The following is taken from the sermon, “Invincible, Irrefutable Joy: God’s Glory in Human Suffering.”
In the midst of life, we are faced with tragedy, hurt, hang ups, brokenness, loneliness, and suffering of all types. What is the response? What is the hope? How are we to find joy in God in the midst of suffering?
It is true that God’s greatest display of His greatness is redeeming fallen man. If redemption is the greatest display, then God is glorified the greatest in my life when I delight in Him the most. How does joy in God and suffering reconcile? We often think as joy and suffering as opposing agents.
In the midst of World War 2, a man by the name of Dietrich Bonhoeffer did much to train and equip pastors and the church during the tragedy of Hitler’s destruction in Germany. In one of his last letters to his seminarian brothers before his execution, Bonhoeffer penned this line: “The joy of God has gone through the poverty of manger and the agony of the cross; that is why it is invincible, irrefutable.”
Bonhoeffer goes on in the letter to state that, “It [joy] does not deny the anguish, when it is there, but finds God in the midst of it, in fact precisely there; it does not deny grave sin but finds forgiveness precisely in this way; it looks death straight in the eye, but it finds life precisely within it.”
Here 7 Realities to Find God’s Invincible, Irrefutable Joy:
- Suffering Comes in Many Ways
In fact, the Bible guarantees suffering. Throughout Scripture we see that troubles, persecution, trials—suffering will come. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 4:8-9, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.” Physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual trials will come, but in them all, God is our deliverer. Psalm 34:19, “The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all.”
- Suffering is to Happen within our Christian Community
Galatians 6:2 instructs us to “Bear one another’s burdens…,” and Hebrews 10:24 says to, “watch out for one another…” The Royal Law (James 2:8) written on our hearts results in a demonstration of compassion and care for our brothers and sisters. We were created to do life in God’s presence in the Body of Christ. The reality is that we need Him, and we need Him in the context of our spiritual family. We sharpen one another, and we provoke one another to good works.
- Suffering is Actually a Gift
In Philippians 1:29, Paul writes, “For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.” Wait! What?! We have been given the gift of faith to believe in Christ, and also, we have been given the gift of suffering for His sake. I am certain we do not always consider our present trials and troubles a gift. Paul had experienced many troubles for the Gospel, and He considered each of them a gift, knowing that “the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel (Phil 1:12).” Knowing troubles are assured, and knowing they bring deeper delight in God, and knowing they are opportunities for the furtherance of the gospel, then let us prepare to suffer with even greater joy and even greater determination in the gospel demonstration. The gift of suffering perfects us and advances the gospel as we find our invincible, irrefutable joy in God. When facing troubles, know it is another opportunity to discover deeper delight in sweetness of our Savior.
- The Suffering Savior is our Example
Jesus, our Great Shepherd leads us along the journey through the mountains of triumph and the valleys of shadows and death. Whether in life or death I am more than victorious in Christ. “…So now also Christ will be magnified in my body whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain (Philippians 1:20-21).” In other words, I’m satisfied, and He is glorified whether I live or I die.
Jesus is our example in suffering: Hebrews 12:2: “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross”
Jesus is our example in temptation: Hebrews 4:15: “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weakness, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.”
Jesus is our example in sickness and death: John 11:35, 40: “Jesus wept. Jesus said to her, ‘Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?’”
Jesus is our example in persecution: 1 Peter 2:21-23: “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously.”
- The Work of Suffering
Trials and troubles are a gift, and Jesus is our example of finding invincible, irrefutable joy in God through the suffering. As we delight in God, suffering has its work in our lives. “Count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing (James 1:2-4).” Command yourself to be in a place of joy. Refuse to live anywhere else, except the place of absolute invincible, irrefutable joy in God. It is in this place in God where perseverance is working its work of completion in you. A life delighting in God, no matter the landscape or season, can be found to be a life in which perseverance can have its way.
- The Secret to Enjoying the Sweetness of the Savior in Suffering
Paul writes in Philippians 4:12, “I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.” What was Paul’s secret to “knowing how to be” in all these circumstances? He tells us in Philippians 3:8, “Yet indeed I also count all things for loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ.” And in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” We learn to discover the Savior’s sweetness when we can count anything outside of Christ as loss. Our difficulty is that we often hold things more valuable and of higher priority than Christ. Whether tangible things, or our own imaginations and ideas, we esteem them more highly than Jesus, and when trouble comes our value is shaken because what we hold dear has been shaken. To the one who has lost it all, yet has found the value of Jesus, has found something greater than any loss or suffering. To the one who has it all, yet has found the value of Jesus, has found the pearl of great price, worth selling all to have. I can walk thru any adversity with His joy, because His joy is my strength (Neh 8:10)!
- My Redeemer Lives!
As Job declared in the midst of adversity, “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God (Job 19:25-26).” No matter the loss, even to my skin wasting away as dust to dust in the ground, there will be a day when I see God in my flesh. As the old song says, “my faith shall be sight.” What I have known, and enjoyed, and found joy in will continue throughout the eternal ages. I have strength in this life, and I have a hope in eternal life!