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November 20, 2020 3:00 am
Perhaps one of the most straightforward points to acknowledge about suffering is that it's real and it hurts that sometimes leads to bitterness and resentment, but today on Truth for Life.
Alister Beck explains how God's faithfulness and affliction can produce deep growth if were willing to be trained in the midst of a trial we live in a framework in which somehow or another we have been tempted to believe in a triumphalist state approach to everything we do and that if all is not well if trouble is in our way. If we are facing difficulty and illness and despair, then we are tempted to find ourselves far more akin to the counselors of Joe who gave some pretty poor advice to the servant of God in the midst of an experience of genuine trial.
There is, I think a pressing need at this time for someone somewhere to write a decent theology of suffering, so that Christian people may be able to face life live life deal with bereavement children that are impaired, both mentally and physically. Circumstances of deteriorating health and diminishing powers and yet at the same time bless God for his faithfulness in and through it all, and our time this morning. Hopefully will at least be a step in the direction towards biblical sanity. It is very possible for us to try and deal with the whole question of suffering by trying to talk it out of existence. Is it where there is a great deal of that going on others by searching for an instant cure and others by living in the realm of illusion and mythology by pretending that in some measure. At least suffering doesn't exist. The great danger in speaking about affliction, especially if one is not in an immediate afflicted condition oneself is that one may be very theoretical and quite unhelpful to those who are going through deep days.
I trust this morning that I will not fall foul of that because there are a number of pitfalls to avoid. In addressing this issue. One is philosophical, rambling, that is devoid of any kind of theological foundation.
Another pitfall is that of adopting a simplistic approach which hurts people rather than heels in any sense of tall. I'm referring there without turning to into the kind of offerings of health that were given by Eliphaz and by Bildad and by so far these characters were quick on the draw. They were ready with an answer, and most of it was distinctly unhelpful. Some of us somehow think in seeking to be of help to others in affirming the faithfulness of God in the experience of suffering that if we can bang out one or two proof texts a quick burst on the Romans 828 scenario, then surely we will take that hard in the get on with their life probably that we've never truly been broken ourselves enough to realize the importance of eloquent silence.
The experience of suffering silence in the offerings of those who are concerned to give counsel is often far greater than its help than a lot of talk Joe and from the second chapter and from verse 13 when they saw him from a distance they could hardly recognize him.
They began to weep aloud allowed, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads and they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights.
No one said a word to him because they saw how great his suffering was that's good you go to chapter 13 and verse five stealing Joe and Job is no speaking. He says you are ever smeary with lies. Your worthless physicians, all of you evidently not impressed with her counsel. He did far better with seven days and seven nights of silence with the we might learn you're all worthless physicians, all of you. If only you would be altogether silent for you that would be wisdom of the missing dimensions and many of our lives is silence, contemplation, meditation, take the earphones out of our ears turn the tape off turn the radio off sitdown and shut up and we may make final progress in that silent, contemplative dimension than any of his ever realize.
Joe certainly had that to say, but since were not going to offer the silent auction.
Let me proceed. What then is the perspective that we are to adopt in relationship to this matter of God's faithfulness displayed in suffering because his faithfulness is displayed even in the suffering of his servants.
Scripture is replete with that will first of all we need to live in the realm of reality rather than the realm of illusion and the first thing that we can say quite straightforwardly. Is this that suffering does exist and it does hurt. Affliction is a reality in everyone's life, at one time or another. That's why Peter writes to his friends and he says dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering as if something strange were happening to you is that the most interesting thing that even as Christians as soon as when you tell somebody about another believer using all you won't believe what happened you know they were diagnosed with such and such so unsurprising about that God does not suspend the laws of human nature and physical existence simply because we are redeemed. If you're not looking where you're going when you're walking along the road and you bang into a pole, you disbanded up all your silly thing writing you look where you are going to be praying when you should be looking only surprise suffering does exist and it is real.
First Peter is full of it. Life is full of it. No one is pastored for any length of time without understanding that and I don't want to tell you a lot of stories this morning, but I've lived through the reality of that truth that suffering is there, it does exist and it is generally painful. Secondly, that suffering comes in all kinds of different ways. First Peter chapter 1 and verse six in this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials, manifold trial, citing the King James version hasn't manifold grace for manifold trials in all different kinds of ways, and the grief which is referred to herein. First Peter 16 is that which is expressive of the mental impact of enduring hardship.
