well. It targeted the heart of God’s servants and how our Master often exposes those things that we treasure (and long for) above or beside Him (2Kings 19). Duncan reflected on how God often withholds the fulfillment of good things, even godly desires, from His people in order to increase their joy in Him. There is much pain and suffering in the service of God, but that was the experience of our Savior and should be expected by all who would follow after Him. Those who walk by faith while entrusting themselves to God’s provision and timing will find an inexpressible joy that softens the hardships that crush our hearts. May you find comfort and strength (as I did) from God’s word as you hear it preached in this message. It’s worth your time.

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Filed under Mission/Missional, Spiritual Leadership, Suffering

Glory Follows Suffering

David Mathis:

“Suffering is not only the consequence of completing the Commission, but it is God’s appointed means by which he will show the superior worth of his Son to all the peoples. Just as it was ‘fitting that he… should make the founder of [our] salvation perfect through suffering’ (Heb. 2:10), so it is fitting that God save a people from all the peoples from eternal suffering through the redemptive suffering of Jesus displayed in the temporal sufferings of his missionaries.”[1]

God will extend His fame to all nations–saving men and women from every tribe and tongue and nation–through the suffering of His people. He will redeem the world through casting down His own in order that they might model Christ’s self-giving love to the nations!! May God prepare us to suffer well for His kingdom, that we would give our hearts, our lives, our all for the sake of preaching and living out “Christ crucified”!!

[1] David Mathis, “Missions: The Worship of Jesus and the Joy of All Peoples,” a chapter taken from John Piper, A Holy Ambition: To Preach Christ Where Christ Has Not Been Named (Minneapolis: Desiring God, 2011), 31.

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Polishing Stones

Hardship Prepares Us to Shine Forth His Glory in Life and Eternity

“Not one ounce, not one grain-weight more is laid on me than he hath enabled me to bear… Faith hath cause to take courage from our very afflictions; the devil is but a whetstone to sharpen the faith and patience of the saint. I know he but heweth and polisheth stones for the new Jerusalem.” Samuel Rutherford, The Loveliness of Christ (Banner of Truth, 2008)72.

May the Lord redirect our wandering gaze, so that we might “fix our eyes on Jesus” as He carries us through the purging fire!! The Spirit of Christ will comfort us as He cuts and carves us into conformity with the Suffering Savior!!

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The Mercy of Rain: Suffering & the Sovereignty of God

The Light of Faith in the Darkness of Pain and Disappointment

There are times when the Lord deepens our faith and we must depend on Him despite the doubts, fears, and uncertainties that plague our aching hearts. Few things are more challenging than trusting God in the midst of His dark providence while holding fast to His goodness and love. The following two songs illustrate such faith…

(1) “I Will Carry You” by Selah speaks of trusting God in the midst of losing a beloved child. The song was written in response to losing an infant during birth and speaks of trusting God with a faith-filled, yet breaking heart that worships Him as the One who gives and takes away, according to His good purposes.

(2) “Blessings” by Laura Story speaks of the blessings that God bestows through pain, and how His mercy comes through raindrops. Every ounce of our pain and sorrow is for a glorious and beautiful purpose that magnifies the greatness of God and serves to accomplish His gracious plan for our lives.

Certainly, it is in the Cross of Christ that we most clearly see God working for our good and His glory, through the dark providence of pain and suffering. Like all things that God does, there is a beautiful purpose behind the sorrow and disappointment. No matter how badly our hearts may grieve over loss and disappointment, the grace of God will one day restore all things… In the meantime, we know that He has promised to be near to the broken-hearted and to save the crushed in spirit (Ps. 34:18).

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Disproportionate Grief

Disproportionate Grief

Grieving over unfulfilled desires can be legitimate. It can also be self-centered. Generally-speaking, it’s often disproportionate. We all have them, and we’re all guilty at sometimes grieving disproportionately and sinfully.

“There is legitimate grief in deferred hopes and unfulfilled desire for [____________]. But I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t say that many of my hot tears have been motivated by self-pity more than anything else. I wish the plight of those who reject God would move me as much, but I must confess I’ve not cried as much for their souls as I have for my own desires. Author and pastor John Piper says, ‘Self-pity is the response of pride to suffering.’ Ouch! But so true.” [1]

Sadly, we tend to grieve more for our own temporary discomfort than for those who are on-course to receive eternal damnation. Lord, change our hearts, help us–help me–to be less self-focused and sinfully self-centered. Help us to grieve over lost souls much more than we grieve over the loss or delay of deeply-meaningful, yet temporary graces.

[1] Carolyn McCulley, Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2004), 59.

