The Cure for a Superficial Faith

    Sam Storms: I’ve been a subscriber to World magazine for as long as I can remember. Some have referred to it as the Christian version of Time magazine. Actually, it’s a lot better than Time ever was and not simply because it is faith-based. But I’m not here to praise World. I’m here to draw attention to two things that I noted in its most recent, August 5, 2017, issue. In an article on the church in China titled “More Growing Pains, More Great Gains,” June Cheng reports on the struggles of believers in that communist country. This article is a follow-up on an earlier piece in which she profiled three groups of Christians “working to help mature the burgeoning Chinese church” (43). One of those on whom she focused is a pastor from Singapore “whose online sermons led to church plants throughout China” (43). When Cheng last saw this man, Joseph Su (whose name has been changed for safety reasons), he was actively involved

read more The Cure for a Superficial Faith

Who Gave Paul His Thorn?

. Andrew Wilson: Who gave Paul his thorn in 2 Corinthians 12? It might sound like a slightly obscure, angels-on-a-pinhead question, but it is actually very significant, because it cuts to the heart of questions about divine sovereignty, suffering, goodness and the agency of the devil. Does God send adversity, to teach us or bring us to maturity? Do God and Satan work together, in some weird way? Is Satan able to act on his own initiative? Does God sometimes actively will for people to experience things they find painful, that good may result? You get the idea. The text doesn’t tell us what exactly the thorn was, and it doesn’t tell us who exactly gave it to Paul. So let’s start with what we know. 1. The thorn was “a messenger of Satan.” 2. It was given “to keep me from being too conceited” (hina mē huperairōmai). 3. It was painful, to the point that Paul pleaded with the

read more Who Gave Paul His Thorn?

God, Why This Broken World Like Ours?

John Piper: God put the natural world under a curse so that the physical horrors of that curse — of that futility, of that corruption, disease and death — would become a vivid picture, a parable of the horrors of moral evil, sin. In other words, natural evil exists in the world as a sign post of the horrors of moral evil. Before I show you the text in the Bible, I want you to picture what I am saying in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve, perfect, sinless; the world, perfect, no death. Everything is perfect. They eat fruit forbidden, and God strikes the world with a curse in the natural world. Now, in his sin Adam did not hit Eve. There’s no domestic abuse in the Garden of Eden. He didn’t hit her, and God did not say, “You hit her, I am hitting you.” No. Adam hit God. And he hit him not with his fist,

read more God, Why This Broken World Like Ours?

15 doctrines that ought to bring comfort in suffering

Derek Rishmawy One of my fundamental convictions is that theology, while possessing theoretical aspects, is eminently practical. It’s the “doctrine of living unto God” as some of the older theologians used to put it. One of the greatest tests of that “practicality” is understanding the various ways that the doctrines of the Christian faith can serve as a comfort to us in the manifold sufferings and tragedies we encounter in this life this side of Eden and before the Second Coming. In what follows, I’d like to simply (and briefly) point out some of the many ways the main doctrines of the Christian faith provide a comfort to the believer in times of struggle, suffering, and pain. Trinity.  Before moving to realities more directly oriented towards God’s actions on our behalf, it’s important to stop and remember the comfort of the fact that before all things, God has eternally been perfectly existent as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This God

read more 15 doctrines that ought to bring comfort in suffering

Romans 8:28 – Life’s Deepest Pains for Your Greatest Pleasure

David Mathis: This is your verse. If you believe in the God of the Bible, and you love him, all the bounty of one of his greatest promises is yours. God’s staggering pledge of Romans 8:28 is that “all things” — not just the good, but even and especially the bad — work for your good. Life’s worst pains are for your eternal joy. All things is a massive phrase. It’s universal, all-inclusive, with no exceptions. It doesn’t take much to believe that life’s best things work for our good. But what makes Romans 8:28 such a life-transforming promise is that this “all things” includes all of life’s worst things. Every single one. Every stab of pain, every barb, every lingering scar. And if we want that with specificity, it’s here in this very context. Romans 8:35–36 lists life’s greatest pains — none of which can separate us from Jesus’s love: tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, sword, and even

read more Romans 8:28 – Life’s Deepest Pains for Your Greatest Pleasure

Ten Things to Do During Suffering

Ed Welch: We will all suffer, of that there is no doubt. It is strange, then, that we are often unprepared for it. With that in mind, a useful exercise is to summarize Scripture and identify what words of God can guide us when things are hard. Here is my current list of ten things to do while suffering (it is always subject to ongoing refinement). Don’t be surprised by suffering (1 Pet. 4:12). The Son suffered, so do those who follow the Son. You will not be spared the sufferings that the world experiences, but you will participate in them, both for the world’s benefit and your own. Live by faith, see the unseen (Heb. 2:2). Normal eyesight is not enough. Your eyes will tell you that God is far away and silent. The truth is that he is close—invisible—but close. He has a unique affection for fellow sufferers. So get help to build up your spiritual vision. Search