The trials that were coming were buffeting their minds and were crushing their spirits and he says in a little while, or for a little while you may have had to suffer grief you see that the little while for us needs to be understood in the light of eternity so that even a lifetime is a little while, in light of eternity to suffer over for a protracted period of time with whatever it is matter of years in our lives is still in the economy of God and in the framework of God's plan and purpose for his children. A little while. That's not to say that it feels like a little while, especially those who suffer mental anguish to suffer mental anguish. A minute can seem like a day to day can seem like a year. The year can seem like it's never coming to an end. Trials that come on manifold trial suffering is real and it hurts. Suffering comes in manifold ways.
Thirdly, suffering is inevitably limited in its timeframe. Go to the doctor and you have to have some kind of local anesthetic gives comes at you with a big needle.
I remember on one occasion he said to me if you can make it through the next 40 seconds will be fine. Sounded very ominous and it was ominous and it was generally painful and right. It only lasted 42nd four separate injections 10 seconds each evening.
There some of you do that people think of it in relationship to Paul's life in second Corinthians in chapter 4 verse 50 in all this he says is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. Therefore we do not lose heart.
Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day notice for our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. JB Phillips paraphrases that this is the reason why we never collapse also will able to say with confidence that in the pain of suffering. There is the presence of God not exclusively, but certainly that God is there in the reality of suffering. For example in the book of Exodus and in chapter 2, and in verse 24 we read as follows. Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out in their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God. God Herod their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob. So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about.
That's what people say to us all the time. Is it not so where is God in the midst of all of this. Did your garden leave you did your God dessert the answer is no. He's here all along he Herod their groaning he remembered his covenant and he was concerned about them in the book of Isaiah in chapter 63 and in verse nine, you find a similar expression the day of God's vengeance and redemption. It says in all their distress.
He too was distressed and the angel of his presence save them and in his love and mercy.
He redeemed them and he lifted them up and carry them all the days of all, surely they are my sons, who will not be false to me in all their distress. He too was distress. What is Jesus say when he meets the arrogant Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me.
How could he say that because of his solidarity with his church. It is one thing that we might share the fellowship of his sufferings is quite another that he would share the fellowship of dollars is not the wonder of what we find in Hebrews that we have in the Lord Jesus, a great high priest who is touched with the feelings of our infirmities as the songwriter says there is no throb nor throw that our hearts can know what he feels it above that when we are tempted to believe that somehow or another. Nobody knows the trouble I've seen that there is not another living soul who understands where we mean or what we're going through as well.
There may not be we may be confident in this, that in the pain of our suffering is the presence of a faithful God from starting the cross of Christ says we are not to envisage God on a deck chair but on cross Julie that is part of the significance of the fact of the incarnation itself that his name is Emmanuelle which will be interpreted which means God with us for three suffering in and of itself does not lead a person into a deeper relationship with God suffering in and of itself does not lead a person into a deeper relationship with God.
Hebrews chapter 12 and verse 11.
No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful later on. However, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace by those who have been trained by by those who have been trained by that similar to what he says earlier in Hebrews. We talked about the word of God being of no value to those who inherited because they did not combine it with faith so they listen to the word of God. But it was light rain falling on a hardened surface. It was impervious. They were impervious to the truth they did not take into themselves. It was not combined with faith and in the same way, just the experience of suffering need not draw a person closer to God and man.
