Yet Will I Trust Him, Part 1: A Man Called Job (Job 1:1-12)

The world doesn’t seem to be what it ought to be. It is broken as well as beautiful, and that hurts. Has your life ever been affected by crime, poverty, violence, joblessness, or homelessness? What about disease, disabilities, deformities, or discrimination? How about a weather event, such as an earthquake, tornado, flood, or hurricane? Has your family ever been jolted by a fire, a fatal accident, a destructive riot, or a school shooting?

The question is always the same. After the initial shock and horror subsides, after the news crews go home, after others have gotten on with their lives, we’re always left with the same question: “Where was God in the midst of my suffering? And why did he let it happen in the first place?”

Christian professor Peter Kreeft has said, “More people have abandoned their faith because of the problem of evil than for any other reason. It is certainly the greatest test of faith, the greatest temptation to unbelief.” It is for this reason Christian author Philip Yancey calls the problem of evil “theological kryptonite.”

Can the ancient Hebrew book of Job provide any insight into the universal problem of pain? It is often said that the theme of Job is the age-old question, “Why does a loving God permit the righteous to suffer?” But if that is the theme of the book, the question is never fully answered. Perhaps the theme of the book is better stated, “How do the righteous suffer?” The book of Job can show us how to endure until the world is finally what it ought to be—beautiful and not broken—when God in Christ makes all things new.

At issue in this first message of the series is the question, “Shall a person love God because he’s God, and enjoy the blessings received from his hand?” Or “Shall a person love God only because of the blessings he or she might receive from his hand?” Satan’s implied accusation is, “God, you’ve stooped to bribery. You give good gifts to your people to make them love you. Take away the gifts, there will be no more love.” But in Round 1 of his suffering, Job proves the accuser wrong, so the score right off the bat is God—1, Satan—0. Moreover, we come discover that suffering is not meaningless if we come to know God better in the end. Job certainly did, and so can we.

Sermon Resources:

Contact This New Life directly for the sermon audio file.

Strength in Weakness (2 Corinthians 12:1-12)

There are many paradoxes in the Christian life—truths that seem to oppose one another, and yet they somehow work together. We might call such realities “truth in stereo.” For example, God is sovereign over history, yet human beings can make real and meaningful choices. The Scriptures are authored by God, and yet they come to us through hands of human beings. Jesus Christ is fully human, and yet he is also fully divine. The first shall be last, and the last shall be first. The list of examples is long.

The paradox in Paul’s famous “thorn in the flesh” testimony in 2 Corinthians 12 is likewise stark: “When I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor 12:10b). But how could he say such a thing? Is he making a self-contradictory, self-refuting statement? No, Paul learned firsthand that the thing he most wanted removed from his life was the very thing God was using for the apostle’s good and heaven’s glory. That is why, paradoxical though it may seem, believers can learn to glory in their weaknesses. As Hershael York has said, “It is in our weaknesses—more so than in our strengths—that Christ is most clearly revealed.” 

In sharing his testimony, Paul gives us three good reasons to glory in our weaknesses: First, glory in your weakness to direct people’s focus away from yourself. Paul’s goal in life was not to get people to think that he was wonderful. His goal in life was to get people to think that Christ is wonderful. As John the baptist said of Jesus, “He must increase; I must decrease” (John 3:30).

Second, glory in your weakness to distance yourself from your own strengths. Jesus said, “Apart from me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5a). Believers should take him seriously on that reminder! Besides, we tend to learn a lot more about God in the thorns of life than we do in our “third heaven” experiences, which Paul also describes in this passage.

Third, glory in your weakness to display the greatness of Jesus Christ. Somewhere in his agonizing “wrestling match” with God, Paul’s attitude toward his thorn changed. The very thing that troubled him the most was the thing that moved him into deeper intimacy with the Lord. It’s a good reminder that if we have a thorn in our life (and who doesn’t?), we can face it, and let God grace it. Just like Paul did.

Charles Spurgeon has said, “A primary qualification for serving God with any amount of success…is a sense of our own weakness…. Dear reader, are you mourning over your own weakness? Take courage, for there must be a consciousness of weakness before the Lord will give you victory. Your emptiness is but the preparation for your being filled.” Spurgeon was right. Our weakness is the vessel of God’s strength. If such a paradox is truth is stereo, then let the weak turn up the volume on this one and dance.

Sermon Resources:

Contact This New Life directly for the sermon audio file.

The Gospel Unchained, Part 6: Remember the Gospel (2 Timothy 2:8-13)

Adoniram Judson was the first overseas missionary sent out from America. In the early 19th century, he and his wife went to India. A short time later, he went to Burma, where he labored in gospel work for nearly four decades. After 14 years on the field, Judson had a handful of converts and had managed to write a Burmese grammar. 

