God is guarding an infinitely valuable inheritance for you in heaven, and guarding you through faith to make sure you receive it. In this lab, John Piper pulls parts several implications from the new birth, explaining the new hope we have, and the sovereign hands that hold us.
Why do Christians suffer? Why aren’t Christians relieved from trouble, from pain, from suffering? If God is powerful and wise, why doesn’t he direct his power and wisdom toward more comfortable lives for the ones he loves and redeems? J.I. Packer helpfully addresses this in the ninth chapter of Knowing God and I have condensed the chapter down to its essence.
For us to be truly wise, in the Bible sense, our intelligence and cleverness must be harnessed to a right end. Wisdom is the power to see, and the inclination to choose, the best and highest goal, together with the surest means of attaining it.
Wisdom is, in fact, the practical side of moral goodness. As such, it is found in its fullness only in God. He alone is naturally and entirely and invariably wise.
Human wisdom can be frustrated by circumstantial factors outside the wise person’s control. … But God’s wisdom cannot be frustrated. Power is as much God’s essence as wisdom is. Omniscience governing omnipotence, infinite power ruled by infinite wisdom, is a basic biblical description of the divine character.
Wisdom without power would be pathetic, a broken reed; power without wisdom would be merely frightening; but in God boundless wisdom and endless power are united, and this makes him utterly worthy of our fullest trust.
God’s wisdom is not, and never was, pledged to keep a fallen world happy, or to make ungodliness comfortable. Not even to Christians has he promised a trouble-free life; rather the reverse. He has other ends in view for life in this world than simply to make it easy for everyone.
What is he after, then? What is his goal? What does he aim at? When he made us, his purpose was that we should love and honor him, praising him for the wonderfully ordered complexity and variety of his world, using it according to his will, and so enjoying both it and him. And though we have fallen, God has not abandoned his first purpose.
In the fulfillment of each part of this purpose the Lord Jesus Christ is central, for God has set him forth both as Savior from sin, whom we must trust, and as Lord of the church, whom we must obey.
We should not be too taken aback when unexpected and discouraging things happen to us now. What do they mean? Why, simply that God in his wisdom means to make something of us which we have not attained yet, and is dealing with us accordingly. God knows exactly what he is doing, and what he is after, in his handling of our affairs.
Whatever further purpose a Christian’s troubles may or may not have in equipping him for future service, they will always have at least that purpose which Paul’s thorn in the flesh had: they will have been sent to make us and keep us humble, and to give us a new opportunity of showing forth the power of Christ in our mortal lives. And do we ever need to know any more about them than that? Is not this enough of itself to convince us of the wisdom of God in them? Once Paul saw that his trouble was sent to enable him to glorify Christ, he accepted it as wisely appointed, and rejoiced in it. God give us grace, in all our own troubles, and do likewise.
If you are reading Knowing God with me as part of Reading Classics Together, please read chapters 11 and 12 for next Thursday. If you are not yet doing so, why don’t you join us? We aren’t that far into the book yet, so you will not have a difficult time catching up.
The purpose of Reading Classics Together is to read these books together. This time around the bulk of the discussion is happening in a dedicated Facebook group. You can find it right here. A thousand people are already interacting there and would be glad to have you join in or just read along.
Be sure to check out this new 13-episode program coming this fall. “Lives are at stake. Souls hang in the balance. Some Christians are engaged in the battle, most are not. Life Is Best will thoroughly equip and inspire you to join the fight for lives and souls.”
Timothy Paul Jones shares truth and helpful tips for families.
I don’t mind admitting that McDonald’s breakfast is one of my favorite meals. (Has anything ever so perfectly mastered the salt / sugar / fat combination as a McDonald’s hash brown?) So I quite enjoyed this article on the company and its franchisees.
If you’ve never gotten around to reading my book The Next Story, this review will let you know about its strengths and weaknesses. If you buy it, be sure to get the second edition.
Joe Carter talks about Bernie Sanders and the social ownership of money.
Pre-Order Worthy. Next month will see the release of John MacArthur’s book Parables. “Master expositor and Bible commentator John MacArthur has spent a lifetime explaining the Word of God in clear and comprehensible terms. In Parables he helps Christians understand the essential lessons contained in the most famous and influential short stories the world has ever known.” Pre-order at Amazon.
If you’ve got a math brain, or even if you don’t, you’ll enjoy this video. “Pascal’s triangle, which at first may just look like a neatly arranged stack of numbers, is actually a mathematical treasure trove. But what about it has so intrigued mathematicians the world over?”
This photo essay about the icons and symbols of Catholicism will remind you why the Reformers were so set on simplicity of worship.
Jesse Johnson reviews the new movie Captive which is all about “a jail break 10 years ago that helped make Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life one of the best selling books of all time.”
When God has given you your heart’s desire, what have you done with your heart’s desire? —Jeremiah Burroughs
Often the moments of life we feel most helpful are when sitting with friends or family who are suffering. What’s the first thing you say to someone in your life who’s experiencing significant grief or has received tragic news? How do you talk to a loved one feeling wounded or fragile or threatened? Where do you start?