Bitterness and may make is useless and makes saintliness for a period of time because our hearts become antagonistic towards God rather than sympathetic and open. We need to ask ourselves the question when we go through it all in the midst of heartache is this making me brittle or is this making me gentle. One lady loses a son, she becomes hardened call in cynical another lady a meter, the market and you're struck by the tenderness of horizons. She's got crows feet, you know, but she just has kind acts this year. On a subsequent date and of all the things you're struck by your start right where I you ask someone where did Mrs. so-and-so here, those tender eyes. The answer is when she lost her boy in whatever year it was God broke her heart in the inner spirit of dependence upon him, that is quite unique and she has become. Says the person. One of the best and most careful helpful biblical counselors in our church because in the experience of suffering. She drew close, rather than student a distance suffering is not necessarily bring us closer to God. But it may. I remember in the 70s in Scotland as we send out one of the young missionaries from our church. Colleen we send it off as a missionary to Senegal. She'd been out there a couple of years, she had written back to say that she been feeling unwell. She came home with the abdominal pains that they were unable to tackle in Senegal and within a matter of days. They had diagnosed her with a large carcinoma in the very central area of her lower abdomen and within a matter of weeks rather than months, as she had gone home to glory. Some people came over to her mother and father's home on the evening that we had conducted the funeral and the let them know that their daughter need not have direct because it was apparent to them at least that we simply did not have enough faith when we were praying for her healing alerts assume that these were well-meaning souls and just dreadfully misguided and he felt somehow or another, God was only glorified if Colleen was raised up from her bed in which she was stuck with cancer.
They didn't have a theology which said God is also glorifying and taking to himself: I'm leaving behind a legacy of those who will revere her memory and recollect on her faithfulness and tell others of the way she faced death with fortitude and with the and with anticipation that a triumphal story about how she get up and dance around her that besides filling her 24-year-old girl was removed from apparent usefulness in a realm of machinery and and in it all and through it all. God never violated his faithfulness, she God is glorified in the death of the saints's faithfulness is so vast it is so comprehensive that it embraces not only our successes but also our disappointments that is Providence orders all things, the good days and the pieties we don't somehow or another need to dress up the deity and make him acceptable to the mines of pagan men and women who only have a notion of some triumphal God, our God is a God who manifested the essence of his faithfulness with the crime.
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me was that an expression of faithlessness.
It was a very apex of his faithfulness. I will ask and did my Savior bleed and did my sovereign die when he devotes that secret for such a worm as I and in the declare his faithfulness when you go back into the Puritan writers you have these wonderful illustrations of the same. One of the great stories that comes out of the commenting.
In Scotland is that of Richard Cameron and if you've read men of the covenant, then you will know the story, but Richard Cameron one of the leaders of the Covenanters was known as the lion of the covenant, and he was killed in a battle when he was just 32 years old.
His enemies cut off his head and his hands and on their on their way to the nether boy in Edinburgh which is where the prison was where they were going to display these trophies of war mainly to take his head in his hands and impaled them on the railings I would sign the two of them to Richard's father who was being held prisoner in the tollbooth jail displaying the head and hands.
They asked him do you know the sooner we live in a very brutal generation. You know the heart of man is desperately wicked in every generation. Can you imagine these characters walking in holding ahead severed from his body holding the hands of a man's son and holding them before his gaze and saying he recognized languishing in a jail on trumped up charges confronted by the bloodied head of his son.
He takes the opportunity to declare the faithfulness of God in the midst of suffering, the hymn writer says, ill that he blesses his own good and unblessed good is ill and all is right.
That seems most wrong if it be his sweet will the clearing God's faithfulness and affliction to challenging thought for us from today's message on Truth for Life with Alister Eric appreciating God's faithfulness in times of trial is not a natural response to suffering, but through the teaching of God's word God's spirit gives us knowledge and understanding. That's the reason we teach directly from Scripture on Truth for Life affect our purpose in teaching the Bible with clarity and relevance is so that God will open the hearts of those who are unbelievers deeply rooted believers in their faith and strengthen local churches through his word. This is the heart of our mission as Alister often says we have only one string and are below, but it takes an essential partnership with you for this to happen. Your financial support is necessary to cover the expenses associated with this ministry and as we close in on the end of the year were asking listeners to consider making a one time year-end donation to Truth for Life so that we can and 2020 fully funded. Please go online or call today to give your end of the year gift to support the Bible teaching you hear on this daily program. When you do, we would love to send you Christopher Ashley's new devotional titled repeat the sounding joy.
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Hope you have a relaxing and refreshing weekend. If you're looking to supplement the teaching you received from your local church. Keep in mind Alistair Begggs teaching at Parkside church is streamed live most weekends find out if Alister will be teaching this weekend. Simply go to Truth for Life.org/live then join us Monday as we continue studying God's faithfulness and affliction. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life with the Learning is for Living