I’m typically not a bloggin’ type of guy and this post will be short, but hopefully it will be a helpful and encouraging reminder to someone else as it has been to me…
One of my favorite sermons by John Piper, “How the Supremacy of Christ Creates Radical Christian Sacrifice,” was preached at the Together for the Gospel conference here in Louisville in 2008.
As I laid in bed last night, a quote that Piper gave during this sermon came to mind. Here is what he said:
Sir Norman Anderson, former Professor and Director of the Advanced Legal Institute at London University, supported International Fellowship of Evangelical Students for sixty years. He had lost all three of his children in their early adulthood and his wife was so senile she could not recognize him. At one of the last public events where he spoke he was asked, “When you look back over your life and reflect on the fact that you have lost all your three children, and how your wife of sixty years no longer recognizes you, do you ever ask the question, “Why me?” . . . “No, I’ve never asked that question, ‘Why me?’ but I have asked the question, ‘Why not me?’ I am not promised as a Christian that I will escape the problems encountered by others; we all live in a fallen world. . . . I am however, promised that in the midst of difficulties, God through Christ will be present with me, and will give his grace to help me cope with the difficulties and bear witness to him.”
This is the right way to respond to suffering. What a glorious display of the sufficiency of Christ in all things when you can say with all honesty, “Why not me?” in the midst of suffering!
Now I know that the Bible tells us that all Christians will suffer (Matthew 16:24, John 15:20). Got it. But how are we able to respond to suffering like Norman Anderson by honestly saying “Why not me” and do so with joy – not head knowledge half-smile joy – but authentic all-satisfying Christ-glorifying joy?
And here is what has been particularly helpful to me. The reason we can say, “Why not me” in the midst of suffering, as Piper explained, is because of the joy experienced by looking to the great reward, namely Jesus Christ. As Christians, we don’t hope for suffering, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have a radical God-glorifying response to it!
Not convinced? Here’s how Moses endured suffering:
“By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.”
Still not convinced? How about an example from Jesus himself:
“Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” –Hebrews 12:2
“How was Jesus’ radical, loving sacrifice sustained? It was sustained “by the joy that was set before him.” That’s how he endured the cross. He looked forward to the triumphant experience of being exalted as the Savior and Lord and Treasure of an innumerable people beyond the grave and beyond this age. Even as he suffers for us, he shows us how to suffer with him. Indestructible joy breaking into present suffering from the assurance of future joy. (Piper)”
Lord, increase my faith so that I’m not left in my sorrow crying “Why me?” but that I may be filled with joy by looking toward a heavenly treasure, that is infinitely more satisfying than any suffering is painful.
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” –Matthew 13:44