Why We Never Outgrow The Gospel: 3 Reasons

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The Fundamentals

Each year during Easter week and Resurrection Sunday, both the world and the Church are on alert as to the implications of this event from a historical standpoint. Yet both sides have glaringly distinct motives behind why they care at all about that time of year. I won’t at this point in time pontificate on the objections offered by critics and opponents of Christianity; suffice is to say that the burden of proof is on them to offer compelling evidence dispelling the claims of Christianity regarding the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. For the Christian, our interest in the Resurrection is one of absolute necessity, since on it hinges the validity of the Gospel we proclaim as the power of God unto Salvation (Rom 1:16). My aim in this blog is to offer a staunch reminder and biblical exhortation to my brothers and sisters in Christ, of the wonders of this Gospel by which we have both been saved, and are being saved at this very moment until the day of Redemption (1 Cor 15:1).

The Gospel is outlined in Scripture as the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Cor 15:3,4). It is the testimony of what God has done to make a specific people, whom he has chosen by his own decree and purpose, right with himself by no merit of their own but by the merits of Christ alone (Eph 2:1-8). In modern Christendom there is a commonly held belief that the Gospel is the elementary doctrine of Christianity. It is often taught and preached in mainline evangelicalism today, that the Gospel is what gets us into the Kingdom of God, and then we move on to the weightier and more significant teachings of Christianity. I think we would do well to examine this further and see if in fact we are compelled by Scripture to move on from the Gospel.

I desire that all Christians be people of the Book, and seek earnestly in the Bible how they may grow their faith in Christ and pursue personal holiness. I believe firmly, that having a deeply rooted conviction of one’s perpetual need for the Gospel compels us to go back often to the Scriptures, therefore reminding us to look to Christ for all that we need. A view that minimizes the Gospel actually serves in encouraging the exact opposite; it opens the door to pursuing experiences that are subordinate to the Scriptures and in many cases contrary to the commands of Scripture. I hope to offer three clear and objective reasons from Holy Scripture why we never outgrow the Gospel.

3 Reasons We Never Outgrow The Gospel

We Are Called To Make Disciples Through The Gospel

The Gospel was the means God used to make us alive in Christ. As Christians we inherit the calling issued at The Great Commission by Jesus (Matt 28:18-20) to go and make disciples of all nations. As such, the Gospel is the means God uses in our preaching to save the lost since it is the very power of God unto Salvation (Rom. 1:16). If we are to take this command seriously we must certainly be well versed in the Gospel we stand on. Our calling to make disciples is inextricably woven into our common need and dependency upon the Gospel for our own continued growth in Christ as well as those we are discipling. If we seek to make disciples by an means other than the Gospel of Christ, we will certainly find our efforts to be vain and ultimately ineffective. The Gospel saves and the Gospel alone; not the Gospel and some of our works, not the Gospel and some weightier doctrines, no, the Gospel alone is the Power of God unto Salvation! To preach anything less than this glorious Gospel is to cut off the very legs upon which our hope stands. To preach anything more than the Gospel is to render the Gospel powerless and insufficient. Our calling involves making disciples, and doing so is impossible apart from the Gospel of Christ being clearly preached and taught!

We All Stumble In Many Ways, So Daily We Need The Gospel

God demands perfection from those who would draw near to him and be called his own (Matt 5:48). Unfortunately perfection is something we can never attain to on this side of eternity. Nevertheless we must strive toward that end, working diligently by faith not so as to attain righteousness, but because through this Gospel we’ve been offered an alien righteousness. The Gospel is not merely what God has ordained that we be saved through, but it is also the means God has ordained by which we are being saved (emphasis on progressive or gradual sanctification) (1 Cor. 15:2). We must daily recognize our desperate need for the Gospel, and preach it daily to ourselves recognizing that we are not yet perfected, but are being sanctified daily. This in no way undermines our justification; we are fully and instantly justified upon regeneration, however, we need daily reminded that our works are filthy rags before God and add nothing to our right standing with God. We need only rest in the finished work of Christ to have our hearts encouraged and our consciences cleared before God. A believer who views the Gospel as inapplicable to their daily walk with Christ, will naturally migrate into a form of legalism. They will tend to relate to God based on a system of works, where each sin they find in their life will need to be outweighed with self condemnation and excessive “good works” so as to tilt the scale back toward “favor with God.” This is far too common among believers and it is not glorifying to God or beneficial to the individual. Yet this is the natural pull of the person who sees the Gospel as an elementary tool only necessary for new believers. Nothing could be further from the truth; we all stumble in many ways, and as such we need the Gospel daily to direct our attention to Christ and remember His righteousness which has been imputed to us by which we stand fully justified before God (2 Cor 5:11-21).

