Friday, August 1, 2008

Ponderings . . .

In the past week, we have learned of two tragedies in the lives of old acquaintances -- one, the death of a marriage, the other, the death of a father, husband, and friend. This got me thinking, once again, about God and His sovereignty, even in times of suffering and tragedy. In our Bible study last night, we were discussing (on a wonderful tangent!) the verse in Romans 5:9 - "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." I have never considered all that verse entails until our discussion last night (thank you, Chris!). Think about it - the verse is saying that God decided the best way for Him to demonstrate His love to us was while we were still sinners. Not after all suffering had been removed. Not after He had removed all sickness, bound up all the brokenhearted, eliminated evil, and solved global warming (!) - but now, in the thick of things, while we are still sinners. I listened to a series on Christ and Suffering by John Piper, and one of the things he pointed out was that God demonstrated His love and mercy to us through the single most horrific event of suffering this world has ever seen. I know what you're thinking - how could he say that, when so many other horrible things happen every day. But, truly, the murder of Jesus Christ, the only perfect man to have ever walked this earth, by nailing him to a tree between two petty criminals so that He could die an excruciatingly slow and painful death . . . that is the most horrific act of suffering this world has ever seen. So, consider that in light of Romans 5:9 -- God demonstrates His love to us while we are sinners, through all our fallenness and depravity. He does not work despite our sin - He works through it. Our pastor, on Sunday, noted at the end of his sermon that the greatest message of the Gospel is that God is a redeeming God. He is always at work redeeming all of creation. In what clearer way do we see this then through suffering, through tough times, through painful circumstances and trials? Through sin? God, in His infinite and unfathomable greatness, has decided that the best way for Him to demonstrate His love to us is while we are yet sinners. I can't say I fully understand this (I know, dear friend - "what about . . . ?") - but I can say that God is way more sovereign than I have ever given Him credit for!
Here's another thing to consider -- Hebrews 4:3-5 says:
3 For we who have believed enter that rest, just as He has said, "AS I SWORE IN MY WRATH, THEY SHALL NOT ENTER MY REST," although His works were finished from the foundation of the world. 4 For He has said somewhere concerning the seventh day: "AND GOD RESTED ON THE SEVENTH DAY FROM ALL HIS WORKS"; 5 and again in this passage, "THEY SHALL NOT ENTER MY REST."

I have often wondered about this idea of God's work being finished. A commentary I read (sorry I can't remember which one it was!) pointed out that, in John 5:17, Jesus says "My Father is always at his works to this very day, and I, too, am working," when questioned as to why he was doing things on the Sabbath. What these verses suggest is that God's creative work was finished on the 7th day of creation (note, in the creation story, that Moses does not say there was an end to the 7th day - so God's work is still finished, and He is still resting). However, His works of compassion, of grace, of mercy, are still happening. God is still "loving on us" in all our sinfulness. But - notice this big point - He work is finished. All God was going to create and accomplish throughout human history is done. There is nothing He gets "surprised" by, nothing He has to "fix" as a result of our sinfulness. In fact, our sin is not a "stumbling block" for His plans -- it is the very means through which (not BY which) He accomplishes them . . .
So, how does this all relate to trials and tribulations? God will use even these trials to demonstrate His love to us. And, not only that - this is the best way for Him, in this situation, to demonstrate His love. I do not completely understand all of this . . . but I know God is sovereign, and He will bring love, peace, healing, and a deeper vision of His glory, through all of this. Even trials such as these, which seem senseless and incomprehensible. Again, I am thankful to serve a Sovereign God.

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