Unspoken: I Lift my Life Up

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Sorrowful Yet Always Rejoicing

Today I listened to a sermon by Rev. John Piper of Desiring God ministries and former pastor of a large congregation for 32 years. This happened to be his last sermon before that church as their pastor.  The following was his text and the title of the sermon was 'Sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.'
giving no cause for offense in anything, so that the ministry will not be discredited, but in everything commending ourselves as servants of God, in much endurance, in afflictions, in hardships, in distresses, in beatings, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in hunger, in purity, in knowledge, in patience, in kindness, in the Holy Spirit, in genuine love, in the word of truth, in the power of God; by the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and the left, by glory and dishonor, by evil report and good report; regarded as deceivers and yet true; as unknown yet well-known, as dying yet behold, we live; as punished yet not put to death, 10 as sorrowful yet always rejoicing, as poor yet making many rich, as having nothing yet possessing all things. 2 Corinthians 6:3-10
 These verses, very well describe what it  means to be a true believer.  Suffering is inherent in our experience both as human beings and as Christians who follow the Lord Jesus down the Calvary road, carrying our own crosses as he bid us "take up your cross daily and follow me."  

To be a Christian is not some giddy, jumping-up-and-down,-waving- our-arms experience.  It is a hard road, which may include physical suffering or persecution and martyrdom as our brothers and sisters in the Mid-East are experiencing right now.  It includes grief as we see family members who--to put it bluntly--are on their way to an eternal destiny which I would not wish on my worst enemy.  We experience sorrow in hellish marriages, chronic sickness, being misunderstood and mocked, saying good bye to dying family members...there are countless ways to suffer and be sorrowful. It also includes discipline as we fast, pray, study and minister to those around us.  It involves loving those who hate us and want to destroy us and our faith.
  
Jesus was "a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief" and yet, as Rev Piper said, he was the happiest man on earth.  How can he be happy?  The answer to that is the crux of what I'm trying to express. Jesus saw the big picture.  He saw evil and the evil one destroyed forever. He saw all his people gathered together from all the ages, worshiping, praising the Father and enjoying health and abundant provision.  In this context then it is easy to see why it was his greatest desire was to save people for eternity.  Healing them was just a means of verifying that he is indeed, God and of displaying his authority over Nature and natural diseases.  His true goal was to fulfill the prophesy of his Name: Salvation.  (Y'shua or "Jesus" in Greek or "Joshua" in English means "He who saves")

And here too, lies our joy.  We serve the Master over all Creation who came to experience our pain and to offer himself as  a blood offering for the payment  of our debt to God which was created by our inherent sinfulness.  So whether we lose a child to disease or drugs, whether our family or friends die, or as we suffer daily inexorable pain---we can still be described as Joyful.  Not bouncy and "chipper" but having a deep abiding peace and joy based in the knowledge of the end of the story: based in the knowledge of the beginning of the story and based on our knowledge of what happens after "the end".

I have constant pain.  I have a mental illness that is a constant source of sadness and suffering.  I have other factors in my life that cause me great grief.  And yet I can still smile.  I can still go through yet another day of this stuff and not have it destroy me as, frankly, it would many people.  It is the Christian's ability to endure; our ability to rejoice; our ability to love our enemies and to love those who mistreat us, that not only makes us different from the world, but also shines a spotlight on the power of a loving God who sustains us through all of this and who keeps us from quitting.

I do not always go around with a grin on my face.  But I am always "OK"--I have Peace in the knowledge that this pain will not last forever.  I have Hope in the reality of Heaven and the eternity I will spend there. I have Joy in the knowledge that I am God's Beloved --his bride.  And I have Love which does not come from my sinful heart but which is granted to me as a gift of the Holy Spirit...and this love extends to all who wish me ill--even if I were to face injury or death at their hands.

So is this what people are attracted to when they see us? Do they see our struggles and wonder how we can go on another day?  Is that something that is desirable?  Suffering is a part of this life.  But to face it and get through it and not curse the God who made us is what is wondrous to people who simply cannot understand what keeps us going.  And there lies our duty: to make it plain to all who see us, that it is the God of Love, Joy, Hope and Peace that works in us granting us these gifts.  And by this attitude we can defeat the statement which has been made to me, "How can you love God after all he's done to you?"  I say: "I love God for all he's done FOR me." And it is the switching of a single three letter word that makes all the difference. 

Special thanks to my friend Hilary for sending me the following link.  Please take a listen...it is quite powerful.
https://youtu.be/vJYGeFZagxc 
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