Have you been asking some “why” questions in your faith journey recently? While children often ask “why” questions to understand how things work, youths and adults tend to ask “why” questions to address their doubts and to grow in their biblical convictions. Over the past few months in pastoral ministry, I pondered afresh two “why” questions.
Why Do Christians Need the Local Church?
Some people think they do not need the church as they can listen to many good sermons available on YouTube anywhere anytime. But recorded sermons cannot replace the community that is needed when we face difficult times. If we want to find courage and strength to persevere in the faith, Hebrews 10:23-25 exhort us not to neglect meeting together. In the hymn We are God’s People, song-writer and pastor Bryan Jeffery Leech reminded Christians that “we are the Body of which the Lord is Head” and “we die alone, for on its own each ember loses fire: yet joined in one the flame burns on to give warmth and light, and to inspire.” For those of us who are more visual, may this video which likens the local church to a wolf pack encourage you to commit to a pack for your spiritual well-being (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TLJWwgJU9-I and brief transcript below).
“…..During the summer months, a wolf can survive on its own. But in the winter, the smaller animals it depends on for food go into hibernation, which means wolves are forced to hunt for larger animals. A pack of wolves can take down its larger prey easily and survive, but a lone wolf will die, hungry and alone. If you look at your life, would you say you’re part of a pack or are you more of a lone wolf? Just like wolves, we may be fine when things are going well, but what happens when winter comes? What happens when we face difficulty? What happens when our lives are falling apart and there is no one around? This is one of the reasons God designed the church. He knew we would need each other and planned for it. We may be busy or unsure about where to find the community or maybe we’ve even had bad experience with church. Remember that no church is perfect. The important thing is to find one that follows the blueprint God created for it and has a significant effect on its surrounding community. Join that church and be a part of something bigger than yourself. You were never meant to face winter alone…..”
Why Does God Allow the Faithful to Suffer?
We live in a fallen world. Every day, we see evidence that the world is groaning (Romans 8:22-23). The brutal reality of living in a broken world is that we will experience situations and relationships that can bring us pain and sorrow. When we suffer, the Bible encourages us to tell God honestly our feelings, doubts and questions regarding His wisdom, goodness and sovereignty. As we run to God’s throne of grace for mercy and help, we can do so with confidence and hope because our great high priest Jesus Christ is also a fellow sufferer (Hebrews 4:14-16). Jesus understands our grief and pain. He knows what it is like to be hungry, lonely, mocked, rejected, betrayed and abandoned. He knows what it is like to suffer injustice and torture. He understands our struggles with accepting God’s perfect will.
Jesus’ resurrection also assures us that our suffering will not be in vain. As God’s children, we can look forward to a glorious inheritance when Jesus returns (Romans 8:18-30). Timothy Keller explains our suffering and glorious inheritance in this way:
Apostle Paul says, “Our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (v. 18). Paul is saying: If you know where you are heading in the future, you won’t even entertain the idea that your current problems and pain aren’t worth it.
So what is this glorious inheritance toward which the Christian walks, sometimes with painful steps, day by day?
The apostle says, “The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed” (v. 19). A glory is coming that will be so blindingly powerful that when it falls on us it will envelop the whole created order and glorify it along with us. We will bring nature with us into a renewed, restored, redeemed reality. Our sonship will be publicly revealed and acknowledged, and we will finally and fully be “conformed to the likeness of [the] Son” (v. 29). We will be as perfectly holy as Christ and as dazzlingly beautiful as he is. That’s what glory is.
We know we’re not what we one day will be and we don’t have now all that we one day will (v. 24). We know all our best days lie ahead and all our painful days will lie behind us then. And so, even on our worst days and in our hardest moments, we know this: It is worth it.
So the next time we experience painful situations or comfort those who are suffering, let us remember that the gospel of Jesus Christ is gloriously hopeful. May the lyrics of this song The Perfect Wisdom of Our God help us focus on God’s goodness and sovereignty when we face difficult times.
The perfect wisdom of our God,
Revealed in all the universe:
All things created by His hand,
And held together at His command.
He knows the mysteries of the seas,
The secrets of the stars are His;
He guides the planets on their way,
And turns the earth through another day.
The matchless wisdom of His ways,
That mark the path of righteousness;
His word a lamp unto my feet,
His Spirit teaching and guiding me.
And oh, the mystery of the cross,
That God should suffer for the lost
So that the fool might shame the wise,
And all the glory might go to Christ!
Oh grant me wisdom from above,
To pray for peace and cling to love,
And teach me humbly to receive
The sun and rain of Your sovereignty.
Each strand of sorrow has a place
Within this tapestry of grace;
So through the trials I choose to say:
“Your perfect will in your perfect way.”
Ms Chan Suet Fong
August 5, 2018