Monday, March 3, 2008

The Grace of Pain

I have a few different podcasts I've signed up for. One of them is Cornerstone Simi, where Francis Chan is pastor. Today I listened to a podcast from Cornerstone by Todd Nighswonger called "The Grace of Pain".

He had three seats on stage, representing 3 groups: one has never embraced faith, one has fully embraced faith, and the other is riding on the coattails of the second. Through out his sermon he continually refers to the group that has fully embraced faith and how it is the best seat to be in.

The majority of us want maturity without pain. An example Todd gave was a friend who wanted to lose weight, but didn't want to pain of giving up Bonbons and watching TV.

As he went on, he asked when the last time was we were totally stoked that God saved us from hell. If the greatest joy we are supposed to have is in salvation, why are we not more excited about it? I live life without thinking about it. I know where I'm going when I die, but it's become ordinary, not extravagant.

In this issue of pain, he asked, "Is it necessary?":
"For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good..." 1Peter 3:17
"Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator." 1 Peter 4:19
"Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief..." Is. 53:10 - The will of God was that Christ would suffer.

Do we believe our pain is for God's glory and our good? If God loved us so much to save us from hell, to forgive us our filth so we can spend eternity with Him, why do we question Him when we believe things go wrong? He doesn't love us any less after giving us salvation.

One of the guys at our church had recently had a stroke and was in the hospital for days. It was brought up yesterday that through it God didn't just heal him physically, but healed his family. It had a greater good that only God could have orchestrated.

"For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life. Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead, who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us." 2 Corinthians 1:8-10

God is not afraid to take away our everything because He knows HE is enough.

"God has paid us the intolerable compliment of loving us, in the deepest, most tragic, most inexorable [relentless] sense." CS Lewis, The Problem of Pain, 30

"It is natural for us to wish that God had designed for us a less glorious and less arduous destiny; but then we are wishing not for more love but for less." CS Lewis, The Problem of Pain, 31

"You asked for a loving God: you have one...But he will make you lovable...To ask that God's love should be content with us as we are is to ask that God should cease to be God: because he is what he is, his love must, in the nature of things, be impeded and repelled, by certain stains in our present character, and because he already loves us he must labour to make us lovable." CS Lewis, The Problem of Pain, 35-6

"When we want something other than the thing God wants us to be, we must be wanting what, in fact, will not make us happy." CS Lewis, The Problem of Pain, 40-41

In speaking on the story of Job, Todd gave an illustration. What do you think Job would have said if he had been there when God had given Satan the right to test Job? With God saying, "Go ahead! Job is my faithful servant!", would Job have said, "Hold up!"

Even so, after losing all, Job notes, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord" (Job 1:21).

"...that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ." 1 Peter 1:7

Do you protect your children from the refining pain? Is it not best for them to be in the group who has fully embraced their faith? He mentioned a parent questioning what he was teaching when his son came home saying he didn't want to go to college, but instead felt he was called to live with the poor. Are you willing to let God take control of your child's future for His sake?

At the end he gave a story of a friend who may be battling cancer. He called and spoke to his friend's wife. She told him that they sat their children down and explained what was going on and that "Daddy was designed for this, for God to use him for His glory." Wow!

Since getting married I've been afraid of losing a child; whether through a miscarriage or post-birth. I am honestly afraid of what my response would be to such pain and loss. I pray that God gets my heart and my faith in Him to the point where I would pass such a test and to where I would no longer fear because I would know that it was all for God's glory.

How are you with pain? Do you truly believe God gives us pain for our good? Which seat/group would you be in? Have you embraced your faith?

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