The Gospel Is a Mystery That We Can Never Exhaust

The meditation and singular focus of heaven is “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain” (Rev. 5:12). Within those words is the essence of this Gospel which I submit to you, we must never outgrow. The gospel is not as many may suspect, an elementary principle, rather it is the culmination of the manifold wisdom of God! We can never exhaust the wonders of this message in which we see the mercy, love, grace, and justice of God all fully displayed and upheld. The mystery of this gospel is one into which even angels long to look (1Peter 1:12). There was never a secondary plan of redemption in the heart and mind of God, for Christ indeed is the Lamb who was slain before the foundation of the world (Rev 13:8). It is a shallow and presumptuous person who would assert that they have come to master and move on from the basics of the Gospel. Such a person does not know full-well the depths of their own sin and the fierce holiness and perfection of God. The gospel being the Good News, is only good when the individual understands the just and eternal judgement they rightly deserve. It will require all of eternity for us to explore in full depth and pure bliss, how it is that a people who by no merits of their own, have come to not only be reconciled to God, but to join him in reigning as co-heirs (Rom 8:17)! That the gospel is inexhaustible comes as no surprise to the soul saved by grace, because through it we come to know Him who is inexhaustible, namely Christ Jesus our LORD! As John Piper has so succinctly stated “God is the Gospel.”

Song for Reflection

Calvinism Is For You!

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“God preordained, for his own glory and the display of His attributes of mercy and justice, a part of the human race, without any merit of their own, to eternal salvation, and another part, in just punishment of their sin, to eternal damnation.”
-John Calvin

I Found What I Wasn’t Seeking

The year was sometime between 2008 and 2009 if I’m not mistaken. It was around that time that I inadvertently stumbled upon Reformed Theology, or as I’ll refer to it for the remainder of this blog: Calvinism. I had only been “saved” or “born-again” for roughly 2 years at this point, and I was attending a vibrant and “cutting edge” Charismatic/Word-of-faith church in the city. It was about 7 min (walking distance) from my house. I was a young and zealous new convert, and wanted eagerly to put down my roots and grow in my faith and relationship with Jesus Christ. I quickly got involved with the Church’s youth group and met several leaders who I immediately grew to love and admire. These particular leaders had a way about their faith that was substantive. The version of Christianity that they taught in our youth group was dense and robust, it was able to withstand criticism and provoked one to examine the Scriptures. It challenged us to not settle for a surface Christianity that only addressed one’s emotions or outward behaviors. Honestly, I didn’t understand a lot of what I was being taught in youth group, mainly because it was foreign to what was being “taught” in the main service of our Church. The messages we heard on any given Sunday were jam packed with charisma and flair, able to rouse even the most mundane of personality types. I seldom left a Sunday service emotionally discouraged, yet could rarely find the substance in the messages to defeat my sin throughout the week. I knew something was fundamentally different between the version of Christianity I would get on Sundays, and the version of it I would get at youth group. Still I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it could be.

