Track 1: Sanctification and Suffering
Have you wvwe heard of Triumphant Christianity? What is ir” When Triumphant Christianity gets its hands on Easter, it will interrupt your pain, ignore your limp, explain away your questions and strike up the Oscars band before your lament has had time to finish. Triumphant Christianity always starts at the end of the story.
If we read forwards rather than backwards, we find that the season of Easter is about how, at the core, Christianity is a way of seeing everything for people who never got what they wanted from God, from life, from their families and friends and even from the very religion founded in the name of Jesus and his resurrection. Christianity isn’t a religion that saves us by finally bringing our dreams to life; it’s one that sustains us by keeping us afloat even when those dreams die again and again.
The Book of Job flies in the face of Triumphant Christianity. Let us read a part of Job:
There was once a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job. That man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.
One day the heavenly beings came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the Lord. The Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?” Satan answered the Lord, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” The Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man who fears God and turns away from evil. He still persists in his integrity, although you incited me against him, to destroy him for no reason.” (Job 2:1-3)
This tells us that God does not destroy anyone. Satan is the one who attempts to do that. However, what God allows Satan to do may be surprising. Reading on:
Then Satan answered the Lord, “Skin for skin! All that people have they will give to save their lives. But stretch out your hand now and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face.” The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, he is in your power; only spare his life.”
So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord, and inflicted loathsome sores on Job from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. Job took a potsherd with which to scrape himself, and sat among the ashes. ( Job 1:1; 2:1-6)
Job was “blameless and upright man who fears God and turns away from evil.” Why would God allow Satan to test Job? Why should any believer have to suffer? Why do we suffer? Could suffering have a purpose?
The Apostle Paul boasted about suffering. Reading from 2 Corinthians:
To keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. (2 Corinthians 12:7-9)
And from Colossians:
I am now rejoicing in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church (Colossians 1:24)
Paul is suggestions that suffering has a purpose. Paul says that he was completing the suffering of Christ.
In Hebrews we read:
It was fitting that God, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For the one who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one Father. For this reason Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters, saying,
“I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters,
in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.” (Hebrews 2: 10-12)
If the Lord Jesus Christ, who was fully God bu also fully man, required suffering to be made perfect, why should we escape suffering? We are saved by the blood of Jesus. We are sanctified, perfected, through suffering.
When suffering does come, this temptation often comes with it. Satan raises this question: Is God good? The psalmist wrote
Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise.
Give thanks to him, bless his name.
For the Lord is good;”>his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations. (Psalm 100:4-5)
Job’s wife said to Job:
“Do you still persist in your integrity? Curse God, and die.” But he said to her, “You speak as any foolish woman would speak. Shall we receive the good at the hand of God, and not receive the bad?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips. (Job 2:4-10)
Do we blame God for being unfair to us? Or do we keep our integrity and still give him praise? The psalmist wrote:
Give judgment for me, O Lord,
for I have lived with integrity;
I have trusted in the Lord and have not faltered.
Test me, O Lord, and try me;
examine my heart and my mind.
For your love is before my eyes;
I have walked faithfully with you. (Psalm 26:1-3)
Track 2: Suggestion
The Old Testament reading and Gospel reading has to do with marriage:
The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every animal of the field; but for the man there was not found a helper as his partner. So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then he took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said,
“This at last is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
this one shall be called Woman,
for out of Man this one was taken.”
Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh. ()
Pharisees raised a question concerning divorce:
Some Pharisees came, and to test Jesus they asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her.” But Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote this commandment for you. But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” ()
What is the viewpoint of today’s church? Why is the divorce rate the same for those in church and out of church?