Saturday, April 14, 2012
Sermon Notes for First Sunday after Easter 2012
Is There Any Purpose to My Suffering?
First Sunday after Easter
April 15, 2012
“Life is full of misery, loneliness, and suffering - and it's all over much too soon.” - Woody Allen
Some degree of pain and suffering in life is inevitable and this inheritance comes in many forms: physical pain, material want, psychological traumas, false accusations, great injustices, internal struggles over temptations, persecution for the Faith, and relational brokenness. Some have suffered and do suffer far more than others. Moreover, even if we are not at this very moment enduring suffering in our own person, it is almost certainly true that someone we love is suffering. More than this - and how easily and arrogantly we forget this great truth - every Christian here is suffering right now because Paul writes that when one member suffers every member suffers with him! How dare we even imagine we are not right now at this very moment in the fires of suffering when so many with whom we are joined weep themselves to sleep at night and, as Job says, long for death more than the dawn of another day.
Let us also recall that our redemption was won by the greatest suffering imaginable, the Father turning his face from the Son as the Son endured the agony of the Cross for us, unjustly punished and that, cruelly so.
Since we will all suffer in some way or ways it is very important for us to have a Biblical and Christian way of dealing with these trials.
Now of course some people begin with thinking that life is meant to be a great vacation; if that is so, then all suffering will be seen as a violation of my life and purpose, something to be despised and which serves no purpose but to destroy.
Is this how Christ approached his terrible suffering? Is that how he approached life - a vacation? Is such a view the one to which he calls us as his disciples?
What if our life is meant to be preparation for the presence of God?
What if suffering in life prepares us for this presence?
What if suffering serves the salvation of others?
Job is not asking why he is suffering as much as he is inquiring about the mystery of blessing that arises from suffering. His question reveals something incredibly vital for us if we are to make sense of suffering and our relationship to it. This means that in some ways suffering is a mystery to be probed and embraced rather than a philosophical problem to be solved.
I. Suffering is a Mystery - Job 3:20-23
A. Avoid the Easy Explanations
- Job’s Friends and their Misguided notions
- Job’s Incomprehension of Larger Cosmic Battles
* “Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable... Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.” - MLK
B. Embrace the Redeemer’s Way
- Man’s Rebellion did indeed lead to alienation and suffering, not only for himself but for all of creation
* 2 Corinthians 5; Romans 8 - we groan, but so does the whole cosmos.
- Man’s Redemption was accomplished by great suffering, and every wound of the Savior dispels disbelief (Thomas).
II. Suffering is a Calling - Job 3:24-26
A. God called Job to Suffer and he has done this with many!
* Paul the Apostle: Acts 9:15-16; Philippians 3; Colossians 1:24- “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his Body...the Church.”
B. God calls us all to Suffer the Way of Christ: Brokenness that life may come.
* Not only for ourselves, but for others!
- “...for your sake...”
C. God Makes our Suffering a Witness: Preaching Christ crucified.
* Mother Teresa at the National Prayer Breakfast
III. Suffering is a Physician - Job 3:20
BUT WE MUST WELCOME AND LEARN FROM THIS PHYSICIAN. IF SUFFERING ALONE MADE US WISE THE WORLD WOULD HAVE BECOME WISE LONG AGO!
A. Do We Wish for Light and Life?
* This is going to hurt!
B. Common Lessons:
1. The Power of Weakness - 2 Corinthians 12
* We don’t know what to do but our eyes are on You!
2. The Brevity of Life - Isaiah 40
* The grass withers and the flower fades
- Graveyards are filled with indispensable people!
* “Remember friend as you pass by...”
3. The Superiority of the Eternal - Isaiah 40
* But the Word of the Lord endures forever
4. The Way of Obedience - Hebrews 5:8
* If Jesus, how much more ourselves?
- “It is by suffering that human beings become angels.” - Victor Hugo
5. The Way of Love - John 13
* What does this Love look like without suffering embraced for others?
“God had one son on earth without sin, but never one without suffering.” - St Augustine
Let us receive then the hard mercies sent to us that we might be part of the great battle of the heavens, know the wounds of Jesus, show these to the world, and prepare ourselves for the world to come.