read more Ten Things to Do During Suffering

The Book of Job

Ray Ortlund: The book of Job is not answering a theoretical question about why good people suffer.  It is answering a practical question: When good people suffer, what does God want from them?  The answer is, he wants our trust. The book is driven by tensions.  One, Job really was a good man (1:1, 8; 2:3).  He didn’t deserve what he got.  Two, neither Job nor his friends ever saw the conflict going on between God and Satan, but his friends made the mistake of thinking they were competent to judge.  Three, his friends interpreted his sufferings in moralistic, overly-tidy, accusing categories (4:7-8).  Thus, they did not serve Job but only intensified his sufferings further.  Four, Job refused to give in either to his own despair or to their cruel insinuations.  He kept looking to God, he held on, and God eventually showed up (38:1-42:17). Two observations. One, even personal suffering has a social dimension, as others look on and

read more The Book of Job

Followers of Jesus should expect injustice and misrepresentation

Randy Alcorn: In an interview I was asked, What is your advice on how believers should deal with a culture that is increasingly hostile to Christianity? Jesus said, “No servant is greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also” (John 15:20). Followers of Jesus should expect injustice and misrepresentation. I’m grateful there are organizations working to protect the rights of Christians. But I’m concerned if we view ourselves as one more special interest group, clinging to entitlements and whining when people don’t like us. God’s people have a long history of not being liked. Of course, this does not mean being hateful or seeking to be hated. It’s important that we represent the Gospel well, and I am all for graciousness, kindness and servant-hearted love as we speak the truth. Romans 12:18 says, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” But the fact is, while the gospel is good news, it is

read more Followers of Jesus should expect injustice and misrepresentation

When We Send a Person to His Death

John Piper: Ronnie Smith was shot and killed in Benghazi, Libya, on Thursday. He was 33. He was a husband and father. The leaders of his home church have given me permission to respond to his death publicly and carefully. You can read the fuller story at World or in themainstream media. One of the reasons I want to respond is because Ronnie wrote to us at Desiring God last year and told us that one of my messages was significant in leading him and his family to Libya. Now Anita is a widow, and his son Hosea has lost his father. Weep with Those Who Weep How do I feel about sharing in the cause of his going to his death? I came to tears this morning praying for Anita and Hosea. Weep with those who weep was not a command in that moment; it was a sorrow rolling over me. I remember being 33. That’s how old I was when

read more When We Send a Person to His Death

Quintessential Christianity

Sam Storms: “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” (1 Peter 1:8). Define “Christian”. What does it mean? Shift your mind out of neutral for just a moment and think. What is the essence of Christianity? When the secondary issues are set aside, when the extra baggage is eliminated, when all the superficial junk so often associated with Christianity is done away, what is left? What does it mean to be a Christian? Define it in the purest, simplest, most basic and foundational terms. I suspect that if we actually did that and you each turned in your answer on a piece of paper, we’d have an incredibly enlightening experience reading them aloud. More than enlightening, it might even in some cases prove shocking. I ask this question of you simply because I believe Peter provides

read more Quintessential Christianity

Tornadoes, Tsunamis, and the Mystery of Suffering and Sovereignty

Sam Storms: I’m inclined to think the best way to respond to the tragedy that struck our community today is simply to say nothing. I have little patience for those who feel the need to theologize about such events, as if anyone possessed sufficient wisdom to discern God’s purpose. On the other hand, people will inevitably ask questions and are looking for encouragement and comfort. So how best do we love and pastor those who have suffered so terribly? I’m not certain I have the answer to that question, and I write the following with considerable hesitation. I can only pray that what I say is grounded in God’s Word and is received in the spirit in which it is intended. I first put my thoughts together on this subject when the tsunami hit Japan a couple of years ago. Now, in the aftermath of the tornado that struck Moore and other areas surrounding Oklahoma City, I pray that those

read more Tornadoes, Tsunamis, and the Mystery of Suffering and Sovereignty

Carson: The most painful things I’ve ever borne are betrayals by Christian friends

Here’s how Don Carson recently replied to a question about suffering during a Q&A. (This is a lightly edited transcript from 13:37 to 14:40 in the audio file.) We grew up in some of the suffering of French Canada. I’ve had typhoid because I went to Africa and came within death’s door. I’ve had two or three other diseases that have almost taken me out. My wife’s had cancer that has almost taken her out. She didn’t expect to live to 50; she just turned 59. But that’s part of the stuff of life, isn’t it? And if you’re a Christian leader, then sooner or later you go through situations in churches and relationships that are really tough.The most painful things I’ve ever borne are betrayals by Christian friends.  Some of you will know the name Roy Clements. On the Tuesday of this particular week, we got the diagnosis of my wife’s cancer, and it was bad. On the Thursday of that week, I and five others got the

read more Carson: The most painful things I’ve ever borne are betrayals by Christian friends

