This weekend as I was preparing my sermon for last night (Sunday, 10/30/11), the direction of my message took a very different turn than I had expected. Due to some conversations I had had this past week and just a general knowledge of a lot of pain going on in the lives of people in our church (and even my own small group), I began to look at Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians (and other readers) as one that not only encouraged and brought confidence, but also one that points us to what God may be doing and desiring in our life even when we might be desiring something different (specifically how does our suffering correspond with an Almighty God who loves us, tells us to pray to Him and is able to do something about our situations). Tomorrow I will post the sermon audio (thanks to Randy Taylor) and a few corresponding thoughts from the night, but for now I wanted to point you in the direction of some better writers and thinkers regarding this idea of suffering in the Christian life. How do we respond to it? How do we continue on? How do we view God accordingly?
Kevin DeYoung – When You Feel Like Death (Part two) – Blog
(Taking a different approach to the same topic, I think you will find he ends in the same place)
One morning I will not wake up. Or one evening I will not go back to sleep. I’ll die. You’ll die. You will be at the moment as helpless as you were when you were born. Will you and I learn before that point that it is folly to rely on ourselves? Will we be able to say like the Psalmist, “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes”? We will also suffer. We will all die. We will all watch others die. But, I pray, we will not grieve like those who have no hope. We confess and we sing and gather to remember that Jesus rose from the dead. A new body. New life. No more death. As it was for Jesus, so it will be for us. Encourage each other with these words.
We can have hope in the midst of affliction because our God raises the dead.
D.A. Carson – How Could a Good God Allow Suffering – Video
(Long, but thorough and very intellectual)
Christians ought to learn how to die well and to live now.
John Piper – Making Known the Manifold Wisdom of God Through Prison and Prayer – Video/Audio/Summary
(Piper is actually looking at the specific section of Scripture we just looked at: Ephesians 3:14-21)
When Paul was willing to go to prison for the sake of Christ, he showed the nations that Christ is more precious than freedom. When he was willing to suffer for Christ, he showed the nations that Christ is more precious than comfort and security and prosperity.
In other words, the infinite value of the unsearchable riches of Christ shine brightly not in Paul’s prosperity, but in his imprisonment. With his suffering, he draws the nations to the glory Christ and displays the wisdom of the cross.
Mark Driscoll – How to Image God through Suffering – Excerpt
(Incredibly brief, but poignant)
Every moment is a sacred opportunity to be captured for his glory, our joy, and others’ good.
John Piper & Various Authors – Suffering and the Sovereignty of God – Book
(This great and free resource can be downloaded as a PDF. It is vast, but covers many different topics from both theological and personal viewpoints of pain.)
The ultimate purpose of the universe is to display the greatness of the glory of the grace of God. The highest, clearest, surest display of that glory is in the suffering of the best Person in the universe for millions of undeserving sinners. Therefore, the ultimate reason that suffering exists in the universe is so that Christ might display the greatness of the glory of the grace of God by suffering in himself to overcome our suffering and bring about the praise of the glory of the grace of God. – John Piper, p 89