After about a year of seeing these two contrasting paradigms at work within the same church, I noticed that one of the youth leaders I had come to love and admire was no longer attending our Church. I looked intently for him week after week to no avail. Eventually, I decided to make a trip to his house to inquire for myself why he wasn’t there anymore. We spoke for some time as he expressed to me that they could no longer attend the church with a clear conscience, seeing that they had stark theological disagreement with the leadership of the Church. It was December and only a couple weeks away from Christmas, and much to my surprise, as I was leaving he tells me he actually had a gift for me. He runs upstairs and comes down almost immediately and hands me a copy of John Piper’s book “Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ.” My life would never be the same after that! I thanked him and went home, I devoured that book, I couldn’t get it out of my hands. It was as if everything I had experienced and learned in youth group started to make perfect sense. The reason that I loved my youth pastor’s version of Christianity, is because it was True Christianity. As Piper masterfully laid out in that great book I was being groomed to see and savor Jesus Christ, and anything less than that would not do it for me! This unmistakably became my inception to Calvinism. I started with John Piper through sermons and books. I watched Youtube videos of Piper’s, which led me to other Calvinists as well. Before long I was all in with pastors like Voddie Baucham, John MacArthur, Mark Dever, Paul Washer, R.C. Sproul, Steven Lawson, James White, C.J. Mahaney, James Boice, and so many others. I managed by the grace of God, to stumble upon and find that which I wasn’t even seeking!

What is Calvinism?

My introduction to Calvinistic Theology was, well, abrupt and dramatic. It was this way in large part because my church at that time, was outspokenly opposed to it. I would hear things from the pulpit like, “doctrine divides,” “theology puffs-up,” “don’t be a pharisee.” Sure I have little doubt that my leaders meant well with these statements and truly felt they were protecting their flock by giving these “warnings.” Yet, the irony in each of those statements, is that each one is a doctrinal and theological statement so it was counter-productive to make them. Needless to say, I quickly realized through my interactions with my leaders and peers that I had to be careful about how I communicated the Reformed Faith I now held firm to and believed. The Podcast app on my phone became my new sermon source, and functionally my pastors became men I admired but only knew from a distance. Though not ideal or recommended, for that season of my life I would have it no other way. Better to receive robust Biblical Truth from afar, than to be spoon fed erroneous doctrine regardless how sincere the one feeding you may be. So, what is Calvinism? In short and simple terms, Calvinism as I like to call it is merely a nickname for Biblical Christianity. I say this because what Calvinism aims to do, is view the Scriptures of the Holy Bible (66 books) from an objective perspective. Whereby we draw out or Exegete from the Biblical text what is there, rather than impose upon or Eisegete the text to fit our biases and pre-conceived notions. Calvinism or Augustinianism, naturally derives its name from the historical Church leaders, Saint Augustine of Hippo (354 AD-430 AD) and John Calvin of France (1509-1564). Their writings and teachings (along with many others) helped to draw out conclusively what Orthodox Christian Theology is, based solely on Scripture. Most notably, they wrote extensively on the Biblical testimony of the Depravity of man and the Sovereignty of God. Time would fail me to write in great detail of the rich history of The Reformation and the genesis of Calvinism. However, I certainly encourage you to research the history for yourself as it will be greatly beneficial in helping you find confidence in your Faith. I recommend starting with this three part video series on “The History of Calvinism.”

Pertinent to a proper understanding of Calvinism is the realization that John Calvin was not himself the originator of Calvinism. Though undoubtedly his teachings and writings were the premise upon which Calvinistic Theology was formed. However, what came to be understood as The Doctrines of Grace, or even more widely known as The TULIP was not Calvin’s doing. So, if “Calvinism” is not John Calvin’s doing, then who’s is it? Well, in 1618 the Dutch Reformed Church convened an international Synod, called The Synod of Dort in order to address “The Arminian Controversy” which had arisen among the followers of Jacobus Arminius and was upsetting and causing no small disturbance in the Reformed Church of Holland. Ironically enough Jacobus or James Arminius was actually an orthodox Reformed Scholar for most of his life. It was not until later in his life and studies that he opposed the Biblical and Reformed notions of man’s depravity and subsequently the bondage of the will of man. Additionally he also opposed the Reformed teaching of God’s sovereign grace in salvation. Arminius though orthodox in the public eye was privately concurring with classic Roman Catholic doctrines especially in his soteriology. He went from being a confessional monergist with an Augustinian view of man’s condition, to a synergist with a semi-pelagian view of man’s condition. Though Arminius himself never came out and said these things in public, he had managed to infiltrate several of his students behind closed doors. Upon Arminius’ death in 1609 his students and followers took it upon themselves to form a remonstrance against The Dutch Reformed Church, which would come to be known as the 5 points of Arminianism. In these Five Points Arminius’ followers laid out a man centered approach to Salvation:

