Friday, August 3, 2012

Theology of Suffering

People suffer.  It's just that simple.  No matter how wealthy you are you can never fully insulate yourself from suffering.  Whether it's the senseless tragedy of a movie theater shooting or the death of a child or the typical decay of an aging body we all suffer.

The question for today is, "why do Christians suffer?"  Think about this.  Christ loves his church, the church was predestined from before the foundations of the earth were laid, the Spirit dwells in the church, and yet even though the Lord loves his church so dearly (even at the expense of his own life) still it suffers.  Why?

I found this answer from John Piper in his essay, Preaching to Suffering People, to be particularly helpful in answering that question.

Suffering will come to believers.  It must come.  It is part of their calling.  In Philippians 1:29, Paul tells the entire church in Philippi, "To you it has been granted for Christ's sake not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake."  This is a gift from God to all believers.  We are appointed to suffer.  "You yourselves know that we have been destined for this" (1 Thess. 3:3).  We are preaching to disciples of Jesus, not disciples of Hugh Hefner.  "Can we wish, if it were possible, to walk in a path strewed with flowers when His was strewed with thorns?"

If we are to glorify God in our lives that means we must be able to see suffering as a God given opportunity to make his name great.  We see our suffering as a chance to find strength in God's strength when ours is gone.  We see suffering as an opportunity to rejoice in the majesty of God and the new creation that awaits us on that Day.  We must see suffering as opportunity and not accident.  There are no accidents in God's universe.  There is no room for open-theism in biblical Christianity.  There is sin, there is suffering, and there is strife.  But these are opportunities to turn to the sinless one, to look the God who is good even in our suffering, and to long for a day when all strife has ceased.

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