suffering as a tool to edify the church

Challies has another great post today. This one discussing Ligon Duncan’s exposition of how God uses suffering in our lives to build up the church. Go read the whole thing.

So I guess this is something we ought to keep in mind in those times that God calls us to suffer. Our suffering is not pointless; it is not meaningless. At least in part, our suffering is mandated by God so we can strengthen and edify our brothers and sisters in Christ so that they, and we, may strive toward Christian maturity. “Your suffering does not just belong to you. You are members of a body. Your suffering is for the body’s maturity as much as it is for yours. Your suffering is there to build up the church of Christ. It is there for the people of God to be given faith and hope and confidence in the hour of their trials. Your suffering is also the body’s suffering because one of God’s purposes in suffering is the maturity of the whole church.”

Jeff Mangum talked yesterday at the Austin Stone from I Corinthians 15 about the hope of the resurrection being a sure hope. As a result of the certainty of the resurrection and heaven to come we can endure any hardship that this temporary world has to offer. He talked about how the whole Bible, from Genesis to Revelation emphasizes that following the way of Christ is fraught with uncertainty and difficulty. Nonetheless, we are called to suffer for Christ in this life. He talked in particular about invitational suffering and how the American Church as a whole refuses to acknowledge this aspect of God’s plan for us.

The idea that God would call us to suffering in order to bring glory to His name is completely alien to the modern American church where the Godly live prosperously and comfortably without pain and illness. In the modern American church job loss, illness, poverty, rebellious teenagers etc. are proof of poor choices or worse God’s judgment on the sufferer’s life.

Ligon Duncan and Jeff Mangum might actually be onto something. Maybe God can actually be magnified in our weakness. Maybe when we mature through suffering we can help the whole body become more mature at the same time. Maybe………

or maybe they are reading a different Bible than the rest of us and God really wants us to be healthy and happy all the time with all the toys and distractions that our selfish hearts desire. Maybe we should just name today’s desire and claim God’s power to make it so and forget all that stuff about suffering for the Name of Jesus, about no student being better than his teacher, about denying self taking up the cross and following. Yeah, that’s right…. Where’s the remote?

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One Response

  1. good stuff. again. I am going to listen to podcast as soon as I can. It makes me feel like I am at church with you guys. 🙂 And, it’s always good.
    mama told the family last night, said today that Grandma and Grandpa didn’t sleep at all last night. Pray for them. I know they are sad for Rachel.

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