  • 1. election conditioned on foreseen faith
  • 2. universal atonement (that Christ died for all men and for every man, so that He merited reconciliation and forgiveness of sins for all through the death of the cross; yet so that no one actually enjoys this forgiveness of sins except the believer)
  • 3. the need for regeneration if man is to be saved (here they seemed to be orthodox enough, but, as it later appeared, this was understood in such a way as seriously to underestimate the depravity of human nature)
  • 4. the resistibility of grace (‘but with respect to the mode of this grace, it is not irresistible’)
  • 5. the uncertainty of the perseverance of believers (in respect of this article the Arminians shortly came openly to deny such final perseverance)

It was after many years of conflict and uproar in the church and government that the Synod of Dort was convened from 1618-19. At this Synod The Arminians or Remonstrants as they were known, were proven to be inconsistent in their reasoning and unable to provide any conclusive biblical backing for their conclusions. Eventually the Synod dismissed the Remonstrants seeing they were making no progress with them, and ultimately Rejected  their 5 points as erroneous and false. This is portrayed in writing within The Canons of Dort. The synod then formed their own 5 points in response to the 5 points of Arminianism rooted in Holy Scripture, that came to be known as the Doctrines of Grace or The Tulip of Calvinism:

  • 1. T- Total Depravity (Man’s complete inability to choose God or Salvation)
  • 2. U- Unconditional Election (God’s Sovereign Choice in salvation based on no act or merit of man)
  • 3. L- Limited Atonement (Jesus’ atoning work applied only to and accomplished only for His Elect)
  • 4. I- Irresistible Grace (God’s effectual calling and regeneration to the soul dead in sin)
  • 5. P- Perseverance/Preservation Of The Saints (God keeping those He saves until they are with Him in glory, or once saved always saved)

This may seem a trivial matter to most in the Church today, since not many care to see the significance of these doctrines in daily thought and practice. So, why does it even matter whether you side with the Arminian view of salvation or the Calvinist view? Maybe you consider yourself to be one of those Christians who doesn’t side with either, you’ve paved a new road as it were (be very careful lest you be found to be lacking true saving faith at all). There is great significance in understanding the truth laid out in the Calvinist view and the error laid out in the Arminian view. These are soteriological doctrines, so to err in this matter could prove fatal. Today most everybody in the Protestant Church whether consciously or subconsciously views the condition of man as well as the role man plays in salvation through either an Arminian or Calvinist view. This is owing to what has been handed down to us throughout the history of the Church since the Synod of Dort. What’s at stake you might ask? Well the glory of God of course! The glory that God says he will share with no-one (Isaiah 48:11). The Calvinist view is the Biblical view, and it is the view that is devastating to human pride. It speaks of man’s complete spiritual deadness and inability to do anything to please God. It empties man of any and all grounds for boasting (Ephesians 2:1-10). Most importantly it shows the infinite and glorious mercy and kindness of God in electing and redeeming a people for Himself by His own sovereign grace and pleasure (Romans 9:19-24).