[2] John Piper, Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist (Sisters: Multnomah Publishers, 1996), 250: “Self-pity is the response of pride to suffering. Self-pity sounds self-sacrificing. The reason self-pity does not look like pride is that it appears to be needy. But the need arises from a wounded ego [i.e., entitlement], and the desire of the self-pitying is not really for others to see them as helpless, but as heroes. The need self-pity feels does not come from a sense of unworthiness, but from a sense of unrecognized worthiness. It is the response of the unapplauded pride.” (emphasis added)

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Slaying the Dragon of Self-Pity

The Gospel Frees Us from Self-Pity

In his recent blog series on “The Pastor and Personal Criticism,” C.J. Mahaney unpacks many of the hidden blessings and subtle temptations that come as a result of criticism. While God uses correction to grow us in grace, the exposure of indwelling sin can be difficult to discern and destroy, except that we apply the gospel to the root of our struggles. It would do little good to attack the fruit when the poison remains buried within the root. As we’ll see shortly, the gospel contains the cure for our sinful condition because Christ stood in our place–He suffered the criticism (and punishment) that we rightly deserve and lavished on us the edification and exaltation (the many blessings) that were rightfully His.


(Source)

In his section on temptation, Mahaney refers to a penetrating article by William Farley, entitled “The Poison of Self Pity”.  In the article, Farley describes the subtle dangers of self-pity and how various disappointments lead to displacing Christ as Lord by enthroning ourselves instead. At the root of our struggle is idolatry and pride–an exaltation of self that is evidenced by two things: (1) an inaccurate sense of “who I am and what I deserve,” and (2) a forgetfulness of who Christ is and what Christ has done on my behalf. In other words, our ignorance and spiritual amnesia manifest themselves in an inflated sense of self and personal entitlement coupled with a forgetfulness and ingratitude toward God for His grace. Self-pity forsakes the functional reality of the gospel–that we deserve death and condemnation and that Christ alone deserves worship and blessing. Yet, Christ stood in our place in order to bear the weight of our punishment so that we might be reconciled to God and enjoy the vicarious extension of His reward.

In the simplest form, the cure for “the poison of self-pity” is the antidote of gospel gratitude. A right understanding of self and the saving work of Christ will produce an overwhelming sense of gratitude that will recalibrate our perspective. We will praise God rather than grumble at Him; exhibit joy rather than grow embittered; display humility and grace rather than anger and frustration. We will be God-centered rather than self-centered. We will seek to edify others instead of being consumed by our own frustrations and unfulfilled desires. Instead of seeking to be served by unloading our disappointment, we will seek to serve others by prayerfully ministering to them. In other words, our grateful, faith-filled embrace of the gospel will slay the dragon of self-pity that seeks to devour our lives.

As a man prone toward self-pity and sinful indulgence, I highly recommend both articles for your prayerful consideration. While Christ has redeemed us with His own blood, His work of curing us from self-centeredness has only been commenced; it has not been completed. It will not be fully realized until He returns. As recipients of God’s sanctifying grace, we are called to extend His grace toward others as we joyfully reflect the character of Christ who entrusted Himself to God, even while suffering the fate that should have been ours. While we may suffer hardships and experience unfulfilled desires in this life, we know that our Father is trustworthy and gracious. We know that He has given us the Holy Spirit as our Comforter and Guide, and that all things are being used by Him to sanctify us toward perfection. And, we know that Christ has lived perfectly in our place and died purposefully as our Substitute. The very ways in which we fall short, He did not; and His obedience has been credited to us–freeing us from enslavement to self-pity and uniting us to God in gratitude and grace. THAT is the sweetness of the gospel in the midst of chronic disappointment and pain.

While these realities are not easy to embrace, we have a loving God who enables us to do so whenever we humbly come to the foot of the Cross and forsake ourselves in order that we might have Christ. He is willing and able to do more than we could ever ask or imagine (Eph. 3:14-21)… We must repeatedly preach these truths to ourselves and to one another, because we are prone toward self-pity, pride, ingratitude, and self-consumption. Let us trust God as He empowers us to die to self and live to Christ!

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Filed under C.J. Mahaney, Counseling, Self-Pity, Tribbett

Old Habits Die Hard

1 Peter 4:1-6:

“Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does.”

