Suffering and the Sovereignty of God

“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” (Genesis 50:20)

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

INTRODUCTION

This is the culmination of the series of messages given during the previous Sundays regarding the life of Joseph. The series is entitled Grace in Disguise. The message this morning is Suffering and the Sovereignty of God. Even so, this is still about grace in disguise. But this time, since we are now at the end of the story of Joseph, this is now about the unveiling of the disguise, and the revealing of the grace which was there all along from the very beginning of Joseph’s ordeal. Continue reading “Suffering and the Sovereignty of God”

The end God has in mind …

“For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18)

The end God has in mind regarding our sufferings is not just our personal conformity to Christ, but also the conformity of the whole church to Christ, so that all of God’s people will be fit to enjoy fellowship with God forever. It is one thing to be entitled to eternal life; it is another thing to be fit for it. We therefore suffer for the sake of the church (those who are already in it, as well as those who will someday be in it). We die that others may live; but if they live, we live too, in the sense that we all become fit to enjoy the presence of a holy God. Holiness is pleasant only for those who are fit to bear it; otherwise, it is a consuming fire. There will be degrees of nearness to God in heaven, depending on our holiness. All the redeemed will be there, but some will be nearer to God than others. We will all be perfectly happy in heaven, but the joy of some will be greater than others. They have wept more profusely, therefore they will rejoice more exceedingly.

(Photo by Wonderlane on Unsplash)

Suffering as Medicinal

Sometimes the Lord sends suffering in order to cure an inward corruption.

The sorrow that suffering produces serves as medicine to dissolve the rage or pride or some other wickedness that dwells in the hardened heart.

It softens the heart and produces compassion within.

In God’s hands suffering is the chisel by which he carves a beautiful saint out of plain marble.

We often blame God for our sufferings, not knowing that by means of the pain he is actually healing our souls and creating a work of art.

How to Know Your Vocation

It is only from one’s unique history of suffering that one can define accurately one’s own calling. Only from a particular history of special anguish and personal travail can one come to know how God is calling one to be present to the suffering world even as God the Son has become present to it.

— Thomas C. Oden, The Rebirth of Orthodoxy, p. 94