Rage of the Cage Stage

This is not to say that there are no faults with calvinists or that we’ve perfected our theology. Many a Christian and non believer have inevitably been hurt or offended by a Calvinist who is new to his/her Calvinist theology and is going through what we call “The Cage Stage.” This stage is where a new Calvinist discovers the wonderful depths of the Doctrines of Grace and feels the need to prove to every opponent of Orthodox Reformed Faith that they are wrong and must repent and turn to Calvinism! Cage Stage Calvinists experience a wide spectrum of emotion, since they now question everything about their previous life in Christendom. They wonder if they were lied to their whole Christian life, and whether they were really even saved. It is quite a dilemma that one finds them-self in. Naturally but not justifiably so, they lash out on others and feel the need to prove any and every opponent wrong even to the point of humiliating them. This is a terrible thing, and I’ve certainly been guilty of it. How long does this stage last for new calvinists? It is hard to say since it varies greatly based on the individual and their support system, but it is a real problem for the Calvinist and others. If you are reading this and have your walls up in defense or feel a real and insidious distaste with Calvinism, the chances are you’ve encountered several Cage Stage Calvinists along your journey. I want to apologize on their behalf and assure you that this is not the best, by any stretch of the imagination, that Calvinism has to offer. I implore you to reconsider whether you could benefit from what the Scriptures teach through the Calvinist lens. The Doctrines of Grace are merely the tip of the Ice-berg, there is so much more to Calvinism since there is so much more to our Christian Faith. I feel the need to also correct a misconception amongst the opponents of Calvinism which assumes that Calvinists don’t feel the need to evangelize or do missions work, or even speak to others about our faith due to our view of God’s sovereign election. This is a false and erroneous position that is seen as Hyper Calvinism and any sound and orthodox Calvinist rejects this position. I stand firm in the belief that Calvinism is for every Christian who wishes to be Biblical and see their Christianity objectively, as God through Holy Scripture would have them. Do you want to be Biblical? Do you desire to see God for who He truly is as He has revealed Himself in Scripture? Then you would do yourself a great benefit to be a Calvinist. This is not a call to perfection, rather a call to Orthodox Christianity. This is not a plea to be saved, rather a plea to make your calling and election sure (2 Peter 1:10). I love deeply those from my previous Church, even though I disagree strongly with their theological conclusions. This is not a call to hate your opponents rather to pray for them, and to understand that God is the one who works in the hearts and minds of His children. Whether you are a Calvinist or not, examine the facts and search the Scriptures and by the Grace of God you too will see that Calvinism is for you!

Steps For Application

With all the talk of doctrine and theology this may seem like pure mental ascent, however I would seek to help you apply what you’ve read. Consider the following:

  1. If you’re not a Calvinist especially, read Romans 9 and examine whether you find that you are the one arguing with Paul. (We often implicitly assume that God would be wrong to withhold mercy from whom he pleases. If you find yourself defensive with Romans 9 that’s an indicator your view of man is much more favorable then it should be)
  2. If you’re a Calvinist call an Arminian you know and invite them to coffee and ask them to share their testimony with you. (This is not a matter of saving them, rather it will encourage you to remember the grace you yourself have received, and will serve to help you gain rapport with them in matters of Faith. It will also help dispel the myth that Calvinists are cold and arrogant)
  3. If you’re an incognito Calvinist in an Arminian Congregation, set up a meeting with your elders and share your theological convictions from Scripture and ask them if that is a problem with them. (You may be feeling the need to leave your church, but you may find after a real and thoughtful conversation that it’s possible to have effective fellowship right there. If nothing else you’ll see it is not possible and may feel affirmed in your decision to leave. Don’t ever leave abruptly and with hard feelings so long as it depends on you)
  4. Read an intriguing and accurate biography of John Calvin. I recommend this one. (Biographies do wonders in helping us look down the corridors of history to admire the strengths as well as the weaknesses of some our heroes. Both Calvinists and Arminians would do well to read about Calvin and examine his life)
  5. Associate with others who think and believe different than yourself. (Don’t feel threatened since we have the Word of God as our final authority. Yet be willing to repent and change where you find your views are in contradiction to Scripture as pointed out from your peers, remember context, context, context.)

This argument between Calvinists and Arminians is well over 400 years old, and will not be resolved on this side of eternity so long as sin and human pride is in the picture. These steps are by no means the solution to your differences, but if applied biblically and humbly can help you gain steady traction in seeing for yourself and helping others see the Scriptures as God intends. Grace and peace to you!

