October 15, 2011

Joy In Suffering. Singing the Praises of God

God's ultimate goal is joyful worship of the nations. 
Missions is not the ultimate goal the church, worship is. 

John Piper, Pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, MN, recently finished up a lecture series on the role of Worship, Prayer, and Suffering in relation to overall role of missions on the church.  Striking was that phrase above, that missions is not the overall role of the Church, rather Worship.  Explained more succinctly, ministry exists because not all are worshiping.  The ultimate culmination of our worship will eventually be in Heaven.  Until then, we must spend our time both worshiping and witnessing to show others that we are made to Worship.

The central verses in the messages were as follows:

 Romans 11: 33-35

33 Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
   How unsearchable his judgments,
   and his paths beyond tracing out!
34 “Who has known the mind of the Lord?
   Or who has been his counselor?”
35 “Who has ever given to God,
   that God should repay them?”

Worship is the cry of the human heart; It is the longing of Holiness and right living in relation to our soul;  It is the quickening of our consciousness to His character; A quickening of Will to the things of God.  We were created to worship, thus the reason why our emptiness on this earth can only be satisfied when the likeness of His glory becomes imprinted upon the design of our heart.

Holiness can be defined as "Transcendent Purity." Both separate from humanity and removed from sin."  It is our fallen nature, and thus desire for this perfection that gives us the longing to worship. 


Imagine this picture for a moment.  A family of 6, with dad driving, mom sitting in the cockpit, and four loving little bundles of joy between the ages of 6 and 15 sitting in the back.  While driving a Jeep along the back roads in a mountainous African region, out of nowhere a boulder crashes down in front of them causing dad to swerve out of the way.  Swerving too far, off the cliff they go, their jeep exploding into flames as the gas container is punctured during the tumble.

Miraculously, the driver survives, and as he is carried away in the ambulance, he yells out, "Psalm 34!".  The words of which I quote below:

1 I will extol the LORD at all times;
   his praise will always be on my lips.
2 I will glory in the LORD;
   let the afflicted hear and rejoice.
3 Glorify the LORD with me;
   let us exalt his name together. 

A true story, as shared by Piper.  I WILL praise the LORD at ALL times.  At the moment of despair and ultimate grief, this man found the passion for living in God and God alone.  Suffering is found everywhere we look in this earth, existing due to SIN and our disobedience.  Those who believe in Christ suffer the same as anyone else; the message of Christ though is not that suffering will go away in this life, but that we are not alone in our suffering.  The central figure of human history, Jesus Christ, suffered and we partake in that suffering.  The difference, the key point, is that through our suffering we might have joy.  Listen to Paul's words here:

9-But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 

Our joy is not in suffering, the actual physical suffering, but in Christ and the ability to one day live free of that suffering.  This is what allows the Christian to live life free of regret and despair normally associated with suffering.  This is also what sets us apart and makes those around us scratch our heads when they see us rejoicing in suffering.  and THAT is the ultimate goal, that we might share in the experiences of others suffering as we do and provide with them the ultimate hope that some day it will all be gone.


God uses suffering as a means as well to accomplish his tasks.  In Chapter 8 of Acts, the Church undergoes persecution because they were not following the great commandment of Jesus to go into "all the world, Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth."  They were still in Jerusalem in Chapter 8, thus as Chapter 8:1 states, "they were scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria", due to failing to listen to follow the commands of God.  

Pain is there to get our attention that something is not right.  While not all suffering is from God, God will use suffering to get our attention and motivate us to pursue what it is he has called us to do.  In this case, persecution advanced the spread of the gospel.  Without it, would the church have gone out throughout the whole world and shared the gospel? Perhaps not.  Suffering in the form of persecution has often been the leading cause of growth of the Church and of God's plans for the nations.  Persecution will come, we are warned of that as Jesus states that before His 2nd return, "we will be be hated by all nations for my sake."

Continue to sing the praises of our God even in the midst of suffering.  Find meaning to life and a calm to your spirit through Worship.

Piper from time to time has a live web stream.  Catch it here:  LIVE Web Stream

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