During that time, he suffered a horrible imprisonment for a year and a half, and he lost his wife and children to disease. A man who had been incarcerated with Mr. Judson described their prison conditions as he re-called them:

“The only articles of furniture the place contained were these…a gigantic row of stocks, similar in its construction to that formerly used in England…[only these were stocks for the feet, not the head and hands]. It was capable of accommodating more than a dozen occupants, and like a huge crocodile opened and shut its jaws with a loud snap upon its prey…. The prison had never been washed, nor even swept, since it was built… This gave a kind of…permanency to the odors… 

“As might have been expected from such a state of things, the place was teeming with creeping vermin to such an extent that…the greater portion of my dress was plundered. Surely it was enough for Mr. Judson to be shut up in the hot, stifling stench of a place like this without having his ankles and legs weighted with…irons, the scars from which he wore to his dying day. 

“He could say with the Apostle Paul, ‘I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.’ When Mr. Judson was subjected to these indignities and tortures, he was in the very prime of life—36 years old.”

There’s nothing like a good missionary biography to illustrate how small our sacrifice for Christ often is by comparison. Adoniram Judson suffered greatly for his Christian commitment. But, like the Apostle Paul, Judson considered his work for Christ to be infinitely more important than his own personal comfort. 

Where does that kind of inner strength come from? It comes from the grace standing behind what Paul writes to Timothy: “Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s word is not chained” (2 Timothy 2:8-9). In other words, you can endure anything when you remember the gospel is everything.

Looking back on his life, Judson wrote these words: “If I had not felt certain that every trial was ordered by infinite love and mercy, I could not have survived my accumulated sufferings.” Like Paul, Judson believed that no suffering is too great if it brings about the salvation of those who place their trust in Jesus Christ—a trust that leads to “eternal glory” (2 Timothy 2:10). Or, as Martin Luther put it:

Let goods and kindred go
This mortal life also
The body they may kill
God’s truth abideth still
His Kingdom is forever

Sermon Resources:

Contact This New Life directly for the sermon audio file.

The Gospel Unchained, Part 5: Endure Hardship (2 Timothy 2:1-7)

Early in the 20th century, there was an ad in a London newspaper that read as follows: “Men wanted for hazardous journey: small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, and constant danger. Safe return doubtful. Honor and recognition in case of success.” That’s not a very compelling invitation, is it? Except for the fact that it was signed by Sir Ernest Shackleton, which caused thousands of men to respond to the ad. 

That’s because Shackleton (1874–1922) was one of the principal figures of the period known as the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration. He was the great expeditionary hero who got closer to the South Pole than anyone else history up to that point. 

For that achievement, Shackleton was knighted by King Edward VII on his return home. No wonder thousands of men responded to his ad. Who wouldn’t want to be part of a great adventure with a proven leader on an expedition that had a great chance of succeeding?

The Christian Bible teacher Warren Wiersbe once said that if Jesus Christ had advertised for workers, the announcement might have read something like this: 

“Men and women wanted for difficult task of helping to build My church. You will often be misunderstood, even by those working with you. You will face constant attack from an invisible enemy. You may not see the results of your labor, and your full reward will not come till after all your work is completed. It may cost you your home, your ambitions, even your life.” Not a very compelling invitation, either, is it? Except for the fact that it’s signed by the King of Kings and Lord of Lords himself—Jesus of Nazareth.

Millions of people all over the world still respond to such an invitation. That’s because Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah of Israel, who came right on time in fulfillment of scores of OT prophecies. He lived in the 1st century during the days of King Herod. He healed the sick, cast out demons, taught God’s Word, loved the outcast, revealed the Father, and died on a bloody cross. On the 3rd day, he rose again.

For that achievement, Jesus was declared both Lord and Christ of the universe on his return home to heaven. No wonder millions still respond to his call, difficult though it may be. Who wouldn’t want to be part of a great adventure with a proven leader—a resurrected leader—on a missional adventure that cannot ultimately fail? Yet, many people do resist that adventure, and it’s not hard to see why.

In this passage, the apostle Paul calls Timothy—and by extension, he calls all believers—to be willing to endure hardship for the gospel. That’s a tough sell in our comfort-driven culture, isn’t it? But that’s Paul’s message to the church: To be an effective, contagious Christian, suffer now for the sake of future gain. What a challenging message!

How many of us show the dedication of a soldier (v. 3-4)? How many of us show the discipline of an athlete (v. 5)? How many of us show the diligence of a farmer (v. 6)? These are the illustrations Paul uses to motivate Timothy—and his church—to ensure the gospel baton is passed to the next generation. Who’s ready to sign up?

Sermon Resources:

Contact This New Life directly for the sermon audio file.

He Laid Aside His Immunity to Pain

“I could never myself believe in God, if it were not for the cross. The only God I believe in is the One Nietzsche ridiculed as “God on the cross.” In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it? I have entered many Buddhist temples in different Asian countries and stood respectfully before the statue of Buddha, his legs crossed, arms folded, eyes closed, the ghost of a smile playing round his mouth, a remote look on his face, detached from the agonies of the world. But each time after a while I have had to turn away. And in imagination I have turned instead to that lonely, twisted, tortured figure on the cross, nails through hands and feet, back lacerated, limbs wrenched, brow bleeding from thorn-pricks, mouth dry and intolerably thirsty, plunged in God-forsaken darkness. That is the God for me! He laid aside his immunity to pain. He entered our world of flesh and blood, tears and death. He suffered for us. Our sufferings become more manageable in the light of his.”

– John R. W. Stott