Thursday, December 30, 2010

Suffering as a Christian

photo © kari mcgrath 2008

"..It was no exaggeration when [John] Bunyan wrote, 'Our days have been days of trouble, especially since the discovery of the Popish plot, for then we began to fear cutting of throats, of being burned in our beds, and of seeing our children dashed in pieces before our faces.'

What, then, would he say to his people to prepare them for the probability of their suffering for Christ? Would he say, with the old-fashioned liberal, 'I believe that pain and suffering are never the will of God for his children?' Would he say with the modern day open theist, 'Christians frequently speak about 'the purpose of God' in the midst of a tragedy caused by someone else...But this I regard to simply be a piously confused way of thinking?' No, this would have been biblically and pastorally unthinkable for John Bunyan, whose blood was 'bibline.'

He takes his text from 1 Peter 4:19, 'Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their soul to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator.' Then he explains the text with these observations:

It is not what enemies will, not what they are resolved upon, but what God
wil, and what God appoints, that shall be done...And as no enemy can bring
suffering upon a man when the will of God is otherwise, so no man can save
himself out of their hands when God will deliver him up for his glory...We shall
or shall not suffer, even as it pleaseth him...God has appointed who shall
suffer. Suffering comes not by chance or by the will of man, but by the will and
appointment of God.' "

(from The Hidden Smile of God, John Piper)

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