I’m in the process of writing why Christians take joy in suffering. In this post I hope to explain the second reason why suffering, tribulation, and even evil are the joy and delight of the Christian. The first reason was that all evil, suffering and calamity reveal the Glory of God, which is the delight of the Christian; and must be, for a Christian to be a Christian (See my last post, Part I)
This second reason is a little more difficult to explain. In my life, God revealed these truths to me in a very peculiar way that led to these truths becoming some of the most precious that my mind has ever grasped. It was a night of confusion and not comprehending the words of a great sister, only to finally understand it all the next morning as the Holy Spirit fell in my shower. This post is the fruits of that night I am so indebted to. I pray the Holy Spirit communicates through me these truths, and that they may lead you to a deeper joy for God.
After the aforementioned shower, I went to Starbucks to do my Bible study for the morning and ran across John 9:39, which reads: “Jesus said, ‘For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.'” If you click the link, you can get more context from Scripture, but Jesus goes on to tell the Pharisees that sight is metaphorical for salvation, obviously. Why is this verse, so profound?
Jesus is pretty much saying that his “judgment” is the greatest benefit of all to some, because it brings them nearer to God; for others, it is to cast them as far from his presence as can be done. His judgment is the greatest gift to those who believe in Him, but is the greatest curse for those who don’t. It’s a foreign concept in the church to worship God for his judgment. Who wants to rejoice in the sending of sinners to Hell? Romans 9:22-24 tells us that God’s Glory is revealed to those saved by the sending of sinners to Hell. His judgment reveals the Glory of God and opens our eyes to see it. Praise God!
[DISCLAIMERS: We can take comfort in the knowledge that this condemnation of sinners is just and righteous. Also, we can have no absolute knowledge as to who those people are that are condemned eternally, thus our preaching is not in vain, it brings about the expansion of the kingdom of God. So, PREACH, but take comfort that it is not based on you, your words, or even your motives whether someone is converted or not, and, remember that even if they are not, you can still praise God.]
In Romans 8:28-39, this principle is carried further. For sake of space, I won’t provide the text, just the exegesis, but please click the link and read it all. The main points are this: v.28 is the most precious and famous of all Bible promises. “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” That’s great, but what is the foundation of this? Why and how can we possibly believe this when we live in this world of suffering and pain? Verse 29 says that our assurance of this promise comes from our assurance of our election and salvation, but Paul doesn’t stop there. He knows this simple trust in God’s choosing and keeping of us doesn’t fully explain the foundation of v.28. I think that’s why he says next: “What, then, shall we say in response to this?” He answers with some of the most glorious truths in the Bible.
He tells us, because God is on our side, the usual system of fear and worry in suffering is destroyed in Christ. He says in verse 32 (this is the key verse for our purposes): “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” His grace will also give us all things. What did this grace first give us? It gave us a death, a suffering, a tribulation. The first and foundational gift of God’s Grace was a pain. Paul continues speaking of the foundation of this great promise by appealing to (of all things) the judgment of Christ – He is the one who condemns, which secures the power by which he can bring about that promise in our lives. The application of Romans 8:28 which is foremost in Paul’s mind as he is writing is then found in vv.35-39, and it is persecution, death, and tribulation! When Paul says that God will “give us all things,” he means all things – including suffering, tribulation, persecution, and even death. Not only that, that is what He gives “graciously.”
You see, just like we saw in John, all things that normally cause fear and heartache for all, for the Christian, are actually their greatest joy. This is because, just as in Christ’s judgment, all things good and bad are now merely our servants to bring us closer to God – even death. Whereas death is the greatest fear of man, after conversion, it is the things that propels him the deepest into the bosom of God he will ever be. Praise God!
So, in summary, all suffering, tribulation, pain, heartache, loss, judgment, and death we go through in this life is for the purposes of (1) revealing God’s Glory in this world, which believers so delight in, it is their joy, no matter the earthly cost; and (2) bringing us closer to Him, now that He has destroyed the system of fear and heartache in tribulation by making those “fearful” things our servants now to bring us to our Father.
I’ll end with this Psalm of Praise I found. I’ll just put selections up (the link has the whole thing), but pay attention to why it is all of Creation is rejoicing so much. I think you’ll find it “glorious.”
Sing to the LORD a new song;
sing to the LORD, all the earth.
Sing to the LORD, praise his name;
proclaim his salvation day after day.
Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous deeds among all peoples.
Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name;
bring an offering and come into his courts.
Worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness;
tremble before him, all the earth.
Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad;
let the sea resound, and all that is in it;
let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them.
Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy;
they will sing before the LORD, for he comes,
he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness
and the peoples in his truth.