Peter wrote to friends facing intense suffering and opposition (1 Peter 1:6; 2:18–19; 3:8–9). They were hurting, and more pain was apparently on the way. So how did Peter start his letter?
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. (1 Peter 1:3–5)
Peter doesn’t begin with compassionate sympathy or sorrow, but with a bold cry of victory and a song of worship. He minimizes the pain, it seems, by raising the eyes of his readers above and beyond their suffering to God and his plan to rescue and satisfy them forever.
To twenty-first-century consciences, that might seem insensitive. Our counseling and sensitivity conditioning say we should be quiet, somber, and apologetic in this situation. Peter presents a different approach. In fact, his next words are, “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials” (1 Peter 1:6). Peter takes the potential of lifelong pain — perhaps violent, even fatal — and persecution, and makes it sound like just a bad day, maybe a week — “a little while.”
Do Not Play with Pain
Some of us desperately need to be told to be slow to speak (James 1:19), and gentle when speaking (Titus 3:2), and slow to declare answers or solutions (Proverbs 18:13). The quick-to-speak, slow-to-feel folks among us need help to keep from reopening the wounds or driving the cuts deeper with insensitivity or a lack of compassion. Pain, of whatever kind, is real, vulnerable, and delicate. Good intentions, good theology, and even good news can be dangerous weapons in the hands of the thoughtless, oblivious, or inconsiderate.
We should tread carefully with the broken and bruised. We need the Spirit to help us determine what to say when, with what tone, and in what context.
But Peter still wrote his letter the way he did, not timid and cautious, but bold, confident, and definitive. And we all know that ultimately the way forward in suffering pain is not in making much of the pain itself, but in making much of the cure.
An Infinite Future for the Fragile
If we’re to follow Peter’s example, we need to look at how he ministers to the suffering. What does Christian love look like in the face of terrible pain? In love, Peter leads with heartfelt worship, then rehearses the promise of an everlasting treasure, and then points to a bigger perspective of God’s purpose in pain — all meant to shrink pain’s terrifying, paralyzing hold on believers.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!” is more than a shout of worship; it’s a battle cry against the darkness and opposition and grief of this world. It’s an emphatic reminder of God’s supremacy to believers who might become blinded by suffering in their lives. It’s a call to wake up from the stupor of pain into hope and worship.
And the battle cry comes with a promise: You have an infinite treasure beyond your imagining (1 Peter 1:4). This inheritance will never die or expire (“imperishable”). It can’t be used up. It’s not tainted or polluted in any way (“undefiled”). It will be perfectly true and safe and pure and good. And it’s unfading. Our hope in eternity is living, vibrant, and filled with ever-renewing love, joy, and peace forever — always stronger, always deeper, never fading. And this glorious inheritance doesn’t come in money, real estate, or property, but in more of God himself (Psalm 16:5–6).
The Hidden Purpose in Our Pain
Having given his passionate and compelling war cry to worship, and having anchored every believer’s hope in an infinite, imperishable, undefiled, and unfading future treasure in heaven, Peter zooms out on these believers’ pain. What is God really doing in all the things we suffer?
In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith — more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire — may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:6–7)
Peter doesn’t minimize their pain by suggesting it’s not a big deal, but by showing them that God is at work in their pain and has a bigger purpose for it than they can see right now. As Christians, we don’t minimize pain by making light of it, but by making much of God and all he plans and promises to do through the suffering. As we see more of God, and remember more of the good he’s accomplishing in every wound, the pain loses its power to cripple and to discourage us. It still hurts, but the harm is suddenly meaningful and, in comparison with eternity, momentary.
A Popular Approach to Pain
Peter’s not the only apostle to treat pain this way in the Bible. Paul, speaking to Corinthian believers who were suffering from opposition in the world and affliction in their bodies, says,
We do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison. (2 Corinthians 4:16–17)
He calls their affliction “light” and “momentary” (2 Corinthians 4:17). How could he say that? Some of the Corinthians may have suffered sickness or alienation or slander their whole lives. He can speak that way by comparison. All the evil and anguish they have suffered is as nothing — light and momentary — compared with everything coming to them in glory, the never-ending enjoyment of an infinite God.
In Romans, again knowing some of his readers were experiencing excruciating pain — trials, persecution, the deterioration of their own bodies — Paul says, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18). The suffering feels massive, unbearable, and never-ending in the moment, but it doesn’t even register a measurement against the promise of an eternity with God.
Peter and Paul perhaps give us a new way forward in the midst of pain. Yes, we need to be slow to speak, gentle, and compassionate, never presuming. But true compassion and love are never ashamed of or shy about the news God has given us for every pain. We must know the bigness of our God, the heights of his love, and the detailed ways he cares for us if we’re going to endure pain with brilliant and unshakeable hope and joy before the world around us.