In our troubles, we have Christ!
by Marlin Caddell
November 4, 2015
John 16:33: “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
If you didn’t get to hear Jeremy’s sermon on Sunday from John 11:1-16 about the death of Lazarus, definitely take 30 minutes to give it a listen. This week, Jeremy tackled the very tough subject of the providence of God in the middle of difficulty and suffering.
In John 11, we clearly see how Christ dearly loved Mary, Martha and Lazarus (verses 3 and 5), but how he waited two more days before going to heal Lazarus to show, “...the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”
Scripture clearly indicates over and over again that the faithful will endure trials, tragedies and tribulations.
2 Timothy 3:12-13: Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.
2 Corinthians 4:7-11: But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.
2 Corinthians 1:8-10: 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. 9 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. 10 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.
In the middle of these trials, we can truly rest in God’s power to work all things out for good (Romans 8:28); His gracious kindness toward us (Ephesians 2:1-10); and His perfect love for us (Romans 8:35-39). We can rest knowing that no one can snatch us out of the hand of the One who rules the Earth and the whole universe (John 10:27-30).
One of the reasons why it seems so surprising to the Church when difficulty and suffering happen is there’s a belief system that has slowly and secretly permeated the Church like a poison that claims Christ is the means to attain complete health, wealth and a worry-free life.
Here’s an example of this poison from a pastor on Twitter who recently tweeted, “Jesus bled and died for us so that we can lay claim to the promise of financial prosperity.”
Let’s be clear: Christ is a means to NOTHING. All we have is Christ.
Christ is the great treasure found in the field and the one pearl of great value (Matthew 13:44-46).
In Philippians 3, the Apostle Paul piles up his heritage, family history, accomplishments, credentials and anything else we might consider valuable. When Paul compared those things to having Christ and knowing Him and being found in Him, Paul said everything else was loss. It was rubbish, garbage — even dung — compared to the greatness and glory of Christ.
Philippians 3:7-11: But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
Houses are loss. Cars are loss. Money is loss. Jobs are loss. Facebook is loss. Social media is loss. Image is loss. Love is loss. Families are loss. Kids are loss. Everything in our lives piled to to the ceiling cannot compare to the surpassing worth of Christ.
As Paul worked tirelessly to see the Gospel spread, see just a sample of the suffering he endured:
2 Corinthians 12:24-30: Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; 26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; 27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. 28 And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant? 30 If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.
How was Paul able to endure his trials and sufferings? How was he able to call these terrible things “light and momentary afflictions”?
The only way for Paul to do it and the only way for us to do it is to find ultimate treasure and ultimate joy and ultimate security in Christ alone. Even when the suffering is great, we know that God will never forsake us.
Hebrews 13:5-6: Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” 6 So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”
We can endure difficulty and suffering because we know Jesus is better than anything this world has to offer. Even in suffering we have abundant life in Christ. The truly abundant life is that Christ loves us, is for us, and will never leave us.