The message this Sunday was exceptional, as usual, by my favorite professor and one of my favorite preachers–Dr. David MacLeod of Emmaus Bible College (the school I attend).
The message this Sunday was an Biblical exposition* of Hebrews 12:3-11
3 Consider [Christ] who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. 4 In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.
6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives” (Proverbs 3:5-6).
7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
This truly is a phenomenal passage loaded with great teaching on the problem of pain and the purpose of discipline. The problem of pain, and the lack of understanding for it, is something that has caught my attention. It is one of the most important questions of our time: “Why is there pain and suffering?” Atheists truly have no response and their argument turns out back-firing when they try to disprove God with it.
God is completely loving and he is all-knowing. He has purposed to use pain for our good. In my opinion and from my experience, pain is a blessing! C.S. Lewis concluded, looking back at his life and how God used pain: “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
Looking at the history of the world, at the greatest Christian men to ever live, we have to note that their great leadership came out of great trials. John Bunyan spent much of his life in prison, Abraham Lincoln was a failure in most departments of life until he got into politics, Jim Elliott gave his life for his faith in Ecuador, etc. The names go on and on, especially in the Bible.
Joseph, the one-time Prime Minister of Egypt, may be the best example of this. He was once a snotty little daddy’s-boy whom his 10 older brothers hated. Such was their hatred towards this “dreamer” that they threw him into a dark pit to die, but thought better and sold him to their cousins, the Ishmaelites to take down to Egypt. There Joseph was charged with an attempt at rape by a the lustful wife of Potiphar, and he could have avoided it easily if he had put down his integrity. Then it was jail time–ten years of it or so. This may have been the best preparation for Joseph, a truly humbling and desperate experience. It was not until this event in Joseph’s life that God was ready to fulfill his childhood dream–to rule over his family. The Pharaoh called on him and found this man fit to be his second in command and he became a phenomenal business man while still caring very much for the social welfare of the people. His wisdom spared millions from death, and ultimately brought peace to his father’s broken family.
Look at Joseph’s response to his brother’s when they come, begging for forgiveness in Genesis 50:20, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”
Job is another exceptional example of a man who, through pain, came to a much greater understanding of God’s power and majesty. It also grew Job to become much closer to God, to bring them into a more intimate relationship. But God couldn’t have spoken to Job in chapter 2 and given him the answer, he had to wait for Job to shut-up and to be at the end of his rope. Only in chapter 39 could God speak plainly to Job and bring the healing he longed and bitterly pleaded for. God did all this for Job in order to bless him spiritually, to mature his thinking and to make him a greater man.
As J.K. Gressett said: “God prepares great men for great tasks by great trials.”
Are you experiencing pain and discipline from God? Are you asking God “why” and screaming at him to answer? Good, it means he loves you. I can personally attest to God’s working in my life through pain, in order to build up my faith and mature me. It is truly one of my favorite subjects to talk to people about: pain. It seems very, very misunderstood in our culture and no one seems to have the answer to it. Only when the Bible is taken at its word and when God held up as all-loving and all-knowing can we possibly understand pain in our lives and the pain in the world as a whole.
Personally this topic intrigues me and the next book I write may very well be on this very issue–it has captivated my thinking and I would love to share what God has taught me through this subject. It will likely be a historical fictional account of the book of Job. To get a little taste, you may want to read “The Oppressive Celestial Spy” poem I put up on my website a few posts ago.
I would like to share with you an illustration given by the preacher Dr. MacLeod yesterday that helped me grasp this issue:
Men were sent out one day to trim the trees of a large apple orchard, as is customary. After the process there were large piles of cut branches lying in piles next to the trees. The owner of the apple orchard went out the next day to see the progress and found a bird’s nest being built by a mother bird in order to hatch her eggs. It was in one of the piles of cut debris. The farmer grabbed the small, weak nest and trampled it and left. The next day the same thing happened as he went out on his walk. There was the bird on another pile of debris, building another next. He marched over and trampled that next and shooed the bird away. This happened for several days and his men who looked on thought lowly of him because of this. “How could he treat an innocent bird like that?” they asked themselves, in hushed voices. One of those days the farmer came out again, and smiled as he saw that the bird had built again, but this time in the limbs of an apple tree. He whistled and walked by. That night the men who had finished their work, set fire to the piles of cut-off branches. The bird was saved and soon hatched her eggs and taught them how to fly. That owner had saved her life.
This is a simple illustration that helped me understand why God has many, many times laid waste to my plans and left me feeling hopeless and asking “why?” You see, we cannot look out and admire the whole picture. We do not see what would happen if our “plans of mice and men” stood and continued forward. But God is all-knowing, he will not let our plans continue because he has our best in mind–life! And he is all-loving because he knows that only through the destruction of our plans in the worst of ways will we ever learn that we must seek to go and to do what he wills for us. He wants us to build our plans on the apple tree, not on the broken branches. God will lovingly destroy our plans until we understand what he wants for us.
And thankfully through the experience of having our plans laid waste it builds in us humility, perseverance, maturity, and holiness. So don’t be afraid of pain, embrace it–pain is a blessing from God, a “megaphone” in our dying world.
*An academic definition of Expository Preaching: “the presentation of biblical truth, derived from a transmitted thought, a historical, grammatical, spirit-guided study of a passage in its context, which the Holy Spirit applies first to the life of the preacher and then through him to his congregation.” To explain, this is the basic form and in my opinion the highest form of preaching because it is fully based on Bible, not on personal opinion. It is most common in Evangelical churches where the preacher(s) break down a certain book of the Bible by section and/or chapter and go through the whole book and eventually the whole Bible. It usually takes 6-10 hours to develop a single message in this style, yet this is the style that I want to follow in my life, with little exception because the benefits to the church are great for many reasons. If you have any questions, I would be happy to further expound.