This is the first in a series of sermons based on Rick Warren’s series of the same name.
First, I had a revelation this week: I realised am able to predict the future:
There will be trouble.
That’s it. I can’t give it in any more detail than that but I know at some point this year and to some degree, we will have some trouble, hardship and pain.
We can’t predict the future but we know there will be hardship and pain because we live in a broken, fallen world in which nothing works perfectly – the weather, relationships, our bodies. Everything on earth is broken. (Scientists tell us that the whole universe is in a state of decline (2nd law of thermodynamics) – everything is moving from a state of order to a state of chaos.) 地上のものすべては壊れています。
Why is there evil in the world? I’m not going to answer this today because this is the theme of our discussion this Saturday in Church Lite but what we will look at today is how to get through the evil and suffering that we sometimes encounter in our world.
One of the things that really impresses me about the Bible is how truthful it is. Not only the message of truth in the gospel but the Bible’s recording of history. 聖書は真実です。
We’re told how Abraham was a great man – and he was – but we’re also told about his lies and weaknesses.
We’re told what a great man David was – and he was – but we’re also told about his adultery and lying and scheming.
Nothing is glossed over. The Bible gives us a truly warts and all account of these people throughout the whole history of Israel.
We find a similar truth shared by super-apostle Paul in 2 Cor 1. We want to hear – and expect to hear – from Paul about his great victories in faith and his great successes in the Holy Spirit. But this passage reveals a very different picture. Very disappointing really.
We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, [not looking at life through rosy glasses – this is the honest, harsh truth here] about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure [many of us would have experiences great stress at some point in our lives], so that we despaired of life itself [Paul felt like giving up – throwing in the towel]. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. [He felt like dying – perhaps he would rather have died] 2 Cor 1:8,9a
Paul was surely tempted to ask ‘Why?’. Why should he have to go through such hardship – especially when he was doing God’s work.
And we often ask this ourselves when things go bad, when there are accidents or sickness or loss or trouble with others – we ask why? Why is this happening to me? Why now? Why is God allowing this to happen? なぜこんなことが私に起こっているのか？
Paul answers this question very clearly in the next verse of the passage:
But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. v9b
1. Learn to Trust 信頼できるようになる
So there is a reason for your hardship: In a sinful, broken world, God wants to teach you to rely on Him. Not to rely on yourself, not on others, not on money, not on scientists, not on morality, not on conventional wisdom, not on natural instincts but on God and God alone.
We need to learn to trust that no matter what the problem is, no matter how intense the pain, how great the loss, how shameful we feel, God can use our suffering for good.
The very thing that you hate most in your life – the Great Thorn in your life – the thing that has made God grieve the most, too – God can use for good in your life.
Hence Rom 8:28
And we know [know! not hope but know!] that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
So when we are suffering and we want to ask ‘Why is God allowing this?’/’Why is this happening to me?’/’What is the purpose of this hardship?’ the starting point of that answer is that God wants you to learn to rely on Him.
2. Learn to Minister 人を助けることができるようになる
The second thing to get us through what we are going through is to understand that our problems give us a ministry to others.
Your pain reveals God’s purpose for you (at least in part).
God wants us to share with others the hardships we’re going through or have been through so that we can help them through the same hurts.
Paul writes about this just a few verses earlier in the same passage:
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God…. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. 2 Cor 1:3-4,6
The very thing that makes you weak – the very thing that has hurt you, that has shamed you, saddened you, broken you – your greatest weakness could become your greatest ministry to others. あなたの最大の弱さが最大の人助けとなることがあるのです。
Who better to comfort a couple struggling with infertility than another couple struggling with infertility?
Who better to comfort the mother of a special needs child than the mother of a special needs child?
Who better to comfort someone in a troubled marriage than someone who has dealt with a troubled marriage?
Who better to comfort someone over the loss of a job than someone who has been through the anguish and fear of losing a job?
Who better to comfort someone who has lost a loved one than someone who has lost a loved one.
Someone who can say, “I know that pain because I’ve experienced it too.”
If you’re not using your hurts to minister to others, then I think it’s a waste.
3. Learn to Honor Jesus イエスを敬うことができるようになる
The third thing to get us through what we’re going through is to honor Jesus.
Jesus could identify with every hardship known to man. He was tempted in every way, he knew loneliness, the pain of desertion, discouragement, loss. Jesus cried, too.
But there’s a difference.
As sinners, we’re a part of the problem. Some of our pain we bring on ourselves.
Jesus was sinless. He was never a part of the problem. All His pain was brought on by others.
(If you think all your problems are brought on by others then you have a Christ complex.)
Our sin condemns us.
He was without sin. And this makes His hardships all the more painful – for Him and us.
Yet Jesus too had (and has) a purpose for His sufferings. His purpose is one of selfless love – it’s so that He can identify with us in our sufferings. So when we hurt and pray to Him, He can say, “Yes, I know that pain because I’ve experienced it too.”
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:15,16
So when we’re criticised or wrongly accused or turned on or badly treated or suffered loss, we can know that we have a God who understands and sympathises. We have a God who in understanding and sympathising can then heal and bring change, a deepening relationship and help us in our time of need.
When you’re going through the really tough times and there are no answers but only pain and confusion, remember
Learn to Trust 信頼できるようになる
(In time) Learn to Minister （時がきたら）人を助けることができるようになる
Learn to Honor Jesus イエスを敬うことができるようになる