Song For Reflection

Afflicted But Not Crushed

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“Our sorrows are all, like ourselves, mortal. There are no immortal sorrows for immortal souls. They come, but blessed be God, they also go. Like birds of the air, they fly over our heads. But they cannot make their abode in our souls. We suffer today, but we shall rejoice tomorrow.” – Charles Spurgeon

Righteous and Bruised

Suffering is real for the believer, just as for the reprobate. It comes just as often and hits just as hard in the span of a Christian’s life as in the life of any sinner. This reality is part in parcel to why our theological and doctrinal convictions matter. What we believe the scriptures to teach directly impacts how we live and think. I have a deep-rooted conviction that every Christian should have a sound and expansive theology of suffering.  The scriptures don’t shy away from addressing suffering as a Christian, and neither should we. The child of God is not exempt from suffering, in fact a true Child of God should expect suffering and embrace it as a gift from God! Paul says it this way in Philippians 1:29:

“For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake”.

When’s the last time you offered thanks and praise to God for granting you to suffer for Christ’s sake? I don’t mean to seem condescending with that question. I just know it’s not how we’re groomed to think here in the west. As Christians in America we’re by and large, conditioned to view pain and suffering in one of several ways; as retribution for hidden sins, as satanic opposition (probably the most widely held view), or as a foreign anomaly to the christian life. There may be certain aspects of truth within each of these views of suffering, but to view all suffering through any one of those lenses exclusively is to do yourself a great disservice. However, what I don’t want you to hear me saying is that suffering is pleasant or is to be sought, no need to seek suffering it will doubtless find you. Neither am I saying that your suffering is in and of itself the gift or good. No. The gift and goodness of suffering is in the outcome that God will bring about through the suffering He is working in your life. If you currently view suffering through any of the lenses I just mentioned above, I’d like you to please hear me out as I continue.

I believe that being lovers of TRUTH requires us to bear the responsibility of weighing every subjective assumption and conclusion we hold against the Objective Truth of Scripture, and where proven wrong be willing to repent and change our thinking.

In other words, we should care more about lining our thinking up with God’s unchanging Word, then we do about maintaining our subjective biases. For the believer, suffering becomes a gift given by God and not a curse. It is right to view it this way because the Scriptures call us to view it this way. All our suffering, severe as it may be, is light and momentary compared to the glory we are to receive in eternity. More than that, our suffering is analogous to the sufferings of Christ who is the spotless Lamb of God. There are at least two glaring implications for the believer’s life in those two statements:

  1. Our suffering has intrinsic purpose and meaning in the light of eternity.
  2. Christ being sinless, suffered for us to leave us an example for how we ought to suffer.

As believers, we have this sure and steadfast hope to cling to; our God is Sovereign and works all things according to the counsel of his will (Eph. 1:11). This is of great comfort to the suffering soul, because we can know with certainty that God is at work in our suffering to bring about His Divine will. There is an invaluable purpose in our suffering and that purpose, chiefly, is to further conform us to the image of Christ. Being righteous and bruised is the pattern of life we should expect, not because we’re sadistic or morbid, but because we’re following Christ’s pattern of life. Jesus himself told us in John 15:18-20, that we will be hated because he himself was hated first, and we will be persecuted because He himself was persecuted. He left us an example to follow, so this becomes part of our calling, to endure hardship and suffering because we are not greater than our Master. Peter says it this way in 1 Peter 2:20,21:

20 For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. 21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.

So I submit to you that your suffering, Christian, is not in vain and is not placed on you in spite by God. Rather I encourage you to look gratefully at your hardship and thank God that you have been counted worthy to suffer with Christ. Your bruises are meaningful and should remind you that you have a pierced and wounded Savior who bids you join him in overcoming the world. Think often and deeply of Christ’s promise to you:

33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

A Blessing And Not A Curse

My hope in this article is to encourage some, and by God’s grace help correct others. I’d seek to encourage those currently facing deep affliction and hardship be it what it may! Are you facing hardships in marriage or family? Perhaps in health ailments or disease? Maybe verbal or physical abuse? Are you being defamed or ostracized by others? Are you nearing almost daily the verge of falling beyond being able to rise back up? Then take courage, and realize that you are blessed in your sufferings! Consider that your present sufferings, are not even worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed to us (Rom 8:18).