In the midst of suffering, we are often tempted to revert to our former way(s) of life. Yet, the saving work of God tenaciously refuses to leave us in such futility. He transforms every soul that He saves–even when the purification is best accomplished by the providential furnace of His persevering love (1 Peter 1:3-9). There has never been a more beautiful, though seemingly brutish, sort of love. The mysterious beauty of divine love is that suffering typically precedes the sweetness that it procures. This was the reality of Christ’s death for us in the pursuit of His Father’s glory; and much will be the same for us when we endeavor to follow in His footsteps. As we share in the sufferings of Christ, we incarnate His love as “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1). May we suffer and die well as we remember that He alone is our Life.

This past weekend, my pastor gave the following points of application when faced with the peer pressure of returning to former passions:

1. Remember WHOSE you are.

We belong to Jesus ,the Author and Perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the Cross….

2. Remember your motivation.

We live to honor Christ rather than self.

3. Ask God for help… Employ the means that He’s given.

The Word of God is our sword and the prayer of Faith is our shield of defense!

The Body of Christ are our fellow soldiers who provide support, accountability, and love.

4. For those who have fallen back into their former ways…

A. Remember what Christ has already done and that He has secured God’s love and forgiveness for you.  You’re accepted in Christ, not in and of yourself.

B. Confess your sin to God and fellow believers as you repent of it.

C. Get into God’s word and get God’s word into you.

D. Pursue open, honest transparency with others in spiritual community.

5. When others are struggling, come alongside them and offer: Humility, Hope, and Help.

Humility: You’re capable of sinning in the same way, if not worse, given the right opportunity.

Hope: God’s saving love has the power to change and restore even the worst of sinners.

Help: God’s people need one another to stir up and minister His sanctifying grace to one another in time of need.

 

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Filed under Biblical Counseling, Brokenness, Sanctification, Suffering

The Measure of A Man

When God intends to greatly use a man, He often anoints him through great suffering. The forging process strengthens, sharpens, and often refines the instrument for a most effective work.  As 1 Peter 1:3-9 informs us, hardship proves our faith genuine and results in much glory, praise, and honor being given to the Savior on our account. In this vein, I’d like to share a poem about God’s process of molding a man for Himself:

“When God wants to drill a man

And thrill a man

And skill a man,

When God wants to mold a man

To play the noblest part;

When He yearns with all His heart

To create so great and bold a man

That all the world shall be amazed,

Watch His methods, watch His ways!

How He ruthlessly perfects

Whom He royally elects!

How He hammers him and hurts him,

And with mighty blows converts him

Into trial shapes of clay which

Only God understands;

While his tortured heart is crying

And he lifts beseeching hands!

How He bends but never breaks

When his good He undertakes;

How He uses whom He chooses

And with every purpose fuses him;

By every act induces him

To try His splendour out–

God knows what He’s about!”

Author Unknown[1]

Robert Murry M’Cheyne, the late Scottish preacher, who died at the age of 29 before which the great Scottish revival took place (seemingly in large measure as a result of his faithful life and preaching ministry) said, “It is not great talents God blesses so much as likeness to Jesus.  A holy minister is an awful weapon in the hand of God.” May God raise up a generation of holy men and women who penetrate this dark world with the piercing light of Christ.

[1] J. Oswald Sanders, Spiritual Leadership (Chicago: Moody Press, 1994), 150-151.

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The Fruit of Suffering

The Power of Suffering…

  • Grace has the power to turn afflictions into mercies.

Jeremiah Burroughs in The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment

  • Humility is always found connected with long-suffering.”

Jonathan Edwards in Charity and its Fruits

therefinersfire

1 Peter 1:3-9 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

  • There is so much in this passage, but let me just highlight a few things:  God has made us alive, granted us salvation through Jesus Christ, and gave us an inheritance that is untouchable as we are safe-guarded through faith.  The very power of God that saved us continues to sustain us.  While our earthly experiences, and even our physical lives, may suffer the effects of a fallen world, our salvation is beyond its reach.  Through Christ we have a living hope that sustains us, and while we walk by faith instead of sight, we endure suffering with joy that is impossible to describe.  It is impossible to describe, because it is not rooted in the things of earth.  Our joy is bound up in the glories of heaven that have made their home within our hearts.  Our joy is a small taste of heaven that is made available to us though we still live upon the earth.  Through the trials that overwhelm us, we experience the testing of our faith–the dross is burned off and the luster of His glory shines within us.
  • May we ever embrace suffering for it is one of God’s most necessary means of producing Christ-likeness.  Through our longsuffering we are transformed into the beautiful bride of Christ that is pure and blameless.  Suffering produces holiness and humility, and these two beautiful qualities are most clearly mingled in the Cross of Christ–the pinnacle of suffering.  Let us therefore seek to imitate the Savior, who for the joy set before Him endured the Cross for us.

Blessings in Christ, Gabe

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