The greater reality

“Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him.  But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.”  Acts 7:54-55 Ray Ortlund: We are connected with two realities simultaneously.  There is the lower reality of this world of human judgement, and there is the higher reality of the throne of God and divine judgement. The lower reality can be brutal.  It was brutal not only for Stephen but far more for those who stoned him.  Frederick Buechner, Peculiar Treasures, page 182: “Stoning somebody to death, even somebody as young and healthy as Stephen, isn’t easy.  You don’t get the job done with the first few rocks and broken bottles, and even after you’ve got the man down, it’s a long, hot business.”  Living at this level takes commitment, determination.  Those stones are heavy – heavy to throw.  One really

read more The greater reality

What may seem defeat to us may be victory to Him

Morning and Evening – C.H. Spurgeon “The night also is Thine.”—Psalm 74:16 ES, Lord, Thou dost not abdicate Thy throne when the sun goeth down, nor dost Thou leave the world all through these long wintry nights to be the prey of evil; Thine eyes watch us as the stars, and Thine arms surround us as the zodiac belts the sky. The dews of kindly sleep and all the influences of the moon are in Thy hand, and the alarms and solemnities of night are equally with Thee. This is very sweet to me when watching through the midnight hours, or tossing to and fro in anguish. There are precious fruits put forth by the moon as well as by the sun: may my Lord make me to be a favoured partaker in them. The night of affliction is as much under the arrangement and control of the Lord of Love as the bright summer days when all is bliss.

read more What may seem defeat to us may be victory to Him

Our Only Hope in Suffering

From Stephen Um, The Center For Gospel Culture: There are no words to adequately address the tragedy that occurred late last week in Newtown, CT. The pain of unspeakable loss cannot be eased by our reflections and remembrances, no matter how poignant or appropriate. And yet, to remain silent feels impossible. There is a deep need in the human person to call wrong “wrong,” to identify and name that which is broken and marred by sin. Similarly, we must voice our tributes and memories though they will inevitably fall short. Above all, we must lament; we must grieve. But how to grieve without being driven to utter despair? How to lament without drowning in the same sorrow we are cursing? Our only hope remains that God has broken and will again break into our world of grief and lament. As scripture demonstrates, in the past he heard the wails of his exiled people and responded by sending Jesus Christ to

read more Our Only Hope in Suffering

How Does Jesus Come to Newtown, Connecticut?

John Piper: We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize . . . but one who in every respect has been tested as we are. (Hebrews 4:15) Mass murder is why Jesus came into the world the way he did. What kind of Savior do we need when our hearts are shredded by brutal loss? We need a suffering Savior. We need a Savior who has tasted the cup of horror we are being forced to drink. And that is how he came. He knew what this world needed. Not a comedian. Not a sports hero. Not a movie star. Not a political genius. Not a doctor. Not even a pastor. The world needed what no mere man could be. The world needed a suffering Sovereign. Mere suffering would not do. Mere sovereignty would not do. The one is not strong enough to save; the other is not weak enough to sympathize. So he came as who

read more How Does Jesus Come to Newtown, Connecticut?

10 Reasons Why God Allows Suffering

Jared Wilson, in Gospel Deeps, writes that “while we may not be satisfied with what God has revealed about his purposes in suffering, we cannot justifiably say he has not revealed anything about his purposes in suffering. We may not have the answer we are labouring for, but we do have a wealth of answers that lie in the same field.” Here’s an outline of ten reasons he identifies in God’s Word: To remind us that the world is broken and groans for redemption [Rom. 8:20-23]. To do justice in response to Adam’s (and our) sin. To remind us of the severity of the impact of Adam’s (and our) sin. To keep us dependent on God [Heb. 12:6-7]. So that we will long more for heaven and less for the world. To make us more like Christ, the suffering servant [Rom. 8:29; 2 Cor. 1:5, 4:11]. To awaken the lost to their need for God [Ps. 119:67, 71]. To make the bliss of heaven

read more 10 Reasons Why God Allows Suffering

Praying Past Our Preferred Outcomes

By Nancy Guthrie: It is one thing to be asked to pray for another person. I’m happy to do it. I want to do it. I must admit, though, I am not always faithful to do it. However, it is another thing to be told what to ask God for in the situation. I’ve noticed that often requests for prayer come with specific instructions on how to pray. I call it a “please pray for my predetermined positive outcome” request. And while I’m questioning our accepted methods of requesting prayer, I’ve got to ask, why do we seem to make it our goal to get as many people as possible praying toward our predetermined positive outcome? Is it that we think God is resistant to doing what is good and right but can be pressured by a large number of people to relent and deliver? Do we think that the more people we recruit to pray for the same thing

read more Praying Past Our Preferred Outcomes