I would by God’s grace correct others who may be facing similar difficulties and would consider that they are cursed, or at minimum being punished for some undisclosed sin. Consider that Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us (Gal. 3:13). The curse of our sins was taken upon the body of Christ on His cross. You can now rest assured beloved, that there remains no more wrath or curse for we who are hidden in Christ.

Yet we still suffer and the pain is still real, but where once our suffering testified against us that we were fully in Adam. Now our sufferings testify to the reality that we are united with Christ. Where once we were alienated from God without hope in this world. Now we have an abiding and unfading hope, that our present suffering is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison (2 Cor. 4:17). Our Unity with Christ is only further confirmed through our suffering not refuted by it. Paul would persuade us in this way:

16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. 18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. Romans 8:16–18

Left to ourselves, we would never choose that which God would choose for us. We do well to know with full assurance that any affliction or hardship that reaches us as children of God, comes directly through the hand of God and by the will of God. When hardship reaches us God is faithful and true to see us through it, and to bring us out on the other side more radiant and further conformed to the image of His Son.

I’m especially comforted by this truth in this season of my life. My wife and I recently discovered through a diagnosis that our 2nd daughter, Faith (still in the womb), will need major open heart surgery in May 2018 and possibly a heart transplant due to serious heart abnormalities in her development. What a sobering blow it was to hear this devastating news. What a deep discomfort to see the pain on my wife’s face. Oh how easy it would be on any given day to fall victim to despair, if not only for the truth that God himself has bestowed this gift upon us. Oh what comfort sound theology has offered us, what joy to know him from whom all blessings flow. What solace to drink deeply from the well of God’s sovereignty, and know full well that this trial is from He who works all things according to the counsel of His will. What depression and instability would be our lot if we believed that our sin could bring upon us something that our God hasn’t himself ordained for us. What an insult to the grandeur and omnipotence of God if we thought Satan could afflict us with something that God himself did not allow. What degree of pity would we invite should we believe that some uncontrolled calamity could harm us without our God himself directing and working all things together for our greatest good and His greatest Glory!

In all of this let us be reminded that suffering is profoundly meaningful for the believer, and it is intended to remind us from where our help comes. Let your hardships bring to mind that this world is not our home. In all affliction whether trivial or severe remember the words of the Apostle:

Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead2 Corinthians 1:9

Look to God, He is an ever-present help in a time of need! Let your sufferings resound in praise and let your pain help you identify with Christ. So though we are deeply afflicted in every way, by God’s Grace we will never be crushed! Think deeply and often of these words by our beloved brother Paul when you find yourself afflicted:

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 2 Corinthians 4:7–10

Steps For Application

Dear brother or sister, I don’t know what trial you may currently be suffering. Know this however, if you be in Christ, your trials are a tool in the hand of God to better equip you to enjoy and glorify Christ! Don’t lose hope but look to God; I’d only seek to spur you on toward some practical application of this deep Truth. Consider the following:

  1. Make daily journal entries of your hardships. (We can often express our sorrows more fully in writing then in speech, allowing us an avenue of relief from the mental/emotional anguish)
  2. Find hymns either classic or modern and sing them often. (Hymns are deep Biblical truths in song form, they do wonders in driving your thoughts and affections toward Christ. I recommend starting with Sovereign Grace Music as a gateway to other deep hymns if you’re new to hymns)
  3. Seek out an older Saint who’s well versed in Biblical Truth and ask them to walk with you in your trial. (Hardships are not meant to be endured alone, older Saints have often been through what you’re experiencing and can speak with conviction into your hardships)
  4. Pray fervently. (Prayer can seem ineffective when suffering, but the opposite is true. Go to God in prayer and He will grant you supernatural Peace)
  5. Read Dead Saints and Meditate on the Psalms. (We have over 2,000 years of Church history to glean from, you’ll do well to avail yourself to the writings of dead Saints (not in the Roman Catholic sense) who can speak into your trials. Also, the Psalms are filled with countless rich prayers and songs of deliverance.)

I know these are by no means the answers to your suffering, but I’ll assure you they will help to equip you to suffer well and graciously to the Glory of God! Grace and peace to you brothers and sisters!

Song for Reflection