“Just before he was murdered a few years ago, designer Gianni Versace was asked about his religious opinions. He replied, ‘I believe in God, but I’m not the kind of religious person who goes to church, who believes in the fairy tale of Jesus born in the stable with the donkey. That’s not—I’m not stupid. I can’t believe that God, with all the power that he has, had to have himself born in a stable. It wouldn’t have been comfortable!’ …”
But that is exactly the kind of God we do know and worship. He gave up his comfort in order to gain eternal glory. To miss that is to miss the point. Likewise, God has purposed for all those areas of your life where you experience pain and suffering to be the very places where he displays his sufficiency and so brings glory to Himself. And not just so you can see it, but so that the people around you can see it.” – Mark Dever, “The Message of the New Testament, Promises Kept”, P.204.
Dear Friends, I wanted to share this quote and message that our pastor gave last Sunday, because it addresses the problem of suffering. It seems that this subject more than any other raises up doubt in a god that seems to stand at an uncaring distance. I, myself have been guilty of losing perspective of who I know God to be when I suffer. What brings me back? I have no argument against the cross. We can’t say that God doesn’t know pain, or grief, or suffering, or discomfort (as Versace discredited), because He offered the ultimate sacrifice, that is, He didn’t even spare His own Son from the cross in order to demonstrate His love for us, so that we can be reconciled back to Him.
But God has also made good of our weaknesses and suffering. Taken from Dever’s quote, the main idea here is “not just so you can see it, [His sufficiency and glory], but so that the people around you can see it”. How? Taken from (mostly) our pastor’s words, there are four ways:
1) Our weakness leads to deeper ministry to others.
Have you ever lived through a crisis that later put you in a position to help someone else going through the same thing? How many of us have turned to a friend who could say “I know exactly how you feel” because they have been there themselves? Sooner or later, there will come a time when we will all have the opportunity to give and receive needed comfort and support in difficult times.
2) Our weakness leads to greater glory
The Apostle Paul once stated that not many of us are wise by human standards, nor influential, nor of noble birth. (1 Corinthians 1:26). In fact, he compared all of us as “jars of clay”, meaning that we are all ordinary, fallible human beings, living imperfect lives.
We are “jars of clay” for a reason…that is, so that we can show God’s greatness in bringing us through. In our ordinary, earth-muddy weakness, it is obvious that He is the only One that can and has brought us through. If we were ornate, display- only type vessels, all the attention would be on us, and not to God. However, when we are honest in our sufferings, we point towards God for His provision, and He gets the credit and all the glory.
3) Our weakness leads to a broader outreach
If my greatest testimony is “God made me rich”, then how great is my god, really? However, everyone acknowledges pain. It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor, bring up the subject of heartache, loss, illness and death and you’ll find you won’t be at a loss for sympathy. Maybe that’s why suffering demonstrates a living out of faith like nothing else can. It’s one thing to “talk the talk”, but I guarantee that when someone who claims faith is suffering, people are watching. The question I ask myself is “Will I be faithful?” Will I be able to show that God can be trusted when I am at my weakest?”
And therein is the whole point: Our weakness is a pathway to reflect Jesus’s suffering for us. Just as He reconciled us through weakness, our own weakness is a pathway to bring others to faith.
4) Our weakness leads to deeper hope
Suffering has a way of taking our eyes off of trivial matters, doesn’t it? As our pastor said, “the easier life is, the deeper our roots can dig into our present existence”. Suffering says “do not mistake this for home.” When it strikes, it has a way of averting our attention to a deeper longing for heaven. The glorious thing is that this is an indestructible hope, a promise that guarantees that all the suffering in the world will end for those who are in Christ…and that’s something that cannot be taken away.
I’ve often heard believers say that suffering was the best and worst thing that ever happened to them. What do you suppose they mean by that? Do you have your own testimony? Can you add to the list on this blog concerning the benefits of weakness?