Like many I’ve been thinking about the recent Hurricane Harvey and now the approach of Hurricane Irma into Florida. I loved hearing John Piper’s hopeful Prayer in the Path of Hurricanes and appreciated the way he ended praying through Romans 8:38-39. Nothing can separate you from the love that God has for you in Christ Jesus. No loss, no suffering, no impending hurricane, no recovery effort, no seemingly hopeless situation. Let’s all look to God and see the hope we have in Christ Jesus (and continue to pray for these things happening in our country).
I love how 1 Peter draws out our hearts and shows us what Christ was up to in sufferings. We read: “ He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth.  When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.  He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.  For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”(1 Peter 2:22-25 ESV)
Today, you may be going through suffering yourself. Look to Jesus. And find comfort in your suffering Savior.
I am helped consistently by good friends around me both in and out of pastoral ministry. They refine and help me in many ways. There’s a groaning to pastoral ministry that is difficult for those who aren’t in it to see. Each week there are countless behind the scenes things that are happening in the lives of people and pastors are often caught up in this work (especially in the smaller to mid-size churches where a great number of pastors serve).
I was thinking last week about suffering and some situations that people I know are dealing with. It was over lunch with one of my elders and it had to do with somberly thinking about people, their situations and sufferings. I don’t wish ill or suffering upon any in the body I’m privileged to serve, but I consistently try to think and prepare myself for the suffering that may come. If tragedy would strike a family, for instance, they need a pastor who isn’t crushed by this, but one who is sorrowful, yet rejoicing. So, there’s a discipline to this.
You could say that pastors who serve well in those moments have prepared themselves for those moments. God’s grace is sufficient for all kinds of situations. What this means, practically, is working through some of these things emotionally when things don’t appear to be going “bad.” This is the heaviness or burden that some pastors feel. So, here it is principle form: pastors are to be trailblazers into suffering. We work through the emotions, hurt, and raw reality that may very well come in the hard situations. By doing this, we’ve already been there and done that (emotionally, at least).
One passage that helped me was thinking of Daniel’s three friends when confronted by the prospects of the fiery furnace. They said, God can deliver, but if we die, even then God will give deliverance. So, no matter the situation, pastors are holding on to Gospel realities throughout. God may very well deliver–that will be to His glory and for His fame. He may choose not to deliver. Situations will inevitably end in death. The cancers may not heal. But, even then, pastors hold out a deeper reality: even in this, God is delivering.
Because Jesus conquered death, pronounced, “It is finished,” and then actually defeated it by rising from the dead, we can offer real, deep, abiding and lasting hope no matter what situations we encounter. So, be a trailblazer into suffering, because there you’ll find rich Gospel realities that stand up to whatever situations we face.
My sermon from 2/26/12 entitled Lessons in Suffering from Hebrews 10:32-35 is now online. The sermon sought to unpack the reality of the situation these early believers faced and then help give us encouragement for the sufferings we might face. Put simply, because of the realities that are ours in the Gospel, we can endure suffering with joy and confidence.
In the evening, my small group studied “Sins of the Tongue” in Bridges’ Respectable Sins. We had good discussion and were helped by the standard for speech found in Ephesians 4:29. Again, we are driven to the Gospel for help.
Hope you had a great Sunday.
We enjoyed a blessed Lord’s Day yesterday on so many levels.
My good friend, Brad Russell, was here preaching from 1 Peter 1:3-9 a message entitled Perspective in Suffering. Many of us, when facing suffering, act as if some strange thing is happening to us. But, the Bible is clear about how we can remain grounded in the midst of it. I appreciated Brad opening his life to us and giving us solid anchors to latch onto in the midst of the storm. The perspective we have in suffering leads to perseverance based on the Prize we have in the glorious Gospel of Christ.
In the evening, our rain moved on and the temp cooled off and we enjoyed a great night of fellowship at our church picnic. Fun stuff. Nothing like unhurried fellowship, tossing the football around and watching the joy on the children’s faces as they played together. What a rich time.
Hope you had a blessed Lord’s day and enter this week refreshed.
Today’s sermon, Gospel Suffering from Colossians 1:24 is now online. Thought we had a good morning. I was really stirred by the passage and the call to join Christ in suffering. Like I confessed this AM, I have a hard time embracing suffering for the Gospel because I don’t want the negative. This running after convenience is missing what the NT says is the norm for believers. Any applications stick out to you?
Writing from Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 9:19-22, Ajith Fernando says:
The thing I find hardest in this list is Paul’s statement that he became weak in order to win the weak. We all like to operate out of a position of strength, to be in control, to have things going the way we want them to go. But that is not the way of the gospel. It is quite common for people to say they are looking for a church they are comfortable with. I think that is a scandalous statement. When were churches supposed to be comfortable places? There is too much need in the world for Christians to be comfortable. (from p.94 of the Call to Joy and Pain)
It seems that we are not immune to this kind of thinking. We serve our comforts much more than we serve the world. I think Ajith is right. This is not only a scandalous statement, it is a scandalous way to live in light of the calling believers have upon their lives.
I thought we had a great Lord’s day and was thoroughly encouraged being with God’s people. In the morning, my sermon was from Mark 15:16-32 and focused on how Jesus’ suffering gives us hope. What was driving a lot of my thoughts on this text was how comfortable we have it and how Mark’s readers were those facing suffering. No doubt reading of the sufferings of Christ would have given them great grace. Hopefully it accomplished this for us as well.
In the evening, the sermon was entitled Return and Repent from Hosea 6:1-6. I think the amazing picture God provides us for renewal in this section encourage us to pursue a relationship with God Himself. He desires love, not sacrifice. Good word to consider, especially when we so often substitute religious practice for relationship. H
Hopefully, the saints were built up